Whether you’re a young couple setting up your first apartment together, or you’rehappy couplecombining households and families with a second spouse, combining households can be both an exciting and a frustrating time, because you’re combining more than just things: You’re combining lives. Here are some tips for navigating the process.

Make an Inventory. This may be a lot of work up front, but if both partners make a list of what they own, the task of determining duplicate items and identifying the one to keep becomes easier. Decide together which TV, small appliances and other items to keep. Some good ways to determine which one to keep are how old the item is, which one works best or has the most features, and which one you both like better.

Get Rid of the Extras, Duplicates, and Things No One Wants. It may be tempting to just take everything you own with you and sort it out later, but couples who do this miss out on an important relationship building exercise. You’ll need to be honest with each other about why you do or don’t want to keep something, and you’ll need to compromise. Keep in mind that you’re building a life together, so avoid ultimatums and don’t make your partner give up something they cherish. You can sell or donate the extra items. If you sell a lot of things, use the money to purchase something you both want for your new home.

Communicate. Talk about what you want your new home to be like, as well as how you’ll divide the household tasks, both during the move and after. Couples that talk about who cooks, does the dishes, mows the lawn and other tasks tend to fight less than couples that don’t. Don’t just assume your partner knows what you want. This is particularly important if you’re combining families. Decide in advance how you’ll handle getting kids off to school, activities and to bed, and how you’ll resolve conflicts and deal with problems.

Plan Your Move. Planning to move two households into one can be a logistical challenge. Decide how you’ll accomplish it. If you’re moving into a place that’s new for both of you, you’ll have to decide whether to combine your items in one place first, or whether to have the moving truck make two stops.

Once the moving truck is empty and you’re starting to unpack, be sure everyone has enough space. That means both space for clothes, toiletries and personal items, but also has enough personal space so they feel like they belong. For couples, this means making sure that your home reflects both of you. If you’re blending families, you want to be sure that all kids have a space that belongs to them and that they can make their own, even if they won’t be living there full-time.

As you plan and execute your move, expect that you’ll need to work together to resolve challenges and overcome problems. The right planning will reduce the stress and challenges, but if problems do arise, working together to solve them will help you build skills to keep your relationship strong. 

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