There’s nothing like a wedding to send stress levels into overdrive. With a million little details to attend to before the Big Day, it’s no wonder that most couples overlook many post-nuptial details: mainly, how they will combine two households full of belongings into one once the wedding is done. It’s a home organizing challenge that is often ignored until it’s too late.

With more people getting married later in life, it’s becoming increasingly common that each new spouse has an entire house full of items they’ve used for years on their own. When the happy couple enters their new home, however, arguments often erupt over possessions. Who decides what stays and what goes? How do you avoid a home with too much clutter just as you’re starting out?

newly weds

MERGE TWO HOMES WITH COMPROMISE

The key to a successful merge is the compromise. Recognize the fact that you’re now part of a team, and all sides work together towards a common goal, giving and taking until it’s reached. Be completely open and honest about what items are essential to you, and also be willing to give up freely whatever is not. Realize that clutter is a huge source of stress and once you can get your items pared down to a reasonable level the faster, you can start enjoying your new life together. This is your goal!

An easy first step is, once you’ve moved into your new place, to take a day to go through and identify all your duplicate items. Two toasters, two coffee pots, two dining room tables-if not dealt with your home will seem entirely too small. Start putting it all in one area in a spare bedroom, or the basement if you have the room. Your goal is to hold a garage sale eventually or, if that seems like too much work, donate it to Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity. If you don’t have any spare space, flag each item with a bright Post-It note, so you know what will be gotten rid of when the day arrives.

Make sure you start this process with your spouse present so the two of you can go through items together and decide what stays and what goes. The common sense adage of keeping the newest appliances and selling the older ones goes without saying, and kitchen items will be the easiest to go through. How do you decide, though, which sofa to keep? And what if your husband wants to keep the giant moose head he collected in Montana, or your wife wants to keep the frilly ottoman that you can’t stand?

newlyweds the first year

DECIDE WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO EACH OTHER 

This is where the delicate art of compromise will be crucial. You will have to examine what’s important to you. The moose head might have to be sacrificed for the frat house bath rug you hold so close to your heart. The ottoman might have to go so you can keep the Shabby Chic writing desk you refinished yourself. It’s important not to be greedy here. If you sense something is fundamental to your significant other, sacrifice something of your own so they can keep it. What better way to show your love?

Once you’ve gone through the arduous process of sorting, set a date for it all to go. Try to do it quickly-the longer that stuff sits in your basement, the easier it is for both of you to sneak downstairs and start spiriting things out of the pile. All this will do is sabotage all your hard work and will probably cause an argument later on! Hold a garage sale, put it up for consignment, or donate it. Make sure it’s gone! You’ll feel liberated, and your home will be a calm, relaxing space that you can escape to instead of a crowded, chaotic mess that no one likes to spend time in. And what’s better than that?