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

Guest post by Cassie
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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!

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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