When Households Collide: Navigating the Multiple Move-In

Author: Alecia Pirulis


So, you are preparing to move in with someone. Whether you’ll be sharing an apartment with friends, moving in with a significant other, or you’re merging households – everyone involved will have their own stuff.

This is how it usually happens: You arrive at the new location with boxes of stuff, furniture, suitcases, and a variety of odds and ends. Your new roommate (or roommates) arrives with their boxes of stuff, furniture, suitcases, and a variety of odds and ends. When you try to shove everything into your new space, the accusations begin to fly. Your new housemate thinks her couch is better than yours. You think his taste is awful and the wall-mounted fake singing fish must go. Your new roomie thinks the living room is the perfect space for his enormous workout machine. Or your new housemate thinks the dining room is the perfect location for a pool table. Suddenly, what should have been a happy event dissolves into chaos and accusations.

First, weeks before the move, sit down with your new housemate(s) and discuss big items that will be shared: couches, chairs, dining tables, large appliances, etc. Don’t assume that because your couch is the newest or in the best condition it will be the one to stay – your new roommate may want to hang on to his couch because it is more comfortable, it has sentimental value, or may fit better in the new space. Agree to listen to each other’s opinions and be prepared to compromise.

You’ll probably have duplicates of everything – electronics, lawn equipment, kitchenware, dishes, holiday items, etc. Have each person make a detailed list of what they have. While doing inventory, they should note the condition of each item as good, fair, or poor. Get together and compare the lists, and then decide which items to keep and which to discard.

Plan a moving sale. Each person should agree to getting rid of a certain percentage of their belongings, depending on how much space you’ll have in the new home. You can each have your own moving sale, or you can do a combined sale. Don’t move everything and then try to decide what to get rid of – you’ll end up with a garage or spare room filled with boxes. After moving, donate any remaining items you all agree not to use in the new home.

If possible, choose a shared space for each of you to decorate. If, for example, your new roommate is a great cook and loves spending time in the kitchen, let him have that space to decorate as he chooses – as long as he lets you decorate the living room. If you love to garden, the back patio will be yours to decorate – while your roommate will tackle the home office.

Determine your storage needs. Everyone has that box (or boxes) of items they don’t want to get rid of – high school yearbooks, travel memorabilia, their die-cast car collection, etc. These items have to go somewhere, whether it is a storage closet or an attic or a shelf in the garage. Knowing how much storage space you’ll each have before you move will help you decide what you really can’t part with – and the items you don’t mind letting go.

Don’t worry about combined furniture clashing – sure, you kept your overstuffed recliner with the giant pink roses, while your new roommate kept a couch with a bold, geometric pattern. Find slipcovers you both agree on (or reupholster if you are handy), and suddenly you have a matching set. Furniture can be painted, and sometimes things you didn’t think would go together actually work – so try to keep an open mind.