A Field Guide on Moving into your First Apartment

Moving into your first place is a metaphoric (and literal) leap into adulthood. It means taking on new responsibility but also enjoying the freedoms that come with savoring your own space. Whether you’re moving away from the rents or out of a dorm, there are some things to remember to make the transition smooth. So you can get on to enjoying your new digs.


Before putting things into motion, make sure you can actually afford the place. While that spacious loft may be enticing, you’ll want to have more than two pennies to rub together after that first month of rent is due. Account for all your other living and leisure expenses after rent is paid. Factor in only what you can realistically afford when buying all the essentials and designing your new space. Design on a budget (take on some DIY projects, utilize thrift store finds, see what your folks or friends can part with). Think of ways you can save after moving in (like cooking at home). A good rule of thumb: have three months of living expenses saved. Once you’re in financial peace of mind, the rest is the fun part.

Item Checklist

The best way to organize before the big move is to make a checklist of items by room (bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, etc.). Remember the basics (kitchen supplies, shower liner, soap, TP, etc.). To avoid overspending on that pre-move trip to the store, think in terms of essentials and non-essentials.


Cleaning supplies

Paper products (TP, paper towels, etc.)

Light bulbs

A quality-made bed

Smoke detector batteries


That $400 espresso maker you’ve been eyeing

Every item of mid-century modern furniture needed to craft a Better Homes & Gardens layout

A fully-stocked bar

(Unless, of course, you have a healthy budget to achieve your dream pad, then charge forward.)

Action Checklist

First things first: don’t put off packing. Know what you already have so you’ll have an idea of what to buy before move-in day. Like the item checklist, it may be helpful to organize tasks by room. Create a chronological day-of checklist. Coordinate deliveries (new bed, washer/dryer, TV). Set up utilities and other essentials (water, gas, internet, renters insurance). Figure out mail (forward your mail to the new address, find out where packages are delivered). Get extra keys made if needed. Get to know your landlord or property management company.

Nitty gritty

Read the lease carefully. Pretend that you’re buying a home: read all the paperwork (including the fine print), ask questions, research the neighborhood, and make sure it aligns with what you want. Parse through the rules to find anything that will affect some of your decisions (Can you paint the walls? Use nails? Build a firepit in the backyard? Have a grill on the balcony?). Stay organized (make lists, hire movers if needed, find out where to get boxes, schedule any large item pickups, pick up keys, find the leasing office hours and contact info, enlist people to help). Figure out trash pickup day. Be prepared for if something breaks. I think something has been broken or breaks within the first week of every apartment I’ve lived in. The landlord should take care of it but there are actions to take in the meantime (a plunger and toolbox are your friends).

Move and groove (remember to enjoy the process)

They say moving is one of the biggest stressors in a person’s life, but it doesn’t have to be. Break up the process in parts. Have friends help. Punctuate the day with pizza and beer. Enjoy playing with design possibilities. Make the space your own. After all, change can be a good thing.


Leave a comment