Packing up Memories: Advice on Moving After Divorce


Packing Up Memories: Advice on Moving 

Hey you! Do you find yourself clinging onto decades old birthday cards? Do you have a box of miscellaneous nicknacks from the 80s collecting dust? Are you struggling to get rid of that albatross of an armoire your mother “gifted” you? Do you have a growing collection of your child’s ceramics that barely pass as surrealist art? If you said “yes ”to any of these questions, you may be a sentimental stockpiler. If you struggle with emotional hoarding, you’re not alone. Sentimental stockpiling creeps up on all of us. And we can only confront it when we move. 

Why is moving so hard?

Let’s face it, moving is the worst. Anyone who enjoys it must be a little sadistic. There’s just no getting around the fact that it’s a grueling endeavor, both physically and emotionally. Moving, like anything worth doing, takes a ton of effort. If it were easy it wouldn’t mean anything and we’d be moving all the time. It would be a world full of nomads. What makes moving so difficult is that it’s the most tangible act of change. We’re grasping memories, packing them in boxes, and choosing to let them stay with us or go elsewhere (aka the dump). You have to come to terms with decluttering your past. This is especially difficult for the sentimental stockpiler. 

Moving is a Melodrama of Indecision

Moving becomes a melodrama of indecision. The driving force of it’s plot is guilt. Should I keep those VHS movies in case they make a comeback like vinyl? What’s worse, keeping the wedding album or tossing it away? It’s the “what ifs” that drive us crazy. We fear regretting something we got rid of. So how do we overcome this daytime novela of a process? We attack the “what ifs’ from a rational perspective and start a dialogue.

Create a Conversation

Forming a conversation on what items to keep with your family can diffuse the emotional burden of what to get rid of. Ask your kids what they’d like to keep. Give them a pile of their things. Their art projects, essays, report cards, trophies, etc. Tell them to look through it and decide what they want to hold on to. Obviously, there will be some mementos of theirs that you’d like to keep, but what’s important to realize is these are their memories. Everyone has their own memories and no one should guilt you into what to do with them. It’s up to you. Forming a conversation isn’t only about creating a dialogue with others, it’s about being honest with yourself. You may be getting divorced, and you may be feeling bad about getting rid of certain mementos, like a wedding album, for the sake of your kids. But, the truth is it’s worth creating a conversation between yourself and your kids to see how you feel about the object in question and the memory it holds.

Box it up and Keep it Clear

After giving everyone their designated pile, give them a personal box. Get a box for each kid, put pictures in it and mementos that you think are going to be meaningful for them that may have been with you and your soon to be or existing ex. Another way to keep track of what you’re keeping is to store them in clear or see through containers, like a large Ziploc big bag. That way you can see everything that’s in it. 

To Sell, or not to Sell, that is the Question. 

So how do you choose between selling and storing? After you form a conversation on what memories you’d like to keep, it’s time to decide which ones you are willing to part with. Some objects might be antiques passed down from your relatives that you can’t keep but you’d like to see them cherished by another family. Others are outdated or useless appliances that may find a second life after being recycled. It comes down to how well some items are suited for being repurposed. It’s also important to consider donating your stuff to organizations like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. It’s hard to say goodbye to certain things but if you haven’t used something in years it’s time to let it go. Find comfort in knowing that someone else will appreciate what you’re giving away. 

Decluttering the Past and Making space for the Future

At the end of the day, getting rid of old items is about making space for the new. Look at it as embracing the future. Of course, it’s important to remember the past, but you can’t let it keep you from moving forward. It’s healthy to let go and create room for other things to come. Although it is stressful, moving allows us to look at our past and confront what memories we want to keep and which we want to let go. It’s a physical decluttering of our past. When we move, it’s because we are looking for a change. If we hold on to things that keep us stuck in the past we’ll never be able to grow.

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