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Dividing Things, Not Families

What if More Than One Person Wants the Same Thing?

As for the actual dividing of possessions wanted by more than one person, that task calls for the most propitious of times. No matter how things are divided, there is a sense of loss. For the most part, what one really wants is not the thing itself but the whole — the home, the parents, the object and its surroundings. If there are two equally prized items, you can miss the one that goes elsewhere as much as you enjoy the one you keep.

We were fortunate that one sister insisted on our being honest about our feelings. She emphatically said, “I don’t want to have any one of us come back two years from now saying something we did felt unfair. I don’t want anything sticking in anyone’s craw.” Later this got shortened to, “Are there any craws here?” When someone felt uneasy about a particular round of division, we went back and did it over. When we all seemed to be getting overly touchy, we took a break.

With much to do in a limited time, taking a break may seem like a waste of time. But we decided early that having somewhat regular meals, some quiet time, and sleep were crucial. We tried to get away from the house together and to do things that we enjoyed even if for a very short time. A drive to see the sunset, a walk around the block together, a relaxed meal in a good restaurant helped more than extra work time for irritable workers.

No amount of planning can make the process of dividing a home painless, but thinking and talking about it beforehand will help. We, as the new older generation, can make a great gift to our own children by talking and planning with them about how possessions can best be dealt with.

Mere techniques do not take the place of underlying caring between family members. But techniques can be shared easily, and wise use of procedures that have helped others may help protect the family caring that is there. Further, in discussing ways of adapting techniques for one’s own use, more basic issues can be discussed. I feel that the greatest legacy my parents passed on to us was their strong sense of family and their clearly stated belief that no possessions are worth as much as family ties. Their love, and the love I share with my sisters and their families, make each of the things I inherited more valuable.

Dividing Things, Not Families

Ann Levinger, Ed.D

APA Reference
Levinger, A. (2020). Dividing Things, Not Families. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.