The Truth About Living Together

Continued (page 4 of 5)

Peaceful unpacking can be an art—and a challenge. But with a solid game plan, says Linda Rothschild, founder of Cross It Off Your List, a New York City company that helps people get organized, you two really can live together without murder. Here's how:

Don't expect an even split. "One person may have better things than the other, so you have to be realistic about what's going to work," Rothschild says. "You're merging. It's no 'me and mine' anymore. " She insists that you be ruthless about what to keep and what to toss. If you and your fiancé are a partnership of pack rats, Rothschild encourages calling in a neutral third party to mediate. "It should be someone who has no vested interest, like a professional organizer, or someone with a good eye for decorating," she says. Hopefully, that person can talk some sense into both of you (and loosen your death grip around the disintegrating hockey pads he hasn't worn in a decade).

Don't hang together. Ideally, both partners should have their own closet—"and the woman should get the bigger one," Rothschild says, laughing. To maximize closet space, she recommends hanging a second, lower horizontal bar and installing built-in shelves. An armoire, too, is helpful.

Be paper smart. "Every home needs a place for paper to live," Rothschild says. She recommends designating a certain area—a spot for the bills, a place for the wedding-response cards—that both partners are comfortable with and can remember to use (preferably near the door or the computer).

Display with discretion. "You can keep that sentimental something out of view," Rothschild says. Consider a shadowbox, which can convert clutter to art—his collection of bicentennial quarters and lucky bottle opener that look like mish-mash on the desk can be a form of modern art on the wall in a shadowbox. Well, sort of.

Make room for the registry gifts. "I see so many couples who have boxes and boxes of stuff they don't use because they don't have shelf or closet space to put them, and all this goes into an attic or basement at the parents' house or in storage," Rothschild says. So in planning your registry, make sure you will have a place for your treasured items.

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