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Your First Apartment Checklist — Everything You Need to Know

After a long season of apartment hunting, your first apartment can mean freedom, adventure, new opportunities, and a lot of packing. Whether you’re moving in a few days or a few months, it’s time to get organized and consider the items you need to transform a few empty rooms into your own place. Make the most of this exciting time by de-stressing moving day with this ultimate first-time renter checklist. See what you should pack in a room-by-room checklist before reviewing helpful unpacking tips and tricks for your first move.

The Ultimate First Apartment Checklist

An empty apartment with white walls, light wood floors, and a sliding glass door

Start your first-apartment checklist by considering what, if anything, comes with your first apartment. Some apartments are furnished, which means it will already have a bed, chairs, tables, dressers, and even some kitchen appliances and utensils. College apartments often come with beds, desks, dressers, and roommates.

If you’re moving in with a roommate, you’ll also want to coordinate your checklist. The last thing you want to do is try to squeeze two dining room tables and several couches into your apartment. Compare this with your weekly checklist to know when to pack what items.


A small kitchen with white walls and cabinets

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating first apartments with take-out or dinner at a local restaurant. Once you settle into a daily routine, however, you’ll want to have a stocked kitchen. Whether your idea of cooking is a gourmet meal or a microwave entree, here are some basic items you should have:

  • Dishes: At least two plates and bowls per person but bring more if you don’t have a dishwasher, plan on entertaining, or eat all three meals at home.
  • Silverware: At least two spoons, forks, and knives per person. Try to have at least as many sets as you have dishes. Consider other eating utensils you may use, such as chopsticks.
  • Drinkware: Pack a minimum of four water glasses and at least one coffee mug. Don’t forget a water bottle and travel mug. Consider additional drinkware for wine, beer, smoothies, or other beverages.
  • Pots and pans: Start with a frying pan, a small pot, and a large pot.
  • Baking sheets and dishes: One cookie sheet and a casserole dish.
  • Coffee maker: If you’re a coffee drinker, bring a French press or coffee maker.
  • Knives and cooking utensils: A chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife are a great start.
  • Measuring cups and spoons: One set of each will handle most recipes.
  • Cutting board: A wood, plastic, or silicon cutting board can handle most projects.
  • Dishtowels and oven mitts: You’ll want at least four dish towels and one set of mitts.
  • Dish drying rack and garbage can

Once you get settled, you may want to expand your kitchen checklist with a toaster, toaster oven, crockpot, cake pans, serving dishes, microwave, and other items. Use common moving hacks, like using dishtowels as packing material, so save on space while fitting all of these items into your moving truck.

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A bathroom with white tile walls and fixtures

Don’t forget to bring along all of these bathroom essentials:

  • Basic toiletries: Think toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, etc.
  • Towels: At least two bath towels and two hand/face towels.
  • Shower curtain and liner: Check your type of shower before buying these, as some come with doors and don’t need a curtain.
  • Bathmat
  • Toilet brush
  • Plunger
  • Toilet paper
  • Toothbrush case or holder
  • Small trash can

Explore your bathroom to see if you’re missing a mirror, towel bar, toilet paper holder, or other helpful items.


A small bedroom with white walls, a bed, a desk, and a window with views of trees

A sleeping bag or air mattress may make your new apartment feel like a camping trip but you’ll want a fully furnished bedroom before long. College dorms typically come with a bed frame and mattress but renters are usually greeted with an empty room and need to bring along all these items:

  • Mattress: Be sure to check the dimensions of your room before you spring for a queen or king mattress. A single person typically only needs a full mattress but a couple is more comfortable in a queen.
  • Bed frame: Verify that it matches your mattress size.
  • Sheets: One set to match your mattress size is enough if you can wash and dry them in a single day. Otherwise, get two sets.
  • Pillow: One or two for each person.
  • Laundry basket
  • Hangers
  • Dresser and storage containers: Most bed frames allow for under-the-bed storage. Check your closets to see if you have door-hanging or floor storage opportunities.
  • Lamp and nightstand

Living Room

A grey couch with blue pillows in a small living room

The amount of furniture and accessories you need depends on the size of your new apartment. A studio, one-bedroom apartment, or college dorm may make your first-apartment living checklist quite small. For most places, however, you should consider bringing or buying these items:

  • Seating: This is highly dependent on the size of your living area. It can range from a few couches and chairs to a single couch or even just two comfortable chairs.
  • Side tables
  • Floor and/or table lamps
  • Storage solutions: Think about bookshelves, hanging shelves for photos, or other items.
  • Decor: Personalize your living room with photos, art, candles, plants, coffee table books, and/or decorative pillows.
Moving soon? Find affordable local movers to do the heavy lifting for you on our mover marketplace.

Cleaning Supplies

An assortment of cleaning supply products on a wooden table

Unfortunately for most renters, first apartments don’t come with cleaning staff. Your apartment building should be professionally cleaned before you move in, but it’s always a good idea to check before filling it up with your personal belongings. You’ll probably need to wipe down surfaces and vacuum after moving day, so be prepared with these supplies:

  • Vacuum: A handheld is all you need for a small apartment. Consider a full-size one if you have a lot of carpet in your apartment.
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Mop and bucket: You’ll only need a mop if you have hard-surface floors.
  • Garbage bags
  • Cleaning sprays: These vary depending on the surfaces in your new place but multi-purpose, bathroom, and wood cleaning sprays will cover most cleaning tasks.
  • Soap: You’ll need laundry detergent, dish soap, and hand soap. Consider baking soda and white vinegar for stubborn messes.
  • Paper towels
  • Anti-bacterial wipes
  • Rags and cleaning cloths
  • Rubber gloves
  • Tool kit

These cleaning supplies will be invaluable when the time comes to move out- you'll need to leave your apartment squeaky clean if you want to get your security deposit back!

First Aid and Safety

A large red first aid kit is on the ground open displaying various medical items and bandages

Pack these first-aid kit items for moving day and the first time you get a cut, sprain, or headache in your new apartment:

  • Thermometer
  • Anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen
  • Pain relievers, like acetaminophen
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Adhesive bandages

Check your rental for smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and a fire extinguisher. These should be provided by the landlord and are important to have in your new home.

Bonus Points: Food

Two paper grocery bags filled with fruits and vegetables

Did you pack like a pro and sail through that checklist? Consider buying food for the first few days or weeks as a first-time renter. Stock your pantry and fill your fridge for the first time to reduce the stress of moving week. Here are some examples of items from grocery stores that renters in first apartments may want to have on hand:

  • Pantry items: If you plan on baking or cooking in your first apartment, then flour, sugar, cooking oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and spices will be helpful.
  • Staples: These could include pasta, oatmeal, cereal, canned or dried beans, canned tuna, pasta sauce, coffee, tea, bread, and rice.
  • Fridge: Common items for your first apartment include milk, meat, eggs, butter, cheese, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, and jam or jelly. Stock your freezer with frozen meat, vegetables, fruit, and/or pizzas.

Move to Your First Apartment With MovingLabor.com

All that’s left is to review your lease agreement, pay your security deposit, consider hiring movers, and prepare to become a first-time renter, with or without a roommate. Find out how it works and how you can save money with a DIY move to your first apartment.

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