Moving into your first apartment? Yas, that’s a big deal. You’ve probs got a lot to think about RN, like apartment decorating ideas, so you def want ways to make that move-in process as breezy as poss. That’s why I’m here, to take some of that work away from you.
There’s nothing worse than moving into an apartment, wanting to do something, and then finding out that you haven’t got the right things to make it work. This ain’t your parents’ place, peeps, you’ve gotta get everything yourself. So, I’ve put together a checklist of items that you’ll need for each room.
This covers the four key apartment rooms: The kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living area. Some items you might need for each room, and some items you might end up swapping about as you get comfy in your living space. But trust me, having them all will make your life 10x easier.
Let's get started — scroll on down for each list. Oh, and free to screenshot and tick them off as you go, so you know what you still need to buy.
What do I need for my first apartment? The ultimate checklist
No need to get stressed, this is everything you need to make your first apartment move-in a piece of cake and help shape it into a space that feels like home. I’ve also shopped some buys, to save you the effort of scrolling through sites trying to find what you need.
The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article.
Bedroom checklist for first apartment
- Bed: Beds with storage are such game-changers! Amazon, Walmart, and Wayfair are all super stores to shop these at.
- Mattress: Mattresses in boxes are much easier to transport. Our top three, tried and tested by us, are the original Casper (it's our fave overall), memory foam Nectar (this is our no.1 memory foam mattress), and the memory foam Siena (we think it's such good value for money).
- Sheets: Make sure to get at least two bedding sets (here's where to get them from), so you have a wash and a wear.
Our favorite sheet set
Sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
Material: 100% long-staple cotton
OEKO-TEK certified: Yes
We love shopping sheets from Brooklinen, as they're both super affordable and great quality. Shoppers love these Luxe Sateen sheets, which have over 67,000 glowing reviews.
Best cheap sheet set
Sizes: Twin/twin XL, full, queen, king, Cal king
Material: 100% cotton
OEKO-TEK certified: Yes
This set is so genius, as it has full perimeter elastic to keep it secured onto your mattress. BTW, Threshold at Target is well worth checking out for any household basics.
Best bamboo sheet set
Sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
Material: Bamboo lyocell
OEKO-TEK certified: No
Did you know that bamboo is naturally cooling and seriously soft? Add onto that its eco-credentials (Ettitude's uses 500 times less water than cotton), and you've got a stunning sheet set.
- Pillows: You can’t sleep without one (or I sure can’t anyway!).
Best pillow for side sleepers
Filling: Levitex foam
Firmness: Medium firm
Cover: 100% nylon
Care: Machine wash and tumble dry cover only at 40°C
Looking for a pillow that's uber-supportive? These pillows come in a variety of sizes, meaning you can get the right height for you.
Best sustainable pillow
Filling: 100% British wool
Cover: Organic cotton cover quilted with British wool
Care: Machine wash at 30°C
This fluffy pillow is made from traceable British wool and certified organic cotton, making it sustainable AF. You can also open it up, so you can plump it up properly.
Best memory foam pillow
Filling: Visco memory foam
Cover: Bamboo fiber
Care: Machine wash cover only
For a pillow that's super soft and eco-friendly, the Panda memory foam pillow is a brilliant choice. It also stays firm properly, which is great for those who hate having to re-shape their pillow.
- Comforter: Duvet inserts will help you keep warm at night. Our fave is the Brooklinen down comforter if you need to bag one.
- Curtains: Blackout ones are the best, and these Wayfair Basics ones are such a steal (Wayfair has loads of blackout curtains worth checking).
- Nightstand: Easy-to-assemble ones are the best, such as this 17 Stories one on Wayfair, which also doubles as storage space.
- Night lamp: Different kinds include battery, sunrise alarm clock lamp (this JALL one is Amazon's Choice), and essential oil diffuser lamp (how adorable is this cactus lamp, which has over 3,500 five-star ratings on Amazon?).
- Wardrobe and/or drawers: BTW, clothes racks and closet organizers are great for making the most out of the space.
Rolling clothes rack
Size (in.): H59.62 x W28.5 x D16.25
Made from: Metal
I mean, talk about having elegance and functionality all in one place. With wheels, stoppers, and sturdy metal material, this golden rack gets all the gold stars.
For small spaces
Made from: Iron/MDF/non-woven fabric
Size (in.): H66 x W11.5 x L33.5
Drawers and a hanger all in one? Wowzers. This will save you so much space, all while providing plenty of room for your clothes and shirts.
For inside the closet
Made from: Plastic/metal
Size (in.): H48.4 x W60.8 x D12.4
You can change this organizer into whatever shape and size you like, as each cube has its own fixings. This is especially handy if you only have vertical space to play with, as is the case in many small spaces.
- Mirror: Ones with wiggly borders and rattan textures are so in RN.
- Storage: Ottomans, storage furniture, and over-the-door organizers are all great bedroom organizers
Our favorite small storage ottoman
Size (in): H18 x W13 x D13
Made from: Velvet
Colors: Black/Pumpkin Brown/Beige/Green/Grey
This is such a cute ottoman, as it both works as a storage solution and as a seat. It's also under $50, which is amazing considering it has a chenille texture, which gives it a premium AF finish.
Cute and quirky shelf
Size (in.): H59 x W18.1 x D11.8
Made from: Metal
Storage: 4 shelves
There's been a big spike (get it?) in cacti-themed furniture recently, which I'm here for in a big way. I love how it has both shelving and space for hanging accessories.
Size (in.): H70 x W19 x D1.25
Made from: Ethylene vinyl acetate
If you ain't fussed about aesthetics and would rather let your shoes shine, this rack is where it's at. It can hold around 26 pairs of shoes, meaning you won't have to put those beautiful but impractical heels into storage.
- Laundry hamper: Go for either a big hamper, a bag, or a bin
Put a lid on it
Size (in): H24 x W16 x D16
Made from: Plastic
I always go for laundry hampers with lids, as they stop those gross dirty laundry smells from getting out. Wayfair shoppers love how sturdy this one is, as well as its cute lewk.
Easy to use
Size (in): H26 x W17.75 x L17.25
Made from: Polyethylene plastic
Sometimes you just don't need all the frills and thrills, and this Walmart laundry hamper makes the job real simple. With two handles and clothes visibility, it both allows you to carry around laundry and see where that fave jumper has gone.
Two for one
Size (in): H24.4 x W11.8 x L15.7
Made from: Polyester
This set is such good value, as you get two hampers for the price of one, so you can separate your whites and colors from each other. Oh, and it's also Amazon’s Choice — score.
Kitchen checklist for first apartment
What’s cookin’, good lookin’? Well, hopefully lots of things, once you’ve got everything you need to get started.
- Appliances: Small kitchen appliances are best for apartments, such as small coffee makers and small air fryers.
Easy to use air fryer
Capacity: 2.1 quarts
Dimensions (in): H10.5 x W8.3 x D10.1
Air fryers can be real noisy, but this li'l beauty has been widely praised by reviewers for its quietness and simplicity to use. It can also be used with Google Assistant if you're into your home tech.
Small but powerful toaster
Capacity: 2 slices
Dimensions (in): H8.27 x W14.17 x D22
The Real Homes team found when testing this toaster that it fits larger slices of bread really well, retains heat brilliantly, and that it heats fast too. It also comes in lots of different colors, so you can choose one to match your kitchen's vibe.
Our favorite small coffee maker
Size (in.): H10.04 x W4.02 x L15.8
This small but mighty provides the full flavor of a coffee maker, without taking up the space of a bean-to-cup machine. Our ecomm editor Christina loves its OLED screen and dial, as well as its 10 default brew modes.
- Pots and pans: Non-stick pans are seriously amazing — we really rate the Our Place Always Pan here at Real Homes.
- Knives: I recommend getting a set like this Syvio set that’s Amazon’s Choice.
- Cutting board: Chop that fruit and veg without damaging those surfaces.
Size (in.): Th1.77 x W10 x L15
Made from: Bamboo wood
Price: $21.22 for 3pcs
This comes in a set of three, so whether you’re slicing up small veggies or chopping something major, you’ll have the cutting board for the job. Each one also has handles, so you can serve boujee AF cheeseboards on them too.
Size (in.): Th10.75 x W3.27 x L13.62
Made from: Plastic
Price: $65.87 for 5pcs
I actually have this cutting board set, and I absolutely love it. It makes it easy to stop cross-contamination, as well as looking super cute and colorful. Plus they’re super smooth, making it easy to quickly wipe off debris while cooking.
Size (in.): Largest W16 x L11
Made from: Polypropylene
Price: $15 for 3pcs
Chic chopping boards? Why not? This sleek set of black chopping boards will make for your most Insta-worthy meal prep yet. I can also lowkey see that li’l one working as a trinket tray. Add onto that the fact they’re dishwasher safe and eco-friendly, and I’m totally sold.
- Trash can and bags: A good kitchen trash can is a necessity.
For food waste
Capacity: 0.5 gal.
Recycling your food waste doesn't need to be ugly, people. These are the facts. It also doesn't need to be stinky. This Brabantia bin keeps odors tightly stored away and is dishwasher safe too. The stainless steel handle makes it a total breeze to empty too.
Perfect for apartments
Capacity: 8 gal.
Okay, so this may be a bit pricey, but it's totally perfect for smaller kitchens, with its stackable all-in-one design. With the ability to hold both general waste and food waste, you won't need multiple trash cans with this bad boy.
For small kitchens
This trash can was reviewed by a Real Homes reviewer, and they found it to be so easy to clean, with wipeable surfaces and a plastic bucket inside that can be removed. The rounded edges also help it fit cozily in small kitchen corners.
- Dish towels and oven mitts: For cleaning up wet stuff and picking up hot stuff.
- Food storage containers: I have these glass ones from Amazon, which are perfect for leftovers.
- Dinnerware: Proper dishes are much better than eating off paper plates. I’m seriously in love with this swirly blue set, which is Amazon's Choice.
- Utensils: Knives, forks, spoons, and teaspoons are the essentials.
- Spices and pantry essentials: I store my spices in a spice rack, as well as keep my pantry organized.
Size (in.): H11.75 x W16.89 x D11
Made from: Powder coated steel
Stop playing Tetris with your cans, and start making them easier to grab with this game-changing organizer. It has three different tiers, so you can categorize the different types. The tiers are slightly slanted, so a new can will roll in front once you've grabbed one. Told you it was genius.
Label and organize
Size (in.): H10.5 X W13.33 x D4.33
Made from: Alloy steel
Okay — this might just be every spice lover’s dream. You can store and label all your spices, as the set comes with printed labels, as well as chalk labels so you can write on any unusual spices too. It also has over 3,000 five-star ratings, with Amazon shoppers saying it goes above and beyond and that they’re completely in love with it.
Size (in.): H12 x W12 x D6
Made from: Steel
Price: $82.49 for 8
My snack cupboard is a total mess RN, so I'm totally adding these bins to my cart ASAP. You can separate out different foods with these, as well as categorize packaged food, vinegar, oils, and more. This would also work really well in the fridge too.
- Scales: It’s not worth trying to guesstimate when cooking or baking, trust — these Amazon Basics ones are Amazon’s Choice if you need a set.
- Cleaning supplies: All-purpose cleaning spray and vinegar are key cleaning products, as are mops.
Our favorite everyday cleaning spray
Size: 16 fl. oz.
Scent: Lemon verbena
This is a real cleaning caddy essential, as it works perfectly around all areas of the house. As well as being a great price and having a gorgeous scent, it's also cruelty-free and made with plant-derived ingredients. Check, check, check, and check.
The best mop for small homes
Head: 19 pads/cloths
If you have dirt that needs cleaning or a spill that needs mopping up, this is great for a speedy clean. Our editor-in-chief and over 50,000 five-star reviews vouch for the power of this small but mighty mop. It has removable pads, which saves constantly washing the mop, and which can be recycled via Swiffer's recycling program.
The best cleaning vinegar
Size: 1 gal.
Made from: Grain and water
Vinegar is one of the best natural household cleaners, and this Heinz one is particularly amazing at removing stains and dirty marks. You can also put it in your dishwasher or washing machine to get 'em sparkling and clean.
Living area checklist for first apartment
AKA, the Netflix and chill zone. This list has all the items you need to spread out and make the space your own.
- Seating: One couch and a couple of armchairs are plenty for an apartment.
- Coffee table: Because you can’t put your mug on the floor. BTW, lift-top ones make for a great additional storage unit.
- Curtains: Go for ones that block out the light, like these BGment curtains that have over 40,000 five-star Amazon reviews.
- Lighting: Overhead lighting, lamps, and/or floor lamps are your key options. I love this Orren Ellis floor lamp on Wayfair, and this elegant Threshold lamp from Target.
- Shelving and storage: Tall, thin bookshelves work well in small spaces.
- Rugs: Amazon, Wayfair, and Walmart are all great places to shop for rugs.
Ocean blue rug
Size (in.): H0.49 x W20 x L34
Made from: Polyester
Color: Ocean blue
I'm all about that ocean devotion RN, and this rug is giving me major mermaid core vibes. It also has stain-resistant properties, meaning you won't need to worry if you spill your cup of coffee on it.
Pretty in pink
Size (ft.): W3 x L5
Made from: Polyester
Did you know that newstalgia is so in RN? Add a touch of vintage to your decor with this cute AF rug. The back is non-slip, meaning you won’t have to constantly move it back into place. It’s also washable, making maintenance super easy.
Size (ft.): W4 x L6
Made from: Polypropylene
Color: Ivory/slate blue
Want to add texture to the room without overwhelming the space? This pretty patterned rug is the perfect solution. Oh, and it's from one our favorite Amazon furniture brands here at Real Homes.
- TV and TV stand: For catching up on your fave shows.
- Plants: Go for ones that easily stay alive (ah, ah, ah).
Perfect for tabletops
Did you know that snake plants are moderate growers? This means that you won’t have to worry about it growing too big in your small space. It also only needs watering once a week with one cup of water — so you can pour your glass of water into it, Dakota Johnson style.
The shiny leaves on ZZ plants almost make them look plastic, but they are in fact very real. Place it in a bright space with indirect sunlight, that’s also fairly warm, for optimal growth. It can grow up to 3ft tall, making it a great option for those who want a good amount of greenery.
No, you can’t eat this plant, despite its yummy name. It needs medium to bright sunlight, so be sure to place it near a window or where sunlight tends to shine in the house. Oh and you don’t need to water it loads either — it only needs slightly damp soil.
Bathroom checklist for first apartment
- Shower curtain: These are generally made out of either fabric, PVC, or PEVA. Need one? This gorgeous sage green Dynamene curtain is Amazon’s Choice.
- Bath mat: They’re such an easy way to spruce up a bathroom. This bright peach one from UO is so Insta, as is this Persian-style one from Anthropologie.
- Towels: Gotta stay dry.
The best towels
Material: 100% Egyptian cotton
Sizes: Hand Towel, Bath Towel, Bath Sheet, Bath Mat
Colors: Silver Gray, Pearl Gray, White
Price: $71 (for 2 bath towels)
It's always useful when bath towels come in pairs, so you can have one for that body-ody-ody and one for your hair. The Real Homes testers found this set to be fluffy, absorbent, and thick, likening it to hotel-style ones. Fancy AF.
Material: 100% Cotton
Sizes: Face Cloth, Hand Towel, Bath Towel, Bath Sheet, Super Jumbo
Colors: White, Pearl, Gray, Soft Gray, Slate
The Real Homes team are big fans of The White Company towels (and bedding!) and these ribbed ones are particularly luxurious. The White Company is a fab place to look for simple essentials that look and feel super luxurious, and this includes towels. After washing, the team found that they got even fluffier — the dream, basically.
Material: 100% pure cotton
Sizes: Bath Towel
Want that at-home spa experience, without having to pay for a spendy massage? These ribbed towels are seriously soft, thanks to the zero-twist technology. It also comes in a branded ribbon and swing tag, so it will feel like a true treat unraveling it in your new apartment.
- Toilet brush and plunger: Brush-wise, you can grab ones with plastic heads (like this stainless steel set that's Amazon's Choice) or disposable heads. In terms of plungers, you can get standard rubber ones, ones with flaps, and accordion-style ones. Over 6,000 Amazon shoppers rate this Clorox plunger because of its sturdiness and discreet look.
- Trash can and liners: Ones you can get include ones with pedals, ones with removable lids, and just open ones. This Amazon one is just the right size, and a fab price too at just under $23.
- Toilet paper holder: Sticky adhesive ones, like this Layuki holder on Amazon, will stay put on tiled walls.
- Toothbrush holder: Choose one with room for your toothpaste too, such as Urbanstrive's which is also Amazon’s Choice.
- Soap dispenser: Why choose a boring one, when you can get a cute one, like this mushroom-patterned dispenser from UO?
- Shower caddy: Keep your lotions and potions all in one place.
Lots of hanging hooks
Size (in.): D9.9 x W3.3 x H13
Made from: Plastic
If your apartment is a rental and doesn't come with shelving space, you can stick on this li'l one instead. It has a basket for your shampoo and conditioner, grooves for hanging items, plus a cute dish for your bar of soap.
Size (in.): L12.6 x W3.9 x H28
Made from: Thermoplastic Rubber, Polypropylene
Sometimes, you've just gotta check that you've scrubbed all the right spots (IYKYK). Check yourself out while you're showering with this caddy, which also comes with cute accessories, a razor hook, and moveable baskets. So many handy things, all in one.
For dorm rooms
Size (in.): D8.66 x W8.66 x H9.8
Made from: Mesh
I'm always delighted when anything has pockets (I'm talking to you in particular, dresses), which is why I really like this Amazon number. It has eight pockets (!!), so you can fit all your bottles and brushes in there. It's also portable, so you can always take it to the bedroom to carry on pampering.
- Cleaning supplies: It’s super important to regularly clean the bathroom.
Our no. 1 bathroom cleaner
I always look for Method when I want a cleaner that's simple but amazingly effective. One of our Real Homes staff writers loves its bathroom cleaner and says it leaves her sink, shower, and bathroom surfaces squeaky clean. Her top tip? Let it sit for 10 mins before wiping your surfaces down.
Our favorite air freshener
I have this air spray on my bathroom window ledge because it's amazing at removing gross odors real fast. It has 100% natural essential oils, with tea tree, peppermint, and eucalyptus that instantly freshen the room with their gorgeous scents.
For cleaning your toilet
Yep — it ain't the cutest place to clean in the house, but it's gotta be done. This Lysol cleaner kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, has an angled top to get in those small crevices, and has more than 60,000 reviews on Amazon.
All set for your new apartment? You should be once you’ve ticked all these off. Once you’ve got the essentials down, you can then play about with more decor and organization ideas, to really make the space your own. The fun is officially about to begin, bestie.
Up next: How to organize a small apartment, according to the experts