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News / Life / Lifestyles

Gift registries after divorce offer a new way to support loved ones

By Associated Press
Published: June 1, 2024, 6:04am
3 Photos
FILE - A couple exchanges wedding bands at City Hall in Philadelphia on Oct. 11, 2018. Divorce registries are part of a trend toward breaking the stigma of broken marriages, along with divorce parties and formal divorce announcements akin to wedding and marriage news.
FILE - A couple exchanges wedding bands at City Hall in Philadelphia on Oct. 11, 2018. Divorce registries are part of a trend toward breaking the stigma of broken marriages, along with divorce parties and formal divorce announcements akin to wedding and marriage news. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) (Terrie Howard) Photo Gallery

NEW YORK — Monogrammed towels. A toothbrush holder for four, rather than three. Shared bedding. For people putting a life back together after divorce, mundane household objects can be painful marital reminders.

Also difficult can be the absence of items that departed with the ex-spouse.

Olivia Howell knows all too well how it felt, going through her own divorce in 2019 after eight years of marriage and two kids. Her husband decamped with his stuff and she donated other items that triggered unwelcome emotions to a thrift shop.

“What was left in the house was almost nothing,” she said.

Howell then got busy replenishing, and trying to make the experience better for others through Fresh Starts. It’s a gift registry specifically for rebuilding after divorce that’s also packed with vetted experts if needed and other resources.

Divorce registries are part of a trend toward breaking the stigma of broken marriages, along with divorce parties and formal divorce announcements akin to wedding and marriage news.

Howell built Fresh Starts from the ground up with her sister, Jenny Dreizen, who found herself in a similar situation after the end of a long-term relationship. Nearly three years after launch, it remains a rare support resource offering divorce-specific registries for those starting over, and for loved ones who may struggle to find the right words and ways to reach out.

“I thought, you know, I had a baby registry and I had a wedding registry. This is when I actually need things to restock my life. I need the community support. I need new towels. I need new sheets, I need new utensils,” the 39-year-old Howell said.

Today, Fresh Starts has between 50,000 and 70,000 monthly visitors. The sisters also host a podcast, “A Fresh Story,” featuring guests discussing how they began again after divorce or navigated other huge life changes.

Erin Eloise Tulberg, a yoga teacher, actor and dancer in Brooklyn, has not yet finalized her divorce as she works out custody arrangements for her 9-year-old son. She started using Fresh Starts last summer at the suggestion of a friend.

“There was an immediate need for me to get my own apartment. I was moving into a place with absolutely nothing. I had no furniture. I had no kitchenware. I had my clothes and my books,” said Tulberg, 37.

The situation, she said, was “kind of scary.” Originally from Washington, her family and friends are scattered around the country.

“It was a great way to have my friends rally behind me,” Tulberg said of her registry.

Flowers, bottles of wine, and a pile of “I’m sorrys” or “congratulations,” depending, are often how divorce news plays out. Those looking to support their friends or relatives don’t often think about the need for a lamp or new sheets, Howell said.

They may also not understand the emotional impact that simple objects can take on. New household goods at a time of rupture and despair can draw community closer and become totems, a rebirth of sorts, said Leslie Jamison, a Brooklyn novelist and essayist whose latest book, “Splinters,” is a personal exploration of her own divorce.

Many retail registries can be set up for a multitude of purposes, including divorce.

Fresh Starts uses Amazon. It suggests bundles of items ranging from $99 to $500. Among the bedroom, kitchen, home office and bathroom essentials are a shower curtain, a can opener, a bedside clock, a humidifier.

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