Cohabitation is a process. It requires patience, commitment, and lots upon lots of communication. If you’re moving in with someone for the first time (or the fifth time, or the sixth…) there are a million pitfalls to avoid — we’ve covered some of them here. Knowing when to let something slide, knowing your boundaries, knowing your tastes (but being willing to accomodate someone else’s, without resenting them) — all of these and more are required in order to smoothly navigate the process.
Want to know how to steer clear of massive fights and conflict? Enter the internet, with all answers. The staff at Moveline.com, a service that helps you organize and plan your move, have assembled a handy online guide to moving in together. Here are a few highlights.
BEFORE YOU SEARCH FOR A NEW PLACE
Before you start cruising rental apartment ads on Craigslist, there are some steps that could save you some time, money and stress before the move.
Step 1: Take a good look at all of your stuff
So much about moving is about the stuff in our lives. Most likely you’ll find things that are duplicates between your two apartments – two spatulas, two coffee tables – or things that you don’t want anymore. Then there’s the big stuff, like dressers and sofas that may not fit in the new place. Now’s the time to look at the stuff in both of your apartments and figure out what you have, what you’re keeping, and what you’re selling, donating or tossing before the move.
If you’re feeling tempted to put this off until after the move or skip it altogether – don’t. That could be the most costly mistake you make. Why? Because everything you keep adds to the cost of the move – whether that’s in dollars or in the time it’ll take to move everything and the physical strain on your body (more on that later). Plus, all that stuff is going to need to fit into the new place. Imagine what it’s going to be like when all the boxes are there. Will there be room to put them away until you can sort through it? Will keeping everything force you to rent a larger apartment than you can really afford?
David Schorr, a sales executive in Manhattan, says that when his girlfriend, now his fiancé, moved in with him fours years ago, neither one downsized their belongings beforehand, which led to their shared space feeling chaotic and cramped.
“It was essentially her stuff on top of my stuff,” says David. “In reality, I should have done a massive purge before she moved in and she should have done the same. It’s really important to make sure that the stuff you have combined is going to fit comfortably in the place you’re going to move into.”
So before you even begin looking at apartments, first get a realistic idea of how much space you need by figuring out how much stuff you’ll have after you’ve decided what you’ll keep and what you’ll sell, toss or donate.
- Take an inventory of both apartments
- Decide together what you’ll keep, sell, toss or donate
- Measure everything that’s left (furniture, etc.)
- Decide how much square footage you need
Tip: Resolving keep/toss conflicts with your partner
For some, the pre-move purge might seem like the perfect opportunity to get rid of their partner’s ugly or seemingly useless stuff. The old VHS collection he’s had since junior high? Out of here. The stacks of books she’s been holding on to for years? Gone. But wait. Here’s a tip: if you really want to get rid of this stuff, you’ll have more success if you use gentle suggestions and open communication. Some things your partner might be more than willing to give up, but others not so much.
When Johanna and her boyfriend decided to lease their new apartment, Johanna’s mother, an interior designer, drew up a floor plan to help the couple decide the best placement for their furniture. Unfortunately, the large metal shelf containing her boyfriend’s boxes of electronic parts didn’t fit the plan.
“When I confirmed that the measurements don’t work out, he bristled a little bit,” says Johanna. “I think he thinks I’m trying to get rid of all of his stuff, which is not the case. I just want to figure out a place where the boxes can be out of sight but still accessible. I probably haven’t been communicating that part well.”
Aaron says couples moving in together should try to be sensitive to the other person’s emotional attachment to their stuff. The mountain of books Anna had accumulated as an English undergraduate and now a composition and rhetoric graduate student once covered the floor of their apartment, prompting Aaron to suggest she get rid of half of them. Anna balked at the suggestion.
“My thinking was that I they were all I own. The only things I actually really own are books and clothes,” laughs Anna.
Aaron admits that his first approach was compulsive and didn’t factor in Anna’s feelings about her books. “It’s easy to say, ‘We don’t need two of these. We can downsize that. I don’t know what we need all this stuff for’ – thinking of ways to get rid of things before you realize that they’re meaningful objects to the other person.”
Also adding to the space problem in their apartment was Aaron’s framed art pieces. The couple solved the problem by renting a storage space. Since they live in a loft with high ceilings, they took advantage of the vertical space with shelves Aaron built to house the books and artwork. The result is an impressive, custom-built wall unit that shows off the height of the room and displays their books and artwork.
“It was a relief knowing there was an elegant solution to storing them. It looks pretty cool and I used a lot raw wood and industrial brackets that work with our loft space,” says Aaron.