Landing that Loft After Love: Starting Over After a Divorce

So, divorce wasn’t exactly in your life plan. I think it’s safe to say it’s not in most of ours. But it happens. Then suddenly, your life is in upheaval and your vision for the future needs to change. It’s stressful and kind of scary. And it sucks. But, it can also be an exciting opportunity to establish the new and improved, independent you.

A mondo checkbox on that to-do list is finding your new home. It’s a pretty daunting task. For most of us, being at home makes us feel comfortable and safe. If you don’t have that refuge to return to, or it’s full of reminders of your past life, well, it can make a tough time even harder. But it is possible, and even manageable. You’ve got this.

I believe that if I can do it, you can too. It won’t be easy, but you’ll be back on your feet in no time. Remember though, every situation is unique. Assess your circumstances and then tackle those hurdles as only you can!

Before you do anything else, you’ve got to answer this all important question:

What’s your budget? 

A budget is integral to starting things off right.

If you’re going from living with a spouse and splitting the expenses to living on your own, you’re going to need to reassess your finances. Depending on your situation, this may drastically affect your standard of living (harsh, but true). 

Break down your monthly income and your current expenses. Which are non-negotiable? Which can be reduced? And when in doubt, round up! If you always count on socking away a little extra, the surplus will help to cover any unexpected expenses that crop up.

As a ballpark figure, about 30% of your monthly income is going toward rent. Depending on your earnings and your housing needs, that number might be even higher. In the quest for your new address, be sure to consider what utilities and amenities are included – a higher monthly payment might be worth it if it covers your electric bill and gym membership too!

If you’ve run the numbers and you’re going to be hard pressed to make ends meet, don’t panic. There is social support in place for this situation you may qualify for. Those in Manitoba can find out more through the 2-1-1 phone line or website. 

Now that you know how much you’re prepared to spend, it’s time to hit the bricks (or the search engine).

Finding a place

Like with any important decision: take your time!

This is another way of saying don’t take the first thing that comes along.

If you’re anything like me, you’re eager to get out of this limbo and on with your life! But it’s worth it to look around and weigh your options (especially remembering some ‌places I considered – yikes!).

Not only do you want a place that fits your budget, you want something that fits your lifestyle. Somewhere you can reclaim that safe and comfortable environment.

In the short term, I recommend renting as opposed to buying for two main reasons:

  1. Flexibility  – Right now your future is uncertain. A lease gives you the option to adjust your plans as circumstances evolve. Plus, it’s easier to find something that fits your budget.
  2. Convenience – You have enough to deal with without worrying about replacing appliances or building and yard maintenance! Instead, you can plunk yourself in a central location with easy access to whatever amenities you need. 

My downtown apartment was the perfect haven, with easy access to transit, restaurants, parks and entertainment. It had everything I needed to let me hunker down and put myself back together again.

While you’re searching the streets for vacancy signs, try not to worry about landing something  before the month closes. If possible, shack up with a friend or even your Mom for a few weeks while you get your house in order (literally and figuratively). This gets you out of your old place into a transitory state. You’ll be more motivated to find a pad of your own and it gets you out of your old place.

Alternatively, you can check into short-term leases. If you need a place to recoup for a month or two before you sign a long-term lease, these can provide temporary asylum.

The local Rental Guide, classifieds, internet searches and prowling the pavement are all great ways to get a beat on lucrative places for rent. Check them out and see what your options are.

Your new home is where you’re going to begin the next chapter of your life, it’s okay to take a bit of time to figure out something that fits you.

Ok, so you’ve found a place. Now what?

  • Out with the old in with the you!

One of the best things about divorce? Getting to choose your own aesthetic. Now’s your chance to design your space in a way that reflects you.

Purge the items that don’t fit anymore – both emotionally and physically. Throw the wedding pictures in storage, and swap that too big, memory ridden furniture for something that fits your space and your style. Whether you’re trawling department stores or thrift shops, it’s refreshing to pick out some new pieces you love.

  • Plan for Plants!

People are happier with plants around. It’s almost like we do better with other living things nearby! (We do, that’s science.) I don’t pretend to understand why exactly having plants makes you feel better, but they reduce stress and improve your mood just by being there.

Even if you’re not a plant person, you have options. Have you considered a spider plant? Even I managed not to kill that. Or, check out these out articles to find your fit:

-Finding your houseplant match

-Make your apartment greener

  • Potentially pets

If it’s already you and your furry friend against the world, you’re set. But if not, you may want to take up cat-sitting, because like plants, we’re happier with animals around. You might even look into fostering or adopting a pet of your own!

Caring for and having the company of animals can be rewarding and fulfilling. But think carefully before adopting a pet – it’s a big commitment. If your life is already in turmoil, heaping more responsibility onto your plate may not be the best idea. It adds extra complexity such as ensuring your new abode is pet friendly, and paying additional damage deposits.

That said, having an animal around is super therapeutic because, well, they’re often cuddly and adorable. Plus the previously mentioned scientifically backed benefits of other living things! You’ve got options though – there are lots of programs in need of good foster homes for animals while they wait for adoption, or you can volunteer your time at the shelters themselves.

Regardless, definitely crash your friend’s next trip to the dog park!

  • Get to know your neighbourhood

You’re in a new place with all kinds of new things to discover! It can be a little intimidating, and you may still be mourning the loss of your favorite coffee shop, but getting out and about in your neighbourhood has multiple benefits.

First of all, it’s important that you actually get up and leave your place occasionally, even if you don’t want to. Being outside is another of those scientifically backed well-being things. Plus, how else are you going to find the local restaurant with the best patio?? (Besides on the internet – you need to go check it out!)

Getting familiar with your new surroundings is a huge step toward quelling that out-of-place feeling. You’ll start recognizing the local baristas and it will ‌become more and more like home.

Remember: Everything is going to be OK

It might take a while, but over time things will begin to feel normal again. In the meantime, it’s okay not to be okay. Lean on your friends and family, talk to a therapist, dispose of that pair of your ex’s underwear you found, preferably in a needlessly spectacular and ruthless fashion. Do what you need to do to get through this. 

Divorce is cruddy, but it’s also the start of something new. Things won’t ever be the same, but there are plenty of reasons you don’t want them to be. By taking the time to prepare and find a place that provides what you need, you’ll have a new home base and foundation off which to launch. Having the comfort of a home that embodies you will provide the safety and structure you need to heal and start the next leg of your journey.

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