I did it. Probably everyone you know has done it. But if you're reading this, and you're currently working on decorating your first apartment (or home), you can avoid making this classic blunder.
The biggest mistake most first-time decorators makes is: buying too much stuff all at once. It's easy to imagine, when you find yourself in a brand-new, completely empty, apartment or home that you need to fill every nook and cranny right away. But what this results in is a lot of stress — and often a lot of purchases that you don't really enjoy and will wind up replacing later.
So take your time, and only buy things that you really love (and can actually afford). The only things you REALLY need right off the bat are a mattress, and maybe a sofa and a table to eat at. Everything else can wait. It's much better to use a cardboard box for an end table until you find the perfect one than to make a hasty, cheap purchase of something you'll get rid of a year later when you find something you really like (or when your cheap placeholder furniture falls apart).
Another advantage of this slow approach to decorating is that it leaves room for serendipity — if you find something perfect at a vintage store, or on the curb, you can snap it up instantaneously, knowing that there's room for it. And living in your home without a lot of furniture, at first, will help you get to know the space, and understand what it (and you) truly need. Maybe you'll find you can live without a dresser, or a coffee table. Maybe you're fine eating meals sitting on the couch, and you don't really need a dining table.
At some point along the line your home will stop feeling empty and start feeling Just Right — and that's when you stop. It may take a little bit longer, but embracing slow decorating instead of right-now decorating will ensure that you're surrounded by things you need and love — and nothing that you don't.
Re-edited from a post originally published 11.17.14-NT