Moving is scary. Whether you're moving out of your parents' place for the first time, going from your dorm to a college apartment, or signing your first solo lease, the process of building a life — and a home — from scratch can be daunting. Even once you've gone through the hellish process of packing up everything you own, there will be hugely important household items that you've probably taken for granted your entire life. Who knew apartments came without curtains? Or trash cans? Or the almighty A/C? Don't freak out, we've got you covered with this first apartment checklist of homey must-haves.
This one seems like a no-brainer. Of course, you already know you need sheets and a comforter, but your first apartment's duvet and/or quilt is probably going to stay with your for a few years because that stuff's expensive and we're all poor. It's also the largest unifying design element in your bedroom, so if you're thinking of a burgundy-heavy, bohemian wanderlust bedroom aesthetic and buy a bright blue comforter with palm fronds all over it, you're basically sh*t out of luck. Don't forget about extras for your comfort (and, in the case of a mattress protector, safety) like a box spring or bed frame, a plushy mattress topper, and some funky pillows.
If you're fancy AF and have a standalone glass shower, congratulations on being rich. For the rest of us, your standard-issue bath/shower hybrid doesn't actually come with a shower curtain. Or a shower rod (sometimes). Or that thing on the inside of your shower curtain that's actually made of plastic. You should buy your shower curtain and the necessary accouterments before your move-in date if at all possible so your shower is beautiful and ready to go by the time you've finished moving everything you own up a four-story walk-up. That's sweaty work.
You'll never appreciate those angels that cleaned your dorm bathrooms more than the first day you have to clean your own apartment bathroom. Even if your building "cleaned" your unit before your move-in date, you'll want to do a deep clean before you move in all of your furniture and fully settle in. Some of those nooks and crannies probably haven't been touched in years, and there's no time like the present. Grab some rubber gloves, a broom with a dustpan, a Swiffer mop, trash bags, some Method spray, and microfiber towels, and hand soap for the living areas, plus toilet bowl cleaner with a toilet scrubber for the bathroom. Don't forget handsoap for the post-game!
Kitchen must-haves are overwhelming. If you're a regular baker, you'll need the works: mixing bowls, cookie sheets, wax paper, whisks, and more. For the cooking-adverse and pasta warriors, you'll probably only *need* some pots and pans, a colander, and a spaghetti spoon starting out, but you'll want to add to your kitchen collection as time goes on so you have the potential to fully ~adult~. Outside of things like dishware and a dish drying rack, you'll also want to stock up on spices and baking pantry essentials that will live in your cabinets forever and easily forgettable items that make your life way easier like can openers, a corkscrew, and Tupperware.
We're all crazily dependant on technology. Our phones and laptops have become extensions of our souls, and they seem to die three times a day due to overuse. Even our beauty habits are eternally linked to tech with electronic heating tools, blow dryers, toothbrushes, and anything else scientists can dream up to make our morning routines a little bit easier. With so many gadgets, you'll need one or two power strips to increase the number of items that can be plugged in at once (especially for kitchen appliances) and some extension cords so you can chill on your phone while it charges without giving yourself spinal issues.
Keurig is king, but even if you already have an all-important coffee maker in your kitchen, you should still consider investing in an electric kettle. Stovetop teapots might be cute on Instagram, but that whistling noise is going to get pretty annoying when you're making tea while your housemates are trying to sleep. Electric kettles hold more water (so you can all make tea for each other if acts of service are your love language) and boil faster, which will be especially handy when you're trying to quickly make some instant ramen before Bachelor in Paradise comes on.
When you're living in an apartment building, it's super important that you don't lose your keys. There won't be a backyard door to sneak through or a dorm hall front desk to make you a replacement. Until your roommate comes home (assuming you have one), you'll be on your own. The best way to prevent yourself from locking your keys inside of your apartment is a wall-mounted key holder next to your entryway. Handmade options like this entryway organizer from Etsy will provide much-needed extra storage space and a home for the keys to your new home.
We're not saying you need to go out and buy a drill or a saw. No one expects a renter to suddenly become Bobby Berk overnight, but keeping a basic toolbox on hand for IKEA emergencies, small fixes, and general adulting might save you a lot of hassle in the near future. My First Apartment says your first basic toolkit should, at minimum, consist of a flat- and Phillips-head screwdriver, a hammer, a box cutter, pliers, a wrench, and a tape measure, but adding a few extras like Allen wrenches, a level, or nails and screws won't hurt.
If only all apartments had central air conditioning. World peace will likely come before a metropolitan starter apartment with built-in A/C, so you need to secure a cooling system before climate change-induced summer heatwaves arrive to ruin your life. The cheapest option would be buying some big-*ss fans for every room of your apartment, but getting your own window unit (and a TaskRabbit to help install it) will be a much more effective tool in your battle against sleep sweats and heat stroke. If you're moving in the winter, this doesn't need to be at the top of your first apartment checklist, but make sure you don't forget about it until it's already mid-July.
When you have limited storage, the sky is quite literally the limit. Or, rather, the ceiling. Having a step stool around during the moving process will help you stow seasonal items and non-essentials on top of kitchen cabinets, on the highest shelves in your closets, and in any unused surface too high and invisible to serve any other purpose. A step stool will also be helpful in your day-to-day life if you're a wee bit on the shorter side and have trouble reaching things on higher shelves. You're a self-sufficient adult and you *will* get that extra box of spaghetti from the top shelf!
My First Apartment
There are some necessities you'll only realize you desperately need once, well, you desperately need them. Unfortunately, first-aid supplies are one of those things. Before you roll an ankle, scrape your knees, or accidentally rip out your nose ring during a night out, you'll probably forget your first-aid kit is even there, but the minute you get a nasty cut or realize you feel a cold coming on, it will become the most important thing in your world. Updater suggests a kit with ace bandages, Advil, Band-Aids and Neosporin, gauze pads and antiseptic wipes, cold medicine and cough drops, a cold pack, and muscle pain relief ointment. Since it's 2019, let's just admit we'll be packing some CBD oil on your first apartment checklist, too.
A trash can for your kitchen is a no-brainer, but the sheer amount of trash cans a functioning apartment needs still astounds us to this day. Sure, you need a large kitchen trash can with a lid — we cannot emphasize how important that lid will become in such a small space — but you'll probably also want a kitchen recycling bin and possibly a compost can, as well. Like we mentioned before, the Earth is dying. There's also the bathroom trash bin, a cute trash can for your bedroom, and if you've got an especially large starter home, one for the living room as well.
All apartments should come with a built-in full-length mirror. Actually, all residences that house humans should come with a built-in full-length mirror. And A/C, while we're at it. Unfortunately, we do not reside in that utopian ideal, and you'll likely have to shell out at least thirty bucks for a full-length mirror for your room. It may seem frivolous, but once you realize how stupid all of your OOTDs are when you can't actually see the entire outfit on your way out the door, you'll see that existing without a full-length mirror in your apartment is kind of like getting dressed in the dark every day of your life.
Speaking of things that literally every human residence should automatically have, what is with all of these apartments not having curtains or shades of any kind? Forget sleeping, changing, or having any sense of privacy in your home when you first move-in if you forget some type of window dressing. Many buildings don't even have curtain rods attached to the walls, so you'll need to buy those as well and find someone to attach them. We highly recommend blackout curtains for your bedroom — you'll never sleep more soundly.
Some cities have cleaner water than others. You could probably get away with surviving off of tap water alone in New York City, but one sip of Los Angeles's tap will have you wondering if you need to call poison control. In cities with poor water quality, a water filter is an actual necessity for life. If you feel comfortable drinking your apartment's tap water, having a Brita might come in handy anyway if you want an ice-cold glass during the summer months and store the carafe in your fridge. Either way, it's better safe than sorry. Oh, and if you're moving somewhere with the dreaded "hard water," add a water softener for your sinks and shower onto your first apartment checklist ASAP. You do not want to see what that stuff does to dyed hair.
Just because you're on your own for the first time doesn't mean you have a license to let yourself go completely. You can eat ice cream for all of your meals and stay up all night if you want to, but that doesn't mean you won't still gain ten pounds and fall asleep at your day job. The hard part of being an adult with your own place is "being an adult," and a large aesthetic part of that is not walking around with wrinkly clothes all the time. Especially when you've just moved things out of their boxes, your clothes will need a good steam, so you'll need a good handheld steamer to do the job.
You don't want to die of heat stroke, but you don't want to freeze to death either. Most, if not all, American apartments will have central heating, but that doesn't guarantee your building will have *good* central heating. Once you realize your heater has only one setting, The Fires of Hell's 9th Circle, it will already be too late. A lease is a lease, even if your heater might kill you faster than the cold. Even if your central heating works just fine, sometimes you'll just want to heat up the room you're actually in instead of heating the entire apartment. Money doesn't grow on trees. A space heater can help.
There are gorgeous apartments out there that legitimately just don't have lighting fixtures in some rooms. My first apartment during college was a dream, except for my psycho roommate the living room that mysteriously lacked even one built-in lighting mechanism. Without our three floor lamps, we would have been living in a massive black hole. For apartments with normal lighting throughout, fluorescent overhead lighting isn't exactly homey. Adding one or two-floor lamps to each room will give your apartment a warm glow you'll actually want to be living in.
Baker's racks seem like they'd only be a "must-have" for Instagram foodies looking for an aesthetic countertop space and somewhere to hang their plants. They can do that, too, but these fairly innocuous little inventions can turn your cramped kitchen into a functioning workspace with little to no effort involved. If you have a kitchenette instead of a kitchen, you'll absolutely need the extra counter space for everyday appliances like a microwave, toaster and/or toaster oven, coffee maker, kettle, and dish drying rack. There will usually be shelves or drawers as well for pantry goodies or cooking supplies as an added bonus, and even lucky renters will full kitchens will find they can use the extra storage.
Anthropologie via Refinery29
Buying candles isn't a life-or-death situation, but when I asked my current roommate what first apartment essential she couldn't live without, she responded "candles" with no hesitation. These tiny accents are the easiest, cheapest, and fastest decorations you can find to make your apartment into your home, which is something you'll want after a long and often discouraging day of moving. Jumping into the unknown, even if it's a welcome change, can be terrifying. A Baltic Amber candle, on the other hand, is instant comfort. We also can't emphasize how helpful candles will be the first time your trash overflows, the first time you burn oil in your kitchen, or the first time your apartment is overrun by an unidentified smell. We don't know when or why it will happen, but it will. And candles will be there to save you.