Breakups are particularly rough for couples who were living together. The state of your existence can drastically change when your significant other moves out and it’s painful. And let’s not forget the logistics: Moving is a hassle and an expense, and it’s no fun to have to divvy up your collective stuff.
Housing matters worked out in my favor during my recent breakup. I was lucky enough to have the lease of our Harlem studio under my name. The rent is not ideal but manageable for the time being, so I decided to keep paying for it solo. The best part is that my ex moved out while I traveled to Paris and left the key.
When I returned stateside, it felt odd to come back to what was now my apartment. It quickly became obvious that I had to redecorate a bit. More importantly, I needed to revitalize it. The studio felt like a dark cave of toxicity for the entirety of the bitter New York winter. It was time to drastically change the vibes.
My other goal was to establish that the space was all mine. Obviously the memories from when the place was ours won’t disappear, but I figured I could make some adjustments to the decor and spacing to really suit me and my preferences. I wanted ownership.
Redecorating was one of the only activities that truly brought me joy in the midst of heartbreak. Read on for tips on how to change up your space after a breakup.
Donate or Sell What You Don’t Want
My ex left a lot of stuff at the apartment. I was pretty frustrated by this, but I also wasn’t there while the moving happened, so I didn’t want to judge. What I cared about was getting the objects I didn’t want out of my site as quickly as possible.
Donate or sell whatever you don’t want. Of course it is considerate to check with you ex about the belongings, but this is not always feasible depending on the terms of the breakup. Follow your gut on this. I knew that my ex truly didn’t care about what was left, as it was mostly old clothes I had never even seen before. I donated a huge pile and felt relieved.
If you’re not ready to sort through the stuff that was left, then simply put it in a box, close it up, and put it out of sight for the time being. I did this for a few items from our relationship that had sentimental meaning. I didn’t want these objects displayed at the moment, but I wasn’t ready to part with them completely either, so they’re now living deep in the back of my closet.
Buy New Sheets
One of the most intimate parts of a relationship is sharing a bed with someone, which is why it was SO important to me to transform my bed. The first shopping trip I made was to Bed, Bath, & Beyond to buy a new set of sheets and comforter.
My previous set had been dark red and gold tones that my ex really loved, so I went with bedding on the opposite end of the spectrum: Cream, white, with green palm leaves. I even got a cute decorative pillow that made the bed even comfier.
Picking out this set established the calm tone I wanted for my whole space.
Rearrange the Furniture
I would’ve replaced all the furniture if I had an infinite budget, but simply shifting the position of the furniture I already had worked well enough. Rearranging furniture can change the shape and functionality of a room. I changed the direction of my bed to face the kitchen instead of the window, and doing so created a nice amount of extra space in the desk area.
If your furniture is adjustable, consider messing with it a bit. I lowered my bed closer to the ground and am glad I did. When we were sharing the studio, we desperately needed the under-bed storage space, but having the closets to myself eliminated the need. The new height of the bed is awesome: no more jumping up and panicking whenever my phone fell down!
Paint the Walls
This step is only necessary in some circumstances, like when there is a giant mural painted by your ex on one of your four walls (ahh the joys of dating artists.) I felt a little bad about painting over it but I knew that I had to in order to truly reclaim my space. Besides, the mural would’ve been painted over by the management company at the end of the lease anyway.
My walls are back to a fresh off white and they feel like a clean slate. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders!
Change the Smell
Excite your olfactory system with a new or favorite scent, particularly if the smell of your ex is still lingering in your place. I like relaxing scents like lavender or transportive ones that smell like a salty beach.
Lighting a candle or trying aromatherapy can shift the vibe of your place in a new direction.
Add a Few Touches that Make You Smile
To me, it’s the little details that make a place feel like home, like plants, tea towels, ring holders, posters… Sure, these aren’t essentials, but adding a couple of your favorite objects or decorations will bring you joy in a time of darkness.
I secured a few of my Paris postcards on my refrigerator with magnets and they remind me of my wonderful trip all the time. The picture frame I bought for my engagement photo now houses a picture of me and my childhood best friend. Fresh flowers make me happy, so I try to keep the vase full often. These little touches really did make a difference.
Thanks for reading! Huge shoutout to my parents who majorly helped me with this redecoration task.