Ask Unclutterer: How to break up with stuff after a breakup

Reader Ellen submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

I recently ended a very long-term relationship and I have no idea what to do with the gifts I was given over the last ten years. Some of them (CDs, books) are impersonal and I still use and enjoy them, but other items – some engraved, some very expensive, some very romantic – are causing problems.

I can’t use them without feeling upset. I can’t give them away, as most of them are personalized or unique in some way. Most are made of materials that can’t be recycled. It feels wrong to put an item worth a hundred dollars into the trash.

Do you have any creative suggestions? Or any advice on new ways to think about the problem?

I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t have anything in your life that you don’t need or love, so I don’t see a reason to keep any of the items that make you upset. If it makes your stomach churn when you see it, this is a pretty good sign that it’s time for the item to go.

Gifts that have been engraved can be polished clean by a jeweler. I suggest having these engravings buffed out and then selling these items. Even carvings on wood can be sanded out by a woodworker. Buy something you want with the revenue, invest it, or donate it to charity.

Jewelry stores are also great locations to dispose of jewelry because they can melt down pieces and refashion them into new pieces you want. I actually took diamonds from two different pieces of jewelry boyfriends gave me and had them made into earrings. One diamond had to be tweaked with a little to match the other, but it wasn’t very expensive and it was worth it.

If you’re not interested in having a piece of jewelry refashioned, you can consider selling or swapping it on the site ExBoyfriendJewelry.com.

I’d also consider donating objects to charity or to someone in need, if appropriate. You might not yet have the nerve to sell something, but a homeless person might not have any issue with walking those diamonds into a pawn shop and getting money for a week’s worth of food and some clothes.

Be sure to check out the comments for even more ideas. I’m sure our readers will also have great ideas for you. Thank you, Ellen, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

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45 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: How to break up with stuff after a breakup”

  1. posted by K on

    Since it was a very long term relationship, chances are pretty good that once the fog of pain clears you’ll have many happy memories of your time together, alongside the more recent painful ones. I suggest gathering up all the photos, jewelry, and small gifts that will fit into a large file box and put it in an out-of-the way spot or give it to a trusted friend or family member for safe storage until you’re ready to deal with it. You might feel very differently in a year or two. I suspect you’ll toss the lingerie and choose to keep mementos from a favorite trip or a piece of jewelry that is just so “you”- more as reminders of that chapter in your life than as reminders of the relationship. It will be so much easier to decide once you’ve got some distance. Liz Taylor, may she rest in peace, certainly didn’t unclutter her jewels every time she uncluttered another husband, and you don’t have to either.

  2. posted by Jay on

    I guarantee if it’s valuable, someone will want it and not care at all that it’s personalized.

  3. posted by Elizabeth in Yuma on

    I agree with K. My incredibly messy, painful divorce (are there any other kind) made me less than excited about seeing wedding photos, engraved gifts, jewels, etc about the house. However, as a newly single working mamma, I barely had the emotional strength to get through the days, much less take my jewelry to a pawn shop. One whirlwind day, I threw everything into a huge plastic tote and stuck it in the back closet. I went and looked at it six months later, and then retreated. Not ready. About a year out, I was able to tackle some of the box. Sold, donated, gave away, etc. Some things stayed in the box for another year or so. I grieved and let go as I was ready to. Five years later, I have the things I want, the pain has subsided, I have no regrets about what’s gone. I know the urge is to get it all out NOW, but be gentle with yourself. You will make better, truer decisions if you wait a bit.

  4. posted by Paula on

    Related (I guess): how do you get rid of very nice company-logo-emblazoned stuff? I have really nice coffee mugs, pullover jackets, gear bags; that I don’t need but they have company logos on them. Should I donate them? Does Goodwill put this type of stuff on the floor or should I donate to a place who’s less choosy? Could I even possibly hope to sell it?

  5. posted by Judi on

    I love the suggestions to store the stuff away for a while, and then decide. You may discover that being a little bit ritualistic about the removal may help you process the feelings, but it’s very hard to do that without a little distance between you and the breakup.

    On the ex-company swag question: If you really like the clothing, sometimes logos and what-not can be disguised or removed (find someone with a nice sewing machine that does embroidery and see what rehabilitation they can provide). Same on the gear bag thing. Of course if you just don’t need another fleece pullover, that’s another story, and Goodwill is happy to take them. You might also consider giving it to your former co-workers, if you have kind feelings toward them (I have a very nice laptop bag that I got just this way.)

    As for selling: take a look at eBay. Stranger things have sold!

  6. Avatar of

    posted by Sky on

    I agree with K. You will feel differently in a year or so.
    Keep in mind, they are only objects, regardless where they came from but if after some time they still upset you let them go.

  7. posted by Cindi on

    Just wanted to comment on K’s post about the concept of “uncluttering” husbands – I’ve not ever heard it phrased that way, but it fits so well into the spirit of an uncluttered life. Life would be so much better if we could mindfully dispose of our excess baggage of any kind.

  8. posted by DawnF on

    I would suggest doing something with the items that truly makes you happy:

    If getting money out of the unwanted items makes you happy, then sell, sell, sell! (Perhaps you could use the money to take a trip or start a new hobby or redecorate.)

    If giving the things to a charity would put a smile on your face then donate, donate, donate!

    If giving them to friends or family members would bring joy to you, then give, give, give!

    If you truly are uncertain as to what to do then storing them and revisiting the items later is a great idea – if you are comfortable knowing that the box full of the items is still lingering in your life.

    Every time you find yourself uncertain as to what to do just remember YOUR own words: “I can’t use them without feeling upset.” – and that should you help drive your decision.

  9. posted by Camellia Tree on

    I agree with K’s post. I did this post-breakup (although it was only a 2 year relationship), and it was much easier to deal with the things after some time had passed. Just put everything in a box big enough to hold everything and don’t force yourself to go through it. There will come a day when you will be ready to see the things again and at that point some of the things may be relatively easy to get rid of. I’m not sure why, but for me it was comforting to know that I still had stuff from the relationship after it ended, even if it was painful to look at it. I did end up keeping a few things, and those things are meaningful to me and represent the best parts of the relationship.

  10. posted by Lynda on

    I concur: maybe Ellen needs a bit of time before deciding what to do. Out of sight, out of mind for a while, till the pain subsides.

    Paula: Ebay, after checking what’s sold.

  11. posted by Mrs. H on

    I’m old-fashioned, probably, but I still concur with the old etiquette rule that one doesn’t profit by romantic relationships, so that if a romance doesn’t end in marriage you should give the gifts back to the donor. What kind of woman “reworks” jewelry from one man to wear out with another, or sells her boyfriend’s gifts to spend the money on who knows what. Decluttering isn’t the greatest moral force in our lives, after all.

  12. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Mrs. H — Actually, U.S. law is that a gift is yours UNLESS it’s an engagement ring. The person who gave you something — any gift, romantic or otherwise — has no title to it or expectation of getting it back. The reason an engagement ring is different is because it’s part of a contract agreement. If you break the contract to marry (call off the wedding), then you give back the ring. Even Ms. Manners herself will tell you that etiquette should uphold the laws of the state.

  13. posted by danielle on

    When I broke off my engagement a couple years ago, the very first thing I did was pack up everything that he’d given me, reminded me of him, etc. so that I didn’t have to look at it every day. And believe me, getting those things out of sight was a HUGE help! I got an archival-quality storage box (there were lots of cards and pictures)that’s about the size of a regular cardboard file box, packed everything up, and then put it in my storage shed closet, so it’s not even in my apartment. I figured that at some point I’d go through it again and get rid of things – either because I was moving and would be going through everything or because I just felt ready or whatever – but I didn’t want to have to make those painful decisions at a time when I knew I just wasn’t thinking clearly.

    I’ve been thinking about that box lately so it just might be time to dig it out and take a look inside.

    And coincidentally, I DID give back the engagement ring even though he told me to keep it :)

  14. posted by Anita on

    @Mrs. H — we must come from very different cultures. Where I’m from, returning a gift is taboo, even if it’s after the relationship has ended. What was gifted stays gifted, and the recepient has both the prerogative and the responsibility to deal with the gift if the relationshop ends.

    I wouldn’t want to get anything back from any ex-boyfriends, I don’t have any misgivings about them wearing things I gave them out with other women, and I certainly don’t see a need for a double standard in that regard.

  15. posted by Marrena on

    Mrs. H, you are absolutely correct and Miss Manners would agree with you. The only reason I did not return the jewelry from my marriage when I got divorced was because of our daughters. I have packed it away until the girls are old enough. I returned all other items to my ex-husband upon divorcing.

    Certainly at the end of a relationship all gifts (and letters) should be returned to the giver. At the very least give it to charity or sell it! Marriages are different, with assets being divided by lawyers, but even there it’s better feng shui to send it back where it came from.

  16. posted by lisa on

    A diamond chip necklace from an old boyfriend went into my new sister-in-law’s repair of her wedding ring, both the gold and the diamond. It felt like a respectful and useful way of dealing with a necklace I would never wear again.

    On the less respectful side, a local radio station had a wood chipper on site for a feature called “Shred my Ex”, where people brought relationship memorabilia to shred in the wood chipper. I think it was very cathartic for them.

  17. posted by Chris2 on

    A friend of mine tried to return a car that an ex had given her and he refused to take because she still needed it; he took their dog because he had a yard and she didn’t. It would be a better world if all breakups were this classy!

  18. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Marrena — I find it hard to believe that Miss Manners thinks it’s okay to hand a gift back to someone and say, “I don’t want it. Take it back.” Can you imagine someone doing that at a baby shower? The woman would open a gift, say, “Meh, I don’t like it. Take it back,” and hand the gift back to the gift giver. I think most everyone would find this to be inappropriate behavior. At least I would. Maybe Miss Manners does say you should give back gifts, but if she does, it seems very inconsistent with her typical message.

    Also, most relationships I was in before I married my husband ended on positive notes. In fact, I’m still on decent terms with all of my ex-boyfriends except for one. Giving gifts back would have been an affront to our friendships.

    And, how would you even be able to give back all of the things someone gave you during a relationship? How do you give back time and laughter and experiences and miles traveled?

  19. posted by Susan in FL on

    Whatever you do – do NOT discard photos of you and your ex !! Put them in a labeled manila envelope. Don’t look at them until you are ready but keep them for a long time. YOU are in those photos too. When I married, I had my Mom throw out all my pictures of me with old boyfriends. I have been married for almost 48 years now and I would love to have those pictures of me at proms on the arms of beaus I mostly don’t remember the names of. The prom dress I sewed for myself. My funky hair-dos. All are long gone. My grand-doughter would love to look at her Grandma back in the day – but she can’t.

  20. posted by Laura m. on

    A friend lost her husband of many years. She had an ornamental box she put his watch, eyeglasses, pocket knife, wallet,comb and other misc. memorabilia in. The box was the size of a large shoe box. On breakups of romantic relationships for gifts other than clothing, perfume, best to ask the person if he/she wants it back as an expensive ring, watch, or necklace.

  21. posted by jenny on

    I JUST did this! I was holding on to a gold charm with my ex gave me in 1994. It had my old monogram (with my maiden name) on one side and “I love you” on the back. A dear friend is expecting a little girl and when she told me the name, it is my old monogram!
    I gave the charm to her for her little girl. I am thrilled.

  22. posted by Sue on

    “consider donating objects to charity or to someone in need. You might not yet have the nerve to sell something, but a homeless person might not have any issue with walking those diamonds into a pawn shop and getting money for a week’s worth of food and some clothes.”

    That may create problems for the homeless person, if they try to pawn something that appears to not be theirs. Better to box them up until you have the nerve, or ask a trusted friend to sell them.

  23. Avatar of

    posted by xarcady on

    In regards to the etiquette of returning gifts once a relationship has ended–in the past, this was the accepted thing to do once the two people had broken off the relationship.

    A quote from Miss Manners–“The general rules about presents between unmarried couples is that one gives or accepts only what can suitable be returned during a breakup. ‘Take back your mink’ is, for example, impossible to say, and therefore it would be inadvisable to give your boyfriend a mink coat. Books, records, and small leather goods such as wallets and key cases are considered to be the proper type of present to be exchanged by those in temporary arrangements.”

    My 1950 copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette states that “If the engagement should be so unfortunate as to be broken off, the engagement ring and all other gifts of value must be returned to the giver.”

    Of course, in the past, there single people who were dating and there were married people. Etiquette is still working on catching up with long-term, unmarried relationships, so the old rules are still out there, but really need to be updated.

    A friend of mine offered all the expensive gifts back to her ex-boyfriend after they broke up, but he didn’t want them either, so she sold them.

  24. posted by Lisa on

    Take the valuable items – does not matter if they are engraved – to an auction house. You’ll do better financially than you would on Ebay, you don’t have to do the work to sell them, and you have them out of your life as you wait for them to sell.

  25. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @xarcady — In the selection you listed from Emily Post, it is referring to gifts the couple received at an engagement party from other people, not each other.

  26. Avatar of

    posted by xarcady on

    @ Erin–No, it’s referring to gifts given by one member of the engaged couple to the other. I didn’t quote all the context because I got tired of typing. There’s a whole separate section on returning wedding and shower gifts (Post doesn’t mention gifts at engagement parties at all–in fact she rather frowns on the “new” custom of giving engagement gifts and prefers just giving one wedding gift).

    I think the reasoning was that back then, only women of loose morals would accept expensive gifts from a man that they were not engaged or married to. There were clear rules about what a woman could accept as a gift from a man she was just dating–no jewelery, nothing expensive, nothing that would give anyone the idea that she was a “kept woman.” During the engagement period, the rules got laxer, but she still wasn’t to accept gifts of clothing or anything else that Post termed “maintenance.” So she could drive his car, but not accept the gift of a car until they were married. He could give her a fur scarf, but not a fur coat. One was ornamental, the other practical.

    Once the engagement had been broken off, keeping those expensive gifts would move the woman towards the “kept woman” category and therefore they needed to be returned, to make sure that the woman kept her good name.

    It was just a very different moral code back then.

    I was just trying to give some evidence for Mrs. H’s statement that the gifts should be returned. Today, there’s less concern about one’s reputation, and I doubt if anyone would blink at someone keeping an expensive gift from an ex. But 60 years ago, it was a bigger issue than we would suspect today.

  27. posted by Lou on

    Perhaps Emily Post’s advice from the 50’s is useful for those who were young then and still maintain those standards. I started dating in the late 60’s and I can see that my love for practical things, fostered by the culture of that era, has saved me a lot of grief.

    My engagement ring was a delicate antique that caught my eye.. When my future hubby protested that it was “too cheap to count,” I reminded him that I hadn’t had a TV for years, so if he bought me one, we could both enjoy it. If we had broken up, I’d have kept it.

    My current partner gave me an iMac for my birthday after we had been together for 2 years. I gave him an iPod around the same time.

    The only expensive jewelry I was ever gifted was a watch, but I had given him a carefully chosen tiepin from Tiffany that he had – cavalierly, I thought – passed on to a client who admired it. I kept the watch when we broke up.

  28. posted by Mletta on

    To me, a personal gift is a gift. Freely given. The giftee gets to keep it even if our relationship and/or friendship ends. Personal gifts are NOT the same as gifts given to an engaged or married couple, which then require some negotiating as to who keeps what (same with items purchased together during the relationship).

    As for giving gifts back? I can see how some people would like/want to do this, depending on how the relationship ended. But far too frequently the “giving back” is about hurting someone or throwing something in someone’s face (often quite literally!).

    I’ve learned, the hard way, to box up the stuff and put it away until emotions have cooled down, whether months or years. As a twenty-something, I tossed away all sorts of stuff when I ended a major relationship. To this day, some 20 years later, I still wish I had kept those things (some) because despite the sad ending, there were some very good times. So I highly advise everyone facing this to put it away and wait before you go thru it. You would be surprised how you feel over time.

    As for those who are taken aback at people selling jewelry, I say, unless it’s a family heirloom or an item that was given with conditions–as in, “hold it for our child”, etc., it’s just jewelry. It may seem mercenary to some because well, there are some people who “collect” presents from people in relationships, but hey, that’s different than most people who are just trying to get over someone and be practical about disposing of items.

    And, let’s be honest, in some cases, relationships end and people are in dire straights financially, and suddenly. Selling some stuff becomes a survival tactic. There is no time for sentimentality.

    The toughest issues are when both parties value things they have purchased jointly or received as joint gifts. (If you can’t understand how people can fight over stuff, watch the old “War of the Roses,” something that happens in real life even with less valuable stuff.)

    Watch any family. Things can get very very ugly over stuff, even stuff with no material value. Sentiment is something that can make dealing with and disposing of stuff very difficult.

  29. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    Maybe I’m just not understanding why readers think I should have given Ellen out-dated advice that doesn’t apply to modern times? Clearly, I’m missing some nuance in the comments.

    Personally, I rejoice in the fact that it’s not the 1950s. Don’t all of you? I’m thankful for medical advancements and racial integration and airbags in cars and the internet and, well, everything. I hope no one in 2011 is still holding onto 1950 standards — even my 101 year old grandmother would be offended if someone called my son the “n” word.

    @xarcady — Engagement gifts are not new. When my grandparents were engaged my great-grandfather gave them over 1,000 acres of land. This was in 1939.

    @Mletta — Well stated.

  30. posted by LG on

    I’ve always thought the holding of the”boyfriend” box was one of the sacred duties of being a best friend or sister. I even kept the girlfriend box of a male friend once. Procedure: Break up happens, you go to home of destraught friend with a box that you have room to store, tissues, and wine/ice cream. Comfort your friend and tell her to fill the box with the stuff she can’t trash but can’t keep and bring it to you when she’s filled it. Promise to keep it safe until she’s ready to go through it. Also, don’t give advice, bad mouth the ex., say “I told you so”, or hog the wine/ice cream.

  31. posted by Lim on

    @Sue – That was my first thought. It could be pretty iffy trying to convince a pawn shop that yes, this diamond necklace was given to me by a lady who just didn’t want it anymore.

    @Paula – If the mug isn’t engraved, but rather painted or stickered, Goo-Gone will sometimes take it right off. I’ve had a few mugs that were just right as far as weight, shape and size, but I didn’t want the logo on it, now they are blank.

    You can try this on the bags as well, but test it in an inconspicuous place first, in case it stains.

  32. Avatar of

    posted by Another Deb on

    Don’t forget to be decent enough to return anything that might be a family heirloom. Most of the time I picture an engagement ring in this category but you never know … I once got rid of a lamp after a breakup and the guy was upset that his grandmother’s 40 year old Sears Roebuck lamp was decluttered.

  33. posted by Sian on

    Wow I think some commenters think these presents were some sort of dowry! I can’t imagine anyone having the nerve to take back those gifts – I think THAT would be rude, as if they only gave the gifts as a bribe for the relationship. I would have thought the essence of etiquette would be giving gifts with good grace and without expectations placed upon the gift. If you expect a gift back if certain conditions happen in the future, then you shouldn’t give at all.

    How could you give back the cost of the restaurants visited, holidays enjoyed, time spent together.. if you feel strange about ‘profiting’ from a relationship you’re no longer in, then donate the items to charity.

    On the subject of engagement gifts – I live in the UK and I’ve only ever heard of it as an American thing on TV shows (it may be in other countries I don’t know) so I’d assumed it was fairly new (we don’t do baby showers either – although many people will give a gift for the baby after it is actually born, its not in the form of a party). It seems a bit too much to me (too cluttered/consumerist) when presumably you’ll get a wedding present too a couple of months down the line – and most people already have the household items wedding gifts were traditionally supposed to help a new couple with. I realise it is kindly meant though.

  34. posted by Marrena on

    Thank you xarcady. In my uncluttering, I have gotten rid of my copies of all of Miss Manners’ books, but I knew for certain what her views on this are. Granted her views are now twenty years old, but I think the principle applies–to open up room in your life for new love by symbolically ridding yourself of tokens of the old love. Even if the break-up was amicable.

    Of course there have always been women who thought differently even back in the day–look at Elizabeth Taylor and her collection of jewelry!

  35. posted by Mrs. H on

    Just a follow-up — thanks to those who did some research and printed actual quotes to back up my antiquated thinking (I’m only 45 by the way but still wouldn’t want to be a woman who profits by her romantic life, but I recognize that that’s considered quaint by many — at least you’re not all “giving it away!”).

    The returning of gifts to a former lover is partially a way of saying he wasn’t that important to you, by the way — it’s not simply a sacrifice on the part of the returning giftee. Zsa Zsa Gabor once said “I never hated a man enough to give him back his diamonds.”

    Unrelated but amusing: Once Zsa Zsa Gabor threw a party for some visiting big-wig, and the next day he sent her a fur coat. A friend of her mother’s expressed surprise at the lavishness of the “thank you” gift, and mom said: “Well you don’t just send a girl like Zsa Zsa a bunch of flowers.”

    If the gift buyer was subsequently a husband and then no longer a husband (as everyone who ever dated Elizabeth Taylor seems to have been), I agree that it’s a legal matter and she’s probably entitled to keep them, but in that case it wouldn’t be shameful to admit that Mr. X had provided the jewelry (or house, for that matter) because they were actually married for a time.

  36. posted by Victron on

    This blog has some great ideas and tips. Ive definitely been looking for a way of uncluttering my room! Keep up the good work!

  37. posted by Sassy on

    The day after my boyfriend broke up with me (long story short, he was dating four other women and ranked us all with points and I just lost out on points, what a prize) he sent me an email stating something like that there was no common property between the two of us, or something worded like that.

    Basically he was saying that he had nothing of mine and I had nothing of his. He forgot that he had left a whole bunch of collectable dvd’s at my place just before he broke up with me! Oh well, I gave them all away on freecycle to some very appreciative collectors and when he asked me about them a month later I merely directed him to his own email advising that we had no common property etc. He was so angry and threatened to sue me. PRICELESS!!!!

    Of course when I talked to a lawyer and showed them the email they said he had no case.

    S

  38. Avatar of

    posted by anitamojito on

    Sassy, that is HILARIOUS. :) Well done!

  39. Avatar of

    posted by Sky on

    Erin, I agree with you 100%.

  40. posted by Elissa on

    Sian: One reason for engagement gifts (and I’m in Australia, it might be a bit different in the US) is gifts from people who aren’t going to the wedding. I suppose back in the day you would have sent the same present around the time of the wedding, but now it’s common to give it at the engagement party – which is often meant as a party to celebrate with a wider circle than would be invited to your wedding (coworkers, old school friends you don’t see much anymore, etc).

    About the returning of gifts, I’d definitely say that they’re yours to do with as you will. Relationships aren’t just transactional in nature – I don’t give my partner gifts just because that’s part of the ‘deal’ of being in a relationship. I give him gifts because I like him, same as the gifts I give my friends or family. If we break up, should he return the 10 or so Discworld books I’ve given him over the last 8 years? I doubt that either of us can remember which ones they are! I will admit that the soppy message in the front of a book his ex gave him makes me feel a bit yucky – but that’s more because she hated me passionately than because she was an ex per se. But the book is his, to do with as he will, and I think that what he will is to grimace and flip the page, just like I do :P

    It might be a bit different for gifts that are valuable out of proportion to his income or other gifts (Liz Taylor’s jewels are probably the equivalent of my Discworld books in this view), or for gifts just given compared to gifts given some time ago. This sort of thing always varies depending on the situation and the particular people involved.

  41. posted by Er on

    I agree with packing the stuff up, put it in some far away location in your home and deal with it down the road when you are ready. Pack up anything memorabilia of your time together so that you don’t accidentally come across it in your house. In time you will be able to make better decisions with less emotion. Don’t include things like books etc that you use. I offered one book back genuinely not to be mean, but if they bought it for me they may have liked it but it wasn’t totally my thing. They may have been offended and that wasn’t how i meant it, but I thought it was better than just driving it to the thrift store.

  42. posted by momoboys on

    Erin’s advice is sound for modern times. Each one will do this painful “uncluttering” their own way. I’d love to see us build up & encourage the honest questioner, not tear down the other commenters. I kept the boyfriend box in its pristine state for 18 years (mostly b/c I moved a lot, got married, had kids, etc) and just went thru it over a long weekend. I was so grateful I didn’t throw these things away…it was like a time capsule to 1993. I learned to love my silly young adult self, and–here’s the key part–learned to accept the old boyfriends as they were, too. I don’t think I would have had this kind of clarity 5, or even 10 years in. Some clutter serves this purpose; to hold a place for us until we are can cope with it.

  43. posted by chacha1 on

    Just because something *cost* $100 doesn’t mean it is *worth* $100.

    Sorry about the breakup … it sucks even if it was mutual. But don’t let this Stuff stress you out.

    If you just don’t want to deal with it yet, put it in a box and cram it in a dark corner somewhere. One day you will come across it, open it up, and say “oh yeah … nope.” And it’ll be easy to say good-bye.

  44. posted by kalavinka on

    2 years ago I got dumped from a long term relationship. I decluttered a bit straight away and have been continuing the process. We were not into “fine things” so we didn’t have to deal with jewelry/vehicles/property/engraved items but much of our stuff was “ours”. Although oddly I did receive from them an engraved item post-breakup, like a gold watch at retirement ;) I didn’t walk away with half, I walked away with what I was comfortable with. (you get the living room items and I get the dining room items, for example) Some things of mine since before we met I let them keep but I just couldn’t keep things of theirs from before we met. As big music lovers, we got items signed from artists addressed to the both of us or took photos with both of us. I can’t trash those photos but I didn’t want to keep joint autographs. Any solo photo of them I trashed, even if I thought it was a good portrait (photography is my hobby). Now it seems insulting or awkward to my new relationship when it comes to anything involving the ex (tangibles and intangibles). I also feel awkward if I had to explain to future children who people are in photos if they are/related to ex. (my mom didn’t like the photos of my dad with his ex’s) However, I can’t erase 14 years like it never happened so I’m learning to find a balance. I never heard of a breakup box before but it seems practical during such stressful times.

  45. posted by camellia tree on

    Just wanted to say that I think one of the reasons the etiquette behind keeping gifts has changed so much over the years is that the economic situation of women has changed, and we are giving gifts too. So yes, I have kept gifts, and he was free to keep his, too. With exes I have always asked if there was anything they wanted back, which I feel is the right thing to do.

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