A conversation with Michelle Sarao: How to organize homes and lives after a divorce

A conversation with Michelle Sarao: How to organize homes and lives after a divorce

A conversation with Michelle Sarao: How to organize homes and lives after a divorce

In the Collaborative Divorce process, we build a team of professionals who can guide the divorce process in a fluid manner. Recently, I met a woman whose business fits so perfectly into this idea of a divorce team.

Michelle Sarao, through her business Divorce Rx, helps divorcing people organize their homes and their lives. Based in New York, Michelle recognizes that a divorce is a complete upheaval of a person’s life – emotional as well as physical.

Michelle Sarao

What better time than that to welcome an organizer into the midst of the unraveling, and let her guide you to a more methodical approach to the separation and rebuilding?

This type of organizing can focus on the divorcing people – helping them rearrange their physical space or divide up their shared belongings. It can also help the newly single adults get organized in their new life – manage their children’s schedules, learn how to be focused in managing all the activities and responsibilities as a solo parent.

Basically, Michelle helps people prevent the logistics of their life from falling through the cracks.

“When you are going through a divorce, the first thing you do is start assembling your team,” says Michelle. “Financial, legal, mental health, parenting coordinator, divorce coach. But then the physical space and coordination of what happens with your children, and the transition from one household to two, those details and ideas can slip through the cracks. That is where I felt there was a need to step in.”

Every situation has a unique imprint, says Michelle. She meets clients where they are, looking at what will be most helpful in this moment, right now, taking it one step at a time. A divorce can create confusion and stasis – she helps people move forward, one step at a time.

As an entrepreneur myself, I felt this concept was brilliant and definitely needed! In speaking with Michelle, I thought it would be helpful to gather some of her best tips in this blog to share with people contemplating divorce – or who have already been through one but still feel a sense of disorganization. Here’s what Michelle has to say:

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Regarding your physical space, a divorce begins with dividing your things. “Oftentimes, even in the most amicable divorces, people are emotionally tied to their stuff,” she says. “You’re already experiencing loss. No matter what you’re feeling about the divorce, it’s a loss. People have a hard time letting go of things. To have someone work with you and your soon to be ex-spouse as a neutral party to help divide things can be helpful, to help you stay on track.”

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Dividing up physical belongings can stall a divorce – and it’s senseless to pay lawyer fees to have them sit in your home while you divvy things up.

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Whether moving to a new space or staying in your current space, going through what you have and purging can be cleansing.

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Get rid of the storage unit idea. Not only is it another expense, it’s the place people put things and forget about them. You will eventually have to go through it all – and likely discard most of it – so why not do it now?

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If you just can’t part with goods but you don’t want to go through everything, label your boxes and mark your calendar for three or five months later to actually go through the items.

Michelle Sarao

Organizing is not just for physical items, Michelle says. It’s important for financial documents as well as for calendaring.

“It’s often the women who have no idea where the financial stuff is that they’re asked to bring into the lawyers,” she notes. “They’re paralyzed; they don’t even know how to find it or what questions to ask.”

While divorce coaches can help with that part of the process, Michelle can support clients through it as well.

“The biggest thing I do with people is just have a plan that is realistic and broken into manageable steps.” Once someone leaves the marital home, there is empty space to fill. That’s part two of Michelle’s work. She comes in to help the person who stays rearrange the furniture and fill the space – and she helps the person who left fill the new space where they will start their new life. “If you were not the one who wanted the divorce, it smacks you in the face when you see the couch is gone,” she says. “It’s a reminder of your loss. There are a lot of physical empty spaces – a whole closet that’s empty, drawers where silverware has been taken, empty walls. I help that person reimagine and arrange what you have before buying new things.” It’s better to move around what you do have and live with it for a few months than quickly buy new items, she says. For the person leaving, “talking it through is the first step,” Michelle says. “Then, it’s about finding resources – realtors, designers, etc.”

A member of the National Association of Productivity and Organization and of the National Association of Divorce Professionals, Michelle has resources far and wide.

Divorcing couples don’t realize all the details of this split when they embark on it. As granular as the photo albums and shared photographs – who wants to let go of their baby’s earliest pictures, or that family vacation they took to Hawaii?

Michelle Sarao

Michelle finds solutions. “Both parents want all the pictures. I have someone who is fantastic and will scan the pics and set them up for both parents,” she says.

A divorce is a transition from one stage of life to the next, but it’s not without heartache and emotion, and those very heavy phases can cloud judgment, obscure clarity. Michelle works with people at a vulnerable time to make the details easier – and less painful.

“There are areas of life you might not have thought of – who has the kids’ passports, can you get a second passport, do the children have toothbrushes at both houses? You don’t know what you don’t know,” she says. “I tell you what’s coming, I can help you get prepared, save time and money, relax and exhale.”

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An American administration overflowing with women

An American administration overflowing with women

An American administration overflowing with women

President Joe Biden has appointed more women to his Administration than any that came before him. And, with a female Vice President, he seems to be sending an important message to the American populace.

That message is that women matter, and women can and should lead. I wholeheartedly agree!!

As history has kept women in neat little boxes and domestic roles, what were we really afraid of? The time has come to reckon with this notion of gender divide and do away with it once and for all.

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Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

The right person for the job is the right person for the job, regardless of superficial details like gender, race, sexual orientation, politics or economic origin.

President Biden has nominated 12 women for Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions, including eight women of color. He also published The Biden Agenda for Women, which states as a priority, among other, full inclusion of and equality for women.

“Women — particularly women of color — have never had a fair shot to get ahead in this country,” says the President’s agenda. “Today, too many women are struggling to make ends meet and support their families, and are worried about the economic future for their children. This was true before the COVID-19 crisis, but the current global health crisis has exacerbated these realities for women.”

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Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

It goes on to explain:

“For Biden, it’s a simple proposition: his daughter is entitled to the same rights and opportunities as his sons. He believes every issue is a women’s issue — health care, the economy, education, national security — but women are also uniquely and disproportionately impacted by many policies. As President, Biden will pursue an aggressive and comprehensive plan to further women’s economic and physical security and ensure that women can fully exercise their civil rights.”

We must ask ourselves as Americans why we would oppose such basic ideas as equal access and full opportunity.

What, exactly, makes a woman incapable of something when compared with a man? What has been so threatening about women in leadership positions?

To answer these questions fully, we must finally do away with the notion that if one person ascends the ladder of success, that does not mean that another person is pushed further down the rungs. There can be success for all people, equally and simultaneously. Until men embrace that truth, we won’t emerge onto a new landscape that is fully equitable and inclusive. The time is now to change this once and for all!!

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Photo by René DeAnda on Unsplash

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Transitions Legal is a Female-Led Family Law Firm

Transitions Legal is a Female-Led Family Law Firm

Transitions Legal is a Female-Led Family Law Firm

When I created my own law firm, I did not do so to be a female-owned business. I simply wanted to practice in the unique way that I viewed family law, as a transition rather than an ending or a beginning, without judgment and with support for those going through this life transition.

Now that I’ve been in business for eight years, I realize that being woman-owned IS significant. As we step into Women’s History Month and approach International Women’s Day on March 8, I want to share my perspective on the significance of being woman-owned and female-led.

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Alisa Peskin-Shepherd in the conference room of her Bloomfield Hills, Michigan office

While the march toward equal rights began in the 1970s, we are still working hard to make the workplace equitable and accessible for women, who constitute half the world’s population.

We are still facing stereotypes and being sidelined because of our gender. Thus, the more businesses that are owned by women, the more we will see equitable perspective and opportunity in America’s workplaces.

According to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), more than 11.6 million businesses are female-owned in the United States, employing nearly 9 million people and generating $1.7 trillion in sales.

Women-owned firms constitute nearly 40% of all businesses. One in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is owned by a woman.

Women become business owners for a variety of reasons – among them, being ready to be your own boss, a desire to pursue a passion, or a dissatisfaction with corporate America and the lack of equitable opportunity.

Interestingly, women are more likely to start a business than men. Studies show that 62 percent of women depend on income from a small business as a primary source of household income.

And yet, women still earn less than men. One reason so many women go into business for themselves is to right this long-held wrong.

I started Transitions Legal because I believed I could do more in my legal practice if I created my own firm. I know I’m not alone in this belief, as I’ve aligned with other women entrepreneurs to talk about the very real challenges we face as well as the pride and passion we pour into our work.

These are not gender-specific goals; rather, it’s representative of a very human desire to be more, do more, and have more control over our lives.

At the end of the day, I don’t run my law firm as a woman, even though I am one. I run it as a person with passion for the law and compassion for my clients.

I bring a singular perspective and decades of experience to my work, and trust that my clients hire me not because of my gender, but because they believe I will represent them better than anyone else.

In order to be blind to gender, we must first create an equal playing field so that details like gender truly don’t matter in the practice of law or the transactions of business. Until that day, I’ll proudly tout the woman-owned nature of my law firm.

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Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

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Celebrating My Mother’s Bat Mitzvah at Age 80

Celebrating My Mother’s Bat Mitzvah at Age 80

Celebrating My Mother’s Bat Mitzvah at Age 80

Recently, my mother, who is 80 years old, celebrated her bat mitzvah.

Now, most people know that a bat mitzvah is a Jewish coming-of-age that typically happens at 13 (or 12 for girls in some communities), and frankly, it’s just something that you are when you turn that age. You are considered a Jewish adult in terms of your responsibilities under Jewish law, whether you read from the Torah, have a party, or otherwise celebrate the occasion.

For most of history, girls did not have the opportunity to celebrate their bat mitzvah by participating in synagogue services or reading Torah. In the last 50 years, that has certainly changed, but my mother never had that option when she was a girl.

So she decided that when she turned 80, she would read from the Torah, which is a huge feat, especially if you have not spent your life reading and chanting biblical Hebrew.

My mom followed in the footsteps of her daughters and her grandchildren before her; all of us read Torah in synagogue. It’s something I learned in my 30s – not as a kid. Anything we do later in life is understandably harder, but also so much more meaningful.

My mother wanted to participate on that meaningful level, too, to express her beliefs and her identity, among community and family.

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Photo by Ben Ostrower on Unsplash

The event was low-key, and my mother was not nervous. She gave a d’var Torah, or speech, afterwards that related to the Torah portion that she chanted, and which tied into Judaic creative arts, a passion of hers since at least the 1980s.

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She created a universal experience in a personal way, and tied it to friendships and activities in her own life. I was impressed when my mother spoke – she did a great job, and I felt inspired at the abilities of the woman who gave me life, and handed down to me some of her own smarts and determination.

This occasion resonated with me on so many levels. As a daughter, I was so proud of my mother for achieving this goal.

As a woman, I applaud the initiative to have more women leading services and participating in synagogue rituals.

As a divorce attorney, my mother’s bat mitzvah at 80 reminded me that it’s never too late to do anything that matters to you.

We hear about “gray divorce,” the trend of couples breaking up after 50. There is a trend of what I call gray-gray divorce, much older couples deciding to split.

It’s never too late to do something that you’ve always wanted to do, or make a change that enables you to live your best life.

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The Second Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make

The Second Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make

The Second Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make

It’s the romantic line in an intense RomCom – this is the most important decision you’ll ever make.

Of course, in that context, the actor is likely referring to the decision to marry someone. I’m well-versed in what may be the second most important decision you’ll ever make: choosing a divorce lawyer.

Yeah, it’s a bit sour grapes to put these two ideas together, but I got your attention, didn’t I? And even more importantly, both statements are true.

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Choosing a Life Partner

Many people marry when they are young and idealistic. Choosing a life partner at that stage can be a crap shoot. Maybe it works out, and maybe it doesn’t. It takes a lot of hard work and an enduring commitment from both partners.

What long-time married folks will tell you is that a more important decision than whom you marry is the decision you make every morning when you open your eyes and glance over at the snoring lump in the bed beside you: the decision to look for the good in your partner every day to ensure that you stay married, and enjoy doing so.

When to Choose a Divorce Lawyer

Unfortunately, many people have not gotten the memo on this important decision. Successful marriages are not made by romance or luck or choosing well. They’re made by overlooking the things that annoy you about your spouse and focusing instead on the qualities you appreciate about them.

When you can no longer do this, it’s time to make another important decision: choose a divorce lawyer to walk alongside you through the process of ending your marriage.

So, how do you make that right choice? With four easy steps:

Ask for referrals.

Friends, family, colleagues, neighbors. Ask around for recommendations of family law attorneys hired by people you trust. When they give you a name and a number, ask more questions – what, exactly, did you like about this person? What do they do well? What is NOT their expertise?

Decide on your divorce path.

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This requires research and knowledge. Do you want a Collaborative Divorce? Litigation? Mediation? The most amicable divorce on the planet? Your chosen approach will lead you to people who specialize in practicing the way you want to go. And while you’re researching, check out the credentials and reviews of the lawyers referred to you. Anyone with a besmirched reputation should be crossed off the list.

Conduct interviews.

While your best friend might have loved her attorney, you might find out that the personality doesn’t match yours once you meet. Most attorneys will give free consultations where you can try each other on for size, and see if you’ll work well together. Take advantage of this, and take your time will doing so. Once you lock in on something, it can be gazelle-intense into the process.

Set a budget.

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I’m the first to admit, legal representation is not a cheap endeavor. Be realistic with yourself and your potential attorney regarding how much you have to spend. This can be an important deciding factor that determines what path you take or whom you hire.

Are you looking for a family law attorney? Set up a free consultation with me, and we’ll see if it’s a fit!

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