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Splitting up the stuff

A house divided?

A commenter on the other blog wanted to know how to start dividing all the THINGS, once you’ve made the decision to separate.  And it’s funny, without moving an inch from where I presently sit (okay, recline:  I’m sick, and the kitten is in bed with me) I can chart the weird separation-and-division-of-objects just by lifting my gaze from the laptop.

It’s a funny mix up here.  Stuff given to me by my family, stuff my ex-husband and I bought (usually from Ikea or some other high-end place, like the no-name unpainted wood furniture store) together.  Stuff I bought in a panic for the apartment we shared in tandem for the first few months of the split.  Stuff I bought post-divorce, to fill in the gaps left by stuff my ex-husband took to his new house.  Stuff given by various friends and family since we broke up.  And stuff moved from other places in the house, to make my bedroom feel less like the marital bedroom and more like a place that’s mine alone.

It has taken years for the room to change from marital bedroom to mine.  After all, it took over two years after my ex-husband moved out for me even to start sleeping up here again, and thus I bid you consider the first rule of divvying-up-stuff:  Take Your Time.  Remember, if you can, how you made do with the bare minimum when you moved into your very first apartment, or (if you’re the one, like me, who stayed put while the other person moved out) when a sibling suddenly vacated the room you’d hitherto shared. Remember when your college roommate suddenly moved out to be with her boyfriend (taking her Depeche Mode posters and her stereo with her.)  It left your place a mite empty, but I’m betting you didn’t feel you had to rush out that very evening to replicate the things you’d lost.

It’s the same thing, writ large, after divorce.  There will be blank spots on the wall, empty places in the room, only half of your nifty non-stick cookware.  For a while.  Not for forever, but definitely for a while.

I mentioned the Bathmat Conundrum in a recent post, and although it may seem silly, it’s a real issue.  For items that need to be duplicated, how do you decide who gets the brand new thing, and who gets the old familiar one?  Each has its virtues and disadvantages.  It’s not fair for the person moving out to swipe the bathmat, but neither is it fair for him or her to have to buy a new bathmat.  On the other hand, it’s not fair for the person who stays to get to keep everything–like, oh, say, the bathmat–because he or she stayed while the other person left.  However, it’s not fair that the person who moved out should have to spend money to buy everything, like a new bathmat, when there’s a perfectly good bathmat right at home.

Putting it that way, of course, it’s absolutely unfair that the person who left to GETS to buy all sorts of new and thrilling bathmats.  Who should pay for the new bathmat, and who should get the old one?  No matter what, it’s simply not fair.

So, yes.  It’s not fair.  Nothing about dividing up the marital possessions is fair, and the sooner you can wrap your head around that, the better off you’ll be.  Otherwise you’ll have an awfully esoteric tombstone–”She Got The Bathmat!”–and you’ll spend the rest of your life having your friends avoid you because they’re so tired of hearing about how unfair it is that your god damned ex snaked the towels your aunt Florence gave you for your wedding.

Given the a priori assumption that however stuff gets split up it’s always Not Fair, then, a few helpful hints.  Tomorrow I will offer, simply because I know this situation best, Hints For the Person Who Stays in the Marital House.

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