Combining Households as Adults
August 8, 2021 2:39 PM   Subscribe

My SO and I have decided to move in together (buying a place) and the timeline is ~Dec 2021/Jan 2022. We are both fully fledged adults with All Our Own Stuff. What is the best way to go about this? Spreadsheets? Tips? Thoughts?

I have the nicer living room furniture, and we know we'll be keeping it and using it in our new house, no question. I have to have a home office/work room, so that's being provisioned for and all that stuff will just go into my new space for that purpose. I have more art and care a lot about that kind of thing, whereas he has less art but it's probably all more sentimental. We will of course put all our stuff together and decide how that all gets shown.

But how do you deal with all the duplicative stuff? How to even figure out what is duplicative and get rid of it before we move into our new house? It seems overwhelming and I feel like we're going to end up with five coffee pots and three spoons.
posted by Medieval Maven to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's a process of ongoing negotiation. You discuss stuff as it comes up, and decide on a case-by-case basis. Some decisions you may make for practical reasons ("your coffee maker is newer and better than mine, so I'll get rid of mine and we'll use yours") and some for sentimental reasons ("I know my dishes are kinda weird looking, but they were a special gift from my 9-year-old niece and I thought that was incredibly cute so I really want to keep them") and some you may decide to keep duplicated ("I just realized that if we have two vacuum cleaners, one can be for upstairs and one can be for downstairs").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:56 PM on August 8, 2021 [7 favorites]

Since you're buying a house, is it safe to assume there will be some storage (basement/attic/garage/etc.)? I'm sure preferences vary, but I'd find it easier to make some final decisions after the move when you can actually spend time in the space with your furniture, and have the duplicate different items all in the same place. When I moved in with my partner, the purge was something we mostly tackled after we got through the stress of moving, which was easy as we first moved into a house with a big basement. We just went through the items one category at a time.
posted by coffeecat at 2:59 PM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Give yourselves permission to replace a couple of things that you have that are "good enough", so you have something you picked out together (other than the house). My wife and I finally replaced the shower curtain I bought eight years ago when I left my ex. It was still in good enough shape, but we love the one we picked out together.
posted by joycehealy at 3:07 PM on August 8, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Eh, you will end up with some stuff living in a closet for a while and then remember it's there and donate/throw out - or maybe swap it in for the thing you thought was the right one, or maybe bin them both and get a new one. It's okay.

But I do think a spreadsheet would help! Like, I'm sure there's plenty of stuff that nobody's SO invested in or one of you has a nicer/newer/more expensive version and it's a no-brainer. You might have columns for the item, make/model, age, quality, beloved/sentimental?, and would you keep it if you were moving alone?

I also suggest you both get some colored tape or stickers and physically mark items as "move" vs "don't" as decisions get made, because for example you may not want to give away your coffee maker until then but you've already decided you'll give away/donate/toss rather than pack and move it.

You're going to come across some of your stuff that doesn't need to be kept but you would want to have kept if all this doesn't work out, and then you will feel guilty about pre-ruining your entire relationship over some silverware - it's okay, it's normal, and it's not wrong. Obviously a ton of stuff is just stuff and is replaceable if you need to re-buy later, but if you'd really be sad if something happened and you didn't have that stuff in a box somewhere...keep it. Be reasonable and don't hoard, but keep the big-deal items. In a few years you can reconsider keeping it, and some of it you will be ready to let go of and some of it you won't.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:27 PM on August 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It seems people are covering how to decide whose thing to keep, so as to your other question. A good way to figure out what you even to to decide about is to get the fairly standard wedding registration list from Target or Bed Bath and Beyond and use it as a guide. Or look online for lists of what you need to set up a house. You're not necessarily doing those things but it should hive you a list to work from.
posted by dstopps at 6:00 PM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you end up with 5 coffee pots, give four of them away or sell them. Keep the one that makes the most sense for your household. If you end up with three spoons, at least there's a pandemic on and you probably won't be having guests! You can each have your own spoon, and then there's a spare, too.

You'll be ok.
posted by aniola at 6:29 PM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would actually not make any decisions until the house is purchased and you know exactly what you're dealing with! It might be that your sofa is newer and nicer, but after seeing the dimensions of the room, their loveseat actually fits a lot better - for example.

Instead, go through your own place, room by room, with the mentality of "what would I change if I was moving by myself". Go slowly here, really taking inventory and:

Step 1. Declutter everything you definitely don't need or want. That's going to make the future a lot easier.
Step 2. Make a list of everything you absolutely must keep. A beloved desk, a box of photo albums, craft supplies, etc.
Step 3. Make a list of everything that you would prefer to have replaced, or don't have and want. Like a boring but functional set of dishware, and a toaster oven.
Step 4. Make a list of everything else. A dresser that's "enh", a bunch of cutlery, a shower curtain. These are things you might move, but aren't really attached to.

Step 5. Once each person is done, sit down and and compare lists. Highlight in red any competing "must keeps", like if you both love your mattress and plan to share a bed. Those will need to be evaluated closely once the house is found. Highlight in green any items one person wanted to replace that the other has - that's great, and now you know you don't need to purchase it. Highlight in yellow any shared items that you'll want to buy (again, after seeing the house, in case it turns out that's not important - maybe the previous owners are leaving a great dishwasher).
Step 6. Now turn to the "everything else" column and see if there are any immediate decisions that can be made. Maybe you now have enough combined bookcases, so those should all be kept, because that's a pricey purchase even if they're just basic ikea furniture. Maybe you only need one set of knives and one person has an obviously better set. In this process you might want to walk around each current residence together to really get a look (familiarity can often dull us to the exact details of an object). If anything comes up, you can move these to the "must keep" or "replace" list, but don't get rid of anything *yet*. We want to see the house first, but now you both have a pretty good idea of any potential conflicts, new wins, space needs, and early purchases.

As the upcoming months go by, continue to work on decluttering obvious things (like worn shirts) and start packing things you know you're going to bring but don't need to have handy right now (like summer clothes, or mementos). That's to make the move easier.

Step 7. Flash-forward in time: you've purchased the house! Congratulations! Now we know exactly what we're dealing with. Get a lot of measurements and pictures of the new home while all the paperwork process is slowly rolling along, and sit down with your lists.
Step 8. Re-evaluate your "must have" lists and decide where everything is going to go, room by room. Make a new list for the house. Each room should have a separate color assigned to it, and get stickers and sharpies that match those colors. Use that to mark/write your boxes and furniture so that you or the movers know exactly where to put stuff day-of. This is also the time where you can decide for sure what is going to move and what is going to leave, and make any conflicting decisions based on the actual layout and needs rather than only sentimentality.
Step 9. Re-evaluate your replace/buy list. It may be that you were going to get rid of one dresser and now realize that's a great hobby organizer in the office area, for example. Review the purchases and make a new house list for "right away" (you need a shower curtain), "soon" (new pans would be really helpful) and "future" (deck chairs would be great, but that can be kicked down the road to balance budgets right now).
Step 10. Re-evaluate the "everything else" and see if there are any decisions that can be made now that you've mentally moved stuff around in the new place, seen how much you're keeping (or getting rid of), and know the area you're moving to better. If you don't have a new decision, that's okay - just color code it. If you end up with duplicates right now that's fine! It's easier to donate later than purchase now if you realize whoops, we don't have a lot of mugs.

Get everything packed up and marked/sticker-ed, moving from "least used" to "most used" in your current residence. Normally a suitcase is a "least used" item, but actually, put that next to your bed. Fill it up with your medicine, any spare chargers, two full sets of clothing, a roll of toilet paper, a towel, cleaning rags, a mask, some cash, a notebook, a pen, and your important life paperwork. On the day of the move, add to that your computer, phone charger, toiletries in a plastic bag, and a clean plastic cup. Bring that into the new house, by hand, and put in your bedroom, first of all items. This ensures you have immediate access to immediate needs.

Step 11. Move each person's furniture. Furniture goes first, when you have the most energy, and place it where it's supposed to go - so you can start filling it up, and know what the room layout is going to look like.
Step 12. Move all of the boxes/bags/etc into the new house. Designate a place (ideally a storage area like a garage or basement, if you have that) for three categories: "I don't actually know where this goes", "let's donate that", and "long-term storage". Hang up paper signs so that everyone can keep them straight!
Step 13. Unpack the bathroom(s) first. This may include some tossing or last-minute purchase items to write down.
Step 14. Make the bed so you can crash later.
Step 15. Unpack the kitchen. Make a list of any groceries that need purchasing. If at this time you realize you have too many spoons, put items in the "let's donate that" pile.
Step 16. You can now eat, sleep, and wash, so that takes care of the immediate needs. I like to put together the living room and other public areas first, because that makes the home feel nice and lived-in. Other people might want to do their clothes and personal items beforehand. I do think it's good to do this together either way. That way, each person is contributing to how it looks and feels like they're getting the space they need. Either way, try to get everything actually opened and put away. It's exhausting, I know, but it feels so much nicer than having a bunch of ??? boxes somewhere.
Step 17. For each day of the move, designate one person that is going to stay in and clean and get rid of boxes/bags. The other person is going to go out for the immediate purchases and any food needs. I know that seems so simple but it solves a lot of disgruntled "I'm doing everything" feelings, I promise. It also gives you each a little break from each other, which after the stress of moving is important. Reuniting with the joy of a set table and fresh pizza really adds back in the joy of that relationship!
Step 18. After you are done unboxing everything, return to that "I don't know where it goes" pile. Does anything jump out as "oh - that'd be great in the bedroom!" feeling? Move it. Does anything feel like "I don't think we actually need this, but it means a lot to me?" Move it to storage. Everything else, put in the donate pile.
Step 19. Make a big trip out to get rid of junk, donate obvious things, clean up the old residences, and make some final immediate purchases of needs that only became clear during the move. But -do not actually donate that "donate" pile yet!
Step 20. Based on final costs, you can now determine what "soon" and "future" new items are really needed, and a good time span to save for them. Otherwise, your house is done! Hooray!

Give the donate pile several weeks to just sit there. A month, even, if it isn't bothering you. You can take things out if you realize you need them, or put things in if you find you don't need so many towels, but don't donate it. Just let it simmer. That way, when you return, you'll know that you genuinely can get rid of it ("oh yeah, I had that egg thing") because you have fresh eyes and have gone from "new house" to "our home" feelings and realized what you actually need. At that point you can really let it go.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 7:53 AM on August 9, 2021 [5 favorites]

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