Merging Households Without Tears

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Congratulations! You’re moving in together. Now begins an exciting phase of life in which you will make each other breakfast, binge-watch Netflix, and create the home of your dreams. But first you have to get through the universal initiation: determining how to merge your stuff. Don’t fear this grueling task; it will make you stronger as a couple (if it doesn’t make you break up). And there are ways to help the process go smoothly:

First, go through your own stuff before you ask your partner to do it.

Sorting your belongings with the goal of paring down gets you in the right mindset for the larger task ahead, and will make less work for the both of you later.

When you go through all the duplicate items you now have, one will clearly be a nicer version.

Put these things side by side so the choice is obvious. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking, well, maybe we need BOTH. You don’t need an emergency coffee pot, matching futons, or that other set of dishware.

Don’t be sad when your partner doesn’t want to keep certain “you” items.

Sorting out belongings is a difficult, practical job and you can’t take it personally. A good strategy to employ is “whoever feels more strongly about it makes the decision.” That means if your boyfriend absolutely loves his framed Star Wars poster and, while you think it’s dumb, you’ve seen way more offensive things in his pile of stuff, he gets to keep it.

Talk about the style you want for your home together, as well as a plan for each room before you unpack boxes.

This can help avoid hurt feelings later. If you both agree you want a modern, minimalist feel in your place, certain items will clearly be out of the running. If you both decide you want the spare room to be an office, that sets certain limitations on the furniture and decorative touches. Also consider devoting a less prominent room, such as a guest room, to the more offbeat tastes you or your partner might have.

Think about the size of your place and your needs realistically.

It may be tempting to keep all you can and see how it goes, but that can make daily living difficult. Navigating a home packed with superfluous stuff can be irritating and stressful. It’s harder to find things and you’ll probably start blaming each other for the unwanted clutter.

Before you begin, it’s a good idea to establish a timeline.

Pick a date you both feel is reasonable for this process to be finished by. Not only will you have a motivating goal to work toward, you can also schedule haul-away for unwanted larger items. Then plan a celebratory activity around that time: a dinner out, a weekend trip—something to commemorate this big step you’ve taken together.

Living together is a wonderful way for couples to show their love and commitment, but it’s not without challenges. Start this new phase on a positive note: be patient and positive while combining households, and always keep your shared goals in mind.

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