living together... and loving it

17.6.15

A few months back I wrote about moving in together for The Daily Telegraph's Home magazine. Given my current situation, I think the advice is especially apt!

Whether it’s a partner, flatmate, friend or sibling, deciding to share your space with someone is a big upheaval. Far from just having the same address and splitting the electricity bill, living with another person requires a lot of pre-planning, open communication from all parties and a willingness to compromise on everything from the artwork on display in the lounge room to whose turn it is to clean the bathroom.

Finances, the division of household chores and negotiating interior design are some of  the main issues you might face when moving in with someone but there are also a host of other things you need to consider when you decide to make the big move.

Image: Norsu Interiors

Commit to communicate

Ask any relationship expert and they’ll tell you the key to any successful partnership is clear and open communication. And we’re not just talking about romantic relationships.

“Being able to talk openly and honestly is one of the most important things in any relationship,” says counsellor and relationship expert Celina Gregory. “Take the time to sit down together and clearly go through the things you want and expect from the arrangement.”

For example, Celina says, in a romantic relationship ensure you are both clear about what moving in together really means. Is it a path to marriage or are you just testing the waters to see if you’re a good match?

“Often it’s simply not being on the same page that causes most arguments,” she says. “It sounds simple but often people in long-term relationships who are moving in together for the first time skip this because they think they know the other person so well already. It could go along the lines of ‘to save us arguing later, why don’t we agree’ for example.”

Establishing ground rules before giving up your precious couch space to another person is also important in non-romantic living arrangements too.

Enid Steiner from flatmate-finder website flatwithme.com.au says being upfront about how you’ll deal with finances is especially important before moving in.

“You will need to decide how and when the rent will be collected as well as how much money needs to be put aside for common household items like dishwashing detergent or light bulbs,” she says. “Another important one is if flatmates need to check with each other before having friends over or entertaining. Flatmates with different social habits often have different ideas about entertaining, so having some guidelines may come in handy.”

Yours, mine and ours

Sure you might love that frilly pink cushion nana gave you for you for your 11th birthday but when you welcome someone else into your home — or move into theirs — be prepared to make some compromises when it comes to interior decoration.

In a romantic relationship trying to force your partner into getting rid of their favourite knick-knack could cause resentment or an unnecessary argument and if you’re living with friends or flatmates, you need to make allowances for the fact that everyone likes to be surrounded by their own possessions.

“It’s important that you are respectful of your housemates’ belongings no matter what you might think of them,” Celina says. “It would be unusual if you and your partner or flatmate both agreed on every design decision so it all really comes down to communication and compromise.”

If you absolutely can’t live with your partner’s favourite armchair, suggest having it reupholstered or refinished and tell your partner you are willing to compromise on something important to you in return.

Image: Freedom

Practical magic

Once you’ve established everyone is on the same page, and you and your housemates or significant other have set up some house rules, the practicalities of joining households becomes a reality.

If you are moving into a new place, take the time to plan each room with your partner or flatmate. If you are moving into a place where one of you already lives, chances are the house will already be furnished. Don’t expect to move all of your furniture in and, likewise, don’t think just because you are moving in to someone else’s home that you can’t take anything of your own.

Think about which pieces of furniture you already own that could work in each space and approach your housemate about including them in the room. When moving in with a partner, don’t be tempted to double up on furniture, appliances, linen, cutlery or anything else. Sell duplicates and put the money towards household bills or a romantic dinner. Wardrobe space could also be a problem for couples. Try to divide it as evenly as you possibly can.

First published The Daily Telegraph Home, 14 February 2015

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