First Apartment Checklist: Everything You Want to Know Before You Move

That’s it, you’re finally graduated and mom and dad say it’s time to get your own place, finished up your last class of college and are entering into the real world, or need to ditch the roommates and find your own digs. No matter the reason why, you are moving, and this can be an incredibly exciting- and yet incredibly stressful situation.

One of the best ways to help combat the rising anxiety surrounding moving is to start making a list. We’ve compiled some great tips and tricks, dos and don’ts, and an apartment checklist that will help get you refocused so you can be ready for anything this new adventure throws at you.

What to Do

There are a few things you want to do when getting ready to make this decision. First, make sure you shop around for something that you know you can afford. Pay attention to location, and be willing to compromise on your preferences. It’s best to consider a few different choices before settling.

Be aware of apartment complex rules and regulations. Many different ordinances exist considering sound, light, parking, and animals when you live in close proximity to another person. Some of this may relate to your moving experience- such as where to park a moving van, allowed use of freight elevators, or the time frame of your move. You might even have to make reservations for these details.

Prior to moving in, you should have approximately three months worth of rent and bills in savings in case something were to go wrong. Try to always keep this much back, and if you struggle, you might be living a bit above your means. Planning and saving in advance can help you divert financial nightmares.

DO make a moving budget and stick to it. Whether you hire a company or are going to do it yourself, you need to consider your moving costs (including fuel and time) as well as initial expenses for necessities.

What Not to Do

Obviously, you never want to just settle on any living area. Don’t be afraid to shop around for a bit and make an offer on those places you really like. You might save a lot by doing so.

Don’t try to move all on your own. Moving takes a lot longer than you expect, and trying to do it on your own generally ends in disaster concerning time and energy. Also, don’t make last minute moving plans. Set up moving rentals, companies, and friends in advance, and start packing boxes on your own once you know a move is imminent.

Don’t forget to label your moving boxes. Even if you don’t have a lot of stuff, knowing which room it belongs in when unpacking can help get you organized that much more quickly.

Dealing With Those Emotions

There is a very real thing called buyers’ regret or remorse. This occurs when the excitement and stress of actually moving has died down and you are left wondering if you have made the correct decision. Afterall, moving into your own place comes with a lot of new responsibilities, and you have to navigate the fine balance between being an owner or renter and finances. Coupled with being alone and leaving friends and family, even if they are nearby, can be daunting.

First, know those feelings are normal and it isn’t ‘just you’. Second, work through them as you unpack and redesign you new living area. Chances are you’ll see some old things in a new light and get excited about what you are creating. Even if you have to hold off on purchasing a lot of large furniture buys, plan out your floor space and how you want it to look. It will all come together eventually.

Also,if you are pining for friends and family, set time aside for them. Even if they are far away, video chat, or put them on speaker phone while you unpack and explain to them how you feel. This can be incredibly therapeutic.

Have a Plan to Shop

This is a step you might find yourself starting before or during the moving process, but there are some things you might not have that are going to be a necessity for your first new living area. A lot of what you took advantage of in your parent’s home are things you are going to need to own as well.

First, take a look at the list we provide, and see what it is you absolutely need. Make your own list and match it to your budget that you have already created for such things (see what that is an important step?). Only get what you absolutely need at first, and don’t be afraid to go shopping more than once.

The Checklist You Never Knew You Needed

It can be hard to make your own checklist when you aren’t even 100% sure about what you need. You don’t want to be stumbling around your apartment trying to make a meal or get something clean and realize you don’t have the necessities to do so. Take a look at what we have to offer to help you get started.

— Furniture

Obviously, what furniture you get is going to be dictated by the space you have, so these are all just suggestions. Don’t be upset if your budget dictates some of these wait awhile either. Shopping for just the right piece of furniture can take some time as well, so never rush this process. Also, look for well established, trustworthy local furniture stores that offer lines of credit. Most do not have an interest rate for at least a year and can help you get what you need right away.

  • Bed and mattress
  • Dresser
  • Couch and Lounge Chair
  • Sofa table
  • Coffee table or ottoman
  • Small dining room table and chairs
  • Additional lighting, such as floor lamps, or sofa table lamps

— Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning supplies are one of those things that seem to magically appear when you are growing up, but I assure you, you need to purchase them. Of course, you can decide what types of cleaning supplies you prefer, and buy premade, off the shelf options, mix your own more natural ingredients, or simply mix and match until you decide what you prefer.

  • Garbage bins, large for kitchen, small for bathrooms
  • Bucket
  • Garbage bags: Kitchen-size and small (although I like to reuse plastic shopping bags for small garbage bins)
  • Bathroom cleaning spray
  • Toilet cleaner
  • Toilet brush
  • Toilet plunger
  • Wood cleaner for wood surfaces
  • Baking soda and white vinegar
  • Laundry detergent
  • Multi-purpose spray
  • Soft rags and microfiber cloths
  • Paper towels
  • Hand soap for each sink
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Rubber gloves
  • Anti-bacterial wipes
  • Mop or hard floor cleaning tool if you have
  • Vacuum cleaner, although if you need to save up, buy a handheld for the time being
  • Dish soap
  • Sponges

— Bathroom Needs

Other than cleaning essentials, bathrooms need some basic things as well. Of course, much of what you put in there for hygienic purposes and personal needs is up to you. But be sure to have a few of these basics to help you get started and you’ll figure out what else you need as you go.

  • Toilet paper
  • Wall hook, if not supplied
  • Hand/face towels: Two to start
  • Toothbrush holder
  • Toothpaste
  • Shower curtain and liner, if necessary
  • Bathmat
  • Bath towels: Two to start
  • Shampoo, conditioner, body soap

— Kitchen Essentials

The kitchen may very well end up being our biggest enigma. Many times it is hard to determine what you need, and what you don’t, simply because you are new to being self-sufficient and are unaware of your own culinary genius. Of course, it is better to cook for yourself than depend on fast food and pre-made meals, but at least get yourself some kitchen essentials in advance to help get you on your feet so you can grow with your own abilities. Luckily, you can find much of this at garage and estate sales for almost nothing, Generally these are well used, and durable pieces that are better than the cheap alternatives at the store as well.

  • Oven-safe dishes- at least one medium and one large size
  • Four dish towels
  • Spatula set
  • Wooden spoon set
  • Baking sheet
  • Dish drying rack, if no dishwasher
  • Cutting board
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • One serrated knife; one chef’s knife; one paring knife
  • At least 2 sets of plates and bowls
  • At least 2 forks, knives, and spoons
  • One medium or large fry pan
  • One large pot and one small pot
  • At least 4 drinking glasses
  • At least one mug – especially if you are a coffee drinker
  • Coffee maker
  • One set oven mitts
  • Microwave (if one didn’t come with the apartment)
  • Toaster

Dried Food/Pantry/Condiments

Don’t forget you need some food essentials as well! If you don’t cool much, this may seem a bit overwhelming, but if you have some basic culinary skills, these are the ingredients to have on hand!

  • Dried pasta
  • Sugar
  • Rice
  • All-purpose flour
  • Cooking oil
  • Canned or dried beans
  • Grains (quinoa, lentils, farro, etc.)
  • Pepper
  • Soy sauce
  • Nut butter
  • Quick-cooking oats
  • Coffee and tea
  • Cereal
  • Vinegar (white, red, apple cider, balsamic)
  • Ketchup and mustard
  • Pasta sauce
  • Salt
  • Bread
  • Snack food (chips, pretzels, nuts, etc.)
  • Canned tuna


  • Frozen fruit
  • Butter
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Frozen pizza (cheaper than takeout!)
  • Meat/poultry
  • Jam or preserves
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Cheese
  • Frozen proteins, such as chicken, beef, etc
  • Fresh fruit

— Bedroom Needs

Obviously you will be spending quite a bit of time in your bedroom, sleeping, relaxing, reading, watching television… you want it to be comfortable and a place you can unwind each night. Be sure to purchase things to help you feel like this is your home, such as comfortable sheets and blankets, hangers to put away your clothes, and laundry essentials. Storage for your closet or to help with the smaller spaces apartments usually offer can allow for quick organization and get you uncluttered quick.

Sheets: One set to start is sufficient, as long as you can trust yourself to wash them regularly. If not, get two.

  • Laundry hamper
  • Hangers for the closet
  • Comforter or duvet and duvet cover
  • Lamp
  • Storage: Dresser, plastic organizers, or under-the-bed containers
  • Pillows: One or two to start



Moving into your first apartment can be a somewhat scary, but super exciting event. Help calm your nerves and reduce anxiety over the entire process with the suggestions we’ve provided above. Even though you may feel some angst about your decision, don’t worry, that is totally normal and you will be chilling in your new place and enjoying the privacy before too long.

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