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When Your Spouse Moves in with You

Be prepared with these tips if your spouse and children decide to move in with you.

When Your Spouse Moves in with You

Stepping Stones

Create an “off-limits” area—a room, a corner of a room, a desk, or a bookshelf—where you can keep the stuff that you don't want tampered with and that you don't want to put into deep freeze. And be prepared to have it be a very tempting spot for kids. If it's really valuable or fragile, it shouldn't be accessible.

Perhaps you're the one with the dream house and everybody is joining you. If you don't have kids of your own, be prepared for an adjustment period as you get used to living with young ones.

Are you prepared for fingerprints on the white drapes, cracked dishes, and piles of damp towels on the bathroom floor? Loud, rambunctious kids can cramp the quiet, elegant style you've spent years cultivating. And why are they so messy?

You've gotta let go. Get Zen about your possessions, or put them in storage. Put the really good china way high on the shelf and invest in playful plastic tumblers. It's time to put the fun back in functional.

Their “Ugly” Furniture, Your “Cozy” Chair

What is tradition, comfort, and esthetic taste to some is putrid, worn-out crud to others. Yes, you may love each other, but you may hate each other's choice in home decorations. Wars have been fought and relationships have broken up—all over furniture.

Furniture and other furnishings reflect who all of you are, survivors of your lives so far, bringing your history and past with you. My friend, Allison, 'fesses up: She hated Anton's possessions. He'd given his ex-wife the house and most of what was in it and had taken the broken-down extras that had been in the storage shed in the backyard. The sets of things—dishware, utensils, pots and pans—were half sets, and none of them suited Allison's taste. The items she didn't object to esthetically she hated for another reason—they had been “hers.”

Don't Be Wicked

Sometimes hostility toward items is really misplaced hostility toward people. Do you really hate your stepson's macramé plant hanger, or are you flinging it wildly into the trash because you resent how he's been ignoring you?

Not that Allison brought much. She was just finishing up years as a starving student, and only two years before she'd prided herself on being able to move with a single car load, except for the separate trip for her bike and plants. The couple didn't have enough money for all new everything. (Hey what do you think weddings are for?!)

Allison slowly carried on a campaign of ridding him—and them—of the most “offensive” stuff. But she had to go slow, because for the kids, those gross, shoddy pieces of decrepit furniture represented home. The kids each reacted differently to other changes Allison made: Cherie didn't care much about decorating, but Hannah, with her artistic eye and sense of beauty, did. Allison and Hannah warred because their esthetic was quite different. It took months before everybody felt comfortable in the apartment they shared.

Establishing Family Style

Part of becoming a family is forming your own family style. At first, it's going to feel like a combination of two broken sets, but slowly you'll add new things, perhaps in a totally new style.

Hey, matching is boring! Live eccentrically!

Including the Kids in Decorating Decisions

It's the kids' house too, you know. Including a child in decorating decisions will help your relationship (he'll feel valued) and give you another way to get to know him. Listen to the child's needs and tastes. It also provides opportunities for two important activities:

  • Education. You may know that this is a Louis XV chair, but for the stepchild it's just some old spindly furniture—until you teach her the distinguishing signs.
  • Shared activities. Shop together at flea markets, auctions, or estate sales for old furniture. Refinish or repaint that old bureau—the stepchild will feel more a part of the process and enjoy using something that he worked on.

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