One of the most gut-wrenching sensations during divorce is to be by yourself in what was the marital home. It’s a different type of alone than the kind that comes when your spouse is away on a business trip. It’s a hollowing. A fragile glass sphere rattling around in a sharp-edged box with no padding for protection. It’s a tangible experience of the loss, the cleaving. The house feels deserted. An empty vessel that once held life and possibilities now only serves as a backdrop for memories.
And the house isn’t the only area that is often too big after divorce. The life you built with your partner expanded to hold both you. And maybe you’re lost within its generous boundaries. Divorce can be a time for contraction, a time for simplification and retreat.
The following are 7 areas you may want to consider downsizing during divorce:
A large home requires a large bank account and a large amount of energy, both of which may be in short supply during your divorce. There is a freedom that can be found in occupying a smaller space. Be honest about your needs and your resources. If you do not have kids, this can be a great time to rent a room or move into the city. If you have children, consider other options within their school district. If you are staying in the marital home, simplify it. Consider how you can save time and money around the house. And, by all means, make the space your own.
It can feel strange moving from home ownership back to apartment life. It feels like back-sliding, especially in our culture where owning a home is both a status symbol and a sign of adulthood. But this isn’t a time to worry about keeping up with the Jonees. This is a time for rest and recharge. The Joneses be damned.
Many of us are overextended. We have obligations to family, work and friends. We then weigh those even more by piling on the “shoulds,” which are simply self-imposed obligations. Divorce is a time of letting go. Not just of the marriage, but of anything that is clutter in your life. Consider all of your commitments. Do they still fit? Are there some that no longer serve you and your life purpose? Release them. Practice saying “no” when asked to carry additional weight. If you have been lax about boundaries in your personal or professional life, now is a great time to reinforce them. And if people take offense at your new, less sycophantic self, just blame it on post-divorce psychosis.
Clutter tends to accumulate not only in our obligations, but also in our closets. Go through your stuff and sell what you can (check with your attorney first if you’re still in the legal process); you probably need money now more than you need that fancy watch or cute shoes that are too expensive to actually wear. Purge your mementos from the marriage. Even if you want to keep some, you have no reason to keep them all. Too much is paralyzing, especially when we are already weakened. So remove the excess and find peace in the space left behind.
Divorce has a way of revealing your true friends. You learn that some of those you thought had your back, only had it in smooth seas and sunny days. This isn’t a time to be overly concerned with social niceties and excessive politeness. If a friend is making you feel lousy or anxious, let them go. Invest your energy in the relationships that help to build you up and make you feel connected.
During divorce, your brain practically demands distractions. Reality is pretty sucky and so anything seems preferable. Even (or maybe especially) bad television. Now, I’m not saying you have to cancel your cable or disavow your Netflix, but I am recommending you set limits. Television is an attractive escape because it is a passive one, requiring nothing of you other than attention. But its very nature acts a pause button. Because while you’re watching, nothing else is happening. You may be distracted, but you’re also not changing anything. The pain will still be there when the power is clicked “off.”
Social media is a double-edged sword during divorce. It allows you to be connected to friends and family across the world in a time when you need all the support you can get. On the other hand, it has a devious way of showing you pictures of your ex, smiling with a new partner. And even if you manage to avoid the jarring pictures of your ex moving on, there is still the Photoshopped world that makes you feel less than. Be judicious in your consumption of social media. Maybe shift to phone calls/texts/emails with the people who matter and ignore for a time the people that don’t.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Yet, in divorce, even the small stuff feels big. Try to focus on what is really important:
Do you have a place to live (even temporarily)?
Do you have a source of income?
Are your children safe?
Are your basic needs being met (food, safety, sleep, etc.)?
Do you have a support system?
Cool. Everything else is just details. Release your worries. You don’t have to know everything today. Just the next step.
Related: 7 Areas to Upsize During Divorce