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Blog: The Pile High Club--how NOT to become a member
Merge, Purge, Compromise: Joining 2 Households

I pre-wrote this blog because this morning I am waking up in beautiful Tobago, West Indies, ready to board the plane back home after 2 weeks in the islands (life is good!).  Very good friends of ours got married 48 hours ago on May 30th.  In their honor, I thought I'd write a little something about how to best merge two households worth of stuff into one when you move in with your partner.

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes… some serious discussion about whether or not his black leather college Lazy-Boy gets to become a part of her shabby chic décor.

We all know good relationships thrive on compromise, but this is never more apparent when two people move 3,000 square feet worth of stuff into one 1,500 square foot home.  

How to decide what stays and what goes?  
Some of it will be obvious: you don't need 2 toaster ovens. 

Some of it will be consequential: if you are moving in together because you got married, you won't need to decide whose bed linens to keep because you probably got new ones from your registry, so you'll both get rid of your old blankies. 

Most of it will be about negotiation: You both love to read, but only so many books can fit on a bookshelf. Pose this question to each other and answer honestly: Which books will you re-read, and which books are you keeping just so you can say, "I've read that" or "I've studied that. I have knowledge, I am educated."

He says: Honey, it's fiction and you already know how it ends, and you don't re-read books... why keep it?
She says: Babe, you are an accountant.  Why do you need those huge old college Marine Biology textbooks?

There's got to be a give and take. Remember, you signed up "for better or for worse"… and in this case "for worse" might mean she really wants her Precious Moments collection prominently displayed.

Talk it out.  Listen to your partner.  Choose your battles.  If you lose your battle, build a bridge… and get over it.  It's just stuff (don't I say that enough?).  When all else fails, hire an impartial third party professional organizer to come in and help make decisions.

Short on space?  Purge, baby, purge!!!
One of my maintenance clients has a live-in boyfriend who started out by asking me to make room for him in just one drawer.  From there his clothing has slowly crept into her already-bulging closet.  To accommodate him (and make him want to sleep there 5 days a week as she would like) she has had to ask some uncomfortable questions like, "Do I love my boyfriend more than I love my wardrobe and my Louboutin collection?"

~tough one!~

To help her in her decision-making process, I argued that if she was willing to make room in her heart for him, she should be willing to make room in her closet!  Letting him make his way into her closet has really been a metaphor for him making his way into her life.  Sometimes you have to let go of old items that are holding you in the past to make room for new (wonderful) things to come in.  To her credit, she has purged quite a bit in the last few sessions, and has significantly slowed down on the shopping (resulting in fewer new things in the closet).  I guess retail therapy isn't necessary when you're in love.

Ladies, if you decide you want to have your cake and eat it to (e.g. have your man and keep your closet full of shoes too), consider buying a hanging rack for his clothing. Get a canvas cover for it to keep it discreet.

As Tim Gunn says, "Make it work"
If you've done a good job of purging, but the house isn't coming together because you don't have similar design styles, don't get too hung up on trying to create one "look" for your home. I'm a big fan of eclectic décor (I don't love the matchy-matchy thing), so I think merging two distinctly different styles, while challenging, CAN work.

In the end, the result of a unified, happy home front is far better than the sum of its (possibly unstylish) parts.  Let the stuff take a backseat to the excitement of living—and being—together.

posted on: 6/1/2009 10:30:00 AM by Heather Lambie
category: Paper

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The Pile High Club--how NOT to become a member

by Heather Lambie

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About Heather:

My Husband - "Honey, how thin can you spread yourself before you're no longer there?" Me - "I don't know. But I'm in it to win it, so we may have to find out."

Heather's Website:


Favorite Websites

  • The Sartorialist
    This site appeases my hunger for all things New York, reminds me of my time there, and gives me great ideas for unconventional looks.
  • Toffee To Go
    They are located in Tampa, very near me, but they deliver/ship nationally. They have THE BEST toffee EVER. It's buttery, salty, sweet--all my favorite things in one bite.
  • The Container Store
    I know this is a no-brainer for an organizer...but this place really turns me on!
  • The Poetry Foundation
  • Because I Said So (blog)
    As a mom myself, this mom of 6 (!!!) has me in stitches.
  • Michael Buble
    If I wasn't happily married, I might be stalking him. Bar none, the best voice and best sense of humor!

Quotes That Move Me

  • General H. Norman Schwarzkopf
    "The truth of the matter is, you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it."
  • Ivern Ball
    "Most of us ask for advice when we know the answer but we want a different one."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
    "The secret of education is respecting the pupil."
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
    "Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen."
  • Abigail Van Buren
    "The best index to a person's character is how he treats another person who can't do him good, and how he treats people who can't fight back."
  • Dorothy Galyean
    "Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere."
  • Aristotle
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
  • Mark Twain
    "To be satisfied with what one has; that is wealth. As long as one sorely needs a certain additional amount, that man isn't rich."
  • Jackie Kennedy
    "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much."

Places I'm Dying to Visit

  • Hawaii
    Any how, any way, any time.
  • Los Cabos, Mexico
  • China
  • Japan
  • Alaska (via cruise ship)
  • Marbella, Spain

Places I've Already Been

  • Australia (Sydney)
  • New Zealand
  • Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora
  • London
  • Paris
    Spent only one day here (took the Chunnel from London when I was there) but it was one amazing, beautiful day where I walked the flea markets, visited the Louvre, people-watched and used all 6 senses to experience it.
  • Trinidad & Tobago
    My husband is from here, so we go several times a year to visit family.
  • Italy (Milan, Vicenza)
  • Jamaica

Things I'd Like To Do Before I Die

  • Run a leg with the Olympic torch before the games begin
  • See the monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico
  • Ride a horse on the beach (in the water)
  • See a prize fight (boxing) in Las Vegas
  • Run the NYC Marathon
    I ran the Disney Marathon in 2000 (pre-kids). Would love to run another post-kids, to prove I can.
  • Have washboard abs.
  • Eliminate self doubt.
  • Own an apartment in Manhattan.
  • Watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve.
  • Take an RV trip down the coast of California.

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