The Only College Apartment Checklist You’ll Ever Need

published Jul 13, 2022
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So, the time has come for you to move into your very first college apartment. It’ll be pretty nice to have dorm life in the rearview mirror. While you may be dreaming of the perfect Insta-worthy place filled with plants and cozy blankets, it’s important to invest in the essentials first. 

If you’ve been living at home or in a dorm room, a lot of those essentials have probably been provided for you, whether it’s plates to eat off of or furniture to sit on. When you set up your first college apartment, it’s on you to take care of these necessities. Fear not, for I’m here to help make sure you don’t end up with an empty room, wishing you had a cup to drink out of.

As you get your apartment set up, make sure to check your lease agreement for what you’re allowed to do in it. Some apartments, for example, will allow you to hang shelves or paint while others won’t.

Start your checklist room by room, so you can make sure you have everything you need to make the most of your space. And consider buying things secondhand or asking around for hand-me-downs — it can get pricey to try to buy everything you need new in one fell swoop. Don’t feel the need to stock up immediately, either. Apartments are always a work in progress, and this list is meant to be a general guide, not a be-all-end-all list to break your bank account. Happy planning!


When you set up your kitchen, think about how much you’ll be cooking at home to figure out what you’ll really need. Chances are, you won’t need a set of gourmet pots and pans or top-of-the-line knife set, so you can keep kitchenware relatively simple.

  • Dishes (plates and bowls, specifically)
  • Cups and glasses
  • Mugs
  • Travel mug
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Silverware set
  • Silverware drawer organizer
  • Spatulas
  • Tongs
  • Whisk
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife set
  • Frying pan and lid
  • Saucepan and lid
  • Cutting boards
  • Cookie sheets or sheet pans
  • Mixing bowls
  • Strainer
  • Drying rack (if you don’t have a dishwasher, and maybe even if you do)
  • Dish cloths or sponges
  • Dish soap
  • Dish towel
  • Pot holders
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Food storage containers
  • Cheese grater
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Magnets 
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Pizza cutter
  • Resealable bags
  • Plastic wrap
  • Aluminum foil
  • Microwave
  • Blender
  • Toaster
  • Coffee pot
Credit: Anna Spaller


There is more to setting up a bathroom than you think (you don’t want to get caught without a plunger). Here’s a list of essentials to make getting ready for the day easier.

  • Shower curtain (with rings)
  • Shower liner
  • Bathmat
  • Shower caddy or shelf for storage
  • Washcloths, sponges, loofah
  • Bath towels
  • Hand towels
  • Plunger
  • Toilet brush
  • Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, body wash, toothpaste, etc.)
  • Makeup organizer
  • Trash can


This will vary based on whether you have a washer and dryer in your actual apartment or in the building or if you have to go to a laundromat.

  • Laundry basket or bag
  • Detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets
  • Quarters (if you have to pay with cash)
Credit: Lula Poggi


If you’ve lived in a dorm or at home, you probably had a bed provided for you. When you get your apartment bedroom ready, this is your chance to get the mattress you’ve dreamed of — but don’t forget the bedframe!

  • Bedframe
  • Mattress
  • Mattress pad
  • Bedding (sheets, pillowcases, bedspread)
  • Pillows
  • Nightstand 
  • Lamp
  • Dresser
  • Hangers
  • Shelves
  • Shoe rack
  • Full length mirror

And if there’s room…

  • Desk
  • Desk chair
  • Comfy chair
  • Pen/pencil holder
  • Shelf
  • Bulletin board/dry erase board
Credit: Minette Hand

Living room

This is where things get fun. You can really make the most of your living area. Before you start shopping, think about how you’ll use the space and then set yourself up for success. Will you be using it primarily for studying or hanging out? Will you be having your friends over? Are you going to be spending a lot of time here or will you be going out more?

  • Couch and chairs
  • Coffee table
  • End tables
  • TV
  • TV stand or mounting system
  • Blankets
  • Throw pillows
  • Storage
  • Lamps
  • Shelves
  • Book shelf
  • Coasters 


  • Wifi router and modem
  • Printer
  • Printer paper
  • Speakers
  • Computer
  • Phone charger(s)


  • Batteries
  • Command strips and hooks
  • Nails 
  • Tool box
  • Calendar
  • First aid kit
  • Power strips or extension cords
  • Wall clock


Now that you have everything you need to actually live in your new space, it’s time to add some more personal touches. You may want to decorate right away, but you can also live in the space for a little while to get acquainted with it and decide exactly what you want.

  • Artwork (paintings or prints)
  • Personal pictures (check your lease to see if you can hang them on the walls with hangers or if you need Command strips)
  • Candles, diffusers, etc.
  • Blankets
  • Area rugs
  • Knick knacks

Cleaning supplies

This isn’t the most exciting part of the list, but it is one of the most important.

  • Trash bags
  • Swiffer or mop
  • Broom
  • Dust pan
  • Cleaners (all-purpose, shower, toilet, etc.)
  • Vacuum
  • Iron or steamer
  • Mop and mop bucket
  • Cleaning cloths