First Apartment Essentials Checklist for Young Adults

Couple eating sushi together in new home
Tom Merton / Getty Images

Moving out on your own can be overwhelming. From picking the right neighborhood to finding the perfect shade of paint for your living room, there a thousand decisions you have to make (not to mention things to buy!). Use this guide to help you figure out what you need to make your new home your own. 

  • 01 of 05

    Kitchen Basics

    small apartment kitchen

    Outfitting a first apartment kitchen can become an exercise in wasteful spending if you're not careful. Items you think you absolutely need—like a garlic press or melon baller—may wind up getting tossed in a drawer and never used after one or two tries. Assuming the first apartment has a relatively small kitchen, finding things that do double-duty is a good idea. For example, a Keurig can be used to make coffee, tea, hot chocolate or just hot water. 

    Kitchen Essentials

    • Pots and pans: small fry pan, medium fry pan, small pot, large pot, dutch oven
    • Bakeware: cookie sheet, jelly roll pan, 9x13 and 8x8 glass baking dish
    • Dishware for four or eight
    • Flatware for four or eight
    • Drinking glasses: four small and four large
    • Wine glasses 
    • Coffee mugs
    • Toaster oven
    • Knives: one large serrated knife, one large smooth-edged knife (to start)
    • Measuring spoons and cups
    • Dish towels
    • Cleaning supplies

    Use restraint when starting out—you can always buy more later.

  • 02 of 05


    young woman first apartment

    If buying a bed is on your list of things to get for a first apartment, this is the one item where you should not scrimp. A quality mattress doesn't have to be super-expensive, but getting one brand-new is far preferable to buying one used. Save money on other furnishings and get the best mattress you can. 

    Other Items Needed for the Bedroom

    • Closet organizers: boxes, hangers, shoe racks
    • Lamps
    • Sheets: Buy two sets to start, so you have a clean set while the other is being washed.
    • Pillows: Don't forget pillow covers, as they will extend the life of pillows.
    • Under-bed storage: Useful for large items like blankets, extra sheets, and towels
  • 03 of 05


    small bathroom

    If you are sharing a bathroom in your first apartment, it might be a good idea to keep your personal toiletries in your bedroom and use a carrier to take them with you. The last thing anyone wants is to find out their roommate is using their deodorant or bar of soap. If you are fortunate to have your own bathroom, then make it work for you by staying organized and, most of all, clean!

    What to Get for Your Bathroom

    • Toothbrush holder or case
    • Water cup
    • Towels (buy two sets to start)
    • Bathmat
    • Bathroom rug: a great way to add some fun color to a bathroom
    • Plunger
  • 04 of 05

    Essential Furniture


    You may have a vision of how your apartment will look, but your bank balance may say otherwise. If you aren't sure what is important to have to furnish your first apartment, here are some of the essentials.

    • Sofa: There are two ways to go with your first sofa. There's the inexpensive way, which, considering that most young adults will move again and upgrade at some point, is not a bad idea. There's also the investment way, which is great if you are both living alone and careful with your possessions. Like a bed, a sofa is something that is worth investing in, but only if you are ready to do so.
    • A place to eat: You may not have the desire or the room for a traditional dining table, but if you are someone who likes to eat and watch TV, get a sturdy coffee table. Avoid glass-top tables, as they are hard to keep clean. If you have a counter where you can eat, grab a few barstools. 
    • Artwork: Nothing says "not a home" like the absence of artwork. You don't have to spend a lot, of course. Just a few framed or mounted canvas pieces (no posters!) will do. Keep the personal photos in your bedroom and make the living room feel more sophisticated by focusing on art that you love.
    • Lighting: The more lighting the better. Have lighting for tasks—table lamps—and for overall lighting, like standing lamps, track lighting, and overhead lights. Check with your landlord before installing anything ​on the ceiling or the walls.
    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Make Your Apartment Feel Like Home


    If you have room in your budget once you've gotten the basics taken care of, there are a number of things you can do and buy to make your apartment feel homier.

    • Curtains: Your apartment may have basic blinds, but adding curtains can really warm up a space and add some much-needed color to apartment-basic beige or grey. They don't have to be expensive or fancy.
    • Blankets: Curling up for a nap or a night of Netflix isn't complete without a blanket to cover up and get cozy and comfortable. Buy a couple and pile them in a corner of the room.
    • Throw pillows: The easiest way to spice up the decor in any room, throw pillows are fun, inexpensive and easily replaced as your taste and the seasons change.
    • Area rugs: There's no rule that says you have to live with the dull beige carpet or linoleum floors in your apartment. Just add an area rug here or there for some brightening up.
    • Decor: Vases, coffee table books, decorative objects—whatever catches your eye can be added to your home to pump up the style and make it feel more like yours. Don't buy a ton of things at once. Instead, take your time and find just the right things that make you smile when you look at them.