Combining Two Homes
Updated: Jun 3
Combining your home with the person you love is exciting but can also be overwhelming. The longer you have been on your own, the harder it is to merge. Below are 12 practical, step-by-step tips that will help alleviate the stress of your big move so the two of you can joyfully move forward as you begin your lives together.
1. Each person makes a list of furnishings and household items that are non-negotiables they would like to see in the combined home (although everything should be negotiable in marriage!). An example might be a beautiful oak desk that belonged to your great grandfather…that he built! It is understandable you would want to keep this. Your 10-year-old, rusty slow cooker? Probably not a hill to die on. If you do not have room for a special item, see if a family member might be willing to house it for you, or find a place to store it in your new home even if it stays behind a closed closet door. Sometimes you find that when an item sits in storage for a while, the importance that it originally held fades away. Just like leftovers are easier to throw out the next day, so, too, can home furnishings that once seemed important.
2. Talk about your vision for each room in your home. Will you both need a home office? Would you prefer a guest room instead? Will there be a man-cave? A craft room? Make these decisions, because this will help direct what you keep and what is donated to charity or sold in a garage sale.
3. Decide placement of the furniture in each room. I would recommend a printable space planning template. You can find free ones with graph paper on Pinterest. Using one of these guides, find a place for your combined furniture. If some things do not fit, discuss again if it is an item you really want to keep. If so, store it until the time comes you move up in house size.
4. Before packing your belongings for the move, go through each closet and storage area and purge what you can. Do you really need 8 coats, including the one with the moth holes? Designate a “give away” area in the corner of one of your rooms. If you are unsure about an item, put it in an “unsure” pile. Once you are finished, donate or sell all the “give away” items. This helps clear your brain, so you know that everything else that has remained will be making the move to your new home (including the “unsure” pile if you still are…unsure).
5. When it comes to all the items you are keeping, review the selections together and get rid of any duplicates. These decisions are a little easier, because the obvious choice usually jumps out quickly. If both partners have a full set of pots and pans, but one set was given as a hand-me-down from childhood, and the other choice is a brand new Le Creuset signature cast iron set, well, hmmmm….I don’t think that is a hard decision. Remember it is easier to donate or sell items before you move than to move these items to your new home and then get rid of them.
6. Determine how you will share a closet. Women often have more clothes than men, but men’s clothing can take up more space when dealing with sports coats and suits. Don’t forget to consider the height of the closet, too. Women will have dresses that might need more length, but men have suits and sports coats that also need similar space. A man’s coat is often made of finer material than a woman’s dress. Having his suit drag the ground will shorten its life, and these items can be a lot more costly to replace than a new summer dress. When we remodeled our master closet to create a dressing room, in order to figure out how much closet space each of us needed we measured the current capacity of our clothes, and then added to those measurements based on our needs and desires. We had the flexibility to add length since we were remodeling, but remodeling or not, measuring the amount of space your clothes take up will give you a good head start when deciding how much space each spouse receives. To make the closet situation streamlined, figure out a working solution you both can live with before you make the move.
7. Just as you decided with closet space, determine what bathroom drawers go to which spouse. Strive to keep countertops uncluttered. Assume when assigning drawers that you will not keep anything on the counters, if possible. It makes for a much more pleasant sharing arrangement. In our bathroom we ran out of drawer space, and my hairspray cans would tend to inch their way over to my husband’s side. We now have a decorative storage box sitting in the middle of our counter that also helps separate his side from my side.
8. Determine your decorating style. If you both have similar tastes, great! Many couples, though, have images in their head as to what their home will look like, and the two images do not line up. Remember, your new residence is for both of you. It is a place of refuge from the outside world, and it should welcome you in each day. If one spouse is left out of the decisions and not allowed to have an area to express their personality, then they will feel like a guest in their own home. If your quarters are small, you will both need to compromise. Having fluffy, pink sequin throw pillows on your family room couch will probably not appeal to most men. A compromise might be square raspberry or burgundy wool pillows. You are staying with the same color palette but finding something that is more neutral in taste. That is just a quick and simple example, but there are numerous ways to combine differences. You will both need to compromise. If your home is larger, make the shared areas more neutral (based on what the two of you feel is neutral), and let it reflect the tastes of everyone in the family. The private rooms of a home are a good place to allow each spouse to express their own taste. If your home is large enough, let each partner have a room that is exclusively theirs to do with as they wish. When I finally had my own home office that was not shared space, I made it all about me! It is my happy place that reflects my personality. My husband does not enjoy decorating, but I wanted him to have a space of his own that he enjoyed, too. Acts of service is one of his love languages, so I took it upon myself to decorate his space based on his desires and tastes. I knew he would be at a loss as to where to begin if I did not provide this service, and it brought me great pleasure to create something for him that was all his.
9. Reupholstering a few pieces can be a good way to successfully merge furniture. Or, a simple, and less expensive, solution would be to have some throw pillows made that contain a combination of colors to tie together the fabric on your couch with the textiles on your spouse’s club chair. The two of you will know it was a compromise, but to everyone else it will appear as though you intentionally planned the color combination. Reupholstering big pieces of furniture can be expensive so make sure you price this well. Sometimes it is less expensive to just buy a new piece of furniture.
10. When you get ready to move, have everything boxed up and labeled with the name of the room where that item will be placed in your new home. This way, if you have professional movers, or family and friends helping you, you can quickly show them where everything goes on moving day. A great trick someone taught me was to have the boxes color coded. Stick a red index card on a box for everything that goes in the family room. A blue index card for everything in the kitchen, and so on. This way you do not even need to stop what you are doing to read the labels on a box. You just see the color and can direct the mover to the designated area.
11. I have found an easy way to organize and unpack a kitchen is to first label every drawer and cabinet. Then unpack the kitchen boxes in another room (it is too messy to do this in the same kitchen that you are trying to organize). Make piles in the designated unpacking room that match with the labels on the kitchen cabinets and drawers. This allows you to organize one drawer, one cabinet, at a time. By taking this approach it also allows you to focus on the most important parts of the kitchen, first, so the two of you can at least operate until you have time to work on the less important areas that don’t require day to day activity.
12. Begin setting up your home by unpacking the most important rooms, first. In order to operate in your new house, you need a working kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Maybe an office, depending on your job. If you can get these areas ready, you will give yourself a little breathing room while you methodically organize and decorate everything else over the coming days and weeks.
This is a home you are creating together. You may not like everything your spouse likes, but combining space is about compromise and sacrifice. Both husband and wife need to learn to adjust. In our great room, my husband had a recliner that I did not like. It stuck out like a sore thumb. When we remodeled that room, before we moved all the furniture back in, I asked him how important it was that the recliner return. He said, “Very!” I then asked, “What is it about the recliner that is so important? Is it how it looks, the comfort?” This allowed me to get to the root of his affinity for the chair. If he liked everything about it, then I would have acquiesced, but if there was a hidden solution that would appease both of us, I wanted to know. Due to a chipped vertebra in his neck, having a comfortable place for him to lounge and watch tv was crucial. I discovered what he really wanted, and needed, was a place where he could take pressure off his back and stretch out his legs. I am not a huge fan of sectional couches with chaise lounges, but a chaise was what it was going to take for him to have a piece of furniture that would provide him with relief and allow me to get rid of that chair! Although we compromised, he obtained the comfort that he needed, and I was rid of the lounger! A side note when picking furniture. I strongly recommend both spouses road test pieces before buying. My husband did not care much about the style of the sectional, but comfort was key. I narrowed down the selections I felt we both would enjoy, and then we went to the store together so he could give each one a self-evaluation. I am very thankful I took this additional step, because the one I thought was the best and most comfortable caused pain in his back. Once I added throw pillows and a cozy blanket, I felt good with our compromise and was happy knowing my husband was comfortable.
Though we might be tempted to strive for that Instagram worthy picture or the Pinterest pin we fell in love with when decorating our home, remember that a house is constantly changing based on the seasons of life. As soon as you think you have everything just right, your world will change. A dog will enter your life, then a new baby. Suddenly you and your spouse are working from home as you launch your dream business, and not far down the road you will have teenage children running in and out. One day, God-willing, you will revert to pop-cycle stains and sticky fingers as grandchildren expand your family. If I have learned anything about my home, it is that it never stays the same. I have mastered the art of flexibility and no longer stress over perfection.
Two Last Tips for New Homeowners:
Tip 1: Most new couples do not have enough furniture to fill every corner of the house. There is no rule that says a room cannot stay empty for a while. Begin by using the furniture you already own to fill up the common areas like the family room. Break up sets of furniture. Take that extra nightstand and place it in the great room. If your guestroom is empty, that is alright. Just close the door. Friends will not know you have a bedroom sitting bare, but they will notice if in the great room there is no table for them to set their drink.
The best way I found to decorate a home was by starting with a dream wish list. I had a sheet of paper for each room of the house. I would sit in that room and imagine what I would like it to look like. One room might need a bed and armoire. Another room might need a desk and two chairs. I knew I might not purchase these items for several years, but by having a master plan I was able to stay focused on my priorities and not impulse buy. If I saw something in a store that was fabulous, but it did not fit with my goal, then I would pass it by. This allowed me to decorate our home in a more expedient way, because I was not impulse buying, and I was chipping away, little by little, while sticking with the plan.
Tip 2: For the purchases I did make, I went with quality over quantity. This took me longer to set up our home, but I can promise, the cheaper things you buy now to “get you through” will still be hanging around 20 years from now. You will look at that yucky coffee table you bought for pennies on the dollar, but you will not get rid of it, because there will be some other piece of furniture that you currently do not have but really need. You find yourself saying, “Ok, we really need a kitchen table. We don’t really need a coffee table, because we already have one, even though it’s nasty. Ok, we’ll get the kitchen table this time and then next time, we will replace that coffee table.” The problem is, “next time” does not come around for quite a while, because there will always be something else you need that outranks in priority compared to the something else you want. You will find yourself going through this same exercise every time you buy a new piece of furniture. Needs verses wants. And needs almost always wins out over wants. And that is how you end up still using that horrendous coffee table two decades down the road (trust me…I know!). It might take you longer in the short term to fill your home but going with quality over quantity will almost always be the right choice.
Combining homes can be a great deal of fun. Keep everything in perspective and enjoy the process. This is just the start of two lives becoming one that is filled with adventure. Let it begin with a happy home!
Together with you,