By Liz Shaw
Two people -- one roof. Two dining room sets and four couches? There's just no room! When combining households, you have to assess your possessions and prepare for moving in together. After all, do you really need two toasters?
It's a situation familiar to many couples. The circumstances will vary, but whether you are a young couple moving into your first house -- accepting any furniture you can get your hands on -- or you're a little more established and trying to fit two households' worth of belongings into one, you face a common challenge of merging two lives.
Let's take look at how two couples handled combining their households.
Yes, Please, We'll Take It!
When you make the announcement that you're moving to a new place, family and friends might be eager to have you take their old stuff off their hands -- one man's trash can be another man's treasure, right?
When Mike Adago and his fiancé, Steph, were preparing to move into their first home together, their technique was to accept everything offered to them. Neither of them had lived on their own before, so they hadn't accumulated very much furniture for furnishing their first house.
Adago collected items given to them for the new house in his parents' basement, which made it difficult to keep track of exactly what they had. He knew they wouldn't keep everything, but he knew it would be easier to sort through what they needed after they moved in.
This approach can work well if you're just starting out and need to furnish the house. You'll have the space to sort through everything together once you move in.
On the day of the move, Adago had his friends and family assist with loading their goods and bringing them to the house. "Steph told the guys which rooms the furniture went in. They were instructed to bring all tools into the basement and all other boxes were to go into the den for Steph and me to sort out later," says Adago. "It took us about 2-3 weeks to go through everything to determine what we would keep," says Adago. In the end, anything they didn't keep could go back into circulation among friends.
Adago, a certified public accountant (CPA) with The Curchin Group in Red Bank, New Jersey, says a major factor of moving in together was combining finances. "Instead of trying to figure out who paid for what, we pooled our money together so we could just write checks," says Adago. "There is no more my money, her money; it is our money."
This is an important consideration for any couple preparing to move in together. Along with a home come utility bills, possible home-improvement costs, and a mortgage or rent to pay -- when combining households, you need to discuss and agree on how you will handle these payments.
Married With Belongings:
The situation changes when the two people preparing to share the same roof have both already established homes of their own. Sometimes one person will move into the other's house, in which case the person inviting the other to move in should be prepared to make room for the other's belongings. Other times, couples will move together into a new home, which can be easier because you'll be starting on neutral territory.
Even so, the transition might be more substantial for one of you.
Whether you move together or one person moves into the other's house, it's important to be considerate of each other's needs and how the transition is unique for each of you. For someone moving into the other's already established home, that person might need a space in the house for his or herself in order to feel at home too.
Along with the furniture, many couples each bring appliances and dishware to the table, quite literally. "We had double pots and pans, and kitchenware. My stuff was more dinnerware, so we use his stuff for casual occasions and my stuff for special occasions," says Linda Heath, who recently married and combined households with her husband, Jon.
Before you move your belongings to the new house, take the time to go through your common items. For things such as cookware sets, determine whose is of better quality and keep the best. If you can narrow down some of these items before moving -- especially when it comes to duplicates of big furniture items -- you should be able to reduce your moving costs. Why put in the time and effort (not to mention the money) to move two of the same items? Remember: You pay for everything you move.
One of the biggest projects involved in combining households can be integrating your furniture and décor. Heath says that for her, a challenge was "working around colors that you wouldn't have chosen, but they match the rug he has... which is a nice rug, but you wouldn't have picked it yourself." Combining households calls for creativity when a couple has differing styles. Linda and Jon used furniture that was his or hers, but they've "bought other stuff around it" to make it theirs.
In an ideal world, you each keep your most treasured belongings and upgrade the overall quality of your possessions by combining them in your new home. From there, you can expand your décor and furnishings in a style you choose together. On the other hand, you might not covet certain items as much as your significant other does. For example, Heath says her husband "is an avid collector, so the stuff that's the hardest to get around is his 500 posters, his Japanese animation figure collections, and his huge record and memorabilia collection."
To overcome these obstacles, it's often best to meet in the middle. Don't let one person's things dominate your shared space. Heath gave her husband "shelves for his collections and framed some of his posters, which are now up around the house."
The result is win/win: Jon is happy to have his collections visible while Linda is glad to have them organized. Heath says, "It's all about compromise and not worrying if you house won't make it to Home & Garden magazine."
Some More Practical Tips:
Make sure the moving company has access to both locations. If a large truck is used at one location, and the second location will not accommodate a large truck, there may be a need to have the second location's goods transferred to the first location in a smaller truck. These are all things the moving company will need to know in advance.
Also, when the goods are coming from two locations, it can be confusing where they're placed at the destination -- they may go to a different area of the new residence than where they come from at the original residence. Map this out for your movers.