For most young adults, moving into a college apartment is the first time you’ve lived away from home. Or perhaps you stayed in a dorm first, but this is different. Alone or with roommates, your college apartment is a place you will never forget. Unfortunately, if you don’t have what you need, those memories might involve sleeping on the floor and realizing too late that you have no pans to cook with. That’s where a great checklist comes in handy. Ensuring you don’t miss out on any essentials is as easy as reading, shopping, and crossing things off the list. After that, all you have to do is move in.
What Is a College Apartment Checklist?
A college apartment checklist is a simple tool to help you make sure you have everything you need. Moving out of the house for college is a busy and exciting time. Unfortunately, that also means it’s too easy to forget vital things like buying your own toilet paper or making sure you have a bed and sheets. After all, most young people have parents or guardians who handle those concerns for them at home. Using a checklist lets you know you have all of the adult things handled without ever missing a beat. All you have to do is read, shop, and check it off when you have what you need.
The Ultimate College Apartment Checklist
The ultimate college apartment checklist has everything you will need to live comfortably. However, before you buy anything, you will need to measure your new space to ensure you can fit furniture through doors and make the most of your space. Get a good measuring tape and note down the dimensions of every room and doorway (inside the frame). Additionally, if you have to contend with stairs, you need to measure the width between any railings and invest in an excellent stair-climbing dolly.
Furniture sliders will help you move things across smooth floors, and furniture blankets can help keep your most significant purchases safe in transit. Don’t be afraid to rent a small moving van to pick up any local furniture. Finally, you may want some anti-skid furniture pads underneath the legs of large furniture to keep it in place and protect the floor. Preventing damage will help you get your deposit back later.
Bedrooms are all about personal style, but however you choose to decorate, you’ll still need the basics. Here you’ll find eight essential categories and some helpful tips on what to look for and alternate options.
- Bed Frame, Box Spring & Mattress- This is pretty self-explanatory because we all need a place to sleep. Make sure the frame, mattress, and box spring are the same sizes. Additionally, you may want to go to a mattress store. Even if you ultimately buy online, you should get different firmnesses, check dimensions and look into different styles. A bed with higher clearance or drawers is a great place to store clothing. An alternate, temporary option for the broke college student is to get a high-quality air mattress while saving up for a better bed, as these have adjustable firmness and will last a month or two if you’re careful.
- Bedding- Get yourself two sets of sheets, a pillow or two, pillow covers, a good blanket, and a duvet or other warm top blanket for winter. The second set of sheets will be a benefit when you do laundry. Doublecheck the sizes on your bedding before buying it, and consider adding an under-mattress sheet clasp to hold it in place. Cotton breathes the best, jersey material or flannel will be the warmest, and a higher thread count feels better and lasts longer. Meanwhile, silk and satin sheets are great for those with curly hair or sensitive skin, but they cost more.
- Nightstand- Although this isn’t completely necessary, most people prefer to use a nightstand for a glass of water, a book, a place to put your phone while it charges, and an alarm clock.
- Mirror- A bathroom mirror won’t show you your whole body. Fortunately, you can pick up a full-length mirror for the back of your door or a standing mirror to get a better view of your fit for the day.
- Desk, Lamp & Chair- If you plan to study in your room, as most college and university students do, you’ll need a desk and chair. This is an excellent place for a lamp, computer, or laptop and a box or drawer for your essential paperwork. Consider a folding card table or secondhand desk if you’re working on a tight budget.
- Wardrobe or Dresser & Hangars- Unpacking your clothing requires putting it somewhere. Apartments don’t provide you with hangars, and some may not have a closet. Get a dresser or wardrobe for folded items. You can add a standing garment rack if your place has no bedroom closets.
- Laundry Basket & Trash Can- Dirty clothing needs a container, and so does waste. If you choose a small trashcan, you can re-use plastic or paper grocery bags for trash. Also, consider your laundry needs. If you have to go to the laundromat, a cloth laundry bag you can close and carry is a great alternative.
The living room is the center of most homes. It’s where you’ll hang out with friends and relax on weekends, so you’ll need some basic furniture. Scotch Guard is your friend and can protect couches and chairs from stains.
- Couch- Whether you get a futon, sleeper sofa, or regular couch, all you need is somewhere comfortable to sit. Be wary of used couches, as they often come with hidden odors or bugs like roaches and bedbugs.
- Coffee Table Or End Tables- A table gives you a place to set drinks and other things down instead of holding them or placing them on the floor.
- TV & TV Stand- If you plan to watch TV, you’ll need one and a place to put it. Some people opt for wall-mounting but make sure your landlord allows holes in the wall first. Also, be very careful when mounting anything on the walls. You need a wall stud, the wide boards that brace the walls, to hammer or screw things insecurely. Otherwise, your TV will fall.
- Bookshelves- It doesn’t matter whether you’re an avid reader or you merely need someplace to put trinkets. Get a good-quality bookshelf for storage.
- Chairs- You don’t need a ton of expensive seating. A couple of beanbag chairs or gaming chairs will do just fine for visitors.
It’s easy to gloss over your kitchen needs and tell yourself you’ll eat out a lot. However, you can save a ton of money and stay healthier if you can eat at home more often. Plus, it’s nice to sit down and share a meal with friends or roommates.
- Table & Chairs- Unless you have a tiny kitchen, you will probably want someplace to sit and eat. A kitchen table offers you space to do more meal preparation than a counter.
- Dishes- Plates, bowls, and cups are the minimum you need to eat.
- Utensils- Get forks, spoons, and knives in a multipack. You’ll also probably want a soup ladle, tongs, a spatula, a manual grater, a pizza cutter, an ice cream scoop, and other cooking utensils. You may also want a silverware holder for your kitchen drawers.
- Cutting Board & Knives- You’ll want something to protect your counter when you cut food, so get a decent cutting board and knives with a knife block to store them in.
- Pots & Pans- You can’t cook on a bare burner. Get small, medium, and large pots and pans.
- Small Kitchen Appliances- The bare necessities are a toaster, microwave, and coffee pot. Opt for a toaster oven rather than the pop-up style, and you can cook other small dishes or warm-up pizza inside. Use some aluminum foil under your food to keep it from dripping on the heating element.
- Dish Soap, Hand Soap & Sponges- Cleaning your dishes, hands, and counters will prevent you from getting sick.
- A Small Dish Rack- Even if you have a dishwasher, a small dish rack for the counter will let you rinse a few dishes without running a whole load.
- Hand Towels & Paper Towels- Drying things when you’re done is just smart.
- Trash Can & Garbage Bags- These are self-explanatory.
- Food- Shopping for non-perishables like canned goods and pancake mix will ensure you always have something for emergencies. Meanwhile, fresh food is far less expensive and healthier to make at home. Don’t forget the drinks, salt, and spices.
The bathroom is simple and essential to stock. You don’t want to run out of toilet paper after all. Here are all the basics to set up your college apartment bathroom. If you need more space, consider adding an over-the-toilet shelf.
- Plunger, Toilet Brush, Toilet Cleaner
- Toilet Paper
- Toothbrush & Paste
- Other Toiletries Like Face Wash or Makeup
- Shower Curtain, Rod & Hangars
- Towels & Washcloths
There are a few more things every apartment or house needs in general. The list below should have all the miscellaneous items that don’t fit into the above categories.
- Essential Tools- Get a hammer, screwdrivers (both Philips head and flat), nails, screws, needles, thread, safety pins, a stud finder for walls, duct tape, electrical tape, and scotch tape.
- Other Kitchen Dishes- Ice cube trays, a pizza pan, and cake pans aren’t something everyone uses, but you can add them for comfort.
- Lightbulbs, Ziploc Bags & Spare Batteries- It’s the little things you never realize you’re missing until you need them. Please sit down and run through your day or week in your head, think about all the small items you use at home, and then add them to your shopping list. If it helps, run through every room in your childhood home in your mind and ‘look’ at what is in the drawers and cabinets. Aluminum foil, paper, pens, and surge protectors are essential items.
- Rugs, Mats & Welcome Mats- Bare floors get cold in winter, so a rug or two may help. Slippers will also keep your feet warm, but they won’t give you a place to stand without sipping when your feet are wet in the bathroom or anywhere to wipe the mud off your shoes.
- Curtains & Curtain Hangars- Always check to see if you need curtains. Curtain rods or other ways to hang curtains are sometimes provided, along with blinds, but few college apartments have any curtains. Measure before you order or shop.
- Hanging & Decorating Fixings- Decorating is up to you, so make sure you have thumbtacks, stick-tac, or other small items, like hooks, to hang things on.
- Other Hanging Storage- Over-door shoe holders and hooks for jackets and bathrobes are a great way to save space. If you want a coat rack or umbrella stand, getting them is up to you.
- Added Security- From stick-on door and window alarms that scream when someone opens them to putting longer screws or extra locks on your doors, think about home security.
Pro Tips For College Apartment Shopping
Most college students aren’t exactly wealthy. There are plenty of ways to cut costs. Shop at thrift stores, check craigslist and look into free and cheap websites like Freecycle to save money. You can also get inexpensive versions of many things you need at the dollar stores. Wait for sales at your favorite shops and order from Amazon Warehouse rather than the main site.
Stocking up on non-perishable food and other non-reusables like dish soap and sponges, especially around holidays when it is cheap, will save you money in the long run. Spend more and look for better quality on items you plan to keep longer or use more, such as your bed and couch. Cut corners on things you can afford to replace, like a set of cheap dishes or plastic hangers for clothing.
When buying secondhand, always do a deep clean and ensure you get all the dirt out of the corners. This goes double for furniture. Make sure you clean it and check for any bugs or suspicious stains before bringing it into the house.
Keeping Your College Apartment Fully Stocked
Most things you need for a college apartment are one-time purchases. You will most likely only need one bed, one set of dishes, etc. However, there are things you will need to shop for regularly, like toiletries and food. It’s easy to forget, especially if you’ve lived at home with parents who handled all the shopping until now.
The simplest ways to handle this are digital or analog. You can opt for a magnetic list to stick on the fridge. Using a dry erase marker will allow you to keep a running checklist of what you need to shop for. Alternately, you can set reminders or notes on your phone or computer if you want a more high-tech solution.
You can also get a free or paid account with digital secretary websites or apps if you are the hyper-organized type. These sites help you stay organized, set reminders, get emails and calls, and otherwise handle your routine everyday needs in the most high-tech manner possible, with the least effort.
No one wants to realize at the worst possible moment that they don’t have a desk to study at or toothpaste to keep their mouth clean. Moving into your first college apartment can feel overwhelming if you have never thought about buying toilet paper or making sure you have a surge protector for your computer. Luckily, with the list above, you can systematically check off all your basic needs. Soon enough, you’ll have everything handled like a pro so you can focus on more important things like passing your mid-terms and living your life.