Make a list. And check it twice.
Sorry to be flip about that.
Seriously, though, sit down with paper and in fact walk around your place with a pad and a pen and take notes as you walk. As in, I need to keep the fridge, I want to keep the dresser, I need $X for whatever, etc.
List everything you can think of, and go over the list a few times. I suggest the walking around bit because I think it helps to look in the kitchen (I want to keep the cookware), the bedroom (she can have that lamp) etc. Plus you might realize that she (accidentally, I trust) may have taken some things that are yours.
Once you're list is ready and perhaps even while you're making it, divvy it up in the following ways:
- things that are yours and yours alone, e. g. your clothes and other purely personal items, plus things you brought into the marriage and things you received as gifts, even from her.
- these are items that are L's and L's alone that she might have forgotten. This includes gifts you gave her. Gifts are, after all, gifts.
- junk that no one cares about, or should care about. List it because maybe she does want it but this is essentially stuff you can jettison without another thought. She may feel the same. That's stuff for Goodwill.
- out of the remainder, stuff that you really need (fridge, etc.).
- out of the remainder, stuff that you really want but isn't a need
- the remainder, if anything is left.
#1 are yours. Do not negotiate them away under any circumstances.
#2 are hers. Give of them freely if you wish. If you want to be a hard case, hold them back, but I personally think that engenders bad feelings. Give her her earrings back or whatever she may have forgotten when she left.
#3 are to be offered, but chances are that they'll just be sent to Goodwill.
#4 hold your ground on these, or get fair market value for them if you can. This is where people divide up houses, cars and condo deeds.
#5 hold your ground on these but be willing to compromise if there are any items that can be replaced. The Mets season tickets can be replaced, albeit expensively. The one-of-a-kind bowl from a trip to China cannot. If you really want the bowl, go to the mat for it. Otherwise, see if you can get fair market value.
#6 offer these.
When I say offer, I mean, do it piecemeal
. Don't offer the entire kitchen's worth of stuff. Start small. Offer the glassware. Then offer the cookware or whatever. Work your way up so that your bigger bargaining chips remain with you as long as possible. Offer #2 items first, then #3, then #6, then #4, then #5. Don't offer #1 items at all.
Me -- because I really respond to list-making -- I would go over my #4 and #5 lists a few times because those are where the disagreements will be. Plus I'd be seeing if there was anything I could take out of those areas and put into any of the other four.
Then I would go to a mediator or a lawyer, I'd lay out my lists on the table and say, "Here is a list of the assets from my marriage, in order of whether I wish to keep them." And I'd go from there. I do advise getting a lawyer but not everyone does. If it is amicable, there are no kids (already established) and there are no major disagreements or monetary inequalities, a mediator can be fine. Otherwise, though, I'd recommend getting the advice of counsel.
: this is advice as a friend and not as a lawyer (I never did domestic relations work). Others with more experience will undoubtedly have their own ideas.