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Your First Apartment: Setting Up

Updated on March 8, 2019

For many, this is the most exciting part. Maybe you wanted a television in your room when you were growing up, and your parents wouldn't let you have one. Now's your chance! Maybe you always wanted a pet fish and your mom thought they were "icky." Well now you can finally get that little wiggly creature (though you'll need to answer to your landlord for anything bigger)!

Much of this will be trial and error as you feel out your personal style. You may not be sure what you need versus what you want.

While you may have to figure a lot of this out for yourself, there are still mounds of tips I (and others) can give you to make the transition smoother. It will already be tough to assume so much responsibility for yourself, so you might as well make the rest of it as easy as possible, right?

By the way... Depending on how much space you have and how "out" of your parents' house you have to be, the advice in this hub will have to be taken flexibly. Some people have to totally move out into no space at all, and some people still "live" at their parents' place for years to come and move into a space that is bigger than they can even fill. And there are people of all ranges in between. Keep that in mind if any of this advice sounds a little "off" for your situation.

How to Get Rid of Old Clothes

Before You Move Out

If your parents have the space in their home to act as storage for you, then you are very lucky. Either way, though, you will need to decide what to bring to your new apartment and what to leave behind.

Pretty much, you should only bring necessities. This means the clothes on your back, whatever furniture your parents can spare for you, and nothing else. Think you need every kitchen utensil ever invented? Think again. Think you need to bring the stuffed animals you've been collecting since birth? Forget them.

If your parents are downsizing or want your room for something else, you'll need to clear out most of your stuff. This means getting rid of old clothes, books, and other belongings. The video to the right has excellent tips about how to organize that stuff. My rule of thumb is: If I haven't worn/used it in six months, it goes.

A simple bedroom layout that is functional, space-efficient, and attractive will work best. (Photo by Stefanie L)
A simple bedroom layout that is functional, space-efficient, and attractive will work best. (Photo by Stefanie L)


If your parents will let you take any furniture out of your room (or the basement) to your new apartment, brownie points for them! If not, check out local tag sales or Craigslist.

You will obviously need a bed, though you'll need to decide what size based on your space and what you want to use that space for (obviously). A bed frame that has shelves or drawers at the head or foot of the bed is great for storage, as is a bed that has shelves or other storage space underneath it.

In fact, in my second apartment my father built a five-foot-high loft for my double bed, and I put my desk, sheves, and keyboard underneath it. We were pretty strapped for space, though.

You will also need a chest of drawers or a set of shelves with baskets for your clothing. It helps to only hang the clothing that must be hung and fold the rest into drawers. If the drawers are low, like in the photo to the right, you can use the top shelf for a small television, DVDs, books, or a small set of shelves.

My experience says not to bring kitchen utensils until you know what you will need. A microwave and toaster are almost definitely a necessity, though, unless you have a particular aversion to one or the other. Also, many small appliances like that can fit on top of low refrigerators (which will hopefully already be in the apartment!).

A Family Makes 265 sq ft Work

Go Vertical

You may be detecting a theme in the furniture and the video. If not, here it is: Go vertical! If you feel that there is not enough space for a certain thing, you may be forgetting the space above (or even below) where you want that thing to go.

For example, you and your roommate(s) each have your own shampoo, conditioner, soap, and other shower accoutrements. Where is all that stuff to go on the surface of the tub? Go vertical by buying shower shelves (see Amazon capsule to the right), and you can each have your own! More space for everyone, plus, no more hair-of-unknown-origin sticking to your shampoo bottle!

This works with pretty much everything. Amazon, eBay, the Container Store, Walmart, etc are all great places to get affordable but durable shelving that can go on top of any dresser. And anything can be shelves! Don't forget your kitchen, which if you're anything like me, will go largely unused. Plenty of people use that extra cabinet as a bookcase or a place to store videogames.

A Couple More Rules

Some people might consider these loosely the rules of feng shui, and others might just call them the rules of Not Being An Idiot. I'll share them regardless.

  1. Less is more. Think of it this way: if you start out with less stuff, you get to buy more stuff that you'll actually need in the future!
  2. Regardless of what you think now, blocking a major walking area is not a good idea. Feng shui says that this interrupts the flow of energy in a room, but it also facilitates the flow of toes into hard corners of furniture. Learn from my mistake (and several broken toes) and make it easy to maneuver in your apartment.

A few personal decorations dress up this otherwise bland, tiled-and-barred window to make it very warm and attractive.  (Photo by Ekaterina Boym)
A few personal decorations dress up this otherwise bland, tiled-and-barred window to make it very warm and attractive. (Photo by Ekaterina Boym)

Now, the Fun Part!

The last part is, of course, the most fun, and that's decorating your new space! Whether this means color coordinating the drapes with your comforter or pasting up huge posters of naked girls, it's best because it's all up to you!

If you're not allowed to paint your walls (not that you should even if you can; it's not worth it for a one- or two-year lease) but want some color, you can hang a large piece of fabric on one or several of the walls. This might make the room feel smaller, depending on the colors, but it will also make it feel much warmer and "homey," which is the ultimate goal of decoration anyway.

Be sure to bring something from the room you grew up in, but maybe instead of putting it over your bed as always, put it in the kitchen. This is your chance to shake things up, but don't shake it up too much, or it won't feel like you.

And use the parts of your apartment that you hate most to your advantage! If you hate the bars on your window because you live on the first floor, plant some climbing ivy outside your window and help it to grow around those bars. I know from personal experience that this makes them quite lovely, and it can almost feel like you're living in a garden!

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Again, Enjoy the Process

Have fun with all of this! Your first only happens once, so enjoy the little mistakes you make and allow yourself to learn from them. The whole decision-making process with a roommate and in a new space can be extraordinarily exciting, so let yourself really enjoy every moment!


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