So, you're moving in together: 10 ways to combine your crap

November 23 | Guest post by Jenny Porter Tilley
welcome to the neighborhood © by randychiu, used under Creative Commons license.

When you begin to cohabitate, it's SO HARD to combine your crap. You're getting used to living with someone else while, at the same time, wading through mountains of said crap. I'm a newlywed, and I recently went on a crazed mission to clear up some of the clutter in our small kitchen and found we currently own three nearly-full containers of salt that formed a posse after we moved in together.

I kept the salt, but once I threw out all the expired product and organized the dishes and cooking supplies, it became apparent that — despite having had completely full cabinets and fridge — we had almost no food.

We could make some very creative condiment cocktails… and that's it. Our fridge and cupboards had been in their horrible pre-cleaning state ever since moving in. We'd been rushed to move in AND planning a wedding two months away, and it got me to the point of saying "our cabinets and fridge are stuffed, we MUST have plenty of food!" when in reality, all we could make was eggs with mustard and a side of green beans marinated in peach vodka.

Now that I've sorted out my life, here are my suggestions for combining your kitchen crap — later we'll dive into the rest of the house.

1. Get rid of all expired products in your apartments BEFORE combining

Throw them away, or if they're canned goods or something someone less fortunate wouldn't be too picky to eat a little expired, donate them to a local food pantry. I always hate doing this because I feel like if I wouldn't eat it, I shouldn't expect someone else to do so; but then I think if I were completely broke and had no food and a family to feed, I wouldn't be getting rid of it. If you really can't get past that icky feeling, throw it away and re-buy that many cans to donate! It'll ease your hoarder mind.

2. Drink, drink, drink

You can see that there is a lot of alcohol taking up space on the bottom shelf (there was also some gin and vodka in the freezer, I believe). If you're both pretty stocked and won't have room for all of it, call up some friends and eliminate the problem.

3. Ditch old condiments

Throw out your three-year-old mustard in favor of taking your boyfriend's newer mustard. Find open containers of things like pickles, olives, etc. that may not be expired but have been opened for awhile, and throw them away.

4. Meat, meet garbage

If you've got several containers of chicken and beef in the freezer so old they are encrusted with ice, face it: you probably weren't going to eat it anyway.

5. Inventory supplies

If you've got double measuring cups/spoons, silverware, etc., decide which sets you're going to have out for regular use and find a storage space for the rest. You'll probably use extras at some point, when you've lost or destroyed some of your crap. If you're expecting wedding gifts of kitchen items, make room for them beforehand. Sure, it may be "tacky" to watch your registry and see what gets checked off, but you'll be able to plan where it'll go and you don't have to tell anyone.

Okay, so I've got the kitchen. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE HOUSE?!

If I had a "before" picture of the fridge and more of the piles of stuff everywhere, you'd see that I did not follow the advice above. Here are some things I DID do to help the moving in process, in places other than the kitchen:

1. Containers everywhere

I am crazy about not having a bunch of stuff sitting out. My husband is fairly normal in comparison, and is fine with having a few things sitting out. I generally scoop them into a nearby container of some sort and, inevitably, he doesn't know where to find it… but checking the nearest crap-holder generally yields results.

2. Chore assignments

We don't have a dishwasher, and my husband absolutely despises doing dishes. I don't always want to do them, but I don't mind as much. He offered to be the Official Cat Box Cleaner if I could always do dishes.

You may think it's awesome to live with someone because you both did all the chores while living alone, but the more people, the more work. Laundry and dishes double and thus take twice as long. Same goes for everyday mess-making: twice the mess. If you gained a pet, even more. And heaven help you if you gained a kid. Point being, those of us who don't live alone anymore do not get to do less housework just because we're sharing the load.

3. Decide whether to combine your finances

You need to know before you move in whether you're going to live as roommates or as a couple, in the financial sense. Are you combining your income, or is it going to separate accounts? We were getting married soon, so we chose to go ahead and merge finances early. I failed at this a little by suggesting we each put a certain percentage of our paychecks into a joint account for bills, then keep the rest in our own checking accounts to spend as we wish on food, toys, or whatever. It seemed like a fair and simple idea, but after awhile it began to not make sense. Now, it's easier to have everything together, so if one of us spends money and the other doesn't, we can put the extra into savings or pay off an extra bill. It's so much easier to just be able to say "OK, we have $X until the next paycheck" when it's all in one place.

The same point about chores goes for money: Sounds awesome living on a joint income, but your expenses also double. You use more water, gas, electricity, etc. You'll have two cell phone bills to pay, doctor appointments and prescriptions for two people, and might use more gas if you drive to work separately. You may have two people's worth of student loans and other debts. If you gain kids or pets, the list goes on! I think when I was single I was slightly jealous of people living on joint incomes, and I'd think "oh they make more money so they have more disposable income." Not true. I had more extra spending money when I was single, because I had fewer responsibilities.

4. Maintain some semblance of consistency in the layout of your home

I am a Rearranger. My husband likes things to stay put unless a change is an obvious improvement. Not everyone likes things to change. We finally have things laid out in a way that we're both happy with, so unless we agree that there's a better way, things are staying put. I had to realize that when I'm moving crap around, it's not just my crap, and someone might be looking for that crap.

5. Come up with a mail system

You're going to get twice as much junk mail AND regular mail, and it really does pile up. For a while we checked the mail and placed it wherever was nearest, and we ended up having some bills paid late in the shuffle as they got covered up by snail spam and credit card offers. I got a large tray to put all the mail in, then as we sort it the bills go to a little envelope holder doojee and the junk mail goes in the trash right next to it.

6. The best advice? Remember not to freak out

It's no help to freak if your partner does something you don't like (leaving clothes on the floor, not rinsing dishes, etc.) and force them to change. Be the change you want to see in your home. The more you do pick up clothes on the floor, the more your partner will follow suit out of respect. It's not worth picking fights over menial day-to-day tasks. This person isn't your college roommate, they're your partner in life, and acting like passive aggressive roommates with someone you love will make you very unhappy.

  1. I wish I could have read this 3 months ago! My boyfriend and I finally moved in together after 5 years, but it was not as easy as I anticipated. The tips in this really are valuable, and it's always good to have a reminder not to "freak out"!

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    • AGREED. I honestly didn't follow any of this advice, and came up with it over the course of the next year. Wish I would have written this a year and a half ago!

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  2. The mail! It truly is the worst. We receive all our bills electronically, so almost everything is junk. Have a recycling container handy. I'm trying to train my husband to sort the mail daily, but it's been a long road.

    One more financial tip: Combine your auto insurance policies right away. We saw huge savings when we combined our auto policies, and then even more when we threw in our house and rental properties. We had left this on the back burner, but we should have called from our honeymoon!

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    • The mail is the worst for us too! My husband and I have really different ideas on sorting and when to pay bills – it has taken us 5 years to figure out something that works for us: All mail goes into a box and we sort and pay bills together once a week in the evening. (Usually on a Wednesday night for whatever reason)

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  3. Hah! This is a great article. When we got married, we ended up with 5 bottles of yellow mustard.

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    • Six bottles of Tabasco sauce. All open.

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  4. God I wish I had seen this six months ago. We thought living together would be simple because we spent every night together anyway, but spending every night together and having your stuff in two places is NOT the same as living together! Six months in, we're JUST figuring out systems and finding ways to stay organized.

    PS. I've been a lurker on the blog for a long long time–I love it! Thanks for a great blog!

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  5. I've lived with my husband for a year and a half now and have come to the realization that he is not going to stop dumping everything on the floor, table, or whatever else is "convenient". So I've begun to come up with organizing solutions that work with the way we actually live and not the way we probably should be living. This means bins for clean clothes and halfway clean clothes as well as dirty clothes because I know he will never get around to hanging up his laundry. A dump spot for mail and a dump spot for keys and sunglasses. Shoes can live in a pile on the floor, as long as they are in the closet. Snacks will never make it back into the cabinet so they have a bowl on the counter they can be chucked into. And who am I kidding? The bed will never be made. So the sheets match the decor of the room so the unmade bed still looks good and inviting.

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    • wow! this was a real eye-opener for me, esp. about matching sheets. thank you!

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  6. Can I suggest to try to eat your food before you throw it away?
    Make an effort to eat those olives, do something creative with the can of beans, have a weekend of 'eating old food'.

    Throwing food away is something horrible, in my opinion. Someone worked very hard and put lots of labour into this jar of olives or mustard! As for the frozen meat, an animal died for you! And it is big burden for the environment.

    Of course, you should not eat food gone bad. But try to not let it come so far. Do something creative, search for a recipe with pickles or whatever. You might find a new favourite!

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    • Extremely expired mustard, olives and pickles are good for no one! As for non-expired/non-gross things, that's why I suggested donating to a shelter if there's not enough space. Having too much food is never a problem for some people, so those of us with too much clutter can feed some hungry mouths.

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  7. Like many of you, it took us a long time when combining households. It's been over 1.5 years and we still have a few "extra stuff to sort through" bins hidden around. We're still discovering other things, too, like finally figuring out the ideal way to split up dishes duty. I think that's okay. Don't expect things to look perfect or be easy right away. Making those little discoveries and conquering those little projects is part of the fun you get to share together.

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  8. OMG my husband and I have just gotten back together under the same roof for the 1st time in three years and we're practically killing each other. Thank you thank you thank you!!!

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  9. We still have so much booze and we've been co-habitating for 5 years! I did tell him in no uncertain terms that I hate dishes so we worked out that I cook and he cleans. It's worked out great.

    In terms of finances we found an alternate way that I wanted to share. We combined finances in a manner as given to us by an economist friend. All of our income goes into a joint HOUSE account and all the household bills get paid from there (pretty standard). The thing we did was work out an allowance for each of us that gets auto-transferred to our personal accounts from the HOUSE account. The personal accounts can be used for ANYTHING! We have quite an income disparity, but we each get the same amount. And we don't fight about how much I spent on clothes and how much he spent on video games…

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    • We do pretty much the same thing, but the other way around (money goes into our accounts first, then into a joint account).

      We tried completely shared finances a few times and it just didn't work. I felt like I had to justify every single purchase, no matter how small or essential because there might be something else the money could go on. And then I resented my partner for not doing the same.

      This way works much better for us. We know the essentials are covered (the house budget also includes food and a small amount of savings for unexpected things) and that we can freely spend out share as we see fit without it affecting the other person.

      I think it's one of those things where all couples will be different and you just need to work out what's right for you. But I do think everyone should talk about it and have some idea what they're going to do before they move in together though so you don't end up with clashing expectations.

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      • I completely agree. There is no one right way to deal with money in a partnership. And what works one year might not work the next. Keeping in sync with your partner on the way money is handled is extremely important throughout the life of the partnership.

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    • My husband and I do the same thing- the majority of our income goes into a joint account for mortgage, food, and most other bills, and we each have personal accounts for non-essentials like eating out for lunch, his video games, and my massages. He freaked out at first that we would have so many accounts between the two of us (5 in total), but now he really loves it because I can't give him any crap for buying yet another version of Call of Duty. Plus, me being my independent self, I needed to feel like I had control over some amount of money that was only mine.

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      • We have SIX accounts between us – mine, my savings, his, his savings, ours, our savings… It's insane! But with online banking and a comprehensive list of all account log-ins, it works. AND no one gets pissed off at the other for spending too much or saving too little.

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  10. Please don't donate expired canned goods. I have never encountered a food pantry that can accept them. You are likely just shifting the burden of disposal and not feeding anyone.

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    • Did not know that! That's too bad when it comes to things like chips/crackers/cereal etc. that are perfectly fine for awhile after their date.

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  11. When my husband & i had been dating for about 6 months & it was starting to get serious he said "there is something i need to show you before we go any further in this relationship" and opened the door to his spare bedroom. OMG. Talk about an episode of hoarders crammed into one room!

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  12. "The more you do pick up clothes on the floor, the more your partner will follow suit out of respect"
    … or the more they will leave their clothes on the floor, since they get magically picked up!
    I agree that no kind of passive-aggressive behavior is the way with your partner. But in my book, when some of your partner's behaviors bother you, reasonable and quiet explanations (" i don't want to pick your clothes up because this is more work for me") are the key to mutual respectful attitudes.

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    • Hmmmm…. I guess when I do it, especially if he sees me do it, he realizes I like things a certain way and makes an effort to meet me halfway. (That and he doesn't believe in magical laundry fairies and is perfectly aware that I'm doing it.) But I guess not every man thinks that way! I agree, being straightforward is important.

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  13. So funny story time:

    When my husband and I bought out new house, I moved out of my apartment and into the house right after closing, but my husband moved much more slowly. He had been living in his late grandparents house, which he rented from his Dad, and no one who had lived in that house in past 40 years had entirely moved out when they left, so he needed time to go through all the crap tranfer things to our new place. So he was living in our house, but going back to his old place a couple of times a week to slowly sort through things. (My Father-in-law owns it now, and has NO CLUE what he wants to do with it, so that gave us the luxury of a slow move.)

    He had partially emptied the fridge and freezer, but there was still a lot of stuff in there. So this one Sunday, we go to visit my husband's Dad for supper. After we had been there *several* hours, talked turned to how things were progressing in the house. Then my FiL says "Oh, I was by the house on Thursday, and the fridge seems to have died. But don't worry, all that seemed to be in there was some condiments, and a frozen pizza in the freezer.

    By this point, I couldn't remember what was still there, and we really didn't have the time to deal with it that night.

    So Monday after work, my husband drops by the house to discover that yes, indeed the fridge and freezer is dead. There is no frozen pizza in the freezer. Instead, it is about 1/3 full of putrefying food. Mostly meat, but vegetables as well. Mr. Ivriniel doesn't have the strongest stomach, so I ended up having to clean out the bloody thing Tuesday night. It was revolting.

    [rant]
    Gaaaaaahhhhhh! Who discovers that a fridge has died, and doesn't say anything about it until 3 days later? [/rant]

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    • Something like this happened to me too. I was staying over at my boyfriend's place more and more, and sometimes a few days in a row. I was slowly moving into his place, and would mostly stay there. I needed to come back to my place one day, and I walked in and it smelled like DEATH. I looked in the fridge and freezer, and they had stopped working. There were all kinds of rotting disgusting things in there. It was probably the worst thing I've ever smelled.

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      • ugh! my friend does used to work as property maintenance for housing complexes in new orleans. you do not want to hear katrina fridge horror stories! holy crap! he found one about 2 years ago…FROM KATRINA! i nearly died just from the thought of it!

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  14. Hey, any tips for combining expensive hobby crap? You can't just throw it away and unless you have a separate bedroom for each hobby, it's going to have to form harmony. We share just about everything else but it's getting in to grr-territory about who gets to display what.

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    • We are lucky enough to have two teeny rooms, one for each of us to retreat to… it's hard to draw clear lines and keep things separate. But maybe when it comes to displaying things, each of you could have a wall? and a certain area you keep other things, depending on what kind of stuff it is!

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  15. Re: Alcohol: We just bought (well, actually, swiped from the scene shop at the theatre school where hubs works) a liquor cabinet. AMAZEBALLS. All of our liquor and wine is put away, no longer taking space in our fridge or out in the open for the baby to crash over. Plus our wine & martini glasses live there now, freeing up valuable cabinet space to accommodate our over-abundance of kitchen gadgets. Which, I admit, is a whole other issue.

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  16. One rule my boyfriend and I set when we moved in together was that every room was "Ours" – we'd both lived with roommates, where certain rooms were off limits. we wanted to feel that the entire house was open to us, so even if he had an office, I had items in that room as well that made me feel comfortable going in there and working. Likewise, he has things in my craft room. We wanted the space to feel completely integrated with both of our personalities. It made the house a home, and I'd recommend that tip to anyone else deciding to cohabitant!

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  17. very cute piece! one tiny line, though, tells me that you must have a very considerate partner! "The more you do pick up clothes on the floor, the more your partner will follow suit out of respect." my first thought was my dad. in the 37 years my parents have been married, it has been accepted that it is my mom's job to pick up whatever clothes get left where ever in their bedroom. granted he generally throws it in the same general area by the closet. in a way this kind of proves your point though… 37 years they've been married, and probably because even though my dad didn't pick up the slack (or slacks for that matter), my mom didn't "freak out" about it because a tidy picker-upper just isn't who he is. and he loves her for all she does for him, and she loves him for all that he is.

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  18. We've lived together a year now, and my guy is awesome, but we have had serious struggles about his attachment to his old ways, especially the aesthetic of the house (bachelor pad), and his vintage furniture (read: messed up old stuff that doesn't go with my antique furniture at all).

    He is the kind of guy who doesn't like change, so it took some explaining that – moving into his bachelor pad – he needed to treat this like my space too now, and that meant it would look very different. Maybe even a little feminine at times.

    Sometimes a fresh coat of paint can be the hardest but best way to make a drastic change when one person moves into another person's space. In my case it was both of those things. He resisted HARD and for months, but now that I have triumphed, he admits it's beautiful and clean and nice, and now we can move on to art, furniture, lighting.

    Baby steps. I just bought some simple $7 Salvation Army chairs to "temporarily" replace the vintage 1950's [torn up] kitchen chairs he has been intending to restore since god-knows-how-long-before-he-met-me. It was hard for him to move his babies to the garage, but we have company coming, so just no. I love vintage too, but only if it's clean and well restored. We can't have company sitting on chairs with the stuffing coming out. We are adults.

    He has to reserve a space in his heart for things to remain though, in order to let them go a little bit. For me, I've moved so many times in my life, and I have a TON of shit, so suffice to say I've learned to let go of things without much regret. I've sold my first fancy dining set on Craiglist, curbed my custom sofa, junked a broken antique stool…I believe in moving the fuck on when things aren't working. He does not so much. This is something I feel like I can help him with (clinging to old broken things is good for nobody), but also something I have to be really sensitive to.

    I think the biggest part of merging your shit is trying new mixups (his 1950's vinyl chairs with my 1800's table, for instance), and then being able to let go of – or at least set aside – what doesn't mesh or is no longer serving you, now, as a couple. Lucky for us we have a garage – but once it's out there, we can start to imagine it gone altogether, and it becomes less scary to move on, releasing yourself from a cage of ancient, unaddressed clutter.

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