Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level: The Ultimate Guide to Moving in Together

Alex Downey
Last Updated on April 30, 2024
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Moving in together is a big step for any relationship.

Not only can moving in together be a test of you and your partner’s long-term viability, but it is also often a big financial commitment. Like any move, moving in with your partner involves a great deal of planning and coordination.

Moving and life transitions can be stressful situations, even when you are moving in with the love of your life. To help reduce stress during the transition, the following guide compiles knowledge from relationship and moving experts that will make moving in with boyfriend or girlfriend go smoothly.

But before you start scheduling movers, you’ll need to discuss some important things with your partner.

Part 1: Before You Move-in Together

The biggest key to success is to be on the same page as your partner. You’ll need to agree on who is responsible for what, and what each partner is contributing to the new household.

Before you move-in together,  have a serious discussion with your partner to talk out all of the aspects of your new life together to make sure that both of you will be happy with the arrangement.

Here are some of the most important topics you’ll need to address:

  • Finances
  • Furnishings
  • Expectations
  • Chores
  • Personal Space
  • Lifestyle

Financial Arrangements

Couples should talk about several things before moving in together. Money and finances are at the top of the list. This can be a touchy subject for some, but getting it all sorted out now and save a heap of heartache down the road.

Find a comfortable and private place and discuss the following:

  • How you’ll pay for moving costs
  • Who will cover the deposit and/or first month’s rent
  • How will general bills be divvied up
  • Your financial history if significant (debt, loans, bankruptcy, etc.)
  • How you’ll handle different income levels
  • If you’ll lean toward saving or spending as a couple
  • Your emotional relationship with money
  • In the event of a breakup, decide who gets the place
  • Potential issues either of you foresees

Despite money being an everyday element in life, these talks can seem awkward. But, when you see other couples arguing over money and you’re not, this uncomfortable moment will be nothing but a hiccup for you both.

According to most relationships experts, money creates the most conflicts between couples. To avoid these sorts of relationship rifts, be supportive and keep an open mind in this discussion.


It may be obvious that you’ll be using your well-kept and stylish furniture when you and your partner move in together. However, your partner may be thinking the same thing—even if their furniture dates back to the stone ages.

Especially, if this is the first time moving in with anyone or you’ve always had your own place, it’s important to talk about household items.

For example, will you use your couch or your partner’s? What about kitchenware, bathroom towels, or bed linens? Furthermore, what will you do with all the duplicates, if you have them?

Thankfully, you don’t have to toss all your belongings if you decide to use your partner’s stuff. If you aren’t willing to part with your stuff, self-storage is available to keep your things safe in case things just don’t work out.

Measure the space you’ll be living in and work around those dimensions. Before you move anything, agree on what stays, what’s tossed, and what is sent to storage. It will also be easier to send to storage a favorite piece of furniture, for example, knowing it simply doesn’t fit in the new space.

Managing Expectations

Moving in together is a big step financially, legally, and emotionally. Some couples enter into cohabitation as if it were a short-term “trial run,” or some sort of substitute for marriage.

In reality, it’s not quite “I do,” and yet, it is. The reason is that you’ll deal with the same type of challenges as other dating couples. Additionally, you’ll also face similar difficulties as married couples, too.

So, the real question is what do you actually expect from cohabitation?

Knowing the answer to this will help you to set appropriate expectations for the relationship and your future, in general.

For example, do you picture both of you cooking dinner together, folding clothes like a couple, or even building a meaningful life together? Or, do you believe you’ll each keep to your own space, spending personal time as if you’re still living the single life?

Clearly, if you expect one thing from moving in together and your partner expects another, the potential issues are numerous.  Cohabiting means different things to different people. In fact, a lot of relationship dissatisfaction stems from inappropriate expectations. To avoid this relationship pitfall, align your expectations.

Household Chores

Following closely behind finances, household chores have become a notorious relationship-killer. Plus, most couples don’t think to discuss such boring and mundane duties before moving in together. But, this vital discussion may very well save your relationship in the long run.

Keep in mind, though, it’s not household chores that drown out love. Rather, doing the damage is the strife uncompleted household chores conjure up.   For example, some partners will gladly pitch in with chores during the honeymoon phase. After moving in together, familiarity sets in and suddenly the willing help is nowhere to be found.

Also consider individuals who have very strict gender roles. If you weren’t raised with the same rigid adherence to feminine or masculine roles, you may easily become disappointed in your partner’s behavior.  Moreover, the mindset about gender roles can go both ways, impacting both males and females regardless of sexual identity or orientation.

To find a happy middle ground, carve out the space to determine who will take care of which duty. Be as detailed as you can. Talk about little things such as replacing the toilet paper roll (and which way it faces), grocery shopping, or handling the dirty dishes.

Personal Space

No matter how in love you are with your partner, there will be times when you need your personal space. Not only is that normal, but it’s also healthy as well.

Learning how to balance quality time with alone time is a delicate act for any couple. Naturally, you and your partner may have different ideas about how to achieve this balance. One thing that will undoubtedly offer you a one-up is simply to talk about it.

It may feel awkward to tell your partner the truth—you don’t exactly want to be around them 24/7. However, emotionally mature and respectful partners will be understanding to your needs.

Consider you and your partner’s family history. Were you raised in a big family where privacy and personal space were luxuries? Or, were you an only child with loads of personal time and space? Your family environment and childhood experiences will influence your adult expectations and needs.

Like many other potential issues, this one can be resolved by communicating with your partner. Establish a personal time pact with one another. Acknowledge the need for personal space and define what that means to both of you. This will eliminate the possibility of accidentally rejecting and misunderstanding one another in the future.

Lifestyle Choices

Opposites attract all the time. While some couples make it work, others gradually let their different lifestyles tear them apart.

In contrast to what many believe, the key is not in finding a partner whose lifestyle mirrors your own. Rather, aim for an open line of communication, embracing the differences in each other with understanding.

That being said, how well do you know yourself? Also, how well do you know your partner?

For example, do you like to drink your early morning cup of coffee in peaceful quietness while your partner prefers a blaring TV first thing to supercharge the day? What about diet, exercise, or sleeping schedules? How well do you get along in those departments?

When you live in separate homes, it’s easy not to be concerned with things like what’s in the fridge. But, when you’re used to a certain standard of living, you generally want to stick with it.

Consider this, a salmon-and-kale-lover running three miles every day may have a hard time living with a couch potato eating pizza and chips. At the beginning of this relationship, the differences may be cute, spouting off jokes about how opposites attract. After a while living in a studio apartment those same differences could clash in a big way.

There’s a good chance that your everyday routines won’t align perfectly. That’s normal. Take an honest look at your situation to determine whether you can both compromise to make it work.

Part 2: Long Distance Relationships

Moving in together is one thing, but it can be even more challenging for couples that are coming together after a long distance relationship.

“Moving in together is obviously a major step,” says Josh Klapow, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show.

“Being long-distance prior to moving in together usually means you have had less chances to ‘practice’ what it is like to be under the same roof,” he explains.

Fortunately, the one area long-distance couples do have plenty of practice in is communication. This skill, along with a willingness to compromise, can carry you and your partner through the inevitable stress of moving homes.

Ready to make the jump from long-distance to cohabitation? Here’s what you need to know:

Get it All Out in the Open

Have an open discussion about your expectations for sharing a home.

“The less time you have spent together under a single roof, the more honest communication is critical,” says Klapow.

Start by talking about the space itself. What do you need in terms of storage space, organization, and decor? What’s your idea of clean? Klapow recommends talking candidly about these types of topics, as well as your respective schedules, daily habits, and pet peeves.And don’t be afraid to dive into more challenging terrain.

“You need to have conversations not just about what you like,” he says, “but what you need emotionally when it comes to your environment. Do you need fresh cut flowers? Do you need to have windows? Does a dark space bring your mood down? Does the need for order stress you out?”

Map Out Your Space

Depending on how far apart you and your partner live—and where you’re moving together—it may be difficult to map out your home’s layout before you arrive. Still, it’s a good idea to have a basic idea of how your space will function, says Juli Oliver, NYC-based professional organizer and founder of OrganizeNY.

Review  the layout of your home and discuss the purpose and possibilities for each room. Do you need to create a work zone? Set-up your living room with extra seating because you love to entertain?

Lior Rachmany, founder and CEO of Dumbo Moving + Storage in New York City, suggests taking videos of your new place, then snapping photos of the items you’d like to bring and keeping a note of the dimensions of each piece.

“This way you always have the information handy and you always know how much room you have to play with,” he says.

Pare Down Your Belongings

Disagreements are inevitable when you move in with a partner, but if you want to reduce the risk of fighting over closet space every time you reach for a T-shirt, declutter ahead of time.

“Making space and accommodating the other person’s needs and personal possessions is all about the sharing,” says Oliver. And let’s face it: sharing space is far less complicated when you have less stuff to deal with.

That’s why it’s crucial to be as realistic as possible when you debate which items to pack or leave behind. Only bring the things you love or use on a regular basis, and get rid of anything you’ll no longer need in your new environment. Say you’re moving to a small urban apartment, for example—time to ditch the beach cruiser bike. Or, if you’re trading a cold climate for a warm one, consider leaving behind your pile of puffer vests.

Make Room For Two

Is one of you moving into an apartment or house where the other already lives? If so, it’s important for the partner who’s already in the home to make plenty of space ahead of time, especially if you’ll be sharing a closet.

“Merging two closets into one means it’s time to toss a few items,” said Marty Basher, home organization expert for Modular Closets. Buy some new items such as dressers, shelves and armoires to create more storage, DiBacco said.

“Be aware that you’ll need way more space than you do by yourself,” she said.

If you have disagreements during the transition, try to keep an open mind to help the move go smoothly.

Take Time to Adjust

Don’t feel obligated to settle in immediately.

“The move is not going to be an easy change and won’t be something you get used to right away,” Rachmany says.

Instead of rushing the decorating and organizing processes, give yourselves some time to relax and get to know your new space. After all, moving in with a significant other after building your relationship in two different places is a huge feat, and it’s important to celebrate the milestone.

“Moving is a great excuse to open a bottle of champagne or wine,” Rachmany says, “and it is a great way to turn up your take-out a few notches.”

Part 3: Combining Households

Deciding who keeps what can be one of the most trying aspects of moving in together. Here’s some practical advice on how to actually go about it.

If you are able to combine households efficiently, you can save yourself some strife later one.

A SpareFoot survey found that almost half (48 percent) of American couples who are married or are living with a partner argue over clutter. Seven percent of couples engage in clutter spats every day.

The survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, shows one-third of cohabiting couples (33 percent) argue about clutter either monthly, weekly or daily. And over half of couples (52 percent) said that when they clash over clutter, both sides get accused of harboring too much stuff.

Eliminate Clutter Before You Move

“The most important thing prior to the move is to really do a thorough purge so you’re not bringing anything into the household that you don’t really want or love,” said professional organizer Monica Friel, owner of Chaos to Order in Chicago.

If you’re not using it, get rid of it. Donate the nicer items to charity or sell them on Craigslist and recycle or throw away the junk.

Evaluate Your New Space

Take photos and measurements of the new place to help when choosing which furniture will fit, said professional organizer Kristi Schneider, owner of Atlanta-based Truorder Creative Organizing Solutions. Go room by room and discuss what items you each own and what will work best in the new space.

“I love to sit down with clients with a floor plan and talk about the layout of each room. What are you keeping, what furniture is going where and how is it all going to pan out?” Friel said.

Prepare to Compromise

Make the difficult decisions on the “must-have” items that you or your partner may not be crazy about, Schneider suggested.

Try out the piece of furniture, for example, in the new home before making a hasty decision. Keep an open mind and compromise. Sometimes the item looks better accompanied by different items, Schneider said. She also suggested having a friend, family member or professional organizer help with an unbiased opinion.

Decide who gets each closet, drawer space and storage space, Schneider said.

Get Rid of Duplicates

If you have two coffeemakers, microwaves and blenders, choose the newest and nicest of the two.

“I know it’s hard, but give away, sell or donate doubles,” said professional organizer Lisa Woodruff, owner of Organize 365 in Cincinnati. Or if you really can’t part with items, rent a self-storage unit to keep them outside of the home.

Certain branded items may have significant value and popularity—think Keurig, Cuisinart and Pottery Barn, among others. Look into selling them on a social media marketplace or an online e-commerce site. Realize you might have to pack and mail items, which can be a hassle.

Other options include an estate or garage sale. If convenience is paramount, call a charity that will pick up everything at your door and provide documentation of your donation for a tax deduction.

Include the Children

The entire blended family should talk together about what they desire in a merged household. If they are old enough, give children a voice, on deciding what stays and what goes so that they feel included in the newly formed household.

Neutralize  “negative” decisions. If a child is uprooted from the only home they’ve ever known, find a way to make the move more palatable by giving that child a perk such as the first choice of bedrooms in the new house.

Part 4: Avoiding Arguments During the Move

All couples fight, and moving can often bring the worst out of anyone. To keep things copasetic while you’re actually doing the work of moving in, here’s what to do:

1. Decide Who Does What.

“We’ve got it down to a science with a clear division of labor,” says Ali Wenzke, who has moved 10 times in 11 years and shares her stories on “The Art of Happy Moving.”

She declutters, sells unwanted furniture, packs most of the boxes and researches the costs of renting a truck or getting storage. Her husband gets the truck, organizes the cargo like a jigsaw puzzle and drives them to their new locale. He also deals with canceling services and setting them up in the new house.

Even if you both are planning to pack, it’s still wise to divide and conquer.

“Go through the house and just pick a room that you will pack, and the other person doesn’t even go in there,” says Robert Barnes, who sold his house so he and his wife could support their 11-year-old old son’s march across America for diabetes.

“Couples have different opinions and love to offer suggestions to be ‘helpful.’ It’s better to just focus on your own tasks,” Barnes said.

2. Plan Ahead.

Nothing is more stressful that realizing you have to be out in 48 hours, and you haven’t started packing. If you can, remove those last-minute headaches by starting to gradually pack at least a few weeks before the move, suggests Klaus Gonche, a Realtor with Century 21 Hansen Realty in South Florida.

“Start with non-essentials and clearly mark the boxes, to ease the unpacking,” said Gonche.

3. Refrain from Last Minute Purging.

Is this the time to get rid of your significant other’s beer can collection or harass your wife about the outgrown baby clothes she insists on keeping?

Probably not, says licensed clinical professional counselor Shlomo Slatkin.

“Making decisions on what to keep or purge can be a heated issue, so either move everything and decide what to purge later or do your sorting and purging well in advance.”

Or, take a cue from Barnes, who offered to buy new things to replace some items that his wife was attached to, but that weren’t worth moving.

“The time and cost savings offset each other,” he says.

4. Be Nice to Each Other.

“The whole process is typically hard on everyone and people react in various ways – they could become grumpy, anxious or argumentative,” says Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor in the Columbus, Ohio, area. “Look at your partner with empathy: He or she is likely just as stressed as you and isn’t purposefully trying to create trouble.”

For that reason, Bruce Cameron, a counselor in Dallas recommends only communicating factually, as it relates to the task of packing and moving.

“Save the feelings for later, when you’re not caught up in the stress,” Cameron said.

5. Set a Budget.

Moving is also usually expensive, which adds a layer of financial stress to the situation, says Kerri Moriarty, head of company development for Boston-based Cinch Financial, who has moved eight times in the last seven years.

She recommends planning a budget for the move and allocating savings to cover the expenses, which helps avoid freaking out over the last-minute expenses that are bound to pop up.

“If you have time before the planned move, focus on stashing away as much extra cash as you can to create a buffer for any unexpected costs that might pop up,” she recommends.

If possible, consider budgeting for a company that packs for you, suggests Cameron.

6. Keep The End in Mind.

You’re moving for a reason, and it’s typically a good one: a new job, upgrading homes or downsizing to create less upkeep, points out Bennett.

“Focus on the positives as you go through the drudgery of moving. It won’t take away the annoyance of packing boxes and loading trucks, but it will remind you that the temporary aggravation has a positive long-term purpose,” Bennett said.

“Expect differences in opinion and be ready to discuss the options as a team,” Bilek said.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 10, 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Alex Downey

In her role as a Sr. SEO Analyst and content strategist, Alex has worked with various self storage brands to develop and execute effective digital marketing strategies. With a deep understanding of consumer behavior and industry trends, Alex has contributed to numerous publications and websites, providing valuable insights and practical advice on self storage, organization, packing, and moving.
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About the SpareFoot Blog

The SpareFoot Blog offers tips about self-storage, information about storage auctions, advice about home organization, news about SpareFoot and much more.
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