Congratulations on your big move! Moving in together is a big step! This is true whether you are moving in together before you get married (or even consider getting married) or after your wedding. You are doing a very brave thing and it is important to acknowledge this.
Moving is stressful! And emotionally draining! And stressful! And time consuming! And stressful! And physically demanding! And stressful!
There are so many decisions to make. How should you live? Where should you live? What stuff should you keep? What should you give away? Should you try to sell your stuff? How should you get your belongings from where you live now to where you will be living with your significant other? How should you handle things like chores and expenses after you live together? It's so complicated!
How Should You Start the Process?
The first thing you need to decide with your partner is how you want to live. We aren't talking about what sort of lifestyle elements are important to you just yet. We're thinking along far more practical lines. Do you want to live in a house? Do you want a condo? Are you okay with an apartment? Do you want to rent? Do you want to buy? If you do want to buy, what sort of budget should you set for yourselves? These are the things you have to figure out before you do anything else.
Once you've got that figured out you can move on to other things like neighborhood qualities, lifestyle choices, etc.
Where Should You Live?
Does it make sense for one of you to simply move in with the other? This can save time and effort but it doesn't come without an emotional toll. The person moving in will often spend a long time feeling like they are just a guest. The person who already lived there could feel as if their space is being invaded. If you are on a tight budget, however, this is usually the best option.
If you have some wiggle room and can afford things like deposits, you should consider finding a new place together. But that has its own set of questions that you need to answer.
Where in town should you live? Assuming that you aren't going to need to move to a different town to live together, this is an important question to answer. Can you find a place you can afford that is close to where the both of you work? Can you find a place that is equidistant? If not, to whose work will you be living the closest? Why?
More often than not, these decisions are going to be made based on what you can afford and how soon you need to move. If you can afford to be choosy, however, you should make these decisions before you start looking at new homes.
Once you've made the decision to move in together and found a place that you will be moving into, you need to figure out what to do with your possessions. The two of you have probably been living as independent individuals for a while now. You've probably already accumulated all of the things you need to live comfortably. You probably have all of the furniture you need. You probably have all of the appliances and cooking utensils that you need. You're probably swimming in towels and linens.
So is your significant other.
This can be problematic.
The problem is that, most likely, you aren't going to need two of most things. You probably aren't going to need two beds; two (or more) couches, two dinner tables, etc. It's unlikely that you are going to need to keep all of those towels and linens. You probably share more than a few cooking utensils and appliances in common. It is unlikely that you are going to have the space to accommodate all of your stuff and all of your significant others' stuff.
Sorting can be a painful process, but it needs to be done. This is where it is a good idea to work together with your significant other to figure out who is keeping what. As it is unlikely that you are going to be willing or able to just scrap everything and start over with all new stuff, you are going to need to be flexible and willing to compromise. For example, maybe your stand mixer is a hand-me-down from a former roommate and sparks when you plug it in but your significant other's is brand new and works perfectly. In this situation the decision is easy. But what about things like family heirlooms—things like quilts, knick-knacks, etc?
Talk to each other about the things you want to keep and why. If you have a genuine emotional attachment to something, your significant other needs to be open to your keeping it. You, however, need to be just as willing to accommodate your significant others' emotional attachments as well.
If you've sorted through all of your stuff and you are still afraid that you aren't going to have space in which to fit it all, is renting a storage unit an option? You can put the things you do not need immediately (seasonal clothing, holiday decorations, extra linens, knick knacks, books, etc.) there.
What Happens to the Stuff You Don't Keep?
What do you do after you've sorted through everything and you have a big pile of things that you no longer want or need? Where should it all go? Does it all really have to end up in a dumpster? Of course not! You have a couple of major options when it comes to dealing with the things you no longer want or need.
The easiest thing to do is to donate all of the things you will be getting rid of to charity. You can take clothing, kitchen ware and even sometimes furniture to charities like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. These deductions are tax deductible which could be really handy when it is time to file your taxes. Another great reason to choose this option is that a lot of charities will come and pick up the larger things that you aren't able to transport on your own.
You could also make yourself a little bit of extra money by selling these things. You can hold a giant yard sale in which both you and your significant other sell the things you aren't going to keep. You can also list everything on Craigslist, eBay or other online classified sites. This is obviously a lot more work, but it could bring in enough money to buy something big that the both of you want to have in the new place.
As you have no doubt figured out by now, the act of moving in together doesn't stop simply because your stuff has been transported to your new home. Now you have to unpack everything.
This is where you are going to run into your first problems as a newly moved-in couple. Try to be patient as you each move the dishes to four separate cabinets and disagree over where to keep the toothbrushes. Be prepared to compromise when it comes to things like closet space and bookshelf space.
Work together to find a way to unpack your (and your significant other's) things in a way that will keep the both of you happy. Remember, this is a home for both of you!
Maintaining Your Own Space
Many couples believe that, because they are going to be living together, that they have to have a completely communal living space. This isn't true! In fact, not carving out a space that is just yours can actually hurt your relationship more than it will help it.
You don't have to go so far as to claim an entire room for yourself, though if you are lucky enough to have the space to do so, go for it! You can start with claiming a corner of the home that is just yours. You can put your favorite chair in that corner, decorate it however you like and feel safe in knowing that you are the only one who will be using that space. Your significant other should do the same.
Remember, just because you are living together and joining your lives that does not mean that you need to completely give up your individual identity or to do absolutely everything together all of the time. Sometimes you will need to have some time to yourself in a space that is just yours. Carving out that space when you first move in will save the both of you time and frustrations later.
Moving in together is very exciting! It can also be very stressful! To help the both of you get through it, it is important to be open and honest with each other. Speak up when your partner does something that bothers you (like eating in bed, leaving dishes in the sink, not locking the door, etc). If you address it in the beginning, it keeps resentment from building up in the future. Make sure that you keep yourself open to the same thing from your partner.
It might take some time for the two of you to figure out how to live peaceably and happily together but if you keep working at it and try to be as open and honest with each other as possible, you'll create a happy home. Trust us. You'll get there!