Good morning everyone! I sit here writing to you all from my desk in Denver, drinking coffee and typing happily on my new iMac that backs up against our brand new blue wall in the bedroom. Home improvement projects have really been taking precedence around here, and I’m actually really happy about that because our apartment is truly starting to feel like OUR home. This entire moving experience has brought a lot of “firsts” into our relationship, certainly not the least of which was moving in together for the first time and learning how to make my stuff and BC’s stuff function as OUR stuff.
At first, I was genuinely nervous about how we were going to merge our lives and create a space that reflected the both of us. For starters, the amount of just STUFF on its own was intimidating. Even after purging what felt like at least half of all my worldly goods, my book collection and the sheer volume of my wardrobe still seemed to defy expectations. It seemed BC had more artwork than I’d ever realized possible, and we still had two mattresses in a one bedroom apartment.
On the flip side of that, it also seemed everywhere I turned in the apartment we didn’t have any of the basic “necessities” that make up so much of your daily life. Random things like shower caddies, paper towel holders, bath mats, dish racks, dish towels… all the little tools that enable you to live life in an orderly manner. Their absence seemed to laugh at us in the face as we struggled to get ourselves back to some semblance of normal after the move. The paradox of this was endlessly frustrating. How could we have so much stuff and yet so little of the things we needed?
Making a home together with someone for the first time is probably one of the larger struggles that newer couples face, and ours just happened to be at the same time as moving across the country. This seems like a crazy thing to do–after all, who do you turn to if something goes wrong? The only person you know in this new place is your spouse. Moving in together forces you to communicate and compromise, otherwise your relationship fails. There really is no other choice but to sit down and work it out, because you have no one else to turn to for help.
If this sounds horrible to you (relax!), don’t worry. It’s actually the complete opposite. Because BC and I are committed to this new place, we’re also committed to making our new home work for the both of us. This move certainly hasn’t been without its bumps in the road, but we’ve learned so much about ourselves and each other and who we want to be in this new place. Based on what we’ve learned so far, I wanted to share some tips for new couples moving in together. This post was written for women like myself moving in with their boyfriends, but I see no reason why this advice can’t apply to couples of all shapes and sizes. I hope that these tips help you and your loved one enjoy the smoothest move possible so that you can get to the good stuff–sharing a home with the person you love! =]
- Whenever possible, move into a new space together. I’m a big advocate of the “blank slate”. For the two of you to truly create a home together–your home–one person can’t feel like they are just adding their belongings to your space. You both need to be able to visualize the entirety of your belongings, just like you need to be able to have honest and fair conversations about what stays and what goes. If one of you moves into the other’s existing space, the one who was “there first” has an unfair advantage in every conversation about what goes where. Similarly, you don’t want the person who was there first to feel resentful because everything about their home is changing and they have to get rid of things to make room for you. I realize that you may not think this will happen in your relationship or you may think this is not a big deal and the two of you can handle a few discussions about which dresser to keep. That may be 100% true, but above all else, I am a believer in setting yourself up for success. You don’t have to “make it through” difficult situations together, just like you don’t have to be ok with a living space that is “good for now”. Choose the path in life that offers both of you the best chance of happiness–choose to be great! It may be more effort in the short term, but the positive effects will be worth it.
- If you can’t move into a new space, commit to starting over. Although I do encourage you to move into a new space when you first start living together with your spouse, I also am by nature a realist and I understand that’s not always an option–nor is it always necessary. If you do end up moving into one person’s space, I think it’s worth it to have the conversation with your significant other about still finding a way to create the blank slate. The two of you should commit to starting over in certain spaces in the home; be okay with new paint colors, reorganized room layouts, and even renovations where applicable. The fact of the matter is that the two of you are still creating a new home together. Even if one of you lived there before, it’s no longer their space–it’s your space, too. The most important thing here is that the both of you are comfortable in your new home, so find a way to create that.
- Don’t recreate the theme or decor you had–find a new one that incorporates both of your styles. It’s hard when you’re moving in with someone to mesh all of your belongings together, but the good news is it CAN be done! When I lived with roommates and had my own space, my style was very glamorous and girly. I had pale blue and white seersucker bedding, and all of my furniture was from the Pier 1 Hayworth line (which I am still to this day 100% in love with). It should come as no surprise that this is not at all BC’s style. He likes all black furniture, clean lines, and vibrant artwork with a masculine feel. I searched HIIIIIIGH and low on Pinterest for a design feel that would work in our new space with both of our aesthetics. And I’m happy to say that I actually found one! Our space is a mixture of the urban industrial vintage pieces that BC loves and the cozy, light feminine touches that I enjoy. Neither his stuff nor mine feels out of place, and we both love spending time together in a home that celebrates the two of us, even though we haven’t even finished it completely. Maybe once everything is done I’ll share a home tour with you guys so you can see what it looks like–there IS such a thing as a happy medium. Which brings me to my next point…
Stand your ground on the things you love and won’t part with. This might seem a little contradictory, but you need to decide right away when you combine spaces what is most important to you. The things you love the most and can’t imagine being without–those are the things you need to consider combining in the new decor theme. I absolutely love my Pier 1 furniture. It’s the first nice furniture I ever bought for myself, and even though BC expressed that it wasn’t his favorite, it never once occurred to me that I would be able to get rid of it. Because it’s that important to me, BC compromised and the two of us found a way to make it work. When figuring out which items are “non-negotiable”, decide on the things you love that make you genuinely happy. If the items don’t bring you joy, they don’t count here and should be up for discussion when planning your new space. That being said…
- Be prepared to let stuff go if it doesn’t work in your new space. This is other side of the same coin. After you decide on what things you absolutely cannot live without, be prepared to let the other stuff go if it doesn’t work. This includes furniture you don’t have room for or items that you have duplicates of. At the end of the day, it’s just STUFF. If it doesn’t bring you joy and it doesn’t work in your new space, sell it on Craigslist or donate it to Goodwill.
Honestly, I learned that the most important thing you can do when moving in with your significant other is to be flexible and open with your communication. Don’t silently stew when they veto your favorite arm chair as an addition to your new space together–talk about it! Explain to them why it makes you sad to let it go, because this will help you talk through the decision together. It will also help you understand why you feel the automatic gut reaction to keep something–you’ll understand more if you need it or if you just want it in your life. Try to keep the end goal in mind as well–the two of you are starting your lives together! This is a moment to cherish, because you’re growing towards being your own family. Once you think of it like that, the loss of your old arm chair won’t seem so bad after all. 😉