Marital Museum: 7 Tips For Dividing Belongings In Divorce

When my “wusband” and I separated it was very hard for our entire family. Suddenly, the second person in my life for 17+ years, sharing my room, sleeping in my bed and co-parenting with me was gone. I hadn’t thought about what was next but true to what I’ve heard, the initial separation was met with euphoria. “Whew, we’ve made a decision. We aren’t fighting all the time.” This feeling didn’t last and eventually, reality set in. Suddenly I was living in “The New Normal (though normal is not quite the word I’d use to describe it).” The life I knew and planned for were gone and the uncertainty of the future was overwhelming.

Divorce brings about more changes that you even anticipate. The obvious ones like the customary child custody schedule and support, but also your role as a person in society completely changes. Friendships change, your ex starts dating and suddenly you are re-entering the world as a single person. In my case I was in my 20’s when I was single (I was also childless).

So while your entire life is being completely shaken up, you are also facing a tough decision AND you’re having to look at your budget in a way that you haven’t had to. Likely, your household budget has been stretched in half as you now have to pay for two electric bills, buy two gallons of milk, pay for two cable bills, etc.  

Among these decisions you have to make – does one of us stay in the house and how do we begin dividing belongings in divorce?

Most people will tell you, without learning too much about the situation, that it’s almost always in the best interest to sell the home. The thoughts behind this are that maintaining a home by one person is more expensive and there are costs that need to be considered. Most importantly, the house can be a painful reminder of experiences and memories we created as a couple. When I got my real estate license, one of the only selling tools I learned was to ask a buyer where they saw their Christmas tree. This way you’d stir up emotions for them and get them to picture  themselves in the home making memories, celebrating holidays.

Divorce Attorney and Mediator, Shawn Weber, refers to the home as the “Marital Museum.” Our homes are the place we store our belongings, save our collectibles and raised our children.  Letting go of the home and sentimental items is hard and sad. It’s like the elephant in the room. You know it’ s there but you really don’t want to talk about it.

Going through divorce personally has given me both insight into what’s involved in shedding these belongings and also a true understanding of what it means to “let go”.

Making the decisions can be tough especially when there are children involved. You don’t want to toss out everything…after all, these mementos are a history of a union that created your family and children. At the same time, if something is causing pain, you don’t want to have to look at it and be further reminded.

There was nothing in my home I felt so attached to I would be upset if my ex-husband wanted it. He felt the same way. Remember when you do start “fighting” over items, it’s likely not the item itself. There will be far bigger issues to deal with than your stuff. Sometimes giving up the battle saves your sanity. 

If you’d like to save some money and believe you can work amicably without a neutral third party, here are some tips:

  1. Establish ground rules before you begin.
  2. Use stickers (each of you take a color) and only sticker the items you’d be willing to fight over. Flip a coin and the winner gets first pick.
  3. If you are dividing children’s rooms, consider keeping the rooms in tact and having each parent recreate one room (when there are two kids).
  4. If you are hung up on value, go onto and look up the value of the item by seeing what has sold. You’ll almost always find items aren’t worth what you think they are.
  5. Ask yourself if you REALLY want it? Sometimes letting things go and starting fresh feels a lot better. Every day I see this beautiful plate we bought on our honeymoon in Italy.  I love the plate but the reminder makes me sad.
  6. There is a wonderful online inventory tool called It’s a great way to divide belongings.
  7. Will the items you are planning to take actually fit in your new home?

If you are in disagreement about your belongings, we offer a program to help divide your belongings saving you much money and energy.

The solution for me was to pack away the marital mementos for another time and put them in a place I won’t have to see them. When I moved into my new place, I replaced as much of the furniture as I could and in typical California style “saged” my new home whispering blessings and hopes for my future.