When I was married, the co-op apartment my then-husband and I bought together played a big role in our narrative. The home was large, sunny, and pretty, and it was in a funky, up-and-coming neighborhood that suited us well. We invested a lot of time, money, and love into decorating it with vintage items and folk art collected from our travels.
We signed the papers to purchase the apartment 10 years ago, immediately after we returned from our honeymoon in Brazil. Getting through the gut-renovation of a 1,300-square-foot, 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom home was an emotional, financial, and logistical feat in and of itself. But the result — an open, modern kitchen, and spacious living and dining rooms — played backdrop to countless dinner parties, and, ultimately, the arrival of our two children.
When the marriage ended, I was set on keeping it, intuitively knowing that it was a wise financial move (it was). And I wanted to stay put in our community, which I needed more than ever as my tiny kids and I were going through so much tumult.
But the financial process of refinancing the home to buy out my ex was only the beginning of that process. Over the past five years, I have gradually, little-by-little, cleansed this home of my old life and relationship, and made it my own. Some of the purging was painful, as all healing is. But ultimately, feng shui-ing my home of my ex was a necessary and cathartic experience.
Here are three things that just had to go after my divorce:
1. His Clutter
My ex liked to shop, and he liked to keep stuff. A bit of a hoarder, if you will. Me? I'm thrifty and get a twisted thrill from using up every drop of every bit of food or beauty product before replacing it. Clutter and waste make me twitch.
The linen closet in the hallway was full – full! – of old shoe polish, half-used econo-sized mouthwash , expired prescriptions and tubes and vials of drug store purchases of decades past. One evening after the kids were asleep I put my hair up in a pony tail, donned my most comfortable sweat pants, and yanked 75 percent of that closet's contents from their shelves. Deep in my soul, I felt a sigh: Everything in that closet was now neatly organized. I knew what was in there. It was things I needed or wanted. Ultimately, I was no longer held hostage to another person's slovenly, ungrateful consumerism. I was in control.
2. That Mattress
That ex-shaped sweat stain was the least of it. The energy contained in a bed shared by two people for eight years is intense. Not just the sex, but the intimacy of co-sleeping, night after night. The arguments and conversations, movie watching and magazine reading — side-by-side, beneath the blankets.
When I finally replaced that saggy mattress with a new one, I found that I suddenly attracted all kinds of attractive men into my life. And bed.
3. Those Mementos
During my marriage, I'd arranged a salon-style cluster of art next to my bed. One of the images was a water color from the Greek island of Santorini, where we'd gotten engaged. The collection looked lovely.
One day a friend who is interested in energy and feng shui was visiting. She looked at me cock-eyed and asked, "Where is that painting from?" My engagement, I meekly confessed. "Get it out of your bedroom. You'll never attract a relationship with that looming over your bed!"
She was right. It seemed a shame to completely get rid of the pretty image of white-washed walls and the Mediterranean. After all, that story is not just mine. It also belongs to my children. So after my friend left, I unhooked the frame from the nail, and walked to the bedroom next door. There I found a place on my son's shelf above his bed, next to a silver-framed picture of his dad and me. That is where it is today – a reminder that relationships have seasons, and that those seasons can live on in beautiful memories, but also beautiful creations.
Emma Johnson is a New York City journalist and creator of , which speaks to professional single moms about career and money, parenting, and dating and sex, and the podcast Like A Mother with Emma Johnson, on iTunes.