First College Apartment Essentials

18 Jul

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There’s nothing like moving into your own place for the first time. Sure, it comes with some extra responsibilities and the need to do more cleaning than you ever imagined but your own place can make you feel like a real adult.

It’s hard to know what to buy for your very own place since so many of the items you are used to seeing at your parents place aren’t necessarily what you need for a college apartment. To help get you started here is a list compiled from multiple sources as well as personal experience.

Remember, not everything has to be moved in on day one. Some of the items you can buy after you move in. Also be sure to check in with any roommates on what they are bringing ahead of time! You don’t want to carry a couch up the stairs to realize there is no room for it.

Please note: this is an essentials list for college students, not meant to be all-encompassing of what a family kitchen should include. For emphasis, I’ve bolded the items that it would be difficult to avoid needing.


Don’t worry about having all of the super specialized kitchen tools your family has. They can be expensive and take years to accumulate. Instead, focus on the things that have multiple uses.

One big note: don’t bring too many dishes! Having more and having to wash them less often sounds great until they all accumulate and you’re the one who is washing 3 loads of dishes you didn’t use.

  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Silverware
  • Silverware organizer (that goes in a drawer)
  • At least one pot and one pan
  • Trash and recycling bins
  • Oven mitts or pot holders
  • Microwave (some don’t think it’s essential, but 4 minutes in the microwave vs 45 in the oven is common for frozen foods)
  • Dish soap (and dishwasher detergent if you have a dishwasher)
  • Scrubbing sponges
  • Trash bags
  • At least one good, sharp knife
  • Zip-lock baggies & food storage containers
  • Ice cube trays
  • Towels or paper towels (discuss this with your roommates: excessive paper towel use can drive people crazy, but someone has to launder cloth towels)
  • Coffee maker
  • Spatulas, ladles, etc
  • Dish drying rack (necessary if you don’t have a dishwasher)
  • Tin foil or plastic wrap
  • Toaster or toaster oven
  • Water filter
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Baking needs: measuring cups & spoons, baking sheets, and mixing bowls
  • Strainer/ colander (mandatory if you’re going to be making mac n cheese or spaghetti)


Despite the fact that you might spend the most time in this room, you don’t need a whole lot to get by. If you’re going truly bare-bones, you can just throw a mattress on the ground and call it good. But here’s a list if you’re trying to top the absolute minimum.

  • Mattress
  • Pillows
  • Box spring
  • Bed frame
  • Sheets and pillow cases
  • Blankets
  • Night stand
  • Dresser or some other containers
  • Clothes hangers
  • Lamp
  • Laundry hamper
  • Desk
  • Chair
  • Curtains (or a dark sheet/ blanket)
  • Trash bin
  • Fans
  • Full length mirror

Living Room:

Other than your bedroom you’ll likely spend the most time here. Just make sure you and any roommates are on the same page about any potential issues with monopolizing couch and TV time.

  • Couches, futons and/ or chairs
  • Table
  • Wall decorations
  • DVD player
  • Television
  • Foot rest
  • Lamp


Talk to your roommates and figure out if it’s okay for everyone to keep their things in the bathroom or if you’d all prefer it stays in the respective bedrooms when not being used.

  • Shower curtain, rod, and rings
  • Toiletries (soap, shampoo, etc.)
  • Toilet paper
  • Plunger
  • Bath mat
  • Trash bin
  • Towels
  • Shaving supplies
  • Shower caddy
  • Cosmetics organizers
  • Hair straighteners, curlers, dryers, etc.


There are tons of extra things that could be included here but the items that you’ll use to clean are the main takeaways.

  • Cleaning supplies (rags, cleaners, bleach, etc.)
  • Laundry supplies (detergent, dryer sheets, etc.)
  • Trash bags
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Power strips
  • Light bulbs (some landlords will charge you for any they have to replace, so read the lease carefully)
  • Internet router and related needs (almost mandatory, but it’s possible to utilize computer labs instead)
  • Rugs
  • Coasters
  • Adhesive strips and hooks
  • Phone chargers
  • Iron & ironing board
  • Smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Mop
  • Shoe organizer
  • Basic tools (screwdrivers, duct tape, pliers – but remember to contact your landlord for most needs, you are paying them to maintain your place for you)
  • Band-Aids & first-aid needs

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