Tips on combining households when you’re blending families

As blended families have become more common — making up more than 10% of all Canadian households, according to Statistics Canada — more people face the challenge of bringing two families together under one roof.

Deciding whose home to move into, or whether to sell both properties and start house-hunting together, requires lots of thought about locations, amenities, and space. Then there’s all the stuff both families have accumulated and compromising on who keeps what. We asked a professional organizer for tips on how to navigate these big decisions and make the moving process smoother for everyone.

Who goes where?

Merging households requires careful planning and discussion. No two families are alike, so there are many factors involved in making the decision about which home to move into when you’re blending two households, says professional organizer Sheeba Uzzaman, owner of Simplify With Sheeba in Montreal, Quebec.

“It may be the larger of the two homes, or it may be the one that’s in proximity to the kids’ schools or the parents’ offices,” she explains.

There’s no cut-and-dry solution that applies to every family. Sometimes, children in soon-to-be blended families might be reluctant to move into a space their step-siblings have lived in for a long time. Or, the parent leaving their home might be uncomfortable to now be sharing a space where the former spouse lived. That’s why many families end up purchasing a new property, so everyone can be involved in the move, and set up their home together. 

“It’s like starting off with a clean slate for all. It’s also a way to create new memories in this new chapter,” says Uzzaman.

Bring the kids to open houses and explore potential neighbourhoods together as a blended family, so they feel involved in the whole process and have time to get accustomed to the changes.

Aside from the personal decisions that need to be made, a REALTOR® can help identify which home makes sense to sell or keep. They can also assess the neighbourhood, current buyers’ habits, the local real estate market, and give you an idea of whose home may result in a better sale.

What stays, what goes?

When you’re faced with mountains of accumulated belongings, it’s hard to know where to start.

As you get ready to list one or both homes, a professional organizer can help pare down your space so it’s ready to be listed. To help reduce the stress involved with packing and moving — especially if you have young children — an organizer can help you figure out what to keep, sell, donate, and toss. Bonus: the more you get rid of, the easier the packing process will be.

“Sometimes you need a neutral third party who doesn’t have the same attachment to your things
to be a voice of reason about what to keep versus what not to keep. A thorough decluttering session is key when it comes to blending households,” says Uzzaman.

“Choosing only items we need, love, and use will help cut down everyone’s stuff.”

She says it’s a good idea to do a secondary decluttering session, because there may be duplicate items.

“Keep the item that’s in better condition. Remember: we must value the other person’s belongings and attachment to their items, so this step requires patience and respect.”

Get the kids involved

Most kids want to keep everything they own, so the earlier you get them to start purging, the better, says Uzzaman.

“Sorting items into categories helps children see the big picture. Rather than ask them if they want to keep or throw out a particular item, group items together,” she suggests. “For example, when a child sees all their action figures together, it’s easier to weed out the ones that are broken or not their favourites.”

Encourage kids to donate some toys in good condition to children in need. And, as you’re decluttering and packing up, help the kids visualize all the wonderful new things the family will be doing in the new place, such as planting a vegetable garden, or playing in one of the nearby parks.

Settling in as a blended family

Whether you’re moving into your partner’s place or you’re in a brand new home — you’ll want to ensure the home is set up so it works for the entire family.

“The way things worked in the past might not apply anymore, so open communication, family meetings, and shared calendars help things run smoothly,” says Uzzaman. “Encourage children to share their suggestions so they feel like a valuable member of the new household. Routines help kids feel secure, so try to maintain things like bedtime rituals to ease the transition.”

Merging households can seem daunting, but keeping everyone involved makes the process feel more natural, especially as things get dealt with bit by bit. Your REALTOR® can help sell one or both of your properties when the time comes and help your family find the perfect place to call home. Don’t hesitate to contact a professional REALTOR® today!