Combining Households

With Valentine’s Day arriving this month, not to mention the recent celebration of my fifth wedding anniversary, I find myself a bit reflective about my big move to Key West from Minneapolis 6 years ago this month.  I had lived alone in what, according to Key West standards, would be considered a palatial four-bedroom house.  I was suddenly faced with the challenge of combining households with my husband’s Key West home that had been his bachelor pad up until that point.  This task was exacerbated by the fact that I had just spent the previous 2 years completely redecorating my Minneapolis home; so it could be said that I was a little less than flexible about getting rid of my new furniture.  But the nature of time and space being what it is, I did not have a lot of choice in the matter if I hoped to downsize from my four bedroom furnishings into our now shared two-bedroom home.

WCC-Combined-Spaces-2015-01-13-018I think my husband and I may have slightly different versions of the story and how the transition of his/mine/ours finally came to fruition.  My husband’s version is that every time he came home from a trip (he travels for work) he would find things either missing or on the curb for Salvation Army.  Little by little I emptied the house so that by the time my furniture arrived we were down to his few treasured items which were non-negotiable in the merger, one being his beloved massage chair.

I will admit there was not much remaining when my belongings made it here, but my version of the story is that we agreed on everything in advance and he was wonderful about allowing me to take over the role of home decorator.  The truth might lie somewhere in the middle – but we survived the merge with a lot of communication – very little disagreement – a lot of compromise by my husband and maybe a little bit of compromise on my end, (ok, not really).

The kitchen downsizing in actuality became a huge boon for my daughter, She was the grand recipient of all the duplicates.  And joyously, flexibility and good communication prevailed yet again, and perhaps a fair amount of kitchen content apathy.

When we did some remodeling shortly after my move, we had a built in bookshelf constructed in our living room. This space has worked great as a place where we could combine both of our accumulated treasures for display, and now contains some fun things we have acquired together.

Combining households and keeping everyone happy at the same time can be a challenge.  Here are some tips that may help if you or someone you know may be at this exciting place in life:

  • Discuss the plan in advance.  Talk about what treasures are most important to you and work backward from there.  If you can get through agreeing on the biggest priorities for what each person wants to keep it makes it easier to then work through the smaller things, like which can opener should be kept.
  • Before you combine, each person should do a purge of closets and storage areas. It is much easier to do this in advance rather than when you are dealing with the stress of the move and bulging at the seams before you get the boxes unpacked. (I wish I had taken my own advice.)
  • Get rid of duplicate items.  It is easier to do this in advance before your pre-moving purge by writing out a list of your duplicates and going through it together to make the decisions about what to keep.  This may be determined by what is in the best condition, or items that have sentimental value.  I will say, my husband and I did keep some duplicates where we could not quite come to terms, but over the years those have dwindled as we figured out which one we used most often.
  • Figure out how the closet space is going to be divided.  This can be a BIG issue, especially for clothing hoarders like me.  We ended up reconfiguring the closet space with new organization systems from Home Depot right away. This helped, but I still seemed to use the guest bedroom as a “dressing room” and often had the bed covered with clothing.  My husband, being the problem solver, found a solution when he converted his in-home workshop to a walk-in closet off of my bathroom.  See, every problem can be solved with compromise!  I have compromised and now no longer make a mess of the guest bedroom since I now have ample closet space.  Seems fair to me.
  • Talk about your objectives as far as decorating style.  In my situation, my husband’s style was all about function and mine was prioritized by form.  In combining households we both had to respect where the other was coming from and compromise as needed.  Ok, that is how it should go….  I did compromise about the massage chair anyway.Ultimately, combining households when your relationship moves to that next level is incredibly exciting!  The key is communicating your plan and expectations in advance – if you do, you are sure to keep Cupid and your honey happy.
Originally from Minneapolis, after 17 years in corporate America she traded in her high heels for flip flops and now thoroughly revels in island life… professionally and personally!