Things You Need For Your First Apartment: The Ultimate Checklist

African American female shopping for plates in retail setting.You found an apartment, you signed the lease, you wrote the check. Congrats, you’re now all ready to move into your first apartment! Except, wait a minute, you’re not. You need things to put in the apartment. And what, exactly, do you need?

Here’s a handy checklist of things you’ll need (or at least want, in all likelihood), organized by room, with extra blanks for YOU to fill in. Our suggested top priorities are in bold, but before you panic keep in mind many of these items can be bought cheaply second-hand or even picked up free.  And if we’ve missed anything, please let us know in the comments!

Download and print this checklist [PDF]

Entrance area

  • Welcome mat (for outside the door)
  • Small area rug (for just inside the door)
  • Wall hooks for jackets, keys, etc.
  • Small table or bench for shoe storage
  • Lamp, if there’s no other light source by the door
  • __________________________________
  • __________________________________
  • __________________________________

Living room

  • Couch, chairs, or other things to sit on
  • Coffee table
  • Bookshelves
  • Television
  • Stand for TV
  • Throw pillows for couch/chairs
  • Artwork
  • Lamp(s)
  • For more furnishing suggestions check out our Basic Furniture Checklist
  • __________________________________
  • __________________________________
  • __________________________________

guy buying groceriesKitchen

  • Food!
  • Silverware
  • Silverware organizer (drawer insert)
  • Dishes (e.g. plates, glasses, mugs, bowls, serving platters, etc.)
  • Trash and recycling cans
  • Pots and pans
  • Oven mitts
  • Spatulas, ladles, whisks, etc.
  • Container for countertop storage of spatulas, ladles, whisks, etc.
  • Dish towels
  • Dish drying rack
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Mixing bowls
  • Bottle opener and corkscrew
  • Plastic containers for food storage (e.g. Tupperware or Gladware)
  • Rolls of aluminum foil, wax paper, plastic wrap, and parchment paper
  • Paper (or newspaper) to line cupboards and shelves
  • Zip-top plastic bags of various sizes
  • Cutting boards
  • Toaster or toaster oven
  • Microwave
  • Coffee maker
  • Kettle or hotpot
  • Ice cube trays
  • Blender
  • Hand mixer
  • Can opener
  • Good, sharp knives (at least one large chef’s knife and a small paring knife)
  • Serving spoon
  • Colander
  • Additional free-standing shelves or storage, as needed (e.g. metal shelf units from Target or IKEA)
  • Dish soap and sponges/scrubbers
  • Trash can
  • Small area rug
  • For more kitchen essentials, check out our Starter Pantry and Staples Checklist, our Starter Equipment Checklist and Sam’s favorite kitchen equipment sources
  • __________________________________
  • __________________________________
  • __________________________________

Continued on page two…

Author My First Apartment

Posted by

Doug Mack is a writer based in Minneapolis and the author of the travel memoir Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide (Perigee Books/Penguin). He has lived in apartments large and small, historic and modern, in Minneapolis and Chicago. Visit his web site at or find him on Twitter @douglasmack.

Leave a Comment

Comments (44)

  1. Dandy

    Why wasn’t the bedroom included? Here are some other things if you only have the clothes on your back. An iron, step stool, a new toilet seat, plenty of sponges, curtains/drapes (if you are broke use sheets and thumb tacks). Bob’s Discount Furniture now has a relationship with Rent-a-Center, this expands the amount of buying options.

    • Admin

      Hi Dandy,
      Excellent additions. Thanks.
      (Looks like you missed the second page of the list where you’ll find bedroom, bathroom, dining area, and miscellaneous items.)

  2. Ray

    my friend & I actually just signed our first apartment lease and this list was very helpul. thanks!

  3. Joe

    I’m in the process of looking for a new place and realized that for the first time, I don’t need to rebuild anything – all I need to do is pack up and go. The above list is top-notch – I’ve made my own before, and it really is intimidating. Here’s some advice for the true first-timer;

    1 – Go to a thrift store, spend $5 on dishes and silverware, hide it in your car and forget about it.

    2 – Fill your backpack, or whatever, with a few days worth of clothes, a few extension cords, and a radio. I don’t care how connected you are RIGHT NOW, in a few days you’re going to be in an alien environment trying to sort it all out. Creature comforts are a godsend.

    3 – Bring every blanket you own. Is there a bed there waiting for you? How long is it going to be before your furniture, if you have any yet, arrives? Ever sleep on a hardwood floor for a prolonged period of time? Again, simple things can make a huge difference.

    4 – If you can, get a credit card. I’m not advising that you use it to furnish your new place, rather that you use it as a backup buffer if and when you’re about to fall behind. Even if you don’t live in luxury, all the little things add up and will eventually surprise you. Paying cash is easy when there are no other expenses – but now? Things happen, expenses occur, and every so often the budget doesn’t quite work.

    5 – When it all starts falling into place, take a day for yourself. Breathe easy. Kick back and relax. YOU did this. YOU stepped out on your own. YOU took responsibility for the roof over your head. It ain’t fun, it ain’t easy, but if you got this far it was only because YOU did it on your own. Understand that, take a look around you and see just what you’ve done, and breathe a sigh of relief. If and when there’s a next time, YOU are the responsible one that has a plan and has their life together.

  4. Becky

    You should have this list printable. It is an excellent start to everything you need for your first apartment.

  5. Shawna Crawford

    This was very helpful! I’m 21, lived in a dorm for a year, but moved back in with my parents 2 years ago after I came home. This list helped me figure out things that I wouldn’t have ever thought of before for an apartment! This will be my first place on my own that I pay for. Thank you for the ideas!

  6. Lori

    When my kids got their new houses and when our new pastors move into the parsonage, (or anyone who’s moving)! I show up on move-in-day (or closing day) with: 2 small trash cans lined with a plastic grocery bag, 2 rolls of paper towels, 2 liquid hand soap, and toilet paper.
    I put one small trash can, 1 hand soap, and 1 paper towels in the kitchen.
    Then I put a small trash can, 1 hand soap, paper towels, and toilet paper in the bathroom,
    No frantic unpacking for necessities such as towels, soap, etc. They can always use the small trash cans in bedrooms later.
    I get the stuff at a dollar store.

    • Admin

      Not only are you a great parent, wonderful friend and good neighbor, you are giving everyone moving a great idea. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Brandee

    This was extremely helpful! I’m moving out this year and this checklist really helped for the small yet important things I was forgetting about! Thanks so much!!

  8. Caitlin

    I copied & pasted this list into a spreadsheet to help me organize everything – what I have, what I want, and what I need. Thank you so much – super helpful!

  9. Ms.Ty

    I will be needing a big checklist for bedrooms, bathroom, livingroom and the kitchen. Please help me Im a little nervous because this will be my first apartment but Im exicited too.

  10. twogood

    I live in MD and plan to move to NJ within the next few months about a year ago I started my wish list and rented a storage unit. I have things in there that I think I will need for my apt. I am willing to share some stores where I have found some nice things: Gabriel Brothers in Aberdeen, Md, I bought $5 King size sheets new, kitchen rug for $1, a Coldwater Creek Mirror with the $250 price tag attached for $7 and Gabes has sidewalk sales where I have got kitchen utensils from Faberware, Ecko and Kitchenaid for $15 a bag. Scratch and Dent in Baltimore, I bought a Eco Motion Sensor trash can for $20 NIB and NIB Shark Rotator Vaccum for $60 and there is a Shop Smart Outlet that has similar deals as Scratch & Dent. There is also a shawnmart(dot)com that I buy haircare for $1. I think I have spent $500 in merchandise and have a value of $5000. Now I am trying to get the furniture…

  11. rizenshine

    My sister is moving into a furnished sublet, so there were a ton of things we didn’t need to think about. But this list showed us how many things we hadn’t thought of yet. Awesome!

  12. Renee

    I need a checklist for a childs room….I’m moving with my (19mo.old now) he will be 2 when we move

    • Alex Alex

      Hi Renee,

      While we appreciate your interest, baby/toddler issues are generally outside the scope of our website. For more information on children’s rooms, check out our friend over at ChecklistMommy.

  13. Nicole

    My husband and I lost our apartment and a lot of belongings (not IMPORTANT stuff, but a lot of small stuff like what’s on this list) in a tornado, and now we’re moving into a new place and this list is SO HELPFUL! It’s so hard to remember all of the little things up until you need them!

    • Alex Alex

      Hi Nicole,

      Good to hear and glad to help. And very sorry you were a tornado victim, but it sounds like you’re making a great recovery. Happy Holidays!

  14. Kayla

    Hi I am 19 and moving out of the house..* This is like a magic website and it helped me SO SO much!!* So thank you :)

  15. Admin

    And we love your comment, Tiffany! We are so happy to hear that you find our checklists useful.

  16. Tiffany

    I love this website. I have used these checklists every time I relocated and sold or gave away items in moves. Total plus and I always recommend these checklists!!!!

    • Admin

      Hi Maranda,

      Did you click through to Page 2? All your bathroom essential are listed there. Have fun furnishing your place!