Cohabitation query
April 27, 2008 1:01 PM   Subscribe

How can I make my home a welcoming place for a significant other who is moving in?

In one week's time, my (female) significant other is moving in with me for the summer. I live in a one bedroom apartment of fairly average size and have never lived with a romantic partner before. She plans to be here from early May until August.

What would people suggest that I do, before her arrival, to help make her stay comfortable? Also, I would appreciate any suggestions about living together in a situation where neither of us will really have any dedicated private space.
posted by sindark to Human Relations (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure you will get lots of great answers here with lots of suggestions but here is the one favorite that I have for the "my SO is moving in to my house with me" - go pillow shopping together. Your personal bed will now become your-the-two-of-you's bed and a way to say "hey this is part yours now" is to make sure she has her own taste in pillows.
posted by jessamyn at 1:07 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ask her what she would like and what would help her feel comfortable. Learning to live together is a process that you both need to be involved in.
posted by procrastination at 1:08 PM on April 27, 2008

Is she bringing all her worldly possessions with her? When I started shacking up it was hella frustrating trying to find space for all my stuff. If your domicile is stuffed to the gills with your items, consider donating what you don't need anymore, and clearing space, and thinking about what sort of storage she'll need.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:13 PM on April 27, 2008

Clean towels. You can never have enough. Trust me on this.
posted by baggymp at 1:17 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: She normally lives on the other side of the country, so she will only be bringing with her as much as she can carry. She is moving back out there at the end of the summer.
posted by sindark at 1:22 PM on April 27, 2008

Clean the apartment. Make sure she has her fair share of drawers and bookshelf space. Clean the apartment some more. Make her a copy of the key.

I agree about breakfast ingredients, disagree about tampons.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:26 PM on April 27, 2008

No dedicated private space is a hard thing to manage, and it's usually rough when I try to shack up with my SO after quite a while apart (with his tiny, tiny, tiny NYC apartment). Make sure you've got enough separate activities so that you're not around each other constantly, both within and outside of the apartment. Do a lot outside of the apartment, both together and individually. Give her her own time there, so that she can settle in and feel at home, without you watching her.

Keep the place NEAT. When there's two of you, there's way more stuff than you're used to, and it spreads up to fill any area it can find. Try to dedicate space for her own things and personal use, wherever you can. When I visit him, I tend to commandeer an area and keep my stuff tidy, but if it's a long trip, I tend to weasel my way into a drawer or two. What I wouldn't give for a shelf!

Also, I think a welcome gift is a great idea, maybe something like her own mug? I have grown very attached to having my own personal mug. So has my boyfriend, actually. We tend to travel mug-equipped. Maybe we're just especially fond of stable morning rituals? I would also appreciate some sort of flowering plant as a gift, but given the confines of his tiny place, even that would probably take up too much space...
posted by Herman Hermanson at 1:35 PM on April 27, 2008

Nthing making space for her and make it real space not just a draw. She's not living with you, you're living together so make things as equal as possible. Also make sure you keep open communication about mess and cleaning. Even the most sane people get freaked out by this stuff so make sure it's all talkable about. Good luck!
posted by merocet at 1:40 PM on April 27, 2008

I am assuming you're a guy, and that your girlfriend probably uses a lot more toiletries, hair products, etc than you. If that's the case, you may want to create some extra space in the bathroom so both of you have room for your stuff. Maybe put a couple of extra shelves up near the sink, or get one of those things that fits over the toilet, like this.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 2:04 PM on April 27, 2008

where neither of us will really have any dedicated private space.

Putting up a standing screen can do wonders for that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:27 PM on April 27, 2008

Best answer: Clean. If you aren't good at serious, deep cleaning, pay a service to come and do a one-time top to bottom deep cleaning of the apartment. Have that place sparkling when she arrives. Floors, counters, every inch of the bathroom, all linens cleaned, everything.

If you don't have a bathroom trashcan (with a lid, ideally), buy one.

In the bathroom, make sure that there is lots of space in the shower, near the sink, and in a drawer for her -- even the most granola of hippies will have a preferred brand of shampoo, a toothbrush, and some "girl products" that she shouldn't need to keep in her suitcase. Put out new bars of soap (or full soap dispensers, if you use the liquid stuff) by the sink, in the shower, etc.

If you can easily afford it, buying new sheets, towels, and pillowcases is a nice touch, but hardly mandatory unless your current ones are stained and discolored.

Give her lots of closet and drawer space in the bedroom; a night-table for her is a nice touch, too.

Make sure there is room in the kitchen for whatever food products she likes to have on hand. If you know what she likes, having her favorite breakfast cereal and so on already in the kitchen when she arrives is a really nice touch.

Have keys ready for her when she arrives (nothing makes a place feel less like yours than if you have to wait for someone to let you in every day). Help get her a library card, or bus pass, or whatever she needs to have access to cool stuff in your town.

If she's not local, make an extra effort in the first week to introduce her to some of your friends, so she at least will have met a few people -- moving far away to be with a SO can be really isolating and lonely.

If getting there will be a long and exhausting trip, have something nice but low-key ready for her when she arrives -- dinner reservations, or a bottle of her favorite wine, or whatever she might like. If getting there will be a really brutal trip, or if she has just finished a tough time where she is coming from, make reservations (and arrange to pay) for her to get a massage/spa day/luxurious treat on the third or so day after she arrives (the second day she will probably still be wiped out; by the third day she will hopefully be recuperated and ready to enjoy the treat).
posted by Forktine at 2:29 PM on April 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Not exactly applicable to your situation, but when my grandfather remarried he gave his new wife carte blanche to redecorate and let her hang a picture of her late husband in the living room.
posted by Soliloquy at 2:55 PM on April 27, 2008

I just went through this myself. I cleaned out all my closets and made space for his stuff, and got a few house projects (painting the bathroom, etc.) done before he came home. (He was deployed for 13 months and we were not living together before he left.) But I also left some things for when he came home, so he could feel like he was helping make decisions for the household. If you're thinking about buying new lamps or something, wait until she gets there so she can help you pick them out. Together we rearranged the study so we'd both have space for ourselves. I think he appreciated that as much as the space I made for him before he came home.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 4:03 PM on April 27, 2008

nthing what everyone said about space. Also, go shopping with her online and have her pick out some decorations, towels, etc. Have them ready when she gets there.
posted by desjardins at 4:17 PM on April 27, 2008

Get used to referring to it as "our home" rather than "my home". Start now.
posted by bunglin jones at 5:07 PM on April 27, 2008

Space that is hers to do with as she choses. Don't think of it as your living space that you are generously sharing with her but as a living area that belongs equally to the two of you. This may not be practical but you could do something like let her move the living room furniture around to suit her tastes while you go off to let her do her thing. Nthing getting rid of extra crap. Setting aside space to house your cast-off junk and then dividing the remaining space between the two of you isn't very cool.
posted by Foam Pants at 6:41 PM on April 27, 2008

Flowers when she arrives.
posted by stereo at 7:08 PM on April 27, 2008

When my (now-ex-) girlfriend moved in from Chicago, I had a banner hung* that read, "Welcome home, ****!"

* I'm cheap, so it was printed on 8-1/2x11 sheets, one letter at a time.

Seconding all those who talk about clearing drawers & closet halves for her.

By the time she moved in, my bathroom already had her toiletries stocked, so that wasn't a problem. The "pillow shopping together" idea sounds good; wish I'd thought of that!

And double-plus-seconding the "introduce her to lots of friends" idea. Eventually she found some people she clicked with even more than I did in that bunch; these became "her friends" (still my friends, but seeds of her own social network in town). That helped.

Best of luck!
posted by IAmBroom at 10:18 PM on April 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks a lot to everyone who provided advice. She arrives tomorrow and I have followed a good number of these suggestions.
posted by sindark at 10:59 AM on May 2, 2008

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