You’ve shuttled between apartments for months. You’re sick of paying double rent. You’ve even begun stashing extra pairs of gym shorts across town. Deep down, you knew this step was coming—even your overnight bag is giving you a “c’mon bro, just do it” look from its semi-permanent space by the door. It’s time to move in with the love of your life.
Sharing an abode with a lover can be fun, rewarding, and cost-effective. However, the moving-in bridge is a big one—and once you’ve crossed it, there’s no easy way back. Before you know it, you’ll have a dog. A fancy coffeemaker. Perhaps even a marriage certificate. The breakup stakes are decidedly higher—parting ways now requires renegotiated leases and moving trucks. One does not enter into a shared living arrangement lightly.
To help prepare you for this beautiful union of your hearts and your stuff, we spoke with Rachel Sussman, a relationship guru, and Ann Lightfoot, a professional organizer, both of whom have plenty of experience getting two people into one space happily. Here are some tips to make your cohabitation copacetic.
Move in for Love, not a Lease
Before you move in with someone, you should share a strong commitment and enduring love for each other. (Did we really have to tell you that?) Which is to say, don’t jump into a co-living arrangement with someone just because your lease is up or your lady has a killer pad. “Timing is important,” says Sussman. “It really has to be that both people feel emotionally ready for this next step.” Are you ready to be near this person constantly, in good times and bad? Are you willing to exclusively share a bathroom, mysterious bodily hairs on the floor and all? Living together isn’t all sex and grilled cheeses. Your partner needs to be someone you can stand on your worst days.
Talk Money First
Get the money conversation popping early. Sussman tells us a lot of couples have a hard time with this. “Budgets need to be fair, but they don’t have to be 50/50,” she says. Make sure the split of the rent and bills is commensurate with the difference in your salaries, and make sure both of you feel good about the division of costs ahead of time. Otherwise, the money situation can get ugly fast—“one person is accused of being cheap, one person might be accused of being financially irresponsible,” Sussman says.
Shed Your Stuff First, Shack Up Second
Oh, your closet is bursting with bombers and sneakers? You’re not alone. “We have never seen an empty drawer or an empty closet. You fill the space you have, everybody does,” Lightfoot notes. For the sake of your partner’s sanity and your own, be hard on yourself and get rid of what you can before the move. How hard? “Absolutely ruthless,” Lightfoot says. Old paperwork and magazines are a great place to start—toss your files and your old issues. Next, pull out everything you own and throw it on the bed. Ask yourself if you wear it, and if not, get rid of it. “Even if you eliminate 10 to 20 percent, that is an enormous change between the two of you, creating freedom.” While you can sell your truly exceptional stuff (let’s not forget when GQcontributor Sean Hotchkiss racked up $14,000 minimizing his wardrobe), don’t get bogged down. “You can Craigslist stuff, but it slows down the process,” says Lightfoot. “The best thing is to offer it up to friends. Very few things have any value.” Remember, this is a relationship step, not a moneymaking opportunity.
Be Chill About Their Weird Collections
If somebody has been collecting something for years (clothes, mugs, miniature clown figurines), it’s not going to be easy to let go. So be understanding—you won’t always agree on what’s worth keeping. With that said, it’s okay to remind them why you’re doing this in the first place—“making a new thing,” as Lightfoot says—not carting around old stuff.
Just Know: There Won’t Be More Sex
It’s counterintuitive, isn’t it? You’ll be around each other constantly, regularly naked, and sleeping in the same bed every night. But the idea that more proximity equals more sex is unrealistic—and that expectation can cause problems, Sussman says. The reality of living together won’t match up with expectations in other ways, too. In the beginning, “expect conflict,” Sussman says. You will fight—it’s just what happens when your personal space diminishes. Her advice around this isn’t as fun as you might hope, but it is actionable and practical. “Keep a list of what’s working really well and what needs to be improved. Sit down every Sunday and share that list with each other.” In these times, you might be quick to blurt out all the negatives, but her guidance is to keep it to “strong, open, and positive communication.”
Arguments Aren’t the End
Upending your home and your relationship is no easy task. Positive and honest communication is going to be your best asset through this whole thing. After all, no relationship is without its little battles, and conflict isn’t necessarily a horrible thing. Try not to freak out too much, and remember Lightfoot’s advice: “Really, all you need is each other and a small amount of stuff.”