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First Apartment Checklist

First Apartment Checklist: Everything You’ll Need and a Complete To Do List

As you get closer to moving into your first apartment, you need to get organized in a very big way.  Our first apartment checklist includes a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need, as well as a list of tasks you’ll need to take care of prior to your move.

Moving into an apartment for the first time is a whole new world. Leases, keys, utilities – you have a lot of things to keep straight.

The key to any successful move to is to get organized. To help you, this first apartment checklist post provides you with:

  • A complete 1st apartment checklist of items you’ll need
  • A downloadable PDF with clickable checkboxes
  • A bonus extra with 16 To Dos for moving into a new apartment

Why do you need a first apartment checklist?

Checklists are one of the basic organizational tools you’ll find – and they’re also the most effective. Atul Gawande, who wrote “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right”, introduced a checklist to eight hospitals in 2008. Deaths dropped by 47%.

First Apartment Checklist

Moving into a new apartment isn’t a matter of life or death, but being disorganized can cost you time and money. That’s why this first apartment essentials checklist is so, well, essential!


What do I need for my first apartment?

Moving into a new apartment will require a lot of stuff you typically don’t encounter in a dorm setting, or when you’re living with your parents.  

Everyone’s list of necessities when moving into a new apartment will be different. We’ve attempted to be as exhaustive with our list as possible. You can pick and choose what’s truly important stuff for your situation.

First Apartment Checklist


The kitchen is always the toughest room to stock (and pack when you move).  There are so many items here, we’ll try and organize them into broad categories.

Cooking and Baking

  • Serving bowls
  • Mixing bowls
  • Pots
  • Pans
  • Spatulas
  • Ladles
  • Whisks
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Grater
  • Cutting boards
  • Hand mixer
  • Can opener
  • Knives for cooking (paring knife, slicing knife)
  • Serving spoons
  • Colander

Kitchen Electronics

  • Toaster 
  • Microwave
  • Blender or Juicer
  • Coffee maker
  • Hand mixer
  • Microwave
  • Toaster oven
  • Kettle or hotpot

Miscellaneous Kitchen

  • Silverware organizer (for your drawer)
  • Dish towels
  • Dish drying rack
  • Bottle opener
  • Corkscrew
  • Food storage container (use glass, if possible)
  • Aluminum foil, wax paper, plastic wrap
  • Cabinet paper (for lining shelves)
  • Plastic bags for storing food and lunches
  • Ice cube trays
  • Dish soap – scrubbers
  • Trash cans with bags
  • Area rugs


  • Silverware
  • Dishes
  • Glasses
  • Mugs


We’re not bothering to list personal care grooming items here — more things for general use. For all these items, make sure you’re always thinking about guests in terms of spare towels, etc.

  • Toilet paper
  • Tissues
  • Hooks for hanging towels
  • Trash can
  • Bathroom
  • Bath towels
  • Hand towels
  • Air freshener
  • Washcloths
  • Bathtub mat
  • Bath rug
  • Soap dish
  • Toothbrush holder
  • Wastebasket
  • Shower Curtain (liner and rings)
  • Shower caddy
  • Plunger
  • Toilet brush
  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Personal care items (razor, etc.)


Much of these items will depend on the size of your bedroom. We’re recommending that you get a bed bug mattress protector, just in case. They can come from a number of sources.

  • Mattress, box springs and bed frame
  • Pillows
  • Pillow protectors
  • Mattress pad
  • Sheets
  • Comforters
  • Spare blankets for guests
  • Night stands
  • Lamps
  • Dresser
  • Hangers
  • Laundry hamper
  • Trash can
  • Curtain
  • Alarm clock
  • Underbed boxes
  • Mirrors (door and full length)
  • Drapes/blinds
  • Rugs
  • Fans and or space heater
  • Mattress and pillow protector

Dining Area

In smaller apartments, you might have an eat-in kitchen that doubles as a dining room, so your list may be smaller. 

  • Dining room table
  • Dining room chairs
  • Placemats or tablecloth
  • Sideboard or storage hutch
  • Candles/tealights
  • Candle holders
  • Trivets

Study Area

Your study area will depend on your computer setup and where you like to work. One pro tip is to store a printer in a closet or on a shelf, unless you use it frequently.

  • Desk
  • Chair
  • Printer
  • Printer stand
  • File cabinets
  • Office supplies (paper, etc.)
  • Pens
  • Paper
  • Dry erase board/bulletin board
  • Calendar
  • Lamps

Entry Area

If you’re fortunate enough to have a small entry area, you’ll want to consider some of these items to prevent tracking in snow/dirt/rain.

  • Coat hangers
  • Coat tree
  • Welcome mat
  • Umbrellas
  • Umbrella holders
  • Boot and shoe storage

Living Room

Make sure you’re ready to decorate a place to relax and have fun.

  • Area rugs
  • Candles
  • Throw pillows
  • Drapes/Blinds
  • Lamps
  • Futon
  • Couch and chairs
  • Ottoman
  • Picture frames and hooks
  • Shelves
  • Side tables
  • Art (paintings, posters, photographs)

Closet – Storage

In an apartment, any storage area is cherished. Make the most of these areas.

  • Dressers
  • Clothes hangers
  • Hooks
  • Closet organizers
  • Storage bins and boxes
  • Shelving units
  • Garment storage

Electronics – Audio

A staple in every home, we’ve listed some basics. If you have multiple computer monitors or TVs, make note of it so you can keep things straight.

  • Wireless speakers
  • Extension cords
  • HDMI cables
  • Ethernet cables
  • Portable chargers
  • Surge protectors
  • Television
  • Computer monitors


Whether your laundry is in unit or shared with other tenants, you’ll need all the basics.  If you’re sharing a machine, keep a supply of change on hand too.

  • Laundry hamper
  • Detergent
  • Fabric softener
  • Fabric sheets
  • Stain remover
  • Iron and Ironing board
  • Drying rack
  • Change

Cleaning Supplies

You’ll need cleaning supplies from the moment you move in. You’ll want to keep the apartment in tip-top shape not only for your own benefit, but also to preserve your security deposit.

  • Dustpan
  • Broom
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Mop – bucket
  • Toilet bowl cleaner
  • Toilet bowl brush
  • Air freshener
  • Sponges
  • Paper towels
  • Window cleaner
  • Trash bags

Miscellaneous Items

No one is expecting you to do any woodworking, but you should have a basic set of tools at your disposal for any odds and ends tasks that arise.

  • Tools (screwdrivers: flat and Phillips head)
  • Hammer and nails for pictures
  • Wrench
  • Tapes (masking, clear, duct)
  • Storage bins
  • Flashlights
  • Scissors
  • Fans
  • Lightbulbs
  • Batteries

Grocery Staples 

Provided you’ve got all your cleaning supplies purchased, the next item you’ll want to get is grocery staples. We recommend putting together the list beforehand, as you’ll likely be a bit frazzled after the move.

Starter spices should include oregano, chili powder, basil, salt, pepper and anything else that might come in handy as you start your culinary experience!

  • Spices and dry seasonings
  • Cooking oils
  • Sugar and flour
  • Baking soda and powder
  • Condiments and dressings
  • Rice and dry noodles
  • Coffee, tea, soda

First Apartment Checklist

To Do Checklist for your First Apartment

We’ve given you the checklist of things you’ll need for each room. Now here’s a To Do list of things you’ll need to do before and after you’ve moved.

  1. Clean out your old stuff. Before you start packing, give away old clothes and furniture to Goodwill.
  2. Reserve a moving truck. They go early in Madison, especially around the August 15th moving date.
  3. Read your move-in packet. Take the time to read through the move-in packet your landlord has given you, or any types of rental documents they’ve asked you to read.
  4. Reserve a hotel room. If your parents plan on spending the night in town, book up a place for them. In Madison, rooms fill up quick during this busy time.
  5. Contact your roommates ahead of time. Check out our blog post on this topic.
  6. Reserve a parking spot. If you need parking for the school year, now is the time to reserve it before spots are claimed. Click here to for more info on Madison parking.
  7. Set up your banking. Call ahead to area banks or credit unions and get your cash situation established so you can hit the ground running.
  8. Fill out a post office change of address form. This can be done online or at the post office. Remember to use mail forwarding.
  9. Get moving materials, including boxes and packing tape. Find some bubble wrap or old newspapers you can wad up and use to protect fragile items.
  10. Bring a checkbook to the property management office. You’ll need it when you come in to pick your keys.
  11. Get renter’s insurance. Call a local agent for renter’s insurance, or get on your parent’s current homeowner policy.
  12. Revisit your budget. Have your spending priorities changed since you first rented the apartment?
  13. Remember to fill out your check-in sheet before you move-in. Make this a top priority before the move even begins. This will be critical when you move-in.
  14. Set up your utilities. Alert the utility companies of your new address, and discontinue services at the old. This includes cable, Internet, electric and gas, and other ongoing services.
  15. Ask your landlord relevant questions now. Are you wondering when rent is due, or if you’re confused on the utility issue, ask questions now. The move-in process can be rather chaotic, so get answers to these questions ahead of time.
  16. Establish your medical care. Do you know where you’ll be getting medical care? Find out the location on campus and if you have a condition that necessitates establishing contact with a doctor on a regular basis, set up arrangements now.

This checklist will be critical when the big move-in day nears. The more organized you are, the easier your move will be. If you didn’t already, download a copy here!

For our free First-Time Renters Guide, which also includes all the To Do items and a comprehensive budget worksheet, click on the button below!

First time renters guide

Download our First Time Renters Guide

Everything you need to know when searching for your first apartment.

Click here for a PDF Copy

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