For Sale? Letting Go After a Divorce

Letting go—physically and emotionally.

I’m getting my house ready for sale. My fiancée does not want to live in my house (where I lived with my ex-husband). I get it; no problem. As I’m cleaning, preparing to put it on the market, the memories are coming at me from every corner. This is the first home I’ve ever owned. My ex and I bought it over a decade ago with money we’d saved since we were married 6 years earlier. I’ve lived there 11 years and brought 3 babies home to that house. My only dog’s ashes are in the garden, I’ve painted or remodeled nearly every wall, and my husband left me in that home.

There are a lot of memories. The energy of most of them will fade. The angst of nervousness in the upstairs hall, where I can still remember pacing for miles with a crying baby who wouldn’t sleep. The horror of being told my husband wants a divorce on the back deck. The joy of serving latkes to 70 guests in the too-small kitchen at my last Hanukkah party. Those will dim. But what about the physical ones? The hundreds of proofs from the photographer at my first wedding in 1997. Books of them are still in my home office. Stacks of birthday, Mother’s Day, anniversary cards, and love letters—they are still in my drawers. My wedding gown, custom-made by an old Italian seamstress in New Jersey and preserved in one of those giant white boxes, still lives in my basement. Where do these memories go?

Some say to junk them, and I agree—to an extent. If it was just me, I’d sell the house with everything in it. Okay, I’d keep the kids and my clothes (and shoes). But it’s not just me. Won’t my kids want to see the wedding photos of me and their father? Won’t they want to read how much we once loved each other in those letters? Will my girls want a piece of lace from the dress that I loved so much when they walk down the aisle? Or is it bad karma to keep anything? I’m struggling. The house is just a house, but what do I do with all the things that made it a home?

My fiancée is the most incredible man in the universe and I cannot wait to start our new life and family together. The emotional hard work of releasing my old life has been done, but the physical part is hard as well. I want to do the right thing, but nothing feels right yet. Maybe on moving day when I’m faced with the “save or toss” dilemma, I’ll know. But right now, I feel paralyzed. In the past, these decisions have been made for me. I had to sell my engagement and wedding rings to pay for my divorce lawyer. I had to release my Ketubah (Jewish marriage agreement) to the Rabbi who performed my Get (Jewish divorce ceremony). But the other memories, while tangible, seem less-defined as to where they should be stored.

Children of divorce may want to have a picture of their parents from when they were happy. When I’m gone, my great-granddaughter may want a piece of yellowed lace to hold under her Chuppah. It’s difficult to have to decide now. I want my new life with my husband-to-be to be a fresh start, but how much of the physical past must I release for that to happen? I’m caught between considerately respecting the future while courteously honoring the past. But I am so grateful for both.

How did or would you handle this situation? Let’s chat tonight at 9 @wccoradio.