After a Divorce, Who Gets the KitchenAid?

Stand mixers aren't just appliances; they're talismans for a certain kind of adulthood. What do you do with them when your life goes in a different direction?

December  9, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

My KitchenAid is a symbol, a talisman. It’s cherry red, I say, but the official name is Empire Red, and it takes up a significant chunk of my kitchen counter’s limited space. I’ve kept it through my many moves (across the country twice, to Central Asia and back, up and down the East Coast a few times), through my periods of uncertain housing when I lived out of suitcases on someone’s couch, and through my descent from local baking legend to gluten-free grump.

It was a wedding gift. I’d grown up using my mom’s 8-quart white model for baking cookies for church fundraisers, dozens upon dozens of pies for family holidays and birthdays, and loaf after loaf of homemade bread. It was a workhorse—she replaced a bolt in the motor once, but it’s still going strong nearly 30 years of hard use later. Baking was my comfort zone, an escape in the chaos of my huge family, and a way I bridged the awkwardness of being the weird homeschooler when I went to college. Many things will be overlooked if you come bearing cookies, and so that’s how I made friends at first.

My wedding happened right at the end of college, and my in-laws knew I loved to bake, and they loved my baking, so they got me a KitchenAid that matched our wedding colors (crimson, silver, and white) in that bright red that made me so happy. It was a 6-quart head-tilting model, smaller than my mom’s white bowl-lift one, but I wasn’t trying to feed nine kids like she was. It was perfect for my new household, and it felt like an heirloom in the making. I used it all the time, teaching myself how to cook for just two, baking cookies for my first real office job, making birthday cakes for my in-laws, whipping up holiday treats for our church friends. And then the marriage was over and the fantasy of a stable home and an heirloom to pass on dissolved.

But I still had the mixer. It was too nice to get rid of (unlike the cheap engagement ring my musician ex had gotten me, which pawned for less than $100), and it was still useful. Heavy and annoying, yes, but it carried with it a certain statement of class, of stability. It suggested the ability to afford a $400 appliance; it suggested the assumption that I would have a nice kitchen in which to show it off. It spoke to me, existing in my mind as an assurance that one day I would again have a kitchen of my own and a family to feed, that I wouldn’t always be alone and heartbroken.

This seems to be a common experience. I tweeted the other night about how I wished I could swap mixers with someone (I’m daydreaming about a green and blue kitchen now, not red) to reset my memories, and nearly 10,000 people jumped on to like and respond, offering their own stories of KitchenAid mixers left over from divorces and dead spouses, and how they felt about these appliances years later.

The energy of this conversation suggested that divorces require the parties involved to have a certain amount of pragmatism and vision for the future they’re creating, just like a wedding does. You have to think about what you’ll need in your new home, what you want to prioritize, what you will and won’t use. A KitchenAid mixer as spoils in the divorce settlement means you plan on having a future where you’re feeding other people, offering hospitality, creating community. Those who want to keep the marital KitchenAid mixer are those who are thinking about others and their relationships at large, about the communal nature of living in a way that anticipates sharing your food and home with others. It also suggests that you’re interested in a caregiving role in the future—those who leave the mixer with their ex are the ones who want a certain amount of liberty and open-endedness in their lives after the divorce.

The fact that KitchenAid mixers are the appliances that outlast so many marriages also suggests these are the holdout appliances of the middle class of yesteryear. My grandmother got married at the end of the Korean War, and she’s still using the toaster she received as a wedding gift. She was part of the actual middle class, back before there were so many billionaires tipping the scales. Her appliances weren’t designed with planned obsolescence: They were made to last, and that was a point of pride for the companies that made them. KitchenAid mixers are the only appliance I know of that still exists in this kind of space: affordable to many people as a one-time investment of $300 to $500, and built with the kind of quality that ensures it’ll last you a lifetime.

A sense permanence like that is both a blessing and a curse when you’re looking to reinvent yourself and your home. It’s wasteful to just dispose of something that nice, that generous of a gift; it’s an anchor or a ball and chain, too. I want a green one now, emerald or deep teal perhaps. I just want to grow things, to take root somewhere, and seeing greens in my kitchen echoes that feeling. I want my new KitchenAid mixer to remind me of the trees, not a young bride and heartbreak.

Does your KitchenAid mixer hold special memories? Do you want a new one, maybe in a different color? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
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Eve Ettinger

Written by: Eve Ettinger

Eve writes & edits. They co-host Kitchen Table Cult podcast.


Nat January 20, 2023
I got my KitchenAid mixer as a gift from my mom for my 21st birthday. She asked what I wanted and I told her I wanted the stand mixer - so that I wouldn't have to race into a marriage just to be able to get a stand mixer. I've had my mixer for 16 years, and my husband for only 11.
Nell K. January 16, 2022
My Kitchen Aid mixer arrived in 1974 as a wedding present. The Kitchen Aid still works, unlike that marriage. Sometimes, true love is forever!
Cat January 16, 2022
I'm 33, and last spring separated from my husband and moved away (substance abuse is a beast). Last weekend, I went to our storage unit and was immobilized by the life we used to have, reduced to boxes and bubble wrap. I felt a huge wave of guilt looking at some of the beautiful wedding gifts we received - mostly kitchen stuff. I grabbed the red Cuisinart food processor and the white KitchenAid mixer, but felt so weighed down by these heavy appliances and the heavy state of my marriage that I left them sitting in the trunk of my car for a week.
Just last night, I pulled them out. I wiped down the Kitchenaid. I discovered it was too painful to look at -- this unmistakable symbol of domesticity and stability and what "married life" is supposed to be. For now, I found a spot for it in my small, unfamiliar rental kitchen, but it's in the back of a cabinet, not proudly displayed on the counter. Hopefully one day I'll start to associate it with the future and not the past, but for right now, it feels like a glaring reminder of the life I had envisioned, and how far we have come from that point. Thank you for this beautiful and timely article that encompasses so much of what I feel right now.
Louise C. December 27, 2022
"...this unmistakable symbol of domesticity and stability and what "married life" is supposed to be."

I'ma stop you right there. Your KitchenAid has zero to do with marriage or domesticity. Your KitchenAid represents possibility, growth, and the maturing of your cooking chops. Your KitchenAid does not require you have a spouse, it requires you have a mouth. Strip away the dank filter of your painful past and admire your KitchenAid through hopeful eyes.

My daughter is 2 years older than you and has been an addict for over half her life. I know that pain. Let 2023 be a year of rediscovery for you. Remember who you are. Remember what made you excited to have the KitchenAid in the first place and light that creative fuse. You have no limits. Read that again. You. Have. No. Limits.
Kim January 16, 2022
You know, you can paint them. I followed this. Just keep in mind that it’ll be out of commission for a bit. You really want that paint to cure hard.
Wendy January 16, 2022
Kim-did you actually paint yours? How did it come out? I read that too but I’m too chicken to try. These beauties have a finish on them that I consider indestructible. For some reason I don’t trust a paint job. Would love to hear from others too if they tried and how it came out!
Kim January 16, 2022
Wendy- not gonna lie, it’s a time consuming project. Proper preparation is key. It must be scrupulously clean. And you need to sand the glossy finish off. Then clean it again. And, just to be sure- clean it again. Then let it dry a day or two. Take pics as you dismantle or, better yet, record on your phone so you can reassemble. Be painstaking in tape placement. Make sure to set yourself up in a secure, well ventilated area, because you won’t be moving anything for a few days. Don’t rush the painting or you’ll get drips and splotches. The number of coats you’ll need depends upon the value of the new color versus the old. And let it dry as long as possible between coats. The paint instructions will, inevitably, tell you it only takes 1 or 2 hours to dry. That’s a lie. They mean that it is dry to the touch. If you’ve ever polished your nails, you know what I mean. Your nails may be dry to the touch, but there’s a difference in how they feel today compared to how that polish will feel tomorrow. When it is completely cured. Nail polish takes 24 hours to completely cure. Lol but back to the mixer… I waited 24 hours between coats of color. Then applied a high gloss sealant. There are some other finishes available as well- matte, matte textured. Keep an exacto blade handy when you remove the tape, in case anything sticks. It’ll allow you to cut a clean edge without damaging the paint. Or just take that week of your life that you spent alone with your mixer and go on a vacation! Or read! Or sleep! Or walk your dog! Don’t have a dog? Go adopt one! A senior dog! They’re wonderful!! I’ve had 3 and they’ve all been STARS!
Wendy January 17, 2022
Oh my! It sounds like tons of work and boy do I have respect! I don’t know if I have the fortitude…lol 😂-but a girl can dream, right? I keep staring at my kitchen cabinets and the paint sprayer I bought a year ago to tackle that DIY project…Lord help me. 😂 But I keep envisioning the Kitchen-Aid in the perfect hue of pastel pink…darn it! Ok ok…I’m adding it to the list! And about the dogs….I have the most perfect 4 year old male Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix who keeps me on my toes. I thought I was the homeowner but apparently he has other ideas! Many blessings! 💖
Kim January 18, 2022
As long as you understand the chain of command, and keep him in treats, it’s all good! My Molly sends dog hugs to your Pom-Chi 💜
Brenda December 26, 2021
Hey Eve wonderful cultural commentary! I am 65 and never wanted to spend the money for a stand mixer (Married 40 years but no one was giving that expensive of a gift back then). I managed without until just a couple months ago. My dear nephew and his family moved into a new home where the previous owner had left the KitchenAid (classic white, head lift) and they already owned one and kindly passed it on to me. I am enjoying it so much! It came with the mix paddle, dough hook and stainless mixing bowl. I might not ever pull that little hand mixer out again. (Kitchen colors are red and cream! It will do nicely.)
Michelle December 26, 2021
This article is timely. I just gave my wedding-gift-KitchenAid (which just happens to be teal) to my mom because she could not find the right sized beater for hers. I think it’s funny I did not hand it down but handed it up! It felt strange to give it away but it’s still in the family and she will use it more than I.
I love this article and it’s very well written. I hope you find just the right one to set you on your new path!
jpriddy December 26, 2021
I inherited my grandmother's pale gold KitchenAide. It was decades old and lasted another twenty years. I have a purple one now.
Gypzi December 26, 2021
The KitchenAid was a HUGE bone of contention in my divorce. It's a limited edition color and we both wanted it. I ended up taking it after agreeing to leave it behind (not one of my finest moments), but other than the extreme pettiness, I regret nothing! He was a lying cheater, anyway, who never paid the alimony.
leclairt December 11, 2021
When my husband and I recently separated, I took the stand mixer. It was his gift to me early in our marriage, and I used it all the time. I traded my mom for hers- mine was white, she had red. It helped the negative feelings about mine. I’ve also seen that you can paint them- red is not my color, so I’m doing research! Maybe an option?
Liz S. December 10, 2021
I know that I should have not clicked through and probably should not leave a comment and just move on ... but, oh well.

As we approach a season of family, whatever family means to each of us, I found the article title shocking and inappropriate. The article content did not necessarily demand that title. The article content might even be interesting, but I am so angry about the title that I can't be fair to the content.

FWIW, I have been divorced 3x - not something that I am proud of. None of the "stuff" has ever mattered in the process. No children. Pets, which I claimed and thankfully no disagreements over them. And ... I have a Kenwood mixer purchased by me, for me after a lot of research. If I ever upgrade, it will be an Ankarsrum.
Becca H. December 10, 2021
?? I thought the title matched the article content perfectly. And I can fully relate to what Eve wrote in this column.
After my divorce, I gave our large, sturdy, white KitchenAid mixer to a friend to use to mix their ceramic glazes. A few years later, I bought a smaller ice blue stand mixer that fits beautifully in MY kitchen and is the perfect size for my family. Thanks for sharing your story, Eve.
Girlfromipanema December 11, 2021
I have to agree with Becca here....the title is not sensationalized- it's pretty straightforward and describes the content of the article. In fact I found the entire article well-written and respectful.
Liz S. December 11, 2021
@Becca H and @Girlfrominpanema Thank you for YOUR comments and for the fact that they respectfully disagree with me. I am not being snarky about that ... sincerely.
Liz S. February 12, 2023
And now I have to eat a few of my words ... I just pulled the trigger on a KitchenAid and the Pasta Extruder attachment. I still dislike title of this post etc. but I need to be transparent about a decision that contradicts other claims I made in my original comment.