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Photography by Michael Wiltbank

Professional organizer Laura Cattano—whose clients include Lena Dunham and Misty Copeland—believes that the secret to successful newlywed cohabitation lies in laying out expectations beforehand. “You and your partner need to discuss what you want out of your home,” she says. “Your space should support and reflect what’s important to you. At the end of the day, the relationship is ultimately way more important than your stuff.” Below, four tips for just-married couples craving serenity and order when creating their first nest together.

Photography by Laura Cattano

Do: Throw out your stuff

“Everyone has too much stuff,” says Cattano. “Moving in with another person forces you to confront everything you’ve been carrying around with you. Don’t focus on how much your partner hoards, though; you’re just going to open up a Pandora’s box of resentment. Keep your attention on your own things.

Keep the memorabilia that’s really important to you, but if you’re on the fence about what to do with it (like that sweater Grandma knit you), take a picture that you can look at from time to time, but toss the actual object. Remember: physical clutter can actually clutter up your mental space. And don’t just toss everything in a storage unit—they’re like basements. It’s just going to sit there for years until one day you get the energy to go through it all and throw it out.”
Photography by Michael Wiltbank

Do: Establish boundaries

“Do not share a bathroom if you can avoid it,” says Cattano. “You did not need to see you partner tweezing his moustache or his nose hairs. No one needs to see the other’s biological needs on display. Try to have separate closets and desks if possible. Just because you have entered into a married relationship does not mean you have to sacrifice your individuality.”

Photography by Michael Wiltbank

Do: Invest in lamps

“You should never just have overhead lights in your apartment,” says Cattano. “You should have many lamps scattered throughout. I have eight light sources—and I live in a studio!

Overhead lighting

replicates the sun. It tells your body that it’s daytime. But low lighting encourages intimacy.

Think about when you and your partner were dating: most likely your most memorable early moments together were at a low-lit romantic restaurant, over a small table, with lots of little candles. At the end of a long day, it’s important to turn off the overhead lights and put the lamps on. It’s a call to our bodies to transition into evening… and calm down.”

Photography by Laura Cattano

Do: Compromise

“You and your partner are going to have to meet in the middle eventually,” says Cattano. “Maybe you want to be calmed by your space. Maybe you partner wants to be surrounded by color and constantly energized.

Maybe you’re a minimalist, but your partner needs to be surrounded by all the treasures they’ve picked up from their travels around the world. Maybe you’re bohemian, and your partner is classic—it’s all about finding a nice mix. If you’re going to spend your life together, you’re going to need to learn how to have the uncomfortable conversations early on. Now’s the time.”

Get more newlywed design tips:

How to Survive the First Year of Marriage Without Losing Your Mind How to Manage Your Money in the First Year of Marriage
What It’s Like to Live on the Road as Newlyweds