Every romantic relationship progresses through steps that take it from one level to the next. There’s the day it becomes “official”, the first time meeting each other’s family and the first big fight. There’s also a time when a couple has to decide whether to ditch the sleepovers for something more grown-up.
You may be facing this next step right now. Maybe you’re tired of packing an overnight bag; or perhaps you're spending so much time together that your plants never get watered and you haven’t filled your own fridge in weeks.
Deciding to move in together
The decision to move in together is full of romantic promise, and practical perks. You can be roommates, “playing house”. Shacking up isn't only a milestone, it’s a way of testing your long-term compatibility. Then there’s the money factor. Sharing expenses to run one household, rather than two, could save you both money.
Before you move in, though, be sure you’re doing so for the right reason. Regular lie-ins and less rent shouldn’t be the deciding factors – your long-term commitment to your relationship should be.
Once you’ve established this, keep in mind that moving in together, and intertwining everything from your décor to your desk space, can be challenging. Keep the three Cs of co-habiting in mind – compromise, communication and commitment.
Below are some tips to make your next step trouble-free.
First things first. Will you find a new place together, or will one of you move in with the other? If you’re starting out fresh, choose a suburb that’s equally distant from both your places of work, if you can. Ideally, both your names should be on the lease.
If one of you is opening your home to the other, make sure the one moving in is made completely welcome. Make room for your partner, gladly.
Do a purge
You’ll both have to sort out your stuff to avoid doubling up on items and to save space. Make an inventory of what you each have, deciding what to toss, store, keep or donate to charity.
Letting go of things can be hard, but you may be facing limited cupboard space. Be ruthless. If something is broken, is it worth fixing? If you both have coffee-makers, which is likely to last longer? How much furniture can you fit in the square metres of space you have?
Remember, the less you have to move, the easier (and cheaper) the move will be. Extra furniture can always go into storage.
What's yours is yours
Nobody should have to give up their creature comforts, no matter how “ugly” or “unmatched”. That mug you like your hot chocolate in, that throw that’s comforted you through heartache… keep them. Those items, no matter how minor they seem, will help you feel “home”. Be sensitive to the fact that your partner may also feel strongly about certain items.
Then there’s the tricky matter of taste. Two people may be wild about each other, but their design and décor preferences may be wildly different. Ideally, you should try to blend the two styles, or find a neutral look and feel that you’re both happy to live with.
Any items that have negative associations (framed photos of an "ex", for example) can be stored away. You could each have a memento box to pack away in a cupboard. If you lack space, or your sentimental items take up more than a box, consider paying for safe storage.
You need to sit down to decide on who will pay for what. When you live together, your finances will become entwined.
Make sure everything is done fairly. The person with the greater income should pay for a greater percentage of household costs. You also need to look at the bigger money issues, such as debt and savings. If, heaven forbid, one of you gets retrenched, will you still be able to cover the rent? Consider opening a shared account for things like groceries and bills.
Everybody needs alone time, and nothing destroys a relationship faster than a sense of having “no space”. For this reason, try to define certain areas for each partner. You each need somewhere you can retreat to, if you want to be alone with your thoughts. If you don’t have more than one bedroom, choose something smaller, but no less significant. A desk, a reading chair, the garage…
Establish ground rules
Nobody likes to be nagged, or to be the nag. Decide on who will take care of which chores, and share the pet hates that drives you nuts (socks on the floor? dishes left to pile up?). Be proactive about dealing with mess and housework from day one, to avoid resentment building up.
Keep in mind that every night won’t be like your Friday night DVD-and-pizza ritual. That’s perhaps not the best idea for the working week. Moving in together is a great opportunity to start implementing healthy habits together, so talk about what you’d like your daily routine to look like going forward.
Self-storage with Xtraspace
XtraSpace offers affordable, secure self-storage solutions for storing personal items and furniture, which can be a boon when you first move in together. If you use our SpaceBox option, we’ll even collect your items, seal and store them under 24-hour surveillance and return them to you again when you need them.