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Ask Maeve: My Boyfriend Wants to Split the Closet 50/50

UntitledMy boyfriend and I just moved in together and we’re having a hard time deciding how to split space. I have considerably more clothing and toiletries, but he wants to split the closet 50/50. Is it OK to ask for more space? How do I deal with this?

Congratulations on your move-in, that’s very exciting! Yes, it is ok to ask for more space, but let’s talk about how best to go about it so that you can get the results you wish, and without making your boyfriend feel unwelcome in your new home.

The first thing you need to realize is that in order to make this work, you have to put focus on your relationship first, and not the clothes. It’s a big step for a couple to move in together, and the early stages of this should be focused on how to merge as a team, make compromises, and unite differing styles. You do not want him to think your clothes are more important than him, so the first thing you need to do is to fully understand his side, as it’s the only way you’ll successfully work towards compromise.

I get that it might seem as if your boyfriend is being unreasonable asking for equal space when you have so much more stuff. I bet the idea of having to squeeze your clothes into a closet that’s too small, knowing that over on his side he’s got ample room, is making you feel mad or frustrated. But take a step back, as the reality is both of you moved into a new home and he might be equally excited about the chance to fill up his closets in his own way, and on his own time. He might also be feeling nervous or apprehensive about saying yes. It’s a big step to live together. Both men and women have been known to become territorial when it comes to space. He might feel that if he lets you into his closet now, where else might you ask him to push-over, make space, or compromise?

Do your relationship a favor and don’t push this one too hard too fast. Give the issue some time to breathe, and for the now, focus first on how you can properly communicate with him about this issue, as it’s more important to have your relationship working than to have a quick win or an epic battle.

To move forward, find a quiet moment when you are both relaxed and tell him that you’d like to chat about the closets. Approach him with an open mind, and share that you’d love to have more space, as you don’t have enough room for all your things, and you are wondering if he’d be open to sharing even a small portion of what he’s not using. Gauge his reaction, and if it goes in the direction of “you have too many things” be prepared to share that you are willing to work towards reducing your clothes, or finding another storage solution (like perhaps a dresser just for you?) but need more time. In the interim, could he share perhaps one shelf, or a small portion of hanger space?

If you continue to get a firm no, then you need to accept it for now, and see it as an opportunity to explore, over time, your priorities. What’s more important in your life, your things or your relationship?

If he agrees to share his space, then focus first on tiny percentages, ask for just a small piece of real-estate. Figure out what you need to store and then ask if you could use, say, 10% of his closet space. Perhaps just a shelf way up top? Or clothing to hang way over to the left (or right, whichever side he uses less), out of the way and near the wall? Be clear upfront about how much space you’ll need, so that both you and your boyfriend have clear expectations, and then stick to it.

In the end, keep in mind that closets are personal spaces, as well as high traffic zones. Do your best to store less active clothes in whatever space he offers up so you aren’t going in there much (think off-season clothes or special occasion wear) or find what he can accept best. I worked with a couple once who shared your same issue and their compromise was that the partner with more clothes could store their dressy business outfits in the other one’s closet (pant suits that needed to be hung) as they weren’t too girly and blended in well.

And remember, you are borrowing space, so if he changes his mind mid-stream, or there’s a bit of a hiccup in the system once you try it out, you are the one who needs to step back. One day he may ask you for the same kind of favor, so treat each other kindly in this process and set a good precedent for sharing in your relationship moving forward, one that can last a long time!

Are you successfully negotiating space at home with a loved one? Share below!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2015. It has been updated to include new content.

Photo Credit: Dan Budiac

Maeve Richmond is the founder and head coach of Maeve's Method, a home organization system based in New York City. She specializes in parents & kids, couples, small space solutions, space planning and decorative elements for the home. Contact her at [email protected] or @MaeveRichmond.

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