Combining households is emotional and stressful, especially if children are involved.
Think it’s easy? Remember the sibling rivalries and resentments expressed each week on the Brady Bunch? If you are old enough, you likely know every word to the goofy but memorable intro song about how this blended family came together.
If you’re a millennial, you may be watching how Jennifer Lopez, with her twin boy and girl, and Alex Rodriguez, with his two daughters, succeed at the whole blended family thing.
Stepfamilies are more common today than many realize. Of people who get divorced, 75% will remarry and 65% of them will bring children from a previous union, according to National Stepfamily Resource Center.
Yet, we know that merging families is no easy task. Tempers flare as partners decide which house the family will live in. Which kids will change schools? How do the parents mesh their child-rearing and discipline philosophies? We’ll leave these issues to the family therapists.
Once you deal with those bigger issues, here’s how to plan for and execute the physical move:
Start the Purge.
Decide what to toss, give away, sell or store. Makes lists for each category. There won’t be room for everything in the new household unless you are moving into a significantly larger space. Make sure your children have the opportunity to hang onto a few sentimental items.
Think About the Furniture.
Are your styles vastly different? If so, you may want to mix and match items from each household to allow for each person’s style to be represented. Consider storing some of your and your new partner’s favorite pieces, until you decide which combination of couches, chairs and bedroom suites work best together.
Tackle the Kitchen.
Who’s refrigerator stays? Keep one of each small appliances such as blenders, griddles and coffee makers and get rid of the others. If each household has three dinnerware sets, will you really need for six in the new house? Hot tip: get rid of the one that was a wedding gift from the union that no longer exists.
Address the Garage.
If it has become a catchall for unwanted items, start cleaning it a little bit each day several weeks before the move.
Sell and Donate.
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 Kids.
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.
With some advance planning, you can reduce the stress of combining families and even make moving day go smoothly.