First Apartment Essentials Checklist for Renters

Is it time for you to move out of your parent’s home and into your new place – your first apartment? It can be overwhelming because you’ll need a lot of things, but if you want to make sure you have all the essentials, we have a checklist here.

Moving to a new apartment can be an exciting experience. There’s something almost surreal about sitting on your new couch or using the kitchen for the first time, realizing that you have a place of your own. Owning all the things you need for your first apartment is an expensive undertaking, so plan it well.

In choosing what to bring to your apartment, you will need guidance because there are lots to do and there are lots of options. There are many things to consider and plan before and during the move. To help make the process easier, we have created a checklist of essential items to consider when moving to a new apartment.

Things You Need to Rent an Apartment

  • A co-signer: You may need to have someone you know who is in a good financial position to cosign the rental agreement with you. For students or those with no credit history, this is recommended, because it’s a way to show your landlord that you will be able to make payments. 
  • Proof of Income or Employment: Your landlord will probably want to see proof that you have income. Have a pay stub, previous year tax documents, or a bank statement ready for proof. 
  • Money saved for first and last month’s rent: When you’re planning to rent out a place, try to cut back on some things a few months ahead of time, because you will need to pay two months’ rent right away. 
    • A budget: Work on a budget before you move in, to get an idea how your income will be distributed for rent, groceries, transportation, debts, etc. Determine ahead of time what things you will need to cut back, so you get used to it before you move in. 
    • Moving arrangements: Plan your moving arrangements ahead of time. This includes arranging for a truck as well as friends or family members you can bring along with you to help. 
  • Moving supplies. You’ll need packing tape, boxes, a truck, and help! If you’ve never packed before, here are some essential tips. 
  • Tenant Insurance: You should get tenant insurance. Some landlords won’t require it, but it’s highly recommended to get it. It protects you from theft, fire, damage, liability, medical bills, and additional living expenses if your place becomes uninhabitable. 
  • Furniture and essential items for your house.

First Time Apartment Renter Checklist: Items to Buy for Your Place

Bedroom 

Resting and sleeping are very important, so you must dedicate special attention to your apartment bedroom. Of all the items on your checklist, a mattress and bedding are the most important – you can hold off on the bed frame, but you don’t want to sleep on the floor after moving day.

If you’re bringing in a mattress with you, then good. But if you plan to buy, shop before your moving day so it will be ready on the day you get to the apartment. If the mattress arrives before your move-in day, let your landlord know, and they will hold the package for you.

You may want to spend a little bit extra so you can get a comfortable mattress, but if you can’t afford a decent one right now, it’s fine to start with a futon or an air mattress. Here’s what else you will need:

  • Sheets – Have at least two sets so you can alternate them on washing day
  • Pillows – At least two to start
  • Comforter, duvet, or duvet cover
  • Curtains, if the bedroom doesn’t have some sort of window covering
  • Storage – Dressers, plastic organizers, or under-the-bed containers
  • A full-length mirror, if there’s none elsewhere
  • Hangers
  • Laundry hamper
  • Lamp – at least one, preferably two, for either side of the bed
  • Fan
  • Space heater
  • Trash bin
  • Shoe rack
  • Your clothes, bags, and shoes

Essential Bathroom Items

When putting together your bathroom, always focus on the essentials. When moving in, your primary goal for the bathroom is to make sure it’s functional before adding décor.

Once you’re ready to decorate, keep it simple by making sure the décor matches. Towels, shower curtains, and bath mats are easy to match to create an ideal first apartment bathroom.

When packing up your items for moving in, make sure you keep your toiletries (a roll of toilet paper, soap, body wash, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.) in an easily accessible place. You’ll want to be able to find and unpack these things right away when you first use your toilet and bath. You won’t need to bring a supply of toilet paper – you can buy more at the grocery once you get settled. But you will need some things to keep your bathroom organized and functional. Besides the toiletries you use every day, here are the essentials you may want to bring:

  • Bath towels – Start with two
  • Hand or face towels – Start with two
  • Shower curtain and liner, if necessary
  • Wall hook, if not supplied
  • Toothbrush holder
  • Bathmats or rugs – Start with two
  • Toilet brush
  • Plunger
  • Small trash bin
  • Bathroom cleaning products

Kitchen and dining

Once you’ve got sleeping and going to the bathroom taken care of, the next essential is eating. While you may not start cooking right away, eating takeouts can get costly. It’s best to start with the bare minimum essentials so you can prepare food, cook, and eat the typical foods you eat in your apartment. Then, slowly add things like serving dishes, wine glasses, and other kitchen gadgets.

Each apartment is unique in terms of the kitchen and dining furnishing that comes with it, so your needs will vary. For example, if you don’t have a dishwasher, you will need stuff so you can hand wash dishes. Modern apartments typically come with an oven, a stove, and a refrigerator, so you don’t need to worry about these.

If your apartment has a mini bar or kitchen island installed, that will work as a dining area. But if your apartment doesn’t come with it, you may want to bring a small foldable table or eat on a couch or chair first. Eventually, you’re going to want a dining area inside your apartment, but it’s best to prioritize the basics.

Living off paper plates and plastic utensils may work at first, but try your best to find full-time replacements. You’ll also want all your proper cooking utensils ready. Not only will you save yourself some cash, but you’ll also be saving the environment from lots of trash.

As time and budget allow and as you get more settled, keep adding to your kitchen by filling your fridge and pantry. Take your time, and don’t try to fill every space with food and kitchen items on that first trip to the grocery and home goods.

Here are the essentials you will need for your kitchen and dining:

Cookware

These are the things you need so you can start cooking and baking in your new apartment:

  • Pots and pans – Have one medium or large frying pan, one small pot, and one large pot. It may be cheaper to buy a small cookware set for your convenience.
  • Oven-safe dish – Have one medium or large-size casserole dish.
  • Knives – Get one chef’s knife, one paring knife, and one serrated knife.
  • Cooking utensils – Get at least one of each: spatula, large spoon, serving spoon
  • Mixing bowl – Get a large one to start
  • Baking sheet – Get a large or medium cookie sheet
  • Salt and pepper shakers
  • Oven mitts
  • Cutting boards
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Dining and utensils

Here are some of the basic dining utensils you may need. Add the extras like serving plates, cheese boards, gravy boats, and wine glasses once you get settled.

  • Plates – Have at least two dining plates and two dessert plates.
  • Bowls – Get at least two. You may also want to buy small bowls for condiments like ketchup and soy sauce.
  • Flatware – Forks, spoons, and knives (bring at least two of each). However, it’s best to get a silverware set. Get a steak knife and bread knife if you’re eating these on the regular.
  • Drinking glasses – Get at least two water glasses. These can double as wine or beer glasses in the meantime.
  • Mug – Just one or two will be enough.
  • Food storage containers – Always have these ready for storing leftovers in the fridge.
  • Placemats

Kitchen Appliances

The most essential thing you need in the kitchen is a stove, oven, and refrigerator. Most apartments come with these appliances once you move in, but if it doesn’t, you may need to provide them.

Once you’re starting, all you’re ever going to need are these appliances. Here are other kitchen appliances you may need eventually:

  • Coffee maker – If you can’t survive in the morning without a cup of joe, it will be more economical in the long run if you invest in a coffee maker and make coffee at home instead of driving to a coffee shop before work.
  • Toaster or toaster oven
  • Microwave oven
  • Slow cooker
  • Blender

Dishwashing items

If your apartment doesn’t come with a dishwasher, you will need to be equipped for washing your dishes and cookware.

  • Dish soap
  • Dish towels
  • Dish drying rack
  • Sponges
  • Dish towels
  • Rags or small towels for wiping countertops

Kitchen gadgets and extras

These are the other things you may need for the kitchen:

  • Colander or strainer
  • Bottle opener
  • Can opener
  • Wine opener
  • Fruit basket
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wax paper
  • Kitchen shears
  • Paper towels and holder
  • Chip clips
  • Ziploc bags
  • Trash can
  • Trash bags

Living Room

Your living room needs to be comfortable for lounging and entertaining. So, whether you plan on inviting a few friends or binge-watching movies, you’ll want to make sure that you have a warm and inviting space. If that space is limited, look into a futon or a sleeper sofa seating options in your living room so you can make it into a makeshift guest room for family and friends visiting your apartment for the first time. Here’s what you need for your living room:

  • Couch
  • Chairs or additional seating
  • Coffee table
  • End tables
  • TV stand
  • TV and speakers
  • Throw pillows
  • Extra lighting

You don’t need to decorate your living room right away, but these are the things you may want to add eventually:

  • Area rug
  • Throw blankets
  • Coasters
  • Plants
  • Wall décor
  • Wall hooks

Furniture

A woman walking into a furniture store

And now, here are the big things. Furniture is an important apartment essential, but for most of these, you can put off buying them until you have the money or when you have found a great deal. You can search for these items at a local garage sale, thrift shop, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace.

  • Sofa/couch
  • Bed frame
  • Coffee table
  • Dresser
  • Desk and chair, if you’re working from home
  • Small dining room table and chairs
  • Additional lighting fixtures

Cleaning Supplies

Once you’re living on your own, you’ll want to make sure your apartment is spick and span. You don’t need to go all out on an expensive vacuum, but you’ll want to make sure you have these things:

  • Broom and dustpan
  • Garbage bags
  • Sponges
  • Soft rags
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Paper towels
  • Mop
  • Bucket for mopping or cleaning
  • Cleaning sprays and solutions
  • Laundry detergent
  • Fabric softener
  • Rubber gloves
  • Hand soap

You can buy a fancy vacuum and your furniture polish later.

Laundry area

A laundry area in an apartment

The laundry is an area that often tends to get overlooked when moving into a new apartment. Make sure that you are ready to do your laundry after the first week in your new apartment. Your apartment will most likely have a washing machine and dryer provided, so you only need to bring these things:

  • Laundry baskets
  • Laundry detergent
  • Fabric softener
  • Iron or handheld steamer
  • Ironing board
  • Stain remover
  • Sewing kit

Groceries

One of the most exciting things to do after moving into a new apartment is to stock the fridge and pantry. A smartly-stocked kitchen can help you save money and avoid unnecessary purchases. Here are the basics to start with:

Pantry items

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Flour
  • Coffee, tea, and chocolate drinks
  • Oats
  • Cereals
  • Grains
  • Baking powder (if you want to bake anything)
  • Sugar or another type of sweetener
  • Nut butter and other sandwich spreads
  • Ketchup, mustard, mayo
  • Cooking oil
  • Vinegar
  • Soy sauce
  • Canned beans
  • Canned meat
  • Pasta sauce
  • Crackers
  • Chips and nuts
  • Salt and pepper
  • Spices

Fridge

  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Jams

Freezer

  • Fresh meat or poultry
  • Frozen pizza or dinners
  • Frozen meat products (burgers, patties, sausages, hotdogs, etc.)
  • Frozen fruit and vegetables

First aid essentials

A woman packing a first-aid kit

Accidents may happen, and eventually, you may get sick. Make sure you have a first aid kit and some over-the-counter medications in case you need them. Here’s what you may need to provide:

  • Bandages – Provide packages of different sizes
  • Butterfly bandages – For keeping deep lacerations closed
  • Tweezers
  • Small scissors
  • Hot/cold compress bags
  • Cotton balls
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • OTC medications
  • Ointments

Additional necessities

The definition of necessity may be different from one person to another, but you’ll want to pick up a few more helpful items before moving into your apartment:

  • Fans for each room, in case your apartment doesn’t come with ceiling fans
  • Flashlight
  • Rechargeable light
  • Basic toolkit (hammer, wrench, screwdrivers) Fire extinguisher
  • Matches or lighter
  • Power strips or surge protectors
  • Extension cords
  • HDMI cable
  • Printer

Conclusion

If you’re moving alone, it can seem daunting, but it’s not so hard if you start planning early. Start with the things you always need before replicating all the items from the house you came from. You’ll even see that you can live without the other things, and you can simplify your life – saving money and effort in the process. It is always wise to check the best apartment rental sites in NYC to find the right apartment for you.