Choose richer. Don’t buy more house than you can afford. It’s easy to get swept up in a vision of yourselves in a big house. We’ve all been sold on the idea that self-respecting grown-ups live in a 3/2 on a cul-de-sac with something called a “great room.” But for a just-married couple, and even through baby number one, a one-bedroom dwelling is plenty of space. Babies don’t need their own rooms―just a quiet corner where you can stash their tiny clothes and supplies. You want to have enough money after you’ve paid the rent or mortgage to be able to eat out, travel, and furnish that nest, so leave room in your budget for life beyond the house.
The newfound joy of cooking together gets old quickly if you’re cramped for space in the kitchen. When shopping for houses, scan a critical eye over the work flow in the kitchen. It doesn’t have to be enormous, but if the fridge is located right between the cooktop and the sink, you’re going to be in each other’s way constantly, a hazard to both safety and sanity. When you’re first married, it seems that everyone drops in on you―maybe to catch a little reflected glow of your newlywed radiance. You’ll be entertaining more, which means cooking more, so plan accordingly.
The number one thing you can do to ensure marital harmony is to have separate bathrooms. Or at the very least two sinks. Husbands seem decide to brush their teeth at the exact moment you want to. It doesn’t have to be a luxurious his-and-hers master suite, but if there’s a conveniently located second bath where one of you can perform morning ablutions, you’ll both be able to enjoy an uninterrupted morning routine.
Too many of us let our bedrooms become dumping grounds for the stuff we don’t want visitors to see. But if you’ll pay attention to this room, which is after all the only room dedicated to the two of you, it can be a place where the cares of the day need not disturb. Keep clutter to a minimum. Dim the lights. Banish the television.
If you’re both working, see if you can afford occasional housekeeping services. Housework is, after money, the biggest cause of marital disputes. Having help even every other week can help ensure that neither partner feels an unfair burden of the housework. Unfortunately, living with another person of widely different tidiness habits can be a challenge. Both partners may have to adjust their expectations about neatness. If you’re tidy and he’s a slob, you might just need to accept that the house isn’t always going to look immaculate. If you can keep one room up to your standards, it can be the place you retreat to experience peace and orderliness.
The man cave came about because of the valid need of every person in a household to have a space to call their own. Sometime in the second half of the twentieth century, decorating became the wife’s job, leaving men living in spaces designed by and usually for women. So it’s no wonder they crept down to the basement and hung neon beer signs and curled up in the La-Z-Boy you relegated there soon after moving in together. Everybody needs a space where they feel comfortable, so create a space with furniture scaled just for him. Let him have a recliner if it gives him joy―Restoration Hardware sells surprisingly attractive ones.
Remember: a big yard often means a lot of grass and someone’s going to have to mow it. And that someone may prefer to spend the weekend shopping or watching football. You’ll save yourself a lot of nagging, or a lot of hours pushing a lawnmower, if you keep your lawn as small as possible. This may mean naturalizing portions of a large lawn. You’ll have to replace the grass with something, though, which costs money (See Slide 1). It’s best to gauge your beloved’s appetite for yard work before committing your marriage to the care and feeding of grass.