Before moving in with someone,organize your stuff and your thoughts

May 1, 2013

Whom do you call for advice when you’ve decided to move in with someone: a best friend, a parent, a priest, a psychologist? There are so many things to think about, and sometimes the organizational challenge of combining possessions gets overlooked, making an already stressful situation even worse. Here are a few pieces of advice to make the process easier.

Take an inventory

You can’t make decisions about what to keep if you don’t know what you have. This sounds obvious, but many people don’t actually know what they own. An accurate count of things such as plates, glasses, books and shoes will help when making decisions about what to keep, what to toss and what to sell or donate. It’s not enough to say I have “about 25 pairs of shoes,” because chances are, your estimate is incorrect. Take time to do an actual count. Once you each have your list, compare them to determine what to keep, what to discard and what you might need to buy. This holds true not just when two people move into a new home, but also when one person is moving into the other person’s home. Everything is fair game to be kept or discarded.

Know your space

If you don’t have a floor plan of your new home, measure and photograph each room. Knowing how much space you have to work with is crucial. Actual dimensions will be useful to resolve disagreements about whether a piece of furniture will fit in a room, and photos will help to recall architectural details. There are also resources available online, such as www.floorplanner.com, that can help you visualize where you will put furniture.

Plan ahead and be realistic

Take time to make realistic and reasoned decisions. Both people should be prepared to give up a few things, regardless of who is actually moving. Some decisions about what to discard will be obvious, others more difficult. Fortunately, the decision to give up a prized possession can be made less painful when you know the item is going to someone who really wants or needs it.

There are so many ways your unwanted items can be put to good use; just don’t wait until the last minute to decide whether your favorite chair is going to a friend or family member or a local charity, or whether you’re going to sell it online or via neighborhood e-mail list.


Illustration. (Jesse Lefkowitz for The Washington Post)
Communicate

Don’t put off making tough decisions to avoid arguments. This will only cause headaches later. If you know a particular piece of furniture is not going to fit in your new home, don’t pay to have it moved. Likewise, don’t move things to a storage locker to delay making a decision. Sometimes a storage unit is absolutely necessary because of the timing of a move, but more often, it’s the place people put things they just don’t want to deal with. The problem with this short-term fix is that “later” can quickly turn into several years, thousands of dollars and an even bigger investment of your time.

Good communication is even more important when one person is moving into the other’s home. As you welcome your partner into your home, try to approach the process as if you are moving, too. Look at the change as an opportunity to reimagine and redesign your space. Flexibility is key.

Take time to get settled

Understand and embrace the fact that your new home will not be perfect immediately. Yes, you need to plan carefully, but there will be some issues that arise even under the best of circumstances. It’s okay if you move and don’t have a coffee table for the first few months or decide that the painting you thought would look fantastic above your couch just doesn’t work.

It will take some time to figure out exactly how you’re using your new space and how you want it to feel. Live in it a while and then decide what is working and what isn’t before you rush out and make major purchases.

Cooking meals together, watching movies with friends and buying new furniture are all joys that come with moving in with someone. Even though the important logistical decisions are not as fun, they will affect your attitude about the new space. With careful planning and compromise, you can create a space where everyone feels comfortable and right at home.

Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik. She can be reached at nicole@neatnik.org.

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