Putting together a grown-up apartment
April 25, 2014 4:49 PM   Subscribe

After subletting in others' apartments for many years, I just moved into my first place on my own. It's a one-bedroom. What do I need to buy?

Just moved into what we might as well call my first ever apartment... I guess I'm all grown up.

I have always lived with roommates who already had plenty of "stuff" -- furniture, utensils, pots and pans, kitchen appliances, and so on. Have only been in the new place for two days but it seems every hour I think of something new that I need to buy.

Of course, it's good to have some things, like a toilet plunger, BEFORE you realize in the moment that you need it. So what are things that I need to buy for my apartment -- particularly if it's something that perhaps I'm not thinking of?

(I don't have unlimited money, so focusing on necessities.)

A link to a website that has a good list of such stuff is just as helpful as "No one's mentioned ____ yet, but you really need one!"

posted by lewedswiver to Home & Garden (48 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
- Dish drying rack
- New toilet seat
- Shower curtain (or a new shower curtain liner would suffice—shower curtains are fancy accessories, the shower curtain liners are the actual water-blocking business.)
- Gas key (to shut off the gas if necessary)
- Earthquake kit (I see you're in SoCal)
- Swiffer

Go hit Ross up and browse their home department. You should be able to get most of the above and all the towels/mats/rags/etc. you need for under $100.
posted by carsonb at 4:56 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

A bucket and a hidden stash of extra toilet paper.
posted by smangosbubbles at 4:57 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

(I don't have unlimited money, so focusing on necessities.)

Dollar stores are a great place to get stuff on a budget until you can afford better versions. Things like colanders, plates, dish drainers, sponges, can openers & other kitchen utensils, mixing bowls, ice cube trays, dish towels, and the like. Keep in mind you get what you pay for, but since you're just starting out, better to have a crappy ice cube tray than none at all.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:02 PM on April 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

A multi-head srewdriver.
posted by srboisvert at 5:04 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by thelonius at 5:06 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Vacuum cleaner, flashlight, spare batteries (there is nothing worse than the 3 AM beep of a dying smoke detector when you don't have a 9-volt on hand).
posted by JannaK at 5:08 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Cooking pots would will do in a pinch, but in my first Plumbing Emergency, I was very happy that I already owned a big plastic bucket.
posted by pemberkins at 5:08 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

A good flashlight.
posted by vignettist at 5:09 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I lived by myself I went to both Ikea and the local Chinatown. That got me enough of the stuff like can openers, buckets, dish towels, and all that other crap you need without having to spend a fortune.
posted by bradbane at 5:10 PM on April 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

• duct tape
• candles for power outages, but don't light them right after an earthquake because of possible gas leaks. (Flashlights have been mentioned and are important for emergencies, but candles are better for long evenings.)
• spare keys
• band-aids. Better yet, a basic first aid kit.
• dish towels, especially if you don't have a dishwasher.

New toilet seat

This is always my number one answer, and the first thing I do when I move. Take measurements, because while there are standard sizes, there are different shapes and sizes.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:12 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

An extra box of light bulbs.
Extra fire alarm batteries.
A cutting board, a knife and a colander than can fit in the sink.
Ice cube trays.
A trash can for the kitchen and one for the bathroom.
posted by mibo at 5:20 PM on April 25, 2014

Some nice plants. These can be had cheap.
posted by the big lizard at 5:24 PM on April 25, 2014

You don't necessarily have to buy all brand new stuff. You can pick up lots of things like dishes, glasses, cutlery and tools at your local thrift store. You might find some cool stuff, you'll be helping out a charity and doing your bit to reduce consumption a little and your wallet will appreciate the break.
posted by islander at 5:24 PM on April 25, 2014 [11 favorites]

Melamine sponges (e.g. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, but the no-name ones are just as good).

Assuming your new place is nice and shiny-clean right now: a little regular TLC with the sponges will keep it from getting so grody that it becomes hard to clean. Esp. in the bathroom and kitchen.
posted by nacho fries at 5:28 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm in my 30s and moved out on my own for the first time ever less than a year ago. Not sure what your furniture situation is like, but I definitely still feel the lack of not having a proper table for eating meals on (which is too heavy for me to transport on my own when car-less, so I keep putting it off and currently use two stacked rubbermaid bins) or curtains (as quality ones can be surprisingly expensive).

Presuming you already have decent furniture, I would also suggest these items which I don't think have been mentioned: an ironing board (or even an ironing "pad" you can lay on top a flat surface), doormat for putting wet or muddy shoes on, sponges and / or dish towels for wiping up kitchen counters, and a scrubby brush contraption (possibly along with special bowl cleanser) for the toilet. I also found a dish to lay my kitchen sponge in helpful.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 5:30 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fire extinguisher (Make sure it's an ABC one).
posted by Aleyn at 5:34 PM on April 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

Head to a thrift store for "case goods" things like tables. Chairs, dressers.

You can use latex primer and paint to paint it all white, or any color you like really.

You might get a set for cheap you like as-is.

Lamps are super important. I like the clearance end-caps at Target. Scrounge there, so cheap!

Ikea has the kitchen in a box. Get that. It's a good starter.

A towel or two, a shower curtain, do you live in Atlanta? I can help!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:37 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

window coverings (if not provided), a mat or rack for shoes near the front door, 3M hooks (the kind that you can easily remove) are great for hanging stuff where you need it
posted by walkinginsunshine at 5:39 PM on April 25, 2014

Buy a box of different screws, nails, picture hangers, and the like. They'll come in handy.

Tape (Scotch, duct, gaffing, masking).

Glue (super and white).

Paper and pens.


Dish towels.
posted by xingcat at 5:40 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got some great answers when I asked a similar question a while ago, focusing on "the things you haven't already thought of."
posted by darksasami at 5:41 PM on April 25, 2014

Home goods and christmas tree stores are good for both pictures and frames.
posted by kmr at 5:42 PM on April 25, 2014

Oh, and have you searched here yet? I know I've answered this question a few times but there's always something new.

On preview, start with darksasami!
posted by Room 641-A at 5:43 PM on April 25, 2014

If you ever want to brown meat, a cast-iron pan is really great. I'd start with a ten-inch one, because 12's are a lot heavier and harder to store. Cast iron isn't as hard to care for as many people claim -- I treat mine with oil (3 rounds of treatment for each) once a year, and I can use dish soap and scrub with a brush.
posted by wryly at 5:45 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was also going to suggest a cast-iron pan. It'd be top of my shortlist of cooking things to spend on (along with a 1-quart saucepan with a lid, either a wok or a sauté pan, and a really good cook's knife). Other stuff (wooden spoons, flat and curved, general flatware and cutlery etc) I'd go to one of the budget places people have mentioned. A toaster oven is kind of nice to have. Something to make coffee with.

Shelving, printer storage, extension cables & power bars. A coat rack or hooks; hooks for towels and robes. Rugs make things cozy, but would wait to get something durable that you could stand to look at for a long time. (I feel like sometimes it's easy to bring whatever's cheap in for convenience's sake, and that stuff just winds up sticking around.)

Agree with Ruthless Bunny on good lighting, critical for comfort; also, see how different colours work in your space before committing to paint/rugs etc, once you've got your lighting set up.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:03 PM on April 25, 2014

Toilet brush and toilet plunger. Spare lightbulbs. A small tool kit (even if it's a cheap ikea one) with basic tools. A map of where your circuits are (if you have your own electric panel) and where your water shut-offs are (consider labelling them if they are cryptic). A smoke alarm and a CO alarm if there are any sources of potential CO in the building, and a fire extinguisher (ABC type). Congrats on the new place.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 6:15 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ask yourself what kinds of activities you'll be doing at home, and where you'll be spending most of your time. I just moved into my own apartment, and I wanted a kitchen i could cook a decent meal in, so that's where i focused my spending. I don't have a couch or fancy game console, but my girlfriend and i spent many fun nights getting in each other's way making something new, and having a blast. This thread helped me make my kitchen decisions, and i'm sure there are similar lists/threads/articles for whatever your room of choice is.

Another question to ask yourself is, what don't you need, or what can you put off until later? 6 months in, and i still don't have a couch, internet access (writing this from the coffee shop, whee!) or a kitty. So think about what you can hold off on as well.

As far as actual tangibles, make sure you have a spare key somewhere.

Have fun! I'm surprised how many people i've met who haven't had the chance to live alone. It's magical.
posted by sambosambo at 6:33 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Bleach, bleach, bleachy bleach bleach. Only toxic if it's poorly ventilated; otherwise will do its job and leave no toxic trace. No need to buy brand-new items (such as toilet seats) if you can bleach the bejeezus out of the existing ones.

I'd also skip the plunger. If you're not super cavalier about what you attempt to flush, and you own some good dish soap (and bleach), you'll never need a plunger. Google will give a variety of techniques, but this approach has helped me (female, living with 1920s plumbing) a few times.
posted by magdalemon at 6:43 PM on April 25, 2014

Definitely a fire extinguisher! And keep flashlights and extra batteries somewhere that is easily accessible.

Make a list of important phone numbers and put it on the fridge or somewhere else easy to find. Landlord's phone number, poison control, etc.

Not sure from your question if you've actually moved in yet. If not, make sure to get a shower curtain in there stat!
posted by radioamy at 6:44 PM on April 25, 2014

If you're not super cavalier about what you attempt to flush, and you own some good dish soap (and bleach), you'll never need a plunger.

Suffice to say, this has not been my experience. Get the flanged one.

Also, when it comes to stuff like dish drainers and silverware trays, it's a good idea to take a few minutes and measure the spot they're going to go into first, so you don't end up with a small pile of frustratingly wrong-sized items.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:53 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Vinegar, baking soda, dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels, baking stone.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:35 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

- Bleach (bleach, bleachy bleach bleach!) has been mentioned; I keep a spray bottle filled with a diluted bleach/water mixture for spraying nasty stuff down. (I'm sure if this is a horrible idea and bleachy plastic fumes are leeching into the air someone will say something.)

- If your kitchen is small and you cook meat, consider a plastic dish pan. I break down a lot of chicken and pork, and it's so much easier to throw all the raw meaty meat dishes and utensils in the sink and get those out of the way so I can do the rest of the dishes and clean-up with a clean sink area. It can also be useful for handwashing/soaking clothes or as a makeshift bucket.

- Coffee/tea making supplies. For coffee this can be as simple as cone.

- If you're in LA you very well may not have A/C. If you know you're a fan person start shopping very soon. Not so much for sales, but for selection. By June they'll get harder and harder to find.

- Bed Bath & Beyond: If you're going to go, start collecting the 20%/$5 off coupons. At the flagship store on Olympic & Sawtelle in WLA you can stack unlimited coupons. You don't even have to do the math, the cashiers will handle it. If you want coupons MeMail me because I have eleventybillion of them and they don't expire.

- Depending on what kind of flooring you have, a broom/dust pan, mop of some kind, and/or vacuum.

- Do you need stuff for laundry? A hamper? Something to schelp clothes to and from the laundry room/laundromat? Detergent, etc?

I like the clearance end-caps at Target.

OMG, yes. See also, TJ Maxx.

Spare lightbulbs

Including one spare appliance bulb for the fridge or stove exhaust hood.

Also, if you can, splurge a tiny bit on something impractical that will make your place feel like home. Every answer so far is excellent, but they're not very fun or exciting! (Well, except end-cap scavenging.)
posted by Room 641-A at 7:50 PM on April 25, 2014

A claw hammer, pliers, crescent wrench, multi-head screwdriver, and a cheap plastic toolbox. A tape measure comes in handy more than you might think.
posted by pheide at 8:12 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely check out discount stores like Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Ross, etc. for household stuff. I've gotten tons of kitchenware, bedding, bath accessories, etc.
posted by radioamy at 9:46 PM on April 25, 2014

Dollar store stuff is such complete junk. Go to estate sales in wealthy neighborhoods. They often have good quality pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery for cheap.

For bargain furniture, try the as-is section of Ikea.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:29 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rental Insurance. I'd consider this mandatory.

Get the fire extinguisher (ABC) one before you sign up/transfer a rental insurance plan, some plans give you a discount if you have one in an easily accessible place.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:30 AM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I moved into my first grown-up apartment, my dad got me one of those all-in-one mini tool kits (I think he got it for free with gas card points). It came with most of the tools everyone is mentioning above - a set of allan keys, a hammer, a screwdriver with those little magnetic heads, an adjustable wrench, and three large plastic boxes containing dozens of sizes of finishing nails, screws, etc. It has been invaluable.
posted by janepanic at 2:53 AM on April 26, 2014

Enough things to put things in so that you don't start accumulating piles of crap everywhere. Start keeping an eye out for crap piles and working out solutions ; those piles aren't an indication of your inherent untidy nature, just insufficient storage or unsatisfactory processes.
posted by emilyw at 3:00 AM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I accidentally moved out of my parent's house at 18 (I just kept getting jobs in the summers at university), so let's see.

Make sure you get a TOILET plunger, not a sink plunger. The "usual" one you see is a sink one. We have this cheap looking plastic thing with an accordion on one end, and it POWERS through blockages. Old building with crappy pipes, so this is vital.

Our friend's apartment burnt down and he had no insurance. For $200/year, tenant insurance is a comfort.

ABC fire extinguisher somewhere accessible. It's not very useful in the bathroom if your stove is on fire.

I have never replaced a toilet seat (this is even a thing??), but every place I've moved to I've replaced the shower head and the shower curtain.
posted by aggyface at 5:05 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Everybody's already named the stuff I might have listed, so I'll settle for a bit of general advice:

You do NOT need to furnish the entire apartment from bare walls to a decorating-magazine standard all at once: yes, you can live with little more than a bed and maybe a single chair for a while. Use cardboard boxes for a nightstand and TV stand, use more boxes for temporary dressers, etc. etc. The point is, add furniture as you can afford it; don't go broke or in debt, take your time looking for the right pieces rather than have some sort of "must furnish entire place immediately!!!" mindset.

Extreme example: my cousin H. and his wife..... about twenty years ago, they finally saved up to buy a house. That was good, but: they decided that since it was a brand new house, it should only have brand new furniture and brand new clothes for everyone in the family in there, with a matching brand new car out in the driveway. Within eight months, everything was repossessed, and they've been in bankruptcy most of the time since and and and.... the point is, take it easy, take it slow, furnish as you can afford it and don't worry about not having stuff yet.
posted by easily confused at 6:28 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

haven't seen this mentioned, so I suggest changing the locks (good for your peace of mind, when moving into an apartment other people might have keys to).
posted by mirileh at 7:01 AM on April 26, 2014

For a great apartment tool kit, you can't go wrong with this Ikea number. Fixa. It's $8 and has 90% of what you'll ever need.

Ikea really is a great place to buy your first housewares. Cheap and cheerful.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:22 AM on April 26, 2014

I've gone in and out of living alone a few times, and done several big moves. I'd say your priorities are:
Dishpan and drainer
A set of dishes and silverware, cups
10" fry pan (preferably cast iron, but better to get an ultra cheap fry pan and haunt the resale shops for old cast iron later - old cast iron is cast better)
A medium size pot for making rice and soup
An oven safe pan
Spatula and large spoon.
Measuring cups and spoons
A large paper towel and toilet paper cache
Dish soap
Scrub brush
Dish towels
Sponges (many)
Sheets, blanket, pillows
Bath towels.
Philips and regular screwdriver
1-1/2" drywall screws
Small nails (for hanging things)
Lamps, lightbulbs
Shelf paper
A container to put your silverware in, in the drawer
A container to put your cooking supplies in in the drawer
Corkscrew if you're likely to need it
Chef's knife
Steak knives
Cutting board
Vacuum cleaner if carpeted,
good broom and dust pan
Kitchen Garbage bags
Garbage cans - one for the kitchen, and a small one for the bedroom.
Hand soap
Soap dish
Scrub brushes (optional, but better for bathroom cleaning than a sponge)
Kosher Salt
Peanut butter
Cooking oil
Shower curtain
Shower curtain rings.

Longer term / higher budget
Starter table and chairs
Easy chair and or couch
A couple more mid size pots

Here's how I'd shop it:
- target to get your consumables (tp, paper towels, sponges, soap). They have a nice cheap line of (kitchen aid?) silverware, in stand alone bundles of knives, forks, spoons. Check for any close outs on the end caps that would be handy. Spare lightbulbs. Broom and dustpan, vacuum if necessary (you may find a serviceable vac at a resale store, but you may also find that the filters, bags, &c are not easy to find). If they do groceries, Target is a great place to get your dry groceries.
- trip to the nearest large or several nearby large resale stores (esp goodwill). Grab pots, pans and skillets, furniture, tools and art as available. Avoid any coated (Teflon) cookware, the coating is probably ruined.
- Ikea to finish your first draft kitchen. Survey the scratch and dent section early. Then fill out what you need for the kitchen, white goods, etc. Their glasses are cheap and good quality, there are some inexpensive dish sets that will hold up well. Their lamps are frequently rickety, but they are cheap. If you need a need a mattress and sheets, you can get a good starter there. If you feel you need a table, a cheap set of ikea legs and cheap desktop is the easiest way to get something home and assembled quickly.
- Home Depot if you can: screws, light bulbs, broom and dust pan (theirs are made to actually be used).
- Cort furniture rentals has a section where they sell their old stuff. This can be a handy place to get bigger ticket furniture.
posted by wotsac at 10:40 AM on April 26, 2014

Insurance is nice, and not terribly expensive, but I'd wait until you have enough to justify insuring before I got insurance - $100/year to insure $300-$500 worth of starter goods and furniture may not be justified.
posted by wotsac at 10:45 AM on April 26, 2014

Oh, and a toilet brush. A plunger is more of an as needed thing - it depends a lot on the toilet and the plumbing whether you need one.
posted by wotsac at 10:52 AM on April 26, 2014

Where renter's insurance can really pay off is in liability protection (if someone is injured in your place); relocation benefits (if you are displaced by fire/burst pipes/etc.); and loss/theft of personal electronics when you are away from home. (Specifics vary by policy.) You'll get a discount if you insure with the same company that does your car insurance.

If you are still in SoCal, you might want to think about getting CA earthquake insurance.

In my apartment building alone, I know of three different units that have had catastrophic incidents. The person who had renter's insurance had a MUCH easier time rebuilding her life than did the tenants who did not. Just something to consider.
posted by nacho fries at 11:01 AM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Trust me on this. It's cheap, we get a small discount on car insurance with it..and if you ever need it you will be outrageously thankful you have it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:04 PM on April 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Detergent pods and a laundry bag/basket.
posted by brujita at 7:50 PM on April 26, 2014

The Apartment Therapy book (NOT the blog) was very helpful to me in learning how to put together my first home.
posted by squasher at 7:29 PM on April 29, 2014

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