How to Fit Two Homes into One

By Spencer Frye

So you just got married and now you have to figure out how to fit two households worth of stuff into one home without getting divorced in the process.

After all, someone’s gotta give up something, and obviously your family treasures are priceless — not like all that junk your spouse has been lugging around all these years. Well, before you break out the prenup and start dialing lawyers, try these simple tips to save your new marriage and your sanity.

First, admit you have a problem.
Just fess up that you’re each going to have to downsize, and commit to following a clear set of guidelines for what to keep, give, and toss out. As you’re sorting, actually create these 3 piles, or use a set of bins. But notice, there is no “Decide Later” bin. Commit to making a decision as you come to each item. (You can always move things around if you need to, but a “Decide Later” pile is the gateway to downsizing doom!)

Second, measure your space.
And I mean all of it, not just the rooms. Know how big your closets and cabinets are and how many shelves they have. I know, it sounds like a pain, but believe me, you’ll save tons of time doing this in advance. And if you really want to do it right, use an online planner to draw out your space and place your furniture before you do any moving.

Third, set the guidelines!
Do whatever works for you, but be sure you agree ahead of time so it doesn’t get ugly. Here are some tried-and-true strategies:
Set time limits — for example, anything except emergency gear and true heirlooms that hasn’t been used in 2 years or more goes in the

“Give” or “Toss” pile.
Set quantities — decide how many dishes, sets of sheets, appliances, etc. you can usefully keep, then choose the best and give or toss the rest.

Use a pick system — take turns choosing items to keep until you have what you want and what you have room for; the rest has to go.

Fourth, make it bite-size.
Don’t try tackling the entire house in one afternoon. Instead, declutter one room a day.

Fifth, sing “Let It Go.”
Ok, you don’t actually have to belt out the Disney tune, but it helps. I know, you hate to give away grandma’s gravy boat even though you never use it. After all, it was hers, and you love your granny. But think about it — you don’t really need five dozen things to remember your grandma by. So keep a few things that you enjoy and use the most, and let the rest go. It’s OK. And anyway, isn’t it better for someone to actually use that gravy boat?

Sixth, be reasonable about the “Toss” pile.
If an item can still be used or recycled, put it in the “Give” pile. That includes scrap metal like extra wire hangers, and pretty much all clothing — even old sneakers can be recycled these days! On the other hand, used mattresses, old paint, expired goods, chipped dishes, stained or broken furniture, and similar items will have to be dumped, and you’ll probably have to pay a couple bucks to do it. Just bite the bullet and dispose of these items properly. Trust me, you’ll feel good about it later.

Seventh, use triage to get rid of the “Toss” and “Give” piles.
Here’s a simple 3-step system to move everything out of the house that’s not coming with you:

  1. Give stuff away: If it’s going to a specific person or to a local charity, go ahead and deliver it (or call for pick-up if your charity offers that service for free). Do this first, in case it turns out that not everything is wanted.
  2. Sell stuff: If you have some items you’d like to try to sell, and you have the time to take them to dealers or have a yard sale or list them online, give it a shot. You might be tempted to do this first, thinking that you can donate what can’t be sold, but if you can’t sell it, neither can the thrift store, so “donations” of yard sale leftovers are likely to be declined. Some charities might take them anyway, but you could end up actually costing your favorite charity money if they have to pay to dump it. Best just to cut to the chase and dispose of it yourself.
  3. Recycle and toss: Once you’ve given away or sold everything you can, haul the rest out to the recycle center and, finally, the dump.

And that’s it! Now you’re on the road to a happy marriage in an uncluttered home. And since you’ve made a conscious decision about each item and followed the rules that you set, you should have no regrets.

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