Sunday, March 24, 2013

U-Hauling it Right: How to Cope with Stuff That's Not Your Stuff

Courtesy of The Oatmeal!
I love it when people contact and ask me for organizing advice. (You can do it too!) This time, I received a Facebook message from a lucky lady who will be u-hauling into a small apartment with their significant other and will be facing the imminent doom of another person's stuff.

What is u-hauling you ask? My favorite slang term ever created.

Definition: (verb) A term used to describe the action of two lesbians moving into a singular space, often using a U-Haul or moving van to aid the process.

Example: What did one lesbian bring on the second date? (Answer: A U-Haul)

After some thinking, u-hauling doesn't just describe the quick-moving lesbian relationship, even though it frequently does the trick. U-hauling can describe any grouping of individuals in a romantic relationship and the merging of their lives into one singular space. And with this move comes all of the complications that stuff brings. Collections, accessories, make-up, clothes, art supplies, kitchen supplies--believe me I'm well aware. So here is some advice from Pea's Pod to your Pod on coping with another person's treasure (or what you might consider "trash").

Find a Middle Ground: Make an agreement list. Sounds intense, eh? This list doesn't have to be a signed contract, although if you think that might work, then do it or reconsider moving in with said person. I would suggest sitting down with your S.O. and writing down the things that you are both concerned about once you make the move. Who will be doing the dishes? Who enjoys doing laundry more? Will you both cook dinner together every night? (Let's see how long that lasts.) Get the point? Once all of these concerns are written down, whether it's on a sticky note, a cafe napkin or a chalkboard, it's easier to see and discuss upcoming concerns and divide and conquer responsibilities. This list doesn't need to be tucked away in a safe. After a while, these things will just become part of your daily routine.

While you are working out this agreement list, find what you do have in common in terms of organization. Do you like to have everything out of sight? Maybe your S.O. does, too. Do you both color code your files or planners? You could consider putting all of your things in white boxes or bins, and they could put all of their things in black boxes and bins.

Sell and Donate: BEFORE you move in together, sort through both of your stuff and decide what stays and what goes. Again, BEFORE you move in. This way, there is less clutter, less stress, and less annoyance. I would suggest first going to friends and family and see who is in need of your fine stuff. Other great sources are Craigslist for larger furniture pieces, Buffalo Exchange for in-season clothing and accessories, or the old-fashion garage sale if your neighborhood permits it. If you just want to donate everything in one go, then bring your belongings to your local thrift store, Goodwill or Salvation Army.

Go Shopping Together: I cannot stress how important it is to pick out furniture and storage solutions together. Even if one of you works at night and the other works during the day, consider taking the day off just to get this done together. Who doesn't love a good trip to IKEA? What are the benefits of shopping together? You learn a lot about what work and what doesn't work for someone. Watch out for comments like "Eh...*shrug*" or "yeah that looks really cool *walks away*" That means that your significant other doesn't like it. Purchase things that the two of you can agree on. This will save you a lot of passive aggression in the future. Consider purchasing things to put your things in, like storage ottomans, chests, coffee tables with storage underneath, bed frames with drawers in the base, etc.

Designate an Area: Whether this means top two, bottom two dresser drawers or drawing a line right in the middle of the room, everyone needs their own space. It's just a matter of respect. Figure out what works for you and what works for your S.O. This could mean a matter of alone time, or just a matter of keeping your stuff on your side.

To the Stuff-lover: Have some mercy! Come up with ways that you can still have your stuff and mess, but make it bearable for your S.O. My suggestion would be to keep a basket or bin in your home for all the stuff that floats around. If you leave a book on the coffee table, it goes in the bin. If you leave your scarf on the couch or the bed, it goes in the bin. At the end of the week, spend time relocating all the stuff that accumulates. Maybe this will work for both of you, or maybe you'll realize you should spend your time just putting your stuff away after you use it. Either way is perfect.

To the Neat Freak: Reward your stuff-lover! I don't mean literally patting them on the back for cleaning after themselves. Realize that they are coping with your ways just as much as you are coping with their stuff. Spend quality time together, get out of the house, every once in a while, put their stuff away for them.

Be patient: Ah, the best advice of all. This person is not trying to make your life hard. You might know it now, before the going gets tough, but once things pile up or once things are put in their place before you notice it, you'll get a little upset.

What is trash to you could be someone else's treasure. By getting frustrated with someone else's belongings, you're not just getting upset with their things, you're subconsciously insulting their lifestyle and their memories. Everyone has a different reason for having what they have or not having anything at all. Just accept it. I bet that middle ground is looking real nice right about now.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Pea,

    This was so helpful you can't imagine! I myself would be the neat freak and always have difficulty relating to the stuff lover (mainly because they tend to be messier). I can almost guarantee that the basket idea will definitely make a huge difference for us. I don't want to step on any toes by putting things away for them, but, with a busy lifestyle I'm sure it will be inevitable and eventually appreciated. Thanks for all the help!