How To Divvy Up Stuff After A Breakup

One is the loneliest number, worse than two …

Well, unless he was an asshat. In which case being a Party of One is just fine, thank you. Of course, before you can move onwards and upwards, you have to get your stuff back — whether it’s just a few pairs of dirty panties in his laundry basket or the contents of an entire “girlfriend drawer.” He’s not going to haggle over your cotton thongs (unless he’s a creep, instead of an asshat). But what about the stuff you accumulated together during the relationship?  

Here’s how to make sense of who owns what following a breakup, after the jump …

  • Bath products. Technically whoever paid for them owns them.  But you will look seriously petty if you go into his bathroom and remove a $4 bottle of Herbal Essences shampoo. Just leave it. (But do remove all girly products from his bathroom, like tampons and bottles of nail polish. The next girl to come after you is probably going to be pissed to see that.)
  • Gift certificates. One of the major bones of contention (well, one among many) with Ex-Mr. Jessica was a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant that his parents gave us for Christmas. Emphasis on the word US. After he broke up with me, he took the G.C. without asking me first and brought girl he’d be skanking around on me with to the restaurant (which I know because she tweeted about it). DON’T DO THAT. In retrospect I wish he’d either offered to give it back to his parents for them to use or gave to mutual friends to enjoy. That would have been the more sensitive thing to do. Consider doing this if you and your ex have gift certificates outstanding. Trust me, it’s not worth fighting over. 
  • Housewares. It’s a well-known fact in the School Of Sweeping Gender Generalizations that girlfriends are good to have around if you need to spruce up your home decor. Over the course of a relationship, you may have helped him pick out new stuff for his place, which is not technically your stuff to keep. You can ask him to throw it away, but he might refuse. There’s nothing you can do about that. If you purchased him a new set of sheets, even if you did it for your own comfort, that was a gift you gave to him and you should let him keep it. He might offer to give you things that you purchased for his place — I once had an ex actually try to give me a bar of soap! — and you can take it or request it gets thrown away.
  • Keys to his place.  Give these back without being asked. Why would you even want to keep them? Are you planning on breaking in?
  • Jewelry. He gave you jewelry as a gift, so it belongs to you. That same rule still applies if we’re talking about engagement rings. Whether you decide to sell it at a thrift shop, donate it to Dress For Success, or flush it down the toilet is up to you.
  • Lingerie. If you bought lingerie for yourself — before you started dating or while you were dating — of course you’re going to bring it back home. So it seems like a given that if he bought lingerie for you while you were dating, you’d keep it, too. Alas, bad juju carries from boyfriend to boyfriend through lingerie. You don’t want to deal with that, do you?
  • Old sweatshirts/tee shirts of his that you wore to sleep and/or his old watch. This is a case-by-case basis. They belong to him, but they feel like they became yours though constant use. You can probably get away with just taking them and seeing if he says anything. If he kicks up a fuss, you have to give them back. Technically they’re aren’t yours. But if it’s really important for you to own that extremely soft, warm and comfortable navy blue sweatshirt with BOSTON emblazoned across the front — not that I’m speaking from experience here — then he probably won’t care if gank it. 
  • Passwords. Okay, you don’t “own” passwords. But it’s probably a good idea to change your passwords after a breakup if you’ve ever shared them with your boo. Yes, even if you have nothing to hide. The urge to snoop can be too hard for people to resist.
  • Pets. This is a sticky wicket. Personally, I think it’s a bad idea to adopt a pet together if you don’t actually live with each other yet. I know a couple who adopted a dog because the girlfriend wanted one, but she didn’t take care of it. Pet care fell upon her boyfriend’s shoulders, which made him worry that she would one day be an irresponsible parent as well. So he dumped her, she didn’t want the dog anymore, and he was stuck with a pet he never wanted in the first place. Generally I think whoever was more keen on adopting the pet “together” should have that animal live at their house and keep it after the breakup. 
  • Sexy photos and sex tapes.  Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete. Do not show to anyone. Definitely not your friends. No, not even your best friend. There is only one appropriate course of action here and that is to DELETE.
  • Sex toys. Similar to lingerie, any vibrators or sex toys that you owned prior to the relationship you can keep. (Make sure to clean them thoroughly, but you do that anyway?) But sex toys that you bought to use together should probably be thrown away, as they are also known to carry bad juju from relationship to relationship. 

These are just my thoughts. Something tells me some of you will have strong opinions on this subject. Let me know how wrong I am in the comments!

Contact the author of this post at [email protected] Follow me on Twitter @JessicaWakeman.