The ultimate first apartment checklist

There’s nothing like moving into your first apartment and having a place to call your own. But with a new apartment come new responsibilities like paying your rent on time, managing your bills and keeping your new home tidy. And, of course, you’ll want to make sure you have all the apartment essentials you need to live comfortably on your own.

You don’t have to worry about buying everything before your move-in day. But creating a new apartment checklist of immediate necessities can help you prioritize your purchases and determine an appropriate budget for your move.

Key takeaways 

  • Creating an apartment essentials checklist can save you time and stress before moving.
  • Separating your checklist into items you need before and after you move in can help you prioritize purchases and stay on budget.
  • Asking friends and family for used furniture, shopping for bargains and purchasing renters insurance can help you save money in the long run.

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Apartment move-in checklist

As you think about what you’ll need in your new place, consider what you already have. Stay organized when packing your essentials to move. It can be helpful to organize and label the boxes by room. This process can make unpacking less stressful and make it easy to get to your items when needed—and to figure out what purchases you need to make. 

1. Bathroom essentials

There’s nothing worse than moving all of your belongings into your apartment after a long day and not having the necessary items to shower and get comfortable. Items like bath and hand towels, shower curtains and a bathmat are good bathroom starters. And these items can help you start thinking about the colors and designs you’ll work into your decor later.

Bathroom items to prioritize for when you move in:

  • Shower curtain, liner and hooks
  • Bathmat and rug
  • Bath towels and washcloths
  • Hand towels
  • Soap, hand soap and other toiletries
  • Toilet paper
  • Bathroom trash can
  • Toilet brush and plunger

Bathroom items to get after you move in:

  • Scented items like candles, air freshener and incense
  • Bathroom storage
  • Decorative sink organizers like a toothbrush holder and soap dispenser
  • Bathroom decor

2. Kitchen essentials

Supplying your kitchen with the basics can be a bigger task than with smaller rooms, like your bathroom. But you can start with items you use daily. Whether you enjoy cooking or not, kitchen items like utensils, plates, glassware and basic cookware can help get you started. Other big-ticket items can wait until a later date.

When you first tour your apartment, it’s important to get the lay of the land so you can determine what you need before moving in. For example, many apartments will include a microwave and dishwasher, while others don’t. If yours doesn’t, you may want to purchase a microwave and a dish rack before moving in.

And, of course, you don’t want to forget about stocking your fridge with groceries. It can be tempting to order takeout your first few days in a new place, but making a grocery list of things you’ll need for the week may help you resist that temptation. And it can help you save money after the big expenses of moving.

Kitchen items to prioritize for when you move in:

  • Cookware set, including pots and pans
  • Silverware, knife set and cooking utensils
  • Oven mitts
  • Baking sheet
  • Cutting board
  • Plastic wrap, wax paper and aluminum foil
  • Plastic bags like sandwich and freezer bags
  • Dish towels
  • Paper towels
  • Measuring cup and spoon set
  • Dish rack
  • Microwave, if the apartment doesn’t have one
  • Basic dishware
  • Glasses and mugs
  • Food storage containers
  • Kitchen shears
  • Mixing bowls and colander
  • Can, wine and bottle openers
  • Dish soap and sponges
  • Kitchen trash can and trash bags
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Ice cube tray
  • Salt, pepper and other seasonings you use daily

Kitchen items to get after you move in:

  • Dining table set or bar stools
  • Coffee machine and/or teakettle
  • Blender
  • Toaster oven and slow cooker
  • Paper towel holder
  • Bakeware set or oven-safe dishes
  • Bag clips
  • Drawer organizer for silverware
  • Kitchen rug
  • Step stool

3. Bedroom essentials

One of the most important items for your bedroom is a mattress, which can be expensive. If you don’t already have a mattress, it’s worth asking if a friend or family member can donate an extra mattress that they rarely use. If not, make arrangements to order your mattress before moving into your new place so it’s there when you arrive. That way, you can get a good night’s sleep on your first night in your new apartment.

Bedroom items to prioritize for when you move in:

  • Mattress, mattress protector and box spring
  • Bed sheets, comforter and blankets
  • Pillows and pillowcases
  • Hangers
  • Full-length mirror
  • Curtains or blinds
  • Fan and/or space heater
  • Extra storage
  • Laundry hamper

Bedroom items to get after you move in:

  • Bed frame and nightstand
  • Closet organizer or dresser for shoes and clothes
  • Desk and chair
  • Lamp

4. Living room essentials

Just like your bedroom, your living room is a space where you’ll probably spend a lot of your time. If you’re working with a smaller space, consider multipurpose furniture options. For example, your couch may also serve as a sleeping area for guests, or you may look at couch options that provide extra storage space. 

Living room items to prioritize for when you move in:

  • Couch
  • Coffee table and coasters
  • Wi-Fi connection
  • TV mount or TV stand
  • TV and/or projector
  • Blinds or curtains
  • Floor lamp

Living room items to get after you move in:

  • Lounge chairs
  • End tables
  • Bookshelf
  • Streaming devices
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Throw pillows and blankets
  • Area rug
  • Wall art, plants, vases, candles and other decor

5. Other essential items 

Other essential items may include things you don’t think about until you have to use them, like an iron and a first-aid kit. What room you choose to keep them in will largely depend on your apartment layout and storage situation.

Other essential items to get after you move in:

  • Vacuum, broom and dustpan
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener, bleach and stain remover
  • Dryer sheets
  • Wipes, sponges and other cleaning products
  • Rubber gloves
  • Iron or steamer
  • First-aid kit
  • Sewing kit
  • Scissors and tape
  • Envelopes and stamps
  • Mail organizer
  • Key hook or tray
  • Extension cords, HDMI cable, surge protector and power strips
  • Home toolkit and batteries
  • Lighter
  • Lightbulbs and flashlight
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Umbrella

Additional tips for your apartment checklist

Here are a few tips you can use to make your checklist easier to tackle and possibly improve your finances too:

  • Make an online apartment checklist and add shopping links beside each item as you browse.
  • Ask friends or family members for used furniture they don’t need.
  • Bargain shop! You may find some great inexpensive items at your local thrift store or yard sale. 
  • Take your time. Remember you don’t have to buy everything at once—give yourself time to find pieces you enjoy.
  • Compare rates from moving companies. Or ask your family and friends for help to save money on moving costs.
  • Purchase renters insurance. Whether it’s required or not, purchasing renters insurance can save you a lot of stress in the long run. It can also protect you from big out-of-pocket expenses if there are any damages to your personal property.

First apartment checklist in a nutshell

Moving can be as stressful as it is exciting, and making a new apartment checklist is just one way you can make the process feel a little less overwhelming. By planning ahead and using some creative money-saving hacks, you can get all the essentials you need for your new place while sticking to your budget.

If you’re in the process of hunting for a perfect rental, be sure you understand what credit score you need to rent an apartment. That way, you’ll feel confident your application will be approved when you find your perfect place.

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