Congratulations! Despite the odds, you’ve somehow overcome the possibility—at least temporarily—that you will drift through existence completely and utterly alone. I don’t mean this insincerely: being boo’d up is about the best thing that can happen to us as we rocket towards whatever end this rock has decided for us. So, after weeks, months or years of playing the “Are we going to stay at my house?” and “My roommate’s boyfriend is in town, let’s go to your place” game, you’re finally ready to commit to your partner, and to that decreased rent, and take the plunge by moving in together.
There are a lot of decisions to be made. Whose couch makes the move? Which person’s dishes get thrown into the dumpster? Do you buy new sheets, or do the sheets your mom bought for you when you were 18 make yet another move? Who buys the new shower liner? Is this plunger too gross to move?
But the most emotionally fraught is the existential question of what happens to your individual record collections? Does your collection become “Our records”? How do you organize your collection? Whose version of Let It Be do you keep?
Well, lucky for you, I’ve lived through these tough questions, and I am here to try to make this process as easy as possible for you. There’s no need to breakup with a partner—or worse, have a passive aggressive fight that lingers between you for months on end—over your record collection. Especially after you read this guide.
This seems obvious, but it’s the most important question before you consider any of the below. Is this person someone you see living with forever, or do you foresee a future where the way they chew their food finally pushes you into the arms of someone else?
This is something you seriously need to ask yourself before you consider combining records with your partner. Do you want to have to sort out which records are yours six months after moving in together?
Make sure you define the relationship (DTR) early. Maybe don’t combine records until you’re for sure everything is going good in your relationship. My partner and I waited six months of full-time living together before we took the plunge and combined records.
This is a delicate question: When someone comes over, will you say these are “our” records? How important is it to you to make sure people know that it is you who owns a first-press edition of Lyle Lovett’s Pontiac and not your partner? Do you hope your partner lets you consider their bootleg copy of Yeezus as yours as well?
This is where an organizational app like Discogs—more on this in a second—comes in handy; it allows you to combine records on a shelf—thus becoming “your records”—but thanks to the folder feature on the Discogs app, you and your partner’s records stay “my records” for each of you, at least in a digital space. It’s the best of both worlds. This will also help with question #5.
I’ve already covered the importance of record organization in a previous piece here—summary: alphabetize by artist’s last name, or you’re as bad as Ted Bundy—but sorting out who and how you and your partner plan to organize your records is vitally important. Back when my partner and I lived together but maintained separate collections, I alphabetized her collection and my collection separately, because the thought of her records being a room over from mine and completely disorganized made me break out in hives.
Once we combined records onto the same Ikea Kallaxes, I took over organizing our joint collection, and using the Discogs app, am able to tell you to the minute how many records we each have (my partner has 200, I have 1108) and how many copies of Billy Joel’s 52nd Street we own (2). Get the Discogs app; it’s the only collection app worth using.
When you move in with another person who loves vinyl, it’s pretty even odds that you’ll own some of the same records. My partner and I both grew up in Wisconsin, so we both have multiple copies of multiple Doobie Brothers albums, since those guys were lowkey the Beatles of the Midwest in the ’70s.
If, god forbid, we ever break up, there’s no way in hell I’ll be able to survive without my copy of Minute by Minute. So, we made the decision very early in our relationship to keep both; if you have shelf space for them, this is the path of least resistance.
Then you have the added challenge of remembering which one is yours and which one is your partner’s. Set up a system early—her’s are always first in order on the shelf, in my case—and stick to it.
This is where all the questions converge: You need an exit strategy. Simply combining your records, without thought of organization, or duplicates, or how you define your collection will lead to situations like your partner running off with your copy of Barter 6 because they “listened to it more anyway,” or you not being sure which of the Beatles greatest hits comps is yours. Having a plan for a breakup—again, hopefully this won’t happen—will allow you to retain your collection as it is, and how it’s grown, over the course of your now failed relationship. Thinking about how you will separate your collection back into two separate collections is a practical step that will save you down the line.
But hopefully this won’t be an issue for you anyway. You’ll join records with your partner, and never have to think about number five. You’re going to go the distance: moving your record collection into the nursing home with your partner in 50 years. Good luck to you and yours.
photo by Clay Conder
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.