Splitting the Stuff

In separation and divorce mediation we at some point need to discuss the stuff. Officially called Personal Property, it’s the furniture, TVs, linens, dishes, yard equipment, and tools. It’s all the things in the house that you as a couple living in one house use together and now that you’ll be living separately you need to divide.

Sometimes, it’s not a big deal to one or both people. Sometimes, it’s clear to both who should get the china or the lawnmower. Other times, however, it seems more important than dividing retirement savings or custody of the children. Not kidding. And when folks can’t agree on these things it can bring the whole mediation to a standstill. People can get very serious about hand towels and patio furniture. It’s for this reason that I try to save this topic as the last thing we discuss. Even then, I’ve seen mediations go for another hour or more as people stake their claim on a Weber.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are three questions to ask yourself:

1. What is your end goal or goals with the whole process? What is ultimately most important to you? What is your big picture?

Hopefully you’ve spent some time prior to mediation thinking about this but even if you haven’t, now is the perfect time to give it a minute’s thought. Now, does putting your foot down over the Kitchen Aid help you reach your goals?

2. Is it sentimental, irreplaceable, a favorite?

If so, then maybe it is worth the fight. Is there something or things you can give in exchange for this one thing? Only you can decide what you can live with or without. But check yourself before you put your foot down. Is it truly important to you and your big picture goals or are you using this as a cover to spite the other person?

3. Is it replaceable or inessential?

If so, then it’s probably not worth the fight. If you find yourself holding onto something that is replaceable ask yourself why. Is it because you use it frequently and it’s expensive? If yes, then maybe you can give up this one thing in exchange for something else that is equally valuable. Kitchen Aid for a Dyson vacuum cleaner, for example. BUT, if you admit that’s not important to you and it’s not expensive then you probably are fighting out spite or vengeance. While this is totally understandable during such a painful process it’s not productive. Again, ask yourself what your big picture goals are and how does this item fit.

It’s easy for an outsider to say “It’s just stuff” but it is personal and we feel real attachments to it. The things in our houses represent the home built as a family and when that family is breaking up, letting go of the things can really hurt. So, it is totally understandable to want to win some of these arguments. But, ultimately, it only goes to dragging the fight out and this prevents us from moving on. Let go as best you can.