Moving in together? Read this first!

Getting married? Moving in together? Combining two households into one? This is for you!

couple sitting on floorI had a recent twitter query regarding organizing tips for a soon-to-be-married couple and tweeted back that there was way more information I could share than in a few tweets. So I’m writing this post for @chrisriesgo!

Love is in the air but moving in together can cause bumps in the road if you don’t plan ahead. You love your french press but your significant other is attached to the Keurig. You have a thing for shoes but your partner is into minimalism. You thrill thinking about your vintage album collection and your love adores the modern sculptures that cover all available surfaces. Each of you has amassed a impressive show of books,  slotted spoons and side chairs.

What to do?

As you are thinking about moving in together, your best bet is to address the following:

  • What are your space considerations? Are you moving into one or the others existing home, or are you looking for a new place together? If you are moving into one person’s residence, then that existing user is going to have to make more accommodations that the one moving in. If you have the opportunity to move to a new space, then taking into consideration everything that is coming with both of you is critical. Think of how many rooms you will have, how many closets & cabinets, sheds or garage space, etc. Create a space plan and design, as well as consider storage for items you want to keep but don’t access regularly.
  • What are the things you love and what are the things you use? Some possessions are non-negotiable. If you work out of your home, you need your office, whatever that may entail. If you craft or have a special collection of items or inherited pieces that bring you joy, these are important. If you have tons of books, your grandfathers vintage sprocket collection, or an extensive supply of luggage, be honest about how much square footage this takes up. Identify these items (each of you) and write them down or photograph them so you can be realistic.
  • What activities will be critical to you in your new space? Each of you has things you love to do in your own space but when you move in together, some activities may have to be adjusted or modified. Identifying those tasks or hobbies that you need or love to do up front will make it not such a surprise when moving in. If cooking elaborate meals is important to one, and repairing small engines is important to another, considerations need to be made for not only the activity but the materials that go along with it. If you camp, hike, play music, travel, garden or any type of activity that requires ‘stuff’ that you both have, make sure you take that into consideration. Do you have duplicates? Do you need every bit of what you use individually? How can these hobbies or adventures fit together?
  • How much baggage are you bringing along? And I’m not talking suitcases. I’m talking about memorabilia, collections, childhood toys & papers, work history, sports trophies, photos, gold records. Think about the space this stuff takes up and where it will go. Before you move in together, this may be a good time to evaluate, purge and condense as you will be making new memories as you move forward.
  • And don’t forget about the pets. Not a typical organizing consideration but if one person is bringing a cat – think about where the litter box will live. Where will you store things like leashes, dog bed, bowls, food, etc? And if pets will be joining each other, be sure to make time for them to get accustomed to having another animal around.

So once you’ve thought through these things, let’s talk about the practicalities. If each of you has been living alone for a while, you’ve probably accumulated many items that the other person has as well. You’ve got a few things to think about when approaching the decisions of what you bring together.

Ways to decide about the stuff:

  • Plan your space out before you make a move. Determine what the purpose for each room will be, what will happen in that space and what sort of items you need to make it work for both of you. Having a plan makes it easier to decide what you want to keep and what you don’t need.
  • Pluck the low hanging fruit first. Some types of things are fairly easy to determine such as kitchen or bathroom items, linens, tools, cleaning supplies, etc. These are the more practical things and while there may be a few things that are beloved (for me, it’s my KitchenAid mixer and my grandmother’s orange Le Creuset pot), most of the time you can compare what you each have and choose the better of them. You may end up with a few duplicates but sometimes that’s just the way it needs to be. If, for example, you prefer different styles of coffee makers, you need to be sure your new kitchen can accommodate both appliances.
  • What is your style? When it come to decor, this can be a source of conflict. You may each have different styles (or no style) and it may be harder to marry those than each other. If you are a Pinterest fan, creating pin boards for your style preferences may be helpful to get a feel for what the other person may like or not like. But the biggest recommendation is for each person to choose a few pieces that they really love, bring them together and see how those work together. You can then ‘shop’ from remaining pieces until your space is a good mix of the two personalities. Some items may have to go away, and purchasing a few new items together can really bring a room together.
  • Purge and contain memories to a manageable amount. I recommend getting matching or coordinating storage containers to hold memories, and label them. These can be decorative and displayed or plastic bins to be stored in a closet, whatever works for each person. If the memories are photographs or paper, using acid free bins or wrappings is a good idea. I highly recommend starting an empty memories bin for those memories you create together. Keep it easily accessible so you can add to it regularly.
  • Shed the rest. Each of you needs to do a big purge before moving. This means looking at everything you have and determining what isn’t really useful or loved. You don’t want to have a cluttered home from the get go, and you don’t want to pay to move a bunch of things that you don’t even like or need.

Ways to get rid of all the extra stuff:

  • Have a yard sale
  • Post pics on Facebook and let your friends come take what they want
  • Put ads on Craigslist or a local sale site
  • Give away items on Freecycle.org
  • Donate items to your favorite thrift store or charity
  • Consign furniture or decorative items that are in good condition
  • Donate items to a domestic violence shelter for women starting out on their own again
  • Find a friend (or a friend of a friend) who is just moving out on their own and help them stock their new place

The biggest thing, though, is to really listen to the other person and for each to be respectful of the others feelings and needs. Sometimes one person seems more willing to get rid of things but in reality is doing so to keep the peace. This can result in hard feelings later. On the flip side, pushing someone to get rid of things can bring up a wall. Being honest about what you need and want is a better way to start out living together, and will help avoid hidden resentments later. Find a balance along with being practical. And truly take into consideration your partner’s feelings about their stuff. What may look like junk to you may be their most prized possession. It’ll all work out if you plan, listen and communicate.

Chris, I hope this was helpful! Thanks for inspiring this post that can help others as well!