Your First Apartment Checklist — Everything You Need to Know

While you dream up how to decorate your new home, we’re here to bring you the ultimate first apartment checklist. With this comprehensive list in hand, you’ll be sure to have everything you need for your first apartment. Get excited, because we’re going shopping! 

First Apartment Checklist: What You Should Buy Before You Move In

Think of this section as a condensed version of your first apartment checklist: everything listed here is a must-have. Period. Make sure that you’ve checked off all these items before you move — whether purchased, commandeered from your parent’s basement, or found for cheap at your local thrift store. Then, keep everything on this list close by when you move. After all, who wants to be rifling through boxes for a shower curtain when you should be out the door and on your way to work or class? 

1.  Mattress, mattress topper, pillows, and bedding

A mattress should be one of the first items you buy after signing your apartment lease. That’s why it’s #1 on our first apartment checklist. Yes, you would be fine sleeping on the floor, but life gets crazy busy, and that first night on the floor could easily turn into a month before you find the time to purchase a mattress. Before you move, don’t forget to also buy a mattress topper (a.k.a. mattress pad), new pillows, and any other bedding that will make your place feel like home.

2. Toolkit, nails, and wall hooks

Whether it’s to take apart a bookshelf or put it back together, you won’t regret having a screwdriver and a hammer on moving day. Once you start unpacking, you’ll also want to have wall hooks and nails on hand. There’s nothing as frustrating as being in an unpacking and decorating groove, only to find you have to stop and buy these items.

3. Step stool

Whether you’re short or your new apartment has high ceilings, a step stool will be extremely valuable during the early phases of unpacking and is a must-have for your first apartment. We recommend something light and easily portable. Extra brownie points if it’s easy to store.

4. Shower curtain

Unless you want to ruin your brand-new apartment floors, it’s a good idea to get a shower curtain before moving. After a long day of moving, you’re going to be dying for a hot shower. Pack your toiletry items with the other items in this section of your first apartment checklist and you’ll be ready for some much-needed self-care. 

5. Toilet paper

Some may argue that toilet paper is one of the most important things you need for your first apartment, and it’s hard to disagree. Make sure you buy plenty of toilet paper to place in your new apartment bathrooms as soon as move-in day begins. Isn’t it the one thing in life you can never have enough of?

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6. First-aid kit

Unfortunately, accidents do happen when moving. Whether you trip down stairs and sprain an ankle, or cut a finger opening boxes, you’re going to want a first-aid kit in an easy-to-access spot on move-in day. Here are a few items to include:

  • Ace bandages
  • Anti-inflammatory such as Advil 
  • Band Aids and antibiotic ointment
  • Gauze pads and antiseptic wipes
  • Cold medicine and cough drops 
  • Cold pack and muscle pain relief ointment

7. Cleaning supplies

Cleaning supplies are essential to any first apartment checklist. As you move in, you may find spots the previous tenants overlooked. Make sure your cleaning supplies are in easy reach so that you can scrub those spots before the messiness of unpacking begins.

  • A Swiffer with both dry and wet pads and a vacuum 
  • Multi-surface cleaning spray, paper towels, and trash bags
  • Multi-surface cleaning wipes and stainless steel cleaner 
  • Laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and stain remover
  • Toilet scrubber and toilet bowl cleaning solution
  • Dish/dishwasher soap and sponges
  • Air freshening and disinfectant spray

8. A few kitchen essentials

You could stick with paper plates and cups until you buy a full dish set, but we recommend going ahead and purchasing a few of these items before you move in. Not using paper plates is also a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. That way, if it takes you a few weeks to pick out kitchenware you love, you’ll at least have the essentials on hand. 

  • Water glasses and mugs
  • Plates, cereal bowl, and utensils
  • Frying pan, pots, and cookie sheet
  • Toaster, microwave, blender, or toaster oven
  • Sandwich bags and one or two food storage containers
  • Spatula and any other cooking utensil you think you’ll need

9. Coat/clothing hangers

Purchase coat hangers now, and you’ll feel settled into your new place in no time. The sooner you can get your clothing unpacked and put away, the sooner your first apartment will feel like home!

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10. Batteries, power strips, and extension cords

As you start to place things throughout your new home, you won’t want to come back later to plug everything in. If you purchase power strips, extension cords, and batteries before moving, you’ll be able to finish unpacking quickly and efficiently. Just make sure you don't forget to set your electricity and other utilities

First Apartment Checklist: Living Space  

Whether you’re in a studio or a two-bedroom, you won’t want to forget to cross these items off your first apartment checklist. They’ll make your living room the perfect place to relax, catch up on some reading, and host friends and family. 

11. Comfy couch

The centerpiece of any living room is a great couch. Whether you want to host movie nights or classy cocktail parties, you’re going to need seating that matches your style, while being functional at the same time.

12. Coffee table

A coffee table is essential for your first apartment. It’s a great place to put drinks when hosting a party, but also provides a way to express your personality in your home. Just don’t forget to keep it looking pretty by also purchasing coasters!

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13. Extra lighting

Extra lighting for your living space is a must-have for any first apartment checklist. Trust us, no one likes living in a cave. Add both class and functionality to your space by picking out a cool floor lamp or two.

14. Television and DVD player, cable box, or streaming device

Whether you’re paying for cable or not, getting a television is a great investment. While it may not be absolutely essential, it is necessary for throwing awesome movie nights! Check on Craigslist, and second hand stores before buying just any flat screen. If you already have a television, follow these tips for moving electronics. And if you’re a film buff, you could consider skipping a TV and getting an awesome projector setup instead. Just don't forget to pick up a DVD player or invest in a streaming service.

15. Storage solutions

Once your belongings are unpacked, you’re going to need somewhere to put everything. Whether that’s a bookshelf or a TV cabinet, make sure you take into account all your belongings (including the ones on this first apartment checklist), and then find the best storage for your needs.

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16. Houseplants and beyond

While these items may not be essential, adding them to your first apartment shopping list will make your living room feel a little homier.

  • Side tables, extra seating, window treatments
  • Wall art, picture frames, coffee table books
  • Decorative pillows, throw blanket
  • Houseplants, candles, vases

First Apartment Checklist: Kitchen

For the kitchen section of our first apartment checklist, we’re going to break down what you need in your new home to cook like a boss, host awesome parties, and keep your takeout leftovers secure.

17. Kitchen furniture

Every apartment is different, so whether you need a kitchen table and chairs or just bar stools is up to you to decide. Take stock of the room and then get shopping!

18. Full set of dishes

You can purchase a boxed set of dishes from a retail or department store. Or, if you want to have a little more fun while shopping, you can follow our list of every dish you need for your first apartment. It’s a good idea to start with at least four full sets of dishware. However, you can always buy more if you plan on having larger parties.

  • Mugs, glasses, and utensils
  • Bowls of several different sizes
  • Serving spoons, serving platters, and a pitcher
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19. Pots and pans

For your first apartment, we recommend keeping it simple and getting a kitchen starter kit from a department or retail store. However, if you’re more of the DIY type, here are a few pots and pans you should have in your first kitchen.

  • Large stock pot, straight-sided saucepan, 10-inch frying pan
  • Rimmed baking sheet, large baking/casserole dish, and muffin pan

20. Kitchen tools

To make great food, you need more than just pots and pans. Here are all the kitchen tools you need for your first apartment.

  • Small, medium, and large cutting knives, and cutting boards
  • Wax paper, parchment paper, aluminum foil, cling wrap 
  • Toaster, toaster oven, hand mixer, and blender
  • Measuring cups/spoons, mixing bowls, and colander
  • Spatula, whisk, and mixing spoons
  • Bottle opener and can opener
  • Kettle and/or coffee pot

21. Miscellaneous kitchen items

Make sure you complete your kitchenware collection by marking these miscellaneous kitchen items off your first apartment checklist. 

  • Silverware organizer, dish drying rack, paper towel holder  
  • Plastic or glass food storage containers, sandwich bags 
  • Dish towels, oven mitts
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22. Spices

Spices can add something special to any meal. Mark these spices of your first apartment checklist, and you’ll be ready to cook like a pro!

  • Cayenne pepper, chili powder, ground cumin, paprika 
  • Dried rosemary, oregano, thyme, bay leaves 
  • Ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger
  • Garlic powder or salt, onion powder 
  • Salt and pepper

23. Pantry essentials

For a complete kitchen, you need a well-stocked pantry. Check off the items below according to your own preferences and cooking habits and you’ll be ready to cook just about anything in your new apartment. Make sure to pick up some groceries after you're all settled in, too. 

  • Granulated sugar, brown sugar, and flour
  • Baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla extract
  • Cooking oil (vegetable, olive, coconut, etc.)
  • Vinegar (white wine, balsamic, etc.)
  • Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, mustard, etc. 

First Apartment Checklist: Bathroom

Bathrooms are pretty great. Bubble baths, face masks, and hair gel all find a home there. However, it’s not all fun and games. We’re here to make sure you don’t get so excited about choosing your hand soap scent that you forget to purchase a toilet scrubber! So before you order that bath bomb, double check that you have everything you need for your first apartment bathroom.

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24. Toilet plunger, scrubber, and cleaning solution

Make sure that you can keep your toilet clean by marking these items off your first apartment checklist. Also, make sure to get a toilet scrubber and plunger for each bathroom, if you have more than one. After all, who would want to carry such an item from room to room?

25. Toilet paper and toilet paper holder

Though we already listed toilet paper, it can’t be emphasized enough! On another note, make sure to include a toilet paper holder on your first apartment shopping list if your new bathroom doesn’t have a place to put a roll.

26. Trash can

Don’t forget to mark a bathroom trash can off your first apartment checklist. A great option is a trash can with a lid that can help keep the bathroom looking sleek.

27. Bath towels

Moving into your first apartment is a great excuse to upgrade your old bath towels for something more luxurious. You can even purchase ones that match the color scheme of your new bathroom.

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28. Hand soap, lotion, and towels

Make sure to buy some great smelling hand soap for your bathroom sink and place a hand towel nearby. Bonus points if you add matching hand lotion!

29. Storage solutions for your toiletries

Take stock of the toiletries you have in order to figure out what kind of storage solution you should purchase for the bathroom. You could use a set of plastic drawers, a rolling cart, or an entire cabinet. It’s up to you!

30. Candles, potpourri, and beyond

Cross these items off your first apartment checklist and your bathroom will feel like an oasis that even your guests won’t want to leave.

  • Candles, potpourri, and air freshening spray
  • Countertop storage, small vanity mirror, and additional lighting
  • Bath mat and bathroom rug

First Apartment Checklist: Bedroom

All you need in a bedroom is a bed, right? Nope! Here’s everything you need to make your first apartment bedroom a cozy, restful place to fall asleep at night.

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31. Bed frame and box springs

Though you could technically sleep on the floor with just your mattress, you’re probably going to want a bed frame and box springs. There are so many options for bed frames, so make sure you take a look at them all, consider the size of your apartment, and choose what best fits your needs.

32. Closet storage solutions

Make sure to consider taking advantage of closet storage solutions, like a hanging closet organizer or shoe rack.

33. Full-length mirror

Add a full-length mirror to your first apartment checklist, and you’ll be prepared to make sure all your outfits look great.

34. Window treatments

Unless you want to wake up with the sun, you should take care of this checklist item ASAP.

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35. Laundry hamper

Whether you love laundry or hate it, you’ll need somewhere to put your dirty clothes at the end of the day.

36. Trash can

You probably won’t want to walk to the other side of the apartment to toss your garbage, so make sure you add a stylish bedroom trash can to your first apartment shopping list.

37. Final touches

Your bedroom is where you begin and end each day, so give a little extra attention to this room. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Vanity or desk, comfy chair, and nightstand 
  • Reading lamp, alarm clock, and your favorite books
  • Decorative pillows, cozy blankets, rug, and wall art 

That’s it! 

So that’s your ultimate first apartment checklist — save this list and our epic moving checklist, and you'll be ready for a stress-free transition to your new home.

Think there's something missing from this list? Let us know in the comments below.