The Ultimate Guide to Moving in Together & Combining Stuff with Your Significant Other

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Moving in together is a huge step in your relationship. You’ll soon learn how to share a home together, but also how to kindly and confidently share your true feelings, like when your sweet and lovely partner asks what you really think about that old, worn-out chair of theirs.

I’ve seen it all in the world of weird stuff that couples have to sort through–from family heirloom upholstery with stains in questionable places to “art” that’s actually real donuts shellacked to a canvas–and I’m confident that with the right plan, you can combine your very different things into one unified and beautiful apartment you’re both proud to call home.

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Phase 1: Establish the Rules

It’s important to commit to open and honest communication throughout the whole process. Moving in together and deciding to combine your things opens up the opportunity to comment on each others’ tastes and styles. Be polite, and use plenty of “I” statements. And always remember rule #1: Never say “That’s ugly.”

(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

Phase 2: What Stays and What Goes?

Two households becoming one. That means double the stuff in probably just about the same amount of space. Here’s how to sort through it all and pare down to what you need.

Choose Your Must-Haves

First things first: Each of you designate your few non-negotiables–the things that you’d take to the grave with you. Grandpa’s well-loved leather chair. The antique vanity you splurged on. Those things stay. Period. No criticism or complaints.

Start On an Agreeable Note

I like the idea of kicking off the negotiations on a high note, deciding together on the things you both love and need. Here’s how it goes: One partner mentions something from the other’s apartment that they really love. You both realize you love his yellow sofa, so the yellow sofa stays, and you’re one step closer to your dream home. Take turns and see how much you can sort through this way.

Decide on Duplicates

When it comes to the things you each own–beds and sofas, potentially–you’ll have to decide which to keep and which goes on for resale, recycling or donation. If you can both agree on which to keep, great! If not, here’s how to make the cut:

  • Condition: Is one of the two looking worse for the wear or in need of a repair? It’s out.
  • Size: Bigger might be better (especially in the case of a shared bed), but consider which option fits best in the space you’re moving to.
  • Quality: Is one of the options of a much higher quality than the other, and expected to last longer? No-brainer. Pick the better knives or the comfier chair.

Make Compromises

If you’ve gotten this far, you may have run into more than a few arguments about what to keep and what to get rid of between your things. Now’s the time to make some compromises.

  • Tit for Tat: You win this one, they win that one. No complaining.
  • Change-Up: Can you re-cover a chair to suit both your tastes? Paint a nightstand? Get a new top for the coffee table?
  • Start Anew: If you really can’t reach common ground, it may be worth tossing out both options (figuratively of course) and buying something new that you both shop for together.
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Phase 3: Combining Different Styles

If you and your significant other have similar tastes and everything you own goes effortlessly together… well then stop reading and go enjoy your perfect little wonderland. For the rest of us, here are some practical strategies for making it all work:

What are your best tips for combining stuff with your significant other?