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My Ex's Stuff Is Still at My House; Can I Bring Over Someone New? 

Dear Athena,

I just broke up with my girlfriend of two and half years. It seemed like a long time coming, but then she abruptly took off on a trip to Europe with her cousins. She'll be away for a few months. We lived together, so basically all her stuff is still at our apartment. I met a girl recently and want to bring her home, but I feel like my ex's stuff at the house is getting in the way. And should I even bring another woman to my place with her things still here? It feels wrong. I'm worried about upsetting my ex, too, when she finds out I've slept with someone else. I don't know what to do but I feel trapped, like I can't move on until her stuff is gone.

Sincerely,

Trapped in My Own Home

Dear Trapped,

Dude. Move on. It's just stuff. Eventually, she will return and remove her belongings — and if it were my house, I'd make sure it is soon. But it's not really the stuff that's coming between you and getting laid. What you're really worried about is the old girlfriend learning of your new escapades and being upset. That's not your problem anymore. The relationship is over. What you do when you are together matters, but now? All bets are off.

The question is, why would you even have to tell her? After a breakup, everything that once was is no longer. You don't owe each other anything. If she finds out from someone else that you've got a new girlfriend, that's life. It's not for her to decide whether it's too soon. Besides, how do you know she hasn't moved on, too?

You two are living separate lives now, and that usually means having sex with another partner at some point. It's your decision when that grace period is over.

Still, I understand that everything you've done for the past two and half years has been with that person in mind. Now you are making decisions without her and it feels odd. It can take a while to feel free of someone who was important to you. But you — and she — will get over it.

My advice? Call or email her. Tell her the stuff is taking up too much space in your apartment and in your head. Give her a reasonable deadline to come and remove it. Meantime, if you wish, grab a box, pack all the items that are bothering you, stuff them out of sight in a closet and move forward. When the ex gets back, let her take care of the rest, and then you'll be free.

As for the new girl, if she comes over and sees a box of items that are clearly not yours, just be up front about it. Explain your recent breakup and that some of her things are still in your apartment and she'll be picking them up soon. But let her know that you're moving on even, if your place doesn't look like it yet. I wouldn't keep pictures of you and the ex on your fridge or anything, but your new love interest will surely understand.

If she really likes you and you're honest, then she shouldn't be threatened by previous relationships. Quite likely she's had boyfriends before you, too. Have faith that she is confident enough to know the difference between a guy on the rebound and someone who is truly interested in her.

Yours,

Athena

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