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

Guestpost by Jenny Porter Tilley on Nov 23rd

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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.

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About Jenny Porter Tilley

I am a writer, editor, designer and social media specialist from the Midwest with a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in journalism.