Deciding to move in together is an exciting step in any romantic relationship. But if I've learned one thing through my work as a professional declutterer, it's that when merging spaces, it's crucial to intentionally change the way you look at your home or apartment from a "me" to a "we" mentality. Here are six tips to help make your transition a little more seamless:
1. If one partner is moving into the other person's space, clear the slate first.
The person already living in the space should consider removing all personal items that adorn the home. Remove all the photos on the mantel, the mementos on the fridge, the family photos on the walls. Then, you can reassess those pieces with a more critical eye with your partner—does that wedding invite from seven years ago still need to be displayed on your fridge? In my studio apartment, I had hung one family portrait, and when my boyfriend KG moved in, he brought along his favorite family snapshot so that we could both have one cherished photo hanging on the tiny gallery wall.
2. Enact the "Bedside Equality Act."
Have you ever walked into a couple's bedroom to see that one side of the bed is pushed up against the wall? That position subtly says that one person gets priority access to all the luxuries: the bedside table, the lamp, the reading material, the mug of tea. Meanwhile, their bedmate is bereft on the far side of the bed, stuck between their lover and a wall!
Equal access to both sides of the bed instills fairness at a very basic level. No matter how small your bedroom is, I would argue that the most important thing is making it possible for both people to have walk-up access to their side of the bed, along with a light and bedside table.
If you have an extra-small room like ours, you can save space by wall-mounting a light and using the world's smallest bedside tables. What's even more freeing about this scenario: As the months pass, you have the flexibility to (gasp!) sleep on different sides of the bed.
3. Carve out solo spaces where possible.
In our apartment, we each have our own side of the closet and a small secretary desk for when we work from home. While this seems like no big deal, designating spaces (or even surfaces!) that are solely your own can help keep the peace, especially in smaller spaces.
4. Remember that teamwork makes the dream work.
Working on a fun project together can make a space feel like it belongs to both of you. Right when you move in, decide on a DIY so there's a design element in your home that you both had a part in creating. For us, it was as simple as printing a large image and attaching it to a piece of foam core to hang on the wall.
5. Talk, talk, and then talk some more.
After several discussions, KG and I came to understand what we both liked about our studio apartment, what we would change, and how we would implement these tweaks together. From these discussions, we prioritized what needed to happen: repaint accent walls, find a photo for the focal wall, find a desk solution, decide where to hang the surfboard, etc. Get these conversations out of the way early, so you're on the same page about the plan of action moving forward.
6. On move-in day, don't pressure your partner to declutter their stuff.
Set the example by leading your own decluttered lifestyle, and you may be surprised by how your partner responds. Giving them the space to pause, reflect, and come to decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of on their own is the only way that lasting change will happen.
Oh and here's one last fun idea: When all the hard decisions are made, celebrate with an emotionally cleansing bonfire (or metaphorical bonfire!) using those sentimental papers you're getting rid of as fodder. Best of luck in your pursuit of cohabitation bliss!
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