Combining households

esgaFebruary 23, 2014

My husband and I have found a home to move into together, after being married for 18 months. We are 62, and we always knew that living together would be a challenge for us. He's been on his own for 12 years, and I have never been married. He's a pack rat who has adopted things at garage sales and even off the street, some of them broken; once he takes something into his life, he finds it very hard to give it up. He ended up with everything from his first marriage. He only recently realized his daughter doesn't want things from her childhood and has been able to get rid of the old clothes, games, etc. I found someone to take the piano off his hands. He has cleared out many of his books and some music and videos, but he still has a LOT.

I have done better over the years at letting go. When we got married, I knew I would have to give up a lot when it came time for us to move in together. I hoped he would do the same, However, he has an enormous amount of furniture - lots of end tables, some nested under each other; 3 desks, one of which was his when he was a child; gazillions of lamps (I count 10 in the living rooms that I can see without turning my head). And decorative items . . .

There is so much stuff in his house that it is very hard to clean. I don't want to live like this. I am very disorganized and find it hard to put things away - out of sight is out of mind and it's hard for me to find things again. From the beginning, he let me know that he was worried about living with me because of my messiness. Also, he told me early on that he doesn't care for my style. I found his interesting as a reflection of him but, typically for a woman, I didn't tell him I didn't like it. I do - for him; but I don't want to live in it myself.

I have at least made it clear to him that I am highly anxious about this move. Part of the stress is that we have different approaches - I can already see that some of my things just won't find a place in the new house and so I know that I will have to get rid of them. He wants to wait and experiment with what will go into the house. There are also 2 big storage rooms in the basement, and he is thinking of just storing a lot of his furniture permanently there, I think. I would rather get rid of it.

For now, we are putting things into storage; we close on the new house in 3 weeks, make some cosmetic changes, I move in there with my cats and we start furnishing it.

When one of our houses sells, we will clear out any furniture we are keeping and have a big moving sale of the rest - rather than trying to sell things off now while we still have furniture staged in both houses.

I might be making myself miserable in advance about things that will get worked out. But he knows he has trouble letting go of things. I know that if I let them into the house I will live with them the rest of my life.I also know I can only change myself. So I think, maybe we shouldn't make this...

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This is something that should have been discussed before you married because it is very difficult for someone who collects stuff to get rid of it. It can be an obsession. It is very important to do it now before you move.

My husband and his ex must have had issues with his junk in the garage. It was his work shop and you could not get a car in it. As a result he made an agreement with me before we married that the garage was his and the house was mine. That was fine with me and he even made room for my car in the garage when we bought a home with a two car garage. Maybe you can get your husband to store most of his stuff at a storage place. I would tell him it takes up to much room in the house and looks like a used store display. LOL If you bought a home with a basement, suggest he put all of his stuff down there.

I would never live in that situation because it is to hard to clean and shrinks the look of the home.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 1:24PM
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I'd say this can be unbearable day to day living. Do not move in until all boundaries have been set. I realise you are combining assets -- it's cheaper to live in one house than two and I don't know the real estate where you live. But knowing what I know, I would have a duplex, or up and down flats with only a shared bedroom. In there was once an item about couples who live this way. I'll see if I can find it. I have changed many of my habits to suit my husband. I can say he hasn't changed more than one or two and I can't even think of what they might be! However that's a description of his character. Maybe your husband is somebody who discusses and accommodates.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:54AM
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First off - I can (sort of) relate to what you are going through. We were older when we got married (40s), and although we weren't as old as you two, we encountered similar challenges. It can be very difficult. Dh came from a family of "collectors" (packrats), and seems to have that tendency!

Do you have enough space so that you can each have your own room for your own stuff? You could do whatever in that room - keep your junk, be as tidy or as sloppy as you want. But the shared living area would have to be furnished by the two of you and kept to a level of organization that you both are comfortable with.

The only problem with keeping "stuff" - it tends to stink. Hard to keep clean. Do you really want to live in a place that smells?

At the same time, though - can you use this move to the new house as a time for a massive garage sale? At some point - when you go to the old folks home, or when the two of you are gone - someone is going to have to empty the house. Easier to get rid of the extra stuff now rather than later (we just did that for my in-laws. It was a massive task).

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 12:10PM
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Part of me says you both should sell everything except a few family heirlooms and buy all new furniture for your new life together.

Another part of me thinks your husband would never agree to that.

I don't usually suggest counseling, but I think it might be a good idea for the two of you. Not marriage counseling, per se, but a couple of visits with someone, an objective third party, who can help you work out reasonable rules and compromises as to what gets brought into the new house.

For example: Anything that is broken gets fixed completely or it gets tossed before moving. Each of you gets one room that is your space and yours to do what you like with (excellent idea, gladys!). Each of you gets the same amount of storage space in the basement. If you can't agree on whose furniture to use in a given room, you sell or give away both sets of the the existing furniture and buy new furniture that you choose together (when I say new, it means "new to you," i.e. new from a store, or new from the thrift shop or Craigslist, etc.).

You would also need to set rules on the level of cleanliness, how often things get cleaned, who cleans them--sort of like roommates. And don't discount the idea of a cleaning person every week or every other week. Could solve a lot of problems.

This might mean that you have to work extra hard to keep your half of the bedroom and some of the public rooms neater than you are used to, and that he has to put up with a bit more messiness than he is used to. And if you each have your own "den," you can each have one room that is comfortable for you all the time.

And if he still has stuff from his first marriage--does he really want to carry all that baggage into his second marriage, where it might cause stress? This is the perfect time to offer it all to his daughter, and let her take what she wants and get rid of the rest.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 12:43PM
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He has a study, I have one downstairs room to myself and sort of the second. I am kind of worried that he will try to move all of his stuff into the storage areas of the house, which are fairly extensive. I started worrying when he mentioned moving a desk (which he had already agreed to gettiing rid of) into one of the storage rooms "because it can hold a lot of things." In fact, it can't hold nearly as much as shelving, and I don't want to see us storing lots of stuff just because he's had it for a long time, if we are not going to use it.

We did see a counselor for a while, and this issue came up at a time when we thought we were going to add space on to his house for me to move in. He marked a certain number of pieces of furniture for possible or actual disposal but has not actually disposed of it.

We are supposed to have a big moving sale but I want to identify things now and he wants to wait until after we move in and see what we will use and what we won't. I already know lots of things we won't use and would feel more comfortable if we got rid of them now.

He has cleared out lots of books and music and even clothes and his daughter's stuff, but there's an awful lot left.

And yes, we are going to have someone clean the house for us. I have someone clean mine.

I like the rule that anything broken gets fixed or tossed - that should be easy. Also, dividing up the storage space could work, because I will need to store my off-season clothes. If he wants a place for furniture we will never use, fine. But we clearly will have less closet space than we currently do in 2 houses.

One good thing is that I am moving first, with my cats and my clothes. I am so sick of living in 2 houses as I have been doing (he's allergic to the cats, so I have been spending a lot of the weekend at his house for 2 years, week nights at my house, and one night a week with a friend who live near my workplace, which is an hour away, so that I dont have that long commute everyday. But I just can't keep doing that - I never have what I need with me).

Thanks for some good ideas - and it felt good to vent.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 7:11AM
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I sure would like for this to work out for you, but I don' t think it will. He has already gone back on a couple of things he said he would do. He is allergic to your cats, what do you plan to do about that. Will you give them up for him? I think he is obsessed and he can't change who he is. Before you move into a new home, I would give him an ultimatum about getting rid of stuff, his and yours and don't move in until that happens. You have to ask yourself "if he doesn't get rid of his stuff can you live in a home like you will have for the rest of your life". What if he keeps bringing home more stuff. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 9:58PM
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I think it can work out for you, but you'll both have to be determined to compromise...dh and I were in our 40s when we got married - first marriage for both. He didn't like to change, didn't like to throw things out ("it might come in handy someday!"). He didn't like doing things differently - "I always do X for Christmas". Counseling might be a good thing, or at least spending time with another couple who also got married later in life.

I don't know what you'll do about the cats, though. Is it a serious allergy or just a minor case of the sniffles?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 11:51AM
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I am allergic to cats when I first get one and if it scratches me the scratch will swell. After a couple of months I am not allergic anymore.

My husband and I also combined two homes. He told me to pick the things for the house, whatever I wanted to keep. We gave the rest to our children who could always house hold things. He took all of the tools from my first marriage and put them in the garage. The garage was his domain and it was really full, mostly tools and his projects. He bought things at garage sales, repaired then sold them. It also had rental stuff in it, extra faucets, paint, etc..

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 4:33PM
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Elisabeth, that is difficult. My husband and I married when I was in my 40s, but we talked about everything upfront. We moved into a small house so that we could pay off the mortgage before we retired. That basically required us to get rid of a lot of things.

In addition to the "if its broke, fix it or toss it" rule, you might consider the "one in, one out rule." If you buy a new pair of shoes or if he buys/finds a new chair, you donate or toss an old one. That is after you have moved in and furnished the house to your satisfaction. We still have way too much stuff, but we are very consistent about donating things to the thrift store.

I am fixated on how he said you are messy, but he is the one who is a packrat. Packrats can be VERY messy. My father and his wife are packrats, and the house looks awful. Cobwebs and dust everywhere. You don't want to live like that. I am sure your "style' is better than his if you are not a packrat. If you can afford it, I would suggest counseling. You may need help in getting him to agree to toss stuff.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 6:14PM
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When I moved into my new home I was so excited because the rooms were so big. Then I got my furniture in and looked half the size. Later after my husband died I got rid of the sofa and dining table and just have 3 chairs in the living room and a small buffet like table in the dining area. My living area is large and roomy again. Love the space.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 10:13PM
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Well, he cleaned out his garage yesterday, so things are getting better. He surprised me by being readily able to put in the "discard" pile some things his grandmother left him. He even threw out some of his undergrad papers quite easily! I purchased a Groupon for trash hauling (actually someone who sorts it and gets it to where it can be used or recycled, as well as taking to landfill). I had to convince him about ancient computers, alas.

We actually did some counseling and she recommended we get rid of roughly equal percentages of stuff, but that was when we were going to rehab his garage as my alternative living room/retreat space/cat space. Now, we have found this house and will try to meld our styles more.

I have hired a stages to help me sell both houses and a little to help us merge successfully. So far, though, we are concentrating on my house, which will go on the market first.

He has some very interesting decorative things, but there are an overwhelming amount of them. And colors are as much a problem as anything: I like clear colors, he likes earth tones - sage, brown, olive. For me, it's turquoise, peach, rose, pale versions of jewel colors.

I wish we could afford to get rid of a lot and get new furniture, but that is not going to happen all at once.

His family and mine have really different approaches to gifts, also. His family likes to give lavishly, important things you can see. My family gave up gifts years ago, except for the children, as we all have too much already. I have told him that for every piece of clothing or jewelry I acquire, something will have to go. For Christmas, I really wanted an outdoor compost bin or a special airtight coffee bin, but he insisted on getting me clothes and jewelry. That's what his family gives.

Of the 2 downstairs storage rooms, he said last week he wants one for a photography and art workshop. Well, if that's true, let's see how he will make space for it. I am moving first.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 5:18PM
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Another good idea would be for BOTH of you to read the books by Don Aslett about getting rid of unnecessary clutter. These books will change the way you look at "things". I strongly suggest this. These books are worth every penny. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:22PM
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