Tips for Joining Households

Whether you’re a young couple setting up your first apartment together, or you’re combining households and families with a second spouse, combining households can be both an exciting and a frustrating time, because you’re combining more than just things: You’re combining lives. Here are some tips for navigating the process.

Make an Inventory. This may be a lot of work up front, but if both partners make a list of what they own, the task of determining duplicate items and identifying the one to keep becomes easier. Decide together which TV, small appliances and other items to keep. Some good ways to determine which one to keep are how old the item is, which one works best or has the most features, and which one you both like better. For items neither of you is emotionally attached to, a coin toss or rock-paper-scissors is a quick and easy way to decide.

Pare Down Extras, Duplicates, and Things No One Wants. It may be tempting to just take everything you own with you and sort it out later, but couples who do this miss out on important communication and relationship building tests. You’ll need to be honest about things you do or don’t like, things you want to keep, and you’ll learn to compromise. Since you’re building a life together, avoid ultimatums and don’t make your partner give up something they cherish. You can sell or donate items that don’t make the cut. If you’re selling items, take the money you earn and buy something you both want. 

Communicate. Talk about your expectations and how you hope living together will be, as well as how you’ll divvy up the chores, both during the move and after. Couples that discuss who will cook, do the dishes, mow the lawn and other chores tend to fight less than couples that don’t have these discussions. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your partner knows what you want, or that you’ll just automatically agree on everything.

Plan Your Move. Moving two households into one can be a logistical nightmare, so discuss how you’ll accomplish it. If you’re moving into a place that’s new for both of you, you’ll have to decide whether to combine your items in one place first, or whether to have the moving truck make two stops. 

Once the moving truck is empty and you’re starting to unpack, be sure you both have enough space. If not, make adjustments. That means space for clothes, toiletries and personal items, but also personal space so you both feel like you belong and are at home. The best way to ensure this is to make your home reflect both of you. 

As you plan and execute your move, you’ll need to work together to resolve challenges and overcome problems. The right planning will reduce the stress and challenges, but if problems do arise, solving them together will build skills that keep your relationship strong.


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