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 | By Steve and Bridget Patton

SHE SAYS: John needs to give away some of his stuff

I am excited to combine households after our wedding, but we only have so much space. John needs to be more reasonable about downsizing, like maybe thinning out all those ratty sweatshirts he wore in college.


HE SAYS: Each item carries a specific memory for me

Those college sweatshirts are awesome! Besides, I don’t have any place else to store this stuff. I think Jessica needs to be more understanding.

Combining two households can be a challenge, but still, consider what you’re going through to be a “First-World problem” – an irritation that the poor of the world would gladly trade you for. So, start by counting your blessings – literally each baseball card and sweatshirt – and then consider how much of it, and to whom, God might be inviting you to give away.

Now, it sounds like you might have not only too many combined blessings that you’re trying to stuff into your new living space, but also widely differing sized piles of it. Moreover, you might also have widely divergent views of what constitutes “clutter” vs. “memorabilia,” “ratty” vs. “love-worn,” etc.

To find a shared solution, start by establishing some objective criteria. For example, exactly how much space – and actually measure the cubic feet if you have to – does your new household have for storing non-essential keepsakes? If it’s not enough for everything, is renting space a financial (and emotional) possibility?

Next, embrace the fact that not everything in a marriage is a 50-50 deal, nor should you try to make it so. Be open to the possibility that one of you might actually need more memorabilia storage space than the other, just like one of you might need more mental space (time alone) than the other.

Patiently carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (GAL 6:2)

Don’t take this as a license for either of you to be unfair or selfish but as an invitation to be sensitive and adaptable to one another’s unique needs, and even to your respective quirks: “Patiently carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)

As you enter into your marriage, it’s a hopeful sign that even if it’s hard, you’re nevertheless working together to figure your way through this problem. It’s a good early exercise that will strengthen you for the bigger, later challenges that confront almost all marriages and help spare you angst down the road. It’s been said that a good marriage takes a lot of work. The unspoken corollary is that a bad marriage takes a whole lot more work.

Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.