Tips & Tricks

Combining Households? Here’s How to Solve Arguments About Your Stuff

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Moving in together is an exciting step in a relationship, but actually combining households can be anything but. From dumpster-rescued furnishings to stuffed animal collections, you may be able to turn a blind eye to many of your partner’s flawed decor choices until it comes time to welcome these items into your shared space. Suddenly, not only will you be spending a lot more up-close-and-personal time with possessions you may not enjoy, they will also appear to reflect your personal sense of style to any visitors. The horror!

Before you get locked into battle with each other, take a hard look at your possessions and take the opportunity to weed out anything that you no longer use, want, or need. If you still find yourselves at odds, you can use the following tips to aid you in the process of creating a unified, happy home.

How to Choose Between Duplicate Items

If you’ve each been on your own for any length of time, chances are you’ll have a high number of duplicate items, potentially including everything from kitchen utensils to futons. When deciding which to items to keep in daily use, ask yourselves the following questions.

  • Which is more functional? Outside of any attachment you may have to a given item, consider whether it’s actually in good working condition and suits the current space. Anything that’s broken, stained, or otherwise crumbling should be the first to go. Anything that doesn’t suit the style of your new home or isn’t the best fit for the physical space you have available can also likely be dispensed with or put into storage.
  • Which has more sentimental value? Grandma’s old Kitchen Aid mixer may deserve a place of honor in the kitchen, while random Goodwill finds can easily go back from whence they came.
  • Which can be sold for more money? Moving can create a lot of expenses, so this may be a good time to consider which of your items may actually be salable on Craigslist or eBay. If you have two equally functional items and low attachment to either, it probably makes sense to get rid of the version you can sell for more cash.

“Keep or Toss” Litmus Tests

For non-duplicate items, it may be harder to make a clear call on which possessions should be scrapped before embarking on your new life together. Here are some indicators that a given piece may be better off left behind:

  • Was this item with you in your childhood bedroom? If so, you may be so used to looking at it that its presence barely registers, while your partner may experience it as an outdated eyesore from a bygone era.
  • Was this a curbside find? Any furnishings that you’ve collected from the actual streets can probably go. Ditto any garage sale finds that have become objects of contention. Different people have different levels of tolerance for second- and third-hand items that are in less than mint condition. Be sensitive.
  • Is the item in need of major repair? If so, is it going to cost more to get it into good condition than the item is actually worth? Or, if you’ve been meaning to repair it yourself, do you have an actual plan in place to do so? If not, you may need to let the item go.

Agreeing to Disagree

You and your partner don’t have to actually agree on every single item that enters your new home. Here are some things you can do to make sure you both get what you need:

  • Decorate public areas together: If your styles don’t mesh, or you can’t agree on which furnishings to keep, consider getting rid of all your living and dining room furniture and choosing new pieces together, even if this means selecting new items from Craigslist or another budget-friendly option. This will give you the chance to start developing a new mutual style as a couple.
  • Give each other a limited number of vetoes: Consider letting each partner choose 3-5 items that need to be gotten rid of or stored out of sight rather than proudly displayed. Or take the reverse approach and agree to each choose a couple of items that you really want to keep around for everyday use.
  • Divvy up the closets: Giving each person his or her fair share of closet space should help drive independent decisions about how much stuff needs to exit the scene.

While combining your household items can be a challenge, keep in mind that it’s probably not the last, or the largest, challenge you and your partner will ever face. Even if your personal styles clash, you can use combining your stuff as an opportunity to learn to work through your differences and develop a new identity together.

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