First Apartment Essentials Every New Renter Needs

Dated: September 16 2016

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When you’re moving into your first apartment, there’s a seemingly endless number of things to buy. To keep sane, everything should be broken down into two categories: the stuff you absolutely need, and the stuff you merely want but can live without. Or more succinctly, essentials versus whims.

After all, odds are you’re on a tight budget, and furnishing an entire apartment all at once may not be possible. So what are the bare-bones basics you need?

Check out this room-by-room list of first apartment essentials to get comfortable without racking up debt on things you simply don’t need. Or at least that you don’t need now.


The bathroom is the first place you should stock right away. It’s also one room where you can spend a ton of money but you don’t need to.

“You don’t need a fully stocked bathroom,” says Emma Gordon, organizing and storing expert at Clutter, a do-it-all storage company in Los Angeles. “You can skip some of the luxuries like a cosmetic or toiletry organizer, but you want to make sure you have what you absolutely need the day you move. Otherwise, you—and anyone who helped you move—will be miserable.” Bummer.

So, stick to these basics:

  • Toilet paper

  • Soap and day-to-day toiletries

  • Shower curtain (your landlord won’t provide one) and shower curtain rings

  • Plunger

  • Towels


And when buying towels, don’t overdo it. “Skip the guest towels—you really don’t need them,” Gordon says. Instead, buy enough decent towels to get you by for a week, which is about the time you’ll be doing laundry again.


Don’t commit to buying a full bedroom set right away. To state the obvious: Furniture sets are expensive. Plusas you move around, you may not always have the right space for all those new pieces. You’re renting your place, remember?

Instead start off with the basics:

  • One end table

  • Reading lamp

  • Sheets and bedding

  • Mattress

  • Somewhere to store clothes


If you can’t afford an actual bed right now, don’t stress it. “You can put the mattress on the floor for a while. There’s no shame in that,” Gordon says. But do invest in some decent sheets so you aren’t miserable.

And if you’re really pressed for cash, you can skip the dresser at first. Just stock up on a bunch of hangers and plastic storage bins to keep your clothes off the floor. “You really don’t want a ‘floordrobe,’” Gordon says.

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Living room

Again, skip the pricier sets and just get what you need now:

  • A sofa

  • Coffee table

  • TV stand (if you have a TV)

  • Armchair (if you plan on having guests)


Save décor items like artwork and rugs for once you’re more settled in.

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Kitchens are notorious money pits, especially when you’re first starting out. There are appliances and gadgets for literally everything you can think of. Seriously. That gadget to remove strawberry stems that’s shaped like a strawberry? You will use it exactly zero times. Trust me on this one.

So stick to what you’ll need to make dinner on any given night:

  • Dishes (stick with a four-person setting, you probably won’t ever make dinner for more)

  • Cups

  • Mugs

  • Silverware

  • Cookie sheet (not just for cookies but anything you’ll put in the oven)

  • One large pot for pasta

  • One small pot for soup or smaller servings

  • One large pan for frying up breakfast

  • Microwave (make sure your new pad doesn’t come with one)


Once you have the basics, employ a slow and steady approach.

“Buy gadgets and appliances as you need them,” Gordon says. This will help keep your first apartment budget in check without depriving you of creature comforts—trust us, your apartment will be fully furnished in due time (hopefully without a strawberry-shaped strawberry stem remover).


Angela Colley



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