How to make the breaking up and moving out process as respectful as possible

July 29 | Guest post by Cassie
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
Moving day stickers by StickiesByCnS
I'm breaking up with my partner of four years (cohabiting for two) and we're moving into separate spaces.

The problem is, the line between "their" stuff and "my stuff" has blurred over the last few years.

How do I make the breaking up and moving out process as (relatively) painless and respectful as possible? Is there even a way? -Hazel

I witnessed my roommates do this a year or so ago. So I'll give you my perspective from that angle…

If there are other people involved (roommates, kids, parents, polyamorous lovers, etc) keep any spats private. Don't have a blow out in the living room while everyone's watching a movie. Take it in the bedroom or wait until everyone's gone.

Speaking of bedrooms… you should probably establish, first and foremost, who's sleeping where. Do you both already have your own spaces or are you staying together a little longer while you divy stuff up? If you stay together, are you sharing the bed (and possibly your bodies) or are you sleeping in separate spaces?

Be prepared to let stuff go. If it means more to one partner than the other, being flexible about giving it up will go a long way. This is especially true if something was originally part of the other person's family. For example, if you always loved his mom's milk glass collection and she gave you a few pieces, be prepared for him to want them back as his family heirlooms.

Be prepared for both people to walk away with less than a full house. So you two moved in together, got rid of your crappy TV and his ancient blender, and bought spiffy new ones together. Do you get the plasma TV because it replaced yours and he gets the blender (sorry, I don't know which blender is drool-worthy)? I don't know. But neither of you will get to your new place with both a TV and a blender.

Money should probably be split down the middle unless you have receipts/pay stubs and time to be really meticulous about it. This also applies to that change cup every couple seems to have.

When your temper flares, keep in mind why you aren't burning this bridge. Maybe you just want to act like an adult. Maybe he's your boss. Maybe you're both hoping to continue a sexual relationship. Maybe you're a world famous photographer and you made him a solemn vow you'd photograph his first daughter's quinceanera. I don't know. But having the goal in mind will help when it gets hard.

I hope that helps!

Join our community!

  1. Oof, that's a rough situation, and we've all been there! How easy or respectfully the stuff-breakup can be depends on how amiable the split is overall. It's a lot easier to discuss who should keep the pots and pans if you're still in a place where you can speak to each other at all without fighting.

    The times that I've been in this situation I've tried to keep in mind three basic things: 1.) was the item a gift or special purchase for one of you (something someone got you because you really wanted it or something you saved up for because you really wanted) 2.) is it something one of you is much more likely to use than the other (if you do all the baking and the ex never does then it makes more sense for you to get the stand mixer, for example) 3.) trying not to leave anyone totally screwed over on the deal – as in, someone ends up with NO furniture or nothing to cook or eat with.

    Keeping emphasis on the "I know this thing is important to you" or "This item is really special to me for this reason" and working in compromises to make accommodations for each others' needs as much as you can will go a long way to making this process as respectful as possible.

    Good luck!

    24 agree
    • This. My ex-husband and I went through things pretty well, considering. We each kept things that were gifts, and sorted through pots/pans/etc. by who used them more. For DVDs and video games, the most shared items, I went through them and put what I wanted to the side, and he went through my pile and added ones he knew I liked more and took ones out that were more special to him.

      2 agree
  2. I'm not sure how good advice this is, but what I would have found to be helpful was having a chance to go through things with a friend without him having to be there. Having him hovering made it much worse. That said, there's the danger of taking something that they consider 'theirs' and it gets complicated.

    I've only had to do this once, and the stuff was more clear than other couples (I had manga, anime and video games, he had cycling and computers) but the books, CDs and what he considered 'former' gifts got really difficult. I also moved back home to Scotland while he was in Wales, so I had to try and pack up in one go, whatever would fit into my dad's car. I had to leave my mountain bike because it wouldn't fit.

    Unless a book or CD had other, deeper meaning, I just left it. The 'former' gifts included him asking for half the money for the iPod he'd bought me a year previously, as well money for my Nintendo DS (two years previously). It was going well until I found out he'd erased and dismantled the PC he'd given me as a present, saying, "It's mine anyway. I bought it."

    I would consider gifts as gifts and be done with it. If it's been given to the other person, it's theirs, no matter who bought it. None of this, "My mum wants that DVD player back that she gave you for Christmas."

    17 agree
    • Well, that is rather unbecoming behaviour of him. I'm with you one hundred percent, a gift is given, no longer yours, as painful as it might be. The only exception I can think of is anything that has been in the former partners family for a long while (like a piece of jewellery or a crib) and an engagement ring. I would give those back.

      42 agree
      • Oh indeed – if it's something special to the other family, like an heirloom, best to give that back. I forgot to mention since it (thankfully) never came up in my personal experience.

        2 agree
    • A gift is a gift! I kept my wedding rings, even. They were not given conditionally, nor were any of the other few things my ex gave me. I left his family heirloom crystal with him (wedding gift to us) of course, but anything he gave me, or his family gave me, I consider eternally mine. I don't believe in "take-backs," as little kids call it.

  3. Been there, done that – except it was one-sided and not mine.

    I can tell you what really didn't help – their lack of help. I had to move back in with my parents and he got to stay in the apartment. Since I had somewhere else to stay and was not doing well (barely eating kind of thing), I asked him if he could go through some things and at least pile them. Nada.

    I suggest finding the things you still have from before and doing the easy 'mine' 'theirs' split. After that, did you both pay for the couch? How much would it sell for now? Is one of you willing to buy the other one 'out' of their shares of couch?

    You could sell most things and split the money, you can figure out what you really want/need and be less demanding on the other items.

    If you are leaving and they are having the hard time, it is easier to let them have the salt and pepper shaker set if it means something to them and nothing/less to you.

    Big ticket items should be divided logically, imo. Which of you can afford to replace certain items? Let the other one pay for their 'shares' (We defined shares as what it would be worth now and if we split it at that point). It was cheaper for me to pay a bit to keep things than to have to buy new, while he could afford it fairly easily.

    Best of luck and just remember to help the one who is having the harder time (if it is impeding their living) pack and sort, and to give each other as much space as possible. Hope this helps.

    8 agree
  4. I've never done this, but I witnessed my roommates do it a year or so ago. So I'll give you my perspective from that angle.

    If there are other people involved (roommates, kids, parents, polyamorous lovers, etc) keep any spats private. Don't have a blow out in the living room while everyone's watching a movie. Take it in the bedroom or wait until everyone's gone.

    Speaking of bedrooms… you should probably establish, first and foremost, who's sleeping where. Do you both already have your own spaces or are you staying together a little longer while you divy stuff up? If you stay together, are you sharing the bed (and possibly your bodies) or are you sleeping in separate spaces?

    Be prepared to let stuff go. If it means more to one partner than the other, being flexible about giving it up will go a long way. This is especially true if something was originally part of the other person's family. For example, if you always loved his mom's milk glass collection and she gave you a few pieces, be prepared for him to want them back as his family heirlooms.

    Be prepared for both people to walk away with less than a full house. So you two moved in together, got rid of your crappy TV and his ancient blender, and bought spiffy new ones together. Do you get the plasma TV because it replaced yours and he gets the blender (sorry, I don't know which blender is drool-worthy)? I don't know. But neither of you will get to your new place with both a TV and a blender.

    Money should probably be split down the middle unless you have receipts/pay stubs and time to be really meticulous about it. This also applies to that change cup every couple seems to have.

    When your temper flares, keep in mind why you aren't burning this bridge. Maybe you just want to act like an adult. Maybe he's your boss. Maybe you're both hoping to continue a sexual relationship. Maybe you're a world famous photographer and you made him a solemn vow you'd photograph his first daughter's quinceanera. I don't know. But having the goal in mind will help when it gets hard.

    I hope that helps!

    13 agree
  5. The most important aspect of a peaceful break up is keeping the lines of communication open and being civil about it. If two people can be civil, then the division of property and the move out can be done somewhat simultaneously. When both partners are civil and the remnants of the love still exist, you will find that both partners are more inclined to be generous over property that would ordinarily be in dispute.

    Pets are especially difficult and their well-being and new environment should be considered before a major change.

    Above all, don't sweat the small stuff. If you can replace it, let it go. The harmony you enjoy during this trying time is worth far more than any small non-sentimental item. Pettiness is your enemy here. Good luck.

    12 agree
    • Pets would be easy in our household. He loves them too, but I brought them in, I take care of them 95%, they're licensed under my name, I pay all the bills, they're mine. I don't care much about stuff, but this is the one thing I'd fight over. Hard.

      6 agree
  6. I've been there to help (several times) when my sister broke up with a cohabitating boyfriend.
    I think it's a good idea to bring moral support when you go to pick up/move your things: it's something easier and friendlier to focus on than an angry ex, and brings extra muscle to move things. HOWEVER this support person should not be the new significant other – that is just rude and awkward.
    Second, try to finish the move-out process in one day: if you keep having to go back and say "I forgot this," not only do you have to face your ex one more time but each time you want something, you're less likely to get it back. When breakups are bad, spite and revenge can often be involved. If you keep stopping by and re-hashing those feelings, your ex may just trash the item, or have it suddenly disappear.

    12 agree
  7. I went through this quite a few years ago.
    We got moving boxes, labelled them with our names and independently packed up the stuff that was definitely our own (we had brought with us into the relationship)
    Gifts were gifts and left as that, which did mean I lost a big chunk of my zombie DVD collection which I had bought him as gifts (that I wanted to watch! Lol)
    Big items like sofa etc one of us paid the other one for their half.
    This was decided partially on who had the bigger need for the item in their new home – I was moving into a new apartment while he was moving back in with his parents.

    5 agree
  8. Ugh, I did this a few years ago. It's pretty much the worst. We were pretty amicable and fortunately didn't have a lot of big-ticket shared items. My dad and I came by one day when he was at work (as agreed in advance) and moved out all my stuff.

    Honestly, most of the stuff that I didn't either buy myself or have sentimental feelings about, I left. It's so much easier to just buy new dishes than to add more strife to an already painful situation.

    Try to be business-like, get it over quickly, and if a fight develops over something, leave it.

    9 agree
  9. When I broke up with my fiance, it helped us both to talk through the things we considered to be jointly "ours" and figure out who could use it more or used it most. Part of that is deciding what you can live without or how easy it would be to replace that item. We each found that there wasn't much that was worth disagreeing over when we put it in those terms.
    I also knew I'd be moving in with a roommate, who would be bringing some of her own stuff and who would help me get new stuff. That really quelled much of my anxiety about some of the big items that I didn't know how either of us would live without, like the couch.
    My number one tip? If either of you is getting bitter, stubborn, cranky, weepy or otherwise fussy about the process, take a break then clear the air: yes, this situation is awkward and difficult, but you want to be sure that each of you comes out of this with the things you need to get by. If there are lingering relationship issues that need talking through, that's for a later date.

    8 agree
  10. When I broke up with my boyfriend I'd been living with for 2.5 years, this is the system we used:

    1) whatever belonged to one of us before moving in together went with that person
    2) anything that we bought for ourselves went with that person
    3) anything that was gifted to the both of us from one person's family went with that person
    4) we spilt up the furniture based on needs and fairness (we had two new bookshelves, so we each took one. The bed was mine from before, so he got the futon we bought. He didn't need a table where he was moving; I did.)
    5) Bargaining! Example: I traded a lamp for two of four really awesome jar openers that were gifts from his mum.

    This worked out really well for us. (Of course, we had an extremely relaxed breakup; he was crushed but we were – and still are! – really close friends and actually lived together for 2.5 months after the breakup to align with rental terms, so that may have something to do with the relative ease of our divvying.)

    5 agree
    • this is very,very much like my experience with this. we continued to live together for 3 or 4 months after we broke up, which i think took some of the edge off and made the moving part easier. so, i think this depends on where you are in your post-relationship relationship, but if you can do it civilly the best advise i have is: barter!

      all that stuff that really belonged to both of us (with a few "that's mine, but you like it more" things added in) went in a big pile and we claimed and bartered. sometimes it was very 1-for-1, like you can have the mixing bowl if i can keep the colander, and sometimes it was much more random, like the crappy tv for a lamp and 3 books.

      we actually ended up having a lot of fun doing it, which was nice after the weirdness of sharing a 1-bedroom place after the breakup. (my favorite part was divvying up the snarky magnet collection: instead of taking turns picking ones to keep, we took turns picking ones for each other. it was hilarious and in some cases a bit rude and also a bit sweet – there were instances of both "here, i know you love this one" and "oh! this one about codependency? that's yours!")

      6 agree
  11. People have already given good advice, so I'll just share one anecdote from my last break-up. My ex-husband left me pretty much everything: nearly all the kitchen stuff, 80% of the furniture, all the CDs and DVDs and books that were joint items. I actually tried to get him to take more, but he felt so guilty and didn't want me to be deprived of anything. This turned into a huge pain in the ass when I got a new roommate and had to condense a full apartment into just half of the apartment! I ended up having to sell or give away a bunch of things, which was very time-consuming.

    The moral of that story: don't leave TOO MUCH stuff just because you want to be polite or generous or helpful. If they don't want something, and you could use it, take it! And split up the selling/donating duties evenly.

    7 agree
  12. My ex simply left while I was at work, taking what he wanted to take with him. The only things we mutually discussed dividing were books from our collection; he took those and one of our four bookshelves, which was about right. I had mentioned in passing that it might be fair if I got the couches and he got the bed, so he left the couches and took the bed. He took the furniture we'd inherited from his family but left what we'd inherited from mine, and took the computer he used most often and left the one that I used most often. I do all the cooking and I don't think he took a single thing from the kitchen. He also left the cat, presumably because he didn't have a permanent place lined up. It was extremely jarring, and it was not what I would classify as a truly amicable breakup…but I think his division of property was about as fair as it would have been had we both been there to decide.

    3 agree
  13. I did this a couple of years ago with my ex-husband, and although things were messy, this part actually went fairly smoothly. I was ending the relationship, but he was moving out. Here's what helped me:

    – He made a list of the things he wanted to take, including the car and money split, and had me look over it. We negotiated over one or two things (He wanted to take both ForceFX lightsabers!), but overall I really had few problems his list. He was definitely expecting more of a fight over it.

    – He was already staying with a friend, so before the official move-out day, I laid out all of the things that he was going to take into easy-to-pack piles. I even gave him things that weren't on the list, like duplicates from our kitchen. He came with a few friends and a U-haul to take it all away. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough packing materials, but that was really the only technical glitch.

    – I would suggest having a friend with you too, even if you're not the one moving out. I really could have used the moral support. At one point he broke down and I had to be the one to comfort him and encourage him to keep moving, and enduring the glares of his friends the whole time was really rough.

    7 agree
  14. I've never broken up with a live in partner, but I did split from my 5 year partner who lived a train journey away. Due to the distance we had a lot of things in each others houses for when we went to visit.

    I gave him games that he had purchased for me, but I knew he wanted to play. He gave me an engagement ring he had bought me a few months before the split.
    We both got very upset and tried to give back the sentimental items but found that it just made things worse.

    My only advice is to divide the things up in a final manner. Once it goes into your "box" its yours, and vice versa.
    This gave us some very important focus as each item we took/gave away was one step closer to finishing the process.

    1 agrees
  15. This really depends on the nature of your split. If it's amiable to begin with before the moving out process begins. Try to keep all communication regarding the move to factual, level-headed statements. Don't attach emotion to the situation, it will only make the change harder. Realize that as hard as it may be for you, it is likely just as hard or harder for the other person. If communication is hard, then try communicating moving logistics and item splits through email. It's harder to yell and sound irritated in written words, and if you're having trouble with the emotional aspect of the situation, then you can avoid having to look the person in the face and crying. I sincerely hope it goes well for you. My ex-husband moved out right before Christmas and while I had a calm, matter-of-fact attitude about it as the movers were carting his stuff away, I did break down and weep a bit when the last item was packed in the van and they drove off. It's going to be hard, but you can do it.

    2 agree
  16. When my ex and I split, he packed a bag and left, putting off taking all his stuff. We were trying to keep it amicable, so I didn't rush him to take care of this, as he didn't yet know where he was going to be staying. This was a mistake. Sure, give him a week or two to get settled, that's fine. But six months later I was still housing 90% of his stuff and it was cluttering my life, emotionally as well as physically. So I strongly recommend setting reasonable deadlines.

    If you have things like CD and DVD collections that have been joint property to the degree that it would be difficult to determine "ownership", you could use the method my mom has used when passing on collections of items to me and my sister. We sort the collection into 3 categories – Items I want, items she wants, and items we both want. My pile goes to me, hers to her, and then we take turns each picking an item out of the "both" pile.

    4 agree
    • The 3 categories idea is a great one. Cuts down on the discussion about every item that doesn't fit into the "we both want" category.

      1 agrees
  17. Because I was the one moving out, and the one who had ended the relationship, I tried to be especially benevolent with what I left behind. I left all the dishes and utensils, and only took cooking things that were special to me or had been gifts from people I love (like special pots from my Dad and my Mamaw's canning supplies). I left the regular pots and pans and glasses and whatnot, and replaced them on the cheap at Goodwill until I could afford to get things I really liked again. I left the furniture, the bed, most of the DVDs and CDs that were the product of a 9 year cohabitation, and the pet, who liked him better and would have been miserable alone in my tiny new place. I didn't get too hung up on who paid for what or who gave who what, and just tried to take the things that meant something to me or that I would really be hard pressed to live without, while leaving him with enough stuff that his daily life would be as little disrupted as possible. I tried to take away anything that might remind him of me in a hurtful way, even if I just tossed it in the trash on my way out of the complex (my toiletries from the bathroom, etc.) Mostly, this is because I was the "bad guy" in the situation and I didn't want to make it worse by leaving the poor bastard with no forks and no DVDs to watch. Plus, it was easier to shell out down the road to replace my Hellboy collection and all my Buffy seasons than to argue over who paid for them when and who wanted them more. Less drama that way.

    I will say that some of the stuff I left behind thinking I was being nice just turned into a way for him to try to get back in contact with me and use up more hours of my life. Like, calling once a week to say "I found your X, Y and Z and you need to come get them." I played along for a little while, then had to put my foot down and say Look, anything that is still there that you think is mine and you don't want, obviously I don't want it either so you should just take it to the dumpster. Depends on the relationship and the circumstances, I guess.

    4 agree
  18. I've been through this twice (With the same person. Yes I was an idiot for doing it the second time.) The first time I left the place, and the second time he left the place. This person was insane and greedy and tried hurting me as much as possible by demanding to take as much as he could get away with. For me, it wasn't worth it to drag out the process so I weighed how important each of the things meant to me. I decided that almost all of it was replaceable, like small kitchen appliances, and not worth the time. I let him take things that would just remind me of him (I don't mean emotionally, because I was the one breaking up the relationship and was at peace with the decision, I just mean that I wanted my home to feel completely and totally ME). I also took out a small loan to pay part of the money spent for some furniture we bought together that I really loved and that he was just trying to take to hurt me. That way I kept it. Money was better in his eyes anyway so that tactic actually worked really well. Even though I didn't have the money at the time, it was worth it that I didn't have to replace the big items. Also, and this was a very important and necessary step to ensure that no issues or arguments cropped up later, we made a list of what was going to be mine and what was going to his, we both signed it, and took it to a bank and got it notarized (which is actually painless). This way there could be no fighting after that, no need to even talk about the subject anymore, and it was over. It was just a matter of getting his stuff out of my home and life. The less we had to talk, the cleaner the getaway. Since I don't know your circumstances and the dynamic between you and him, I have no idea if that's helpful. But I figured it may be worth sharing.

    2 agree
  19. I haven't personally been in this situation but I once accompanied a friend who was leaving her partner when she went to pick up her stuff. What I learned is, if the breakup is very fraught, value your sanity over your belongings. I kept pointing out things I knew were hers, but for the most part she did not take them. She was very upset to be leaving him, and so was he, and she just wanted to get the most personally/emotionally valuable stuff and leave before he got home, to spare them both the interaction.

    We accomplished what she wanted and she's never complained to me about those lost paperbacks. At the time I was confused, but looking back I think she was very wise.

    1 agrees
  20. WOAH. This is actually happening to me RIGHT NOW. My boyfriend of 4 years (cohabiting for 3) and I just broke up a few weeks ago. He broke up with me and it was very very rough at first, but while it's still difficult we are thankfully on really good terms with each other now. That really is the key to everything. We've been able to talk, negotiate rationally, and even joke about how to divide things up. He obviously has some guilt about the breakup, so he mostly differs to me on things unless he really needs them or uses them a lot. He's moving out of state and doesn't know a whole lot of people where we currently live, so we're still sharing the apartment while he transfers his job and looks for a new place. He does a lot of his packing while I am at work, but makes sure to talk to me about items that might be controversial. I've also given a lot of thought to what I want to make sure I keep, so I can let him know before he packs those particular things. We are particularly lucky that our pets were easy to work out: we have two cats who hate each other, and he and I each have clear favorites, so that's going to work out for everyone.

    We're definitely lucky that our breakup is amicable and we can deal with these negotiations easily, but the strange thing we've encountered is what to do with things NO ONE wants. There are some things that just seem so tied to the relationship, things we bought together or that have an inside joke attached, that we don't really want to keep around but feel bad throwing away. What to do with those items?

    2 agree
    • What types of things do neither of you want?

      For some things, taking a picture and then burying the file on your computer can be a compromise between "I can see it if I really want to when I'm feeling sentimental" but you don't have to look at it every day or have the item in your space.

      • Taking a picture is a great idea. A lot of the things that fall into this category aren't super practical items but also aren't junk, like wall art we bought together.

        1 agrees
    • Instead of throwing the items away could you donate them or give them to someone who might need them?
      Both human and animal charities are often on the look out for items. And not always the standard items which you would think of, many charities would be glad of your old bookshelf or printer.
      Animal charities will often take old worn blankets that human charities cant use (puppies and kittens are not very picky!)

      2 agree
  21. Ignoring the logistical side of things because there's already a lot of good responses there, here's my suggestions:

    1) Be aware of how you may find this process. If you know you're prone to crying or temper tantrums or clamming up think about how you will control yourself so that you can focus on the task at hand
    2) Try to predict how your ex will be during this process. You know them well and you know their recent behaviour post split. This may be an indicator for how they will behave when you start dividing your things and so you can be semi-prepared.
    3) Ignore number 2. Dividing your things might be the straw that broke the camels back so to speak and both you and you may see your ex in a way you never have before. Be prepared as you can for that too
    4) Try to focus on what's important: splitting up your stuff and getting it over with. Don't let yourself be drawn into a tit for tat situation over the DVDs or something else trivial and similarly try not to get distracted from this either with arguments or stories of the good old days

    I hope you manage to get through this with as little discomfort as possible

    2 agree
  22. My boyfriend and I broke up in April. We had dated for six years and lived together for four. Our breakup was amiable…like, WAY amiable…I was pretty surprised. We lived together for about three weeks after the breakup while my ex found a place and that gave us plenty of time to negotiate about the mutual stuff.

    Throughout our relationship, it was pretty clear whose things belonged to whom so that was easy. We each had a pet (a bird and a lizard) but I ended up keeping the lizard because his new place wouldn't allow pets and she's an old dragon, set in her ways, and I couldn't bear to see her go to live with someone else. He took the couch that I paid for and I kept the bed that we both paid for. Even though most of the kitchen stuff belonged to me, I gave him some stuff that I rarely used that would help him get started in his new place and let him take half the silverware and some dishes he especially liked.

    If there was anything that he was taking that I intended to replace, I wrote it down to procure for myself at some point after he left. I loved that we both treated each other with empathy and respect and communicated the shit out of the difficult patches of our breakup. And I may not have a couch or TV anymore but I still have his friendship and my dignity.

    6 agree
  23. I love the healthy, logical suggestions you were given above. They're fabulous. This is just a suggestion if things get messy, and if your best intentions to make it respectful and sane aren't met with equal respect.

    I wish I could say that things had gone healthily and maturely when my first marriage ended. But it just wasn't like that. It was messy, and uncomfortable. My short point: be prepared to let some of the material stuff go, if you have to, in order to protect your emotional health. Maybe it won't be necessary for you at all!

    For what its worth, the long explanation: Although my ex ended the relationship, he was upset that I would be thinking about irrelevant, material things when such a long relationship was ending. Dealing with the practical things – divorce paperwork, divvying up stuff – was my way of processing the shock and moving on; I felt like his emotional stuff would have to be worked out without me. So: all I wanted was the rest of my stuff back, and every request resulted in a devastating, increasingly toxic conversation. I made the decision to let the material stuff go so I could continue to pursue an emotionally healthier life.

    In the end, he never returned many of the things that were gifts to both of us or to me alone from my family. Every once in awhile I have a pang when I remember a thoughtful gift from my grandma or mom that I no longer have. But I never regretted the decision.

    2 agree
  24. Almost every single one of my adult moves has been a less-than-amicable breakup of some kind. There are a lot of things I've learned, about myself and about managing other people in the process. There are also a number of things that have become part of how I live BECAUSE of shitty breakup-and-move-out situations.

    1) Most of the furniture I own is thrifted, or curb-side pick-ups. If it isn't sentimental, if it doesn't fit in my next place, if someone is making a Deal out of it, I leave it. I don't care that it left my ex with 10 humans and no kitchen table or couch, he wasn't getting my great grandmother's dining set. But the pressboard thrifted microwave stand that I didn't need at my parents' house could stay for all I cared.

    2) Anything that was a gift to me, I'm taking it. If it was a gift to my partner, I'm leaving it. DVDs and even most electronics are not worth arguing over unless they are signed, ridiculously expensive, or collector's edition (and sometimes not even then). I'm still mad my ex took Mirror Mask even if I did get the Collector's Edition Serenity out of it.

    3) Agreed, pettiness is not your friend. Don't kick over your roommate's box fan or shatter her dishes just because she won't leave them. Don't scream at her for taking "your" bed just because a different roommate said you could crash on the couch for a while.

    4) Have moral support you can count on to do what YOU need, not what they think you need. Parents may not be helpful here, so if you need to leave them in charge of watching the car, maybe that's for the best.

    5) People will be angry if you plan a sneak-attack moving out. It might still be worth it. See suggestion #3 for context.

    6) I bought myself a claddagh ring and lost it in the process of moving. My ex left a claddagh ring in the same place on my nightstand where I thought I'd dropped mine one day, and I thought he just found it, but it looked different than I remembered the one I bought being (it was new and had been lost for a week). Yes, he gave me my engagement ring after we broke up. Awkward. But I liked it better than the one I bought myself (which turned up later) and he was a jerk and it's not like it was expensive so EFF IT I kept the thing instead of arguing that he shouldn't give it to me NOW. I did give him back the necklace his mother gave me, and took the kilt set I had JUST bought him that also fit me and could easily be sold to my brother. I think we fought over some books and each ended up with half of a series because of who bought them.

    7) Do Good Prep Work: As a result of previous bad breakups and splitting of assets with some good and bad moments in each, my current partner and I prepared ourselves ahead of time. It sounded a little morbid to be planning for a breakup when we both knew this was a Lifetime kind of love headed toward marriage, but frankly it made combining our lives easier to discuss splitting it up later when there was no animosity. Not being concerned with resale value, our DVDs have Sesame Street or Rainbow Heart stickers on them to mark his and my collection respectively, but then they are filed (alphabetically) as one collection. Books, OTOH, are separated by shelf mostly, but frankly the contents of our book collections are so different we don't need to be concerned about the few that are mixed together because of size filing issues. Even the "joint" gifts from this past Christmas were negotiated over whose was whose, although in this case it was because there were multiple sets of Munchkin games and the rules require a designated owner for getting the last word in disagreements over rules application. But even the joint-gift DVDs were divided and appropriate stickers applied, so that there is no arguing over it later.

    7a) Records were all his from the start, but he wanted to get rid of a number of them that I wanted to keep, so if we split up I'm just planning on having him go through the records and take what he wants and I will take the rest–again similar to the books. When he lived with his brother for 8 years after moving away from their parents, they had a HUGE joint record collection. They had to split it up when the brother moved out, and that was hilarious. They both went through the pile together and made stacks of "Mine" and "His" and "Ours." The Ours pile they negotiated through with their roommate (also of 8 years) as a mediator. Most of the pile of 50 disputed records was sorted easily in a fashion of "Ok, you get this Michael Jackson and I get this Michael Jackson." It came down to 5 records that were highly disputed, and they had to do a Debate-style fight over why they each deserved or wanted it more. The last one came down to each singing a song off the album, and the one who nailed theirs better got the album. It was actually pretty awesome to witness.

    7b) As far as finances, we actually discussed prior to merging them what the plan was. We have rules for holiday gifts from each other's families and how to deal with monetary finances in an agreement we made the day before we opened a joint account. In our case, ALL income goes into the joint account and if we split up, any cash (including checking and savings) that we have is split down the middle, regardless of how much income one or the other of us has had during the time we're together. It seemed most fair for us. However, he had a personal savings and I had a personal savings, and since merging only money from our monthly allowance goes into them–as that falls under the clause of "what you do with your allowance is your own business," we get to keep any savings in these accounts. It gives me the security of a safety net, and there is no arguing later over who gets how much money.

    7c) If you feel that someone is potentially going to screw over the other person, or even if both people are having trouble sticking to what they agree to, perhaps putting the agreements in writing and even getting them notarized would help. In one break-up, my ex and I agreed that he was going to pay the remaining rent (since I would be leaving 6 weeks before the end of the lease), but I would be dealing with communicating with the landlord* as I had all along. I was to pay the outstanding utility bills but he would be responsible for any remaining, as, again, I wouldn't be there to accrue them. We also wrote down that the money he owed me was forgiven, any cash assets in our personal accounts was ours free and clear, and the result of splitting some disputed items including the rental deposit. But since the utilities were in my name and I was also on the lease, and since part of the break-up involved my ex being completely willing to say he was going to do something with no intentions of doing it, I insisted we write these agreements down AND get them notarized. I think he thought I was bluffing, because he got to the notary and tried to back out of getting it done, saying that since we had agreed to it, it should be no problem to stick to. I argued that this was to ensure we stuck to it and since he was already there there was no harm in getting it stamped (especially since I was paying the $5 to do it). Lo and behold, he did admit as we were leaving that he had agreed to the whole thing with every intention of screwing me on rent and utilities, and the reason he didn't want to get the agreement notarized was because of the fines and potential jail time involved if he failed to keep up his end of it. Hmph. Well, and he really did wonder why I wanted it notarized!! $5 saved me literally thousands of dollars and a whole lot of hassle.

    * Landlord was a bit miffed that we had been saying for 6 months we were staying another year but none of us had bothered to get the new lease sent over and signed and sent back and then we bailed 6 weeks before the lease was up. But given the circumstances of the break-up, he was understanding. In the agreement between me and my ex, we outlined how the rental deposit was to be returned if any, how the move-out interview would be handled, and waived our rights to 24 hours' notice for the landlord to show the apartment–and the whole agreement got sent to the landlord in case of issues with utilities and because I wasn't interested in taking out the third that didn't apply to him. Since we both shared around the link to the craigslist ad as well, the landlord ended up deciding he would be willing to rent to ME again since it really was extenuating circumstances and he had someone who was ready to move in the day our lease ended. We didn't even mind vacating three days early without prorating the rent so the new residents could move easier. This whole set-up REALLY helped smooth things over with the landlord, at least on my end, even if renting to my ex was never going to be an option again.

  25. When I left my ex partner I just started to secretly seperate some of my stuff from his – like CD's and DVD's and other stuff. That way when he moved out of my house all of his belongings were already 'together' and we didnt need to pain each other with 'seperating' our stuff together.

  26. I've done this before…been married a few times;-)
    First 2, I left and didn't take hardly anything with me..I was too above material possessions and so grateful to be splitting up…hmm.
    This time after 10 years and a child things are different and whilst I still believe that it's just stuff…now we have some pretty nice stuff and both have to have furnished homes for our child.
    This is the most amicable break up ever though and we're still sharing our home together until I leave soon to move into a temporary rented place until the money is sorted one way or the other and I can buy a new place. Unusually I am the career woman and he is the main care giver..so for me, the wrench of leaving my child here far outweighs the material side, but anyway.
    So back to splitting stuff…when you begin to talk about it it's really only the main things that matter at all. Don't sweat the small stuff…they'll work themselves out.
    Beds, nice bits of furniture, TV's etc should be discussed and handled fairly. We are in contention over a very beautiful cabinet which he wants me to replace but it would cost alot of money to replace…so not sure what to do about that.
    I have made several pieces of pottery which he would like to keep, so I'm prepared to compromise on those and leave him some in exchange for other kindnesses.
    Paintings/pots/plants/ornaments are working themselves out in a logical way…what means more to you/me etc.
    There's not much else I'm bothered about apart from getting a copy of all the online music we've accumulated as that's important to both of us.
    If you're in an acrimonious situation, get support from friends and write a list and do it over email to save the angst is my best advice.
    Try above everything to keep this person as your friend…after all, there was a time when you were best pals and it's amazing if you still can be.

  27. I dated a guy for 5 years, lived with him for two. When we broke up, we stayed civil, which helped a LOT. This is what we did.

    We each got everything we originally owned before living together.
    We divided the small things (books, DVDs, art, etc) evenly – if one of us was particularly attached to something, they took it. Other than that, we mostly picked at random and checked that the other person was okay with it
    For big things (furniture, video game systems, etc), I moved in with a roommate who had most of these things already. All I took was the bed and my late grandmother's table. We figured out the price of buying a new bed compared to replacing the things that I left with him (since I would need to replace them at some point). He gave me a couple hundred dollars for those items.
    I kept the cat. I would have given up every other item in order to keep the cat. I'm so glad he didn't contest it, and I don't know what I would have done if he had. I was the one who took care of her the most, so I would have lost my fucking mind. Thankfully, he realized this and understood why I wanted her.

    It sucks. It totally sucks. But three years later, I'm so happy that I left. He's an awesome guy, and he'll be an awesome boyfriend again some day, but for another girl.

  28. When my ex and I broke up (after living together for 2 years) splitting up stuff actually went pretty well. The first part of our breakup was peaceful enough, so that contributed.

    Virtually everything just split well. We kept all gifts. Then we obviously split things that were ours beforehand. Anything we bough individually. Then down to anything one of us used significantly more than the other.

    The problems were the PS3 and the BluRays. That's where it got bloody. The BluRays we had all purchased together. Me selling my old DVDs of the same movie and him paying most of the difference. The PS3 was bought with trade-ins of games and systems we stole from his brother (so basically not mine or his, his shitty brother's).

    He ended up getting the PS3, which I am still resentful of and a lot of my favorite BluRays, but I did get about half of them. He also did help me find a good deal on another PS3 for myself, but I still had to pay for it.

  29. I wish I had good advice. When I walked out on my ex husband, he moved his mistress in about 3 weeks later, so I had a tiny window to get my shit out of there as quickly as possible. I did one strike with one of my best friends who had a big SUV, and she helped me get the immediately necessary stuff — my books for my MA thesis that I was writing, my paperwork and files, most of my clothes/shoes/jewellery, my KitchenAid mixer (because it was pink and it was mine and nobody was getting it), my violin, my great grandmother's silver. My parents and I came back for some of the bigger stuff a week later with a moving truck, picked up a couple of pieces of furniture that were mine, the rest of my research books, and whatever random crap that felt important that fit in the truck. I made him leave the apartment when I did it because we were not civil. It still ended up being a thing we argued about in the divorce settlement. Since I was the one who legally fled the marriage despite his adultery and abusive behaviour, he had certain rights in the state in which we filed, and much of it centred around property — despite him having a high-paying job, he contested me taking valuable items like the silver and the violin because he was the wronged party. It was ugly as sin and twice as nasty, in the end.

    So I guess my advice would be this: have moral support who comes with you, who will think clearly and rationally, and will help you make order out of chaos and not react emotionally to everything. If there are any items that have significant value that might be contested (whether realistically or out of spite), either have a written agreement between the two of you over who will get what and on what terms, or be prepared to lawyer up, if your ex is the type to take it that far. Be ready to let go of more than you think you will, if only to get out of the situation with speed and grace. And don't beat yourself up over what you left behind. (I try not to be angry that he kept all my special edition LOTR DVDs and box set extras, not to mention the incredibly expensive pots and pans. It takes effort.) Getting out of a bad relationship is worth more than the stuff you leave behind. If it isn't an heirloom, super sentimental, or something you absolutely-cannot-be-without need, let it go. In no other moment as much as splitting up a cohabitation situation are material possession nothing but suffering. I think the Buddha maybe had that one right.

    Best of luck to you.

  30. You also have to keep in mind (depending on the severity of the situation) there are going to be things of yours that might end up leaving with your ex. You have to remember these are just things and they can be replaced. It stinks but look at the fact that you are starting a new chapter. Sometimes it's good to get new things, you don't want to keep things around that will bring back bad memories or inhibit you from moving on emotionally. One thing I recommend that I read in an article once, is to buy new bed sheets. Start a new.

  31. I am going through this right now! In fact I am headed over to my ex husband/my storage unit here in a couple of minutes to begin that sorting process for the storage space.

    We have an incredibly amicable break up, so that makes it a lot easier, but here's been our attitude.
    1) If we brought it to the house seven years ago, we can take it with us if we want it. So furniture, bedding, kitchen supplies, games etc. that sort of thing is divided that way.

    2)If it was a gift to one of us, that person gets it. Birthday gifts for me, are mine, even if he got them for me.

    3)If it was a joint gift we made a list (wedding gifts were this way in a big way), and did some trading. "Well, you can have the Kitchen Aid, since you bake more, but I'll take the iron and the white fiesta ware". We aren't getting everything we want, but for us we are also committed to maintaining a friendship after the end of the divorce.

    Another element that is internally making this whole process easier on me is that I am choosing to purge, a lot. So a bunch of things that I may ordinarily had wanted to fight for, I'm letting go of, and a lot of things that were mine before (like my giant couch) I am giving to him, since I don't want all that stuff hanging around me.

    Good luck!

  32. This has been a great thread to read, I'm so glad you are getting such great responses. I've been having trouble finding any advice on breaking up before or after moving out, which is better? I've only done it after the move, and I want to do it in the most compassionate/respectful way possible.. Maybe this isn't the best place to post this, I don't know if there is another entry somewhere that would be more relevant to it.

  33. There have been a lot of great responses already.
    I was in two consecutive serious relationships, living together in both cases, and both with amicable break ups.
    I broke up with my first partner after 6 years (living together for more than 5, and we had just moved into a bigger place). Most of the stuff was mine, so there were never big discussions. We still lived together (separate bedrooms) for a few months as it is really hard to find a flat in our city. (Right after the break up I stayed with my parents for a month so we could both have some space).

    Funnily enough, I got together with my new boyfriend two days before the ex moved out, and so the new guy's first weekend with me was spent helping my ex move.

    Three years later (last October), the "new guy" broke up with me, and while I was completely devastated, we managed quite well. He just packed a couple of clothes and went to stay with his parents, and he got to borrow my car and my big suitcase to take some of the bulkier items there. He stayed with his parents and with friends for the next 6 weeks till he found a new place (he got lucky! I know people who couldn't find a flat for MONTHS), and in the meantime I sorted out the stuff (he offered to help, and we did meet up once or twice to discuss things, but I saw it as a therapeutic task for myself to sort out and pack his stuff). He didn't own a lot of things, no more than 2 or 3 carloads. All the furniture was mine anyway.

    I did pack quite a lot of kitchen stuff e.g. pots, pans etc for him, anything I didn't need (and I wanted to downsize anyway!) or if we had two of the same things. He would never have asked for that, he didn't want to take away "my" stuff after having been the one who broke up.

    The funniest (and weirdest) thing was, when he got his flat and his new furniture arrived, it was my ex-boyfriend number 1 and me who helped him move, and assemble all his new furniture 😀
    And if I ever move, or if I need any other help, I know I can count on both of them.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.