I remember moving into the dorms for the first time junior year, and thought all I needed were clothes and bedding. I quickly realized you need a lot more than some blankets to live comfortably. Furnishing an apartment doesn’t have to cost a ton because none of this has to be from top notch stores like Williams-Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, or West Elm. Often times, your parents will have a lot of basics. IKEA, Facebook Marketplace, college buy/sell pages, and thrift stores will have great deals, especially when it’s the end of the school year and many people are moving.

This is Part 3 of Apartment How Tos. The previous posts discuss:
Part 1: Finding the right rental property
Part 2: What to look for during an apartment tour

Living Room

Coffee table
Dining table table & chairs or bar stools

Shelving units
Lighting fixtures
: A basic floor lamp is good for starters

Less essential things for later: TV and stand, HDMI cords, coasters, decor, throw blankets, rugs, candles, curtains, small side tables, and plants and associated accessories.


Eating out adds up VERY quickly and you’re going to have to start learning how to cook at some point. Maybe now is the time. IKEA and Goodwill have great quality items for a fraction of the usual retail price.

Pots and pans: One medium or large pan, one small pot, and one large pot
Oven-safe dish: One medium or large size casserole dish
Baking sheet: Can be used for roasting veggies or baking cookies
Dishes: Plates and bowls, 2-4 of each
Flatware: Forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks, soup spoons, and butter knives
Drinking glasses

Coffee maker or French press: For regular coffee drinkers. This will save you so much money!
Cutting board
Knives: One serrated knife (mainly for bread); one chef’s knife (all purpose); one paring knife (for peeling fruits and veggies and other intricate kitchen tasks)
Cooking utensils: A spatula, ladle, large spoon, whisk, and tongs
Measuring cups and spoons
Bottle opener
Can opener
Oven mitts
Dish towels

Food storage containers
Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, parchment paper, and wax paper
Dishwashing soap
Dish soap
Garbage can

Less essential things for later: a toaster, toaster oven, food processor, blender, cake pans, mixing bowls, food scale, mixer (mixing stand or hand mixer), serving dishes, cutlery tray, wine glasses, wine rack, knife sharpening stone, fruit basket, paper towel stand, and slow cooker.

Food staples

Stocking the fridge and pantry from scratch can be overwhelming, so here’s a list of basic food necessities that’ll help. The initial grocery trip can be daunting and expensive, but many of these will last a while.

Vegetable and olive oil
All purpose flour
Salt and Pepper

Pasta and pasta sauce
Cereal and instant oats/grits
Coffee and tea
Nut butter
Beans of the canned or dried variety

Snacks: nuts, chips, or pretzels
Canned soups
Veggie, chicken, or beef


Fresh fruits
Fresh Veggies

Bread (Keeps great in the freezer until you’re ready to use)
Frozen pizzas or TV dinners
Frozen meat patties
Frozen veggies

Less essential items for later: Spices, herbs, and seasonings (paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, and cinnamon), baking powder, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and alcohol.

Bed and bath

Sleep is essential, so invest in a good night’s rest with a quality mattress, pillows, and sheets. If you’re unable to afford a mattress, a futon or air mattress will do.

Bed & Closet:
Sheets: One set to start is sufficient
Comforter/duvet/duvet cover
Desk or floor lamp
Dresser, plastic organizers, or under-the-bed containers
Clothes hangers
Desk and desk chair
(might be optional)
Laundry hamper
Shoe rack

Bath and hand towels
Shower curtain and liner
Toothbrush holder or case
Toilet brush
Toilet paper
Small trash can

Less essential items for later: throw pillows, a rug, bed frame, bedside table, mirror, curtains, and decor.

Cleaning supplies

There’s no need to purchase the latest Dyson vacuum model or a Roomba, but keep the place tidy and habitable.

Garbage bags
Broom and dustpan
Separate sets for dishes and cleaning
Soft rags and microfiber cloths
Anti-bacterial wipes
Paper towels
Bathroom cleaning spray
Multi-purpose spray
Wood cleaner
, if you have wood surfaces
Laundry detergent

Dishwashing detergent (different from dish soap)
Dish soap
(does not go in dishwasher)
Baking soda and white vinegar
Hand soap

Less essential items for later: Fancy vacuum.


Toolkit and hooks and nails
Sewing kit
First aid kit

Medications: Ibuprofen, TUMS, Neosporin, melatonin, cold meds, allergy meds, and cough drops
Iron or steamer
Packing tape
Extension cords
Power strips
Light bulbs
Pen and paper
Storage solutions

Here’s to making a space feel like a home.

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