There are a lot of uncertainties when you’re moving in with someone, whether they’re a new roommate or a romantic partner. But one concrete issue you can resolve in advance is what you’ll each contribute to the space.
Whether it’s a new place or one person is moving into the other’s home, there are important organizational decisions that can — and should — be made before the move to make settling in go more smoothly.
Almost every time I help clients move, they say that they had no idea how much stuff they had, and how they didn’t remember they owned some of the items tucked away in their cabinets or closets. Before two people combine their possessions, it’s important to take inventory of what each person has for the kitchen, linen closet and other common spaces, including throw pillows, books and serving platters.
And don’t just wing it; create a document that can be reviewed and edited. It’s not enough to say, “I have a set of bowls,” or, “I have a bunch of blankets and towels.” Specific numbers will tell you what you have in duplicate and what you may need to buy.
Make informed choices
Once each person has taken stock, you can start deciding what to bring to the shared space and what to donate or sell. Try not to give in to the tendency to keep multiples of an item “just in case.”
Although you don’t want to be wasteful and get rid of items you may be able to use, consider whether something is really worth keeping, especially if space is at a premium. Decisions within a category or about similar items should acknowledge the pieces’ condition, size and quality. One of you may have to forsake the toaster oven you’ve enjoyed for the past decade in favor of the newer, smaller model your future roommate owns.
Don’t default to putting items in a storage unit. Although it may seem like the easiest choice in the moment, you’re just deferring a decision and spending money as a result.
Cull and compromise
Choose your battles. Each person probably has a few meaningful items that are nonnegotiable, which is totally acceptable. But both parties need to be aware of what those items are, and you should discuss where they’ll be kept and how they’ll be used. Compromise is important in any relationship, but especially as you embark on a new living arrangement with a friend or partner.
As you review and reconsider your belongings, here are some questions to discuss:
• Will you use the item?
• Will it fit in the space?
• Does it go with your joint aesthetic?
Try not to bring too many unnecessary items, and leave room for pieces you can buy together.
Measure twice, move once
Rather than guessing whether a piece of furniture will fit in a space, measure those items, such as the couch, tables and chairs, to be sure. This way, you’ll avoid paying movers to relocate something that doesn’t fit, and you’ll keep your combined space from feeling overcrowded at the start.
It’s also important to measure closet space, especially if you’re sharing. If your closet is already full — without someone else’s stuff added — get rid of some pieces or think about alternative storage. Perhaps some of your hanging items can go in a dresser or under the bed when they’re out of season. Likewise, if you’ll be losing shelf or drawer space, consider portable shelving or drawers as a functional alternative.
Carve out your own space
Everyone needs their own space in a home, especially as many people continue to work remotely and spend a lot of time in their shared living spaces. Identify a space for each person, whether that’s an area for your desk or a corner for reading or watching TV.
Consider having two spaces for screens, if you can manage it, so the TV viewer doesn’t disturb the roommate who may be working nearby. Even close friends or partners occasionally don’t want to watch the same thing, so a second option can let each of you enjoy what you want.
Combining possessions is always hard, but with some planning and pre-organizing, you can spare yourselves the trouble of having too much stuff in your new shared space.
Nicole Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik.