What You Need When Moving Out for the First Time
When I was 18, I loaded up my mom's soccer van with a butterfly chair, an electric kettle, some bedding, and every item of clothing I owned to cram into a small two-person dorm. After graduating, I moved in with a friend and realized how little I had in terms of household items. I didn't even have a glass to drink out of, let alone a couch to sit on or a dining table to eat at! Once we had our new place, it seemed I was forever forgetting something else (oh yeah, lamps would be nice I guess...), and it took a few months until I felt like I could cook a meal without realizing I had to go buy a can opener or a spatula.
According to the 2015 Census, about 34% of adults live at home with their parents, but at some point, you'll likely move out. Recently, my 25-year-old colleague moved out of her father's house for the first time and asked me what I thought she'd need. I started listing off some of the main things I had forgotten and then began to make her a list, which I am sharing with you here.
What Are the Essentials I Need When I Move Out?
- Bed: And please don't just put a mattress on the floor. Before we were married, my husband made the mistake of tipping his memory foam mattress up when the carpet was cleaned and putting it down again before it was completely dry. Months later when we finally did get a box spring and frame and lifted the mattress up again, the bottom was covered with mold. So please, don't put your mattress on the floor—let it breathe. This applies to hardwood floors as well!
- Nightstand: You don't want to have to get out of bed to turn off the light, do you? Get one big enough to hold what you need—books, a drink, alarm clock, lamp, and even a laptop if you're a workaholic or Facebook addict. Or you could just drop stuff on the floor and trip over it in the morning—your choice.
- Some place to put your clothes: Whether it's the closet, hanging shelves, a dresser, an 18th-century cherry wood armoire, or bins, you need someplace to keep your duds. Buy hangers if you plan on hanging your clothes in a closet.
- Laundry basket: Yes, you do need one, if only for transportation.
- Mirror: This is just to make sure you're just as pretty as you think you are. A door-mounted mirror can get warped and distort your image. Additionally, since the door moves so much, it’s more likely to fall off than one secured to the wall.
- Something to sit on: A couch, sofa, beanbag, inflatable chair, etc. Remember, you can always get a slipcover to give an ugly couch a cute face.
- Coffee table and/or side tables: As refined as most of us claim to be, we usually do a lot of our eating in our living rooms in front of the TV, so it's helpful to have something to put your beer and cheese puffs—I mean, Chardonnay and brie cheese—on. Consider something with drawers for remote control and magazine storage. We had two Ikea side tables pushed together as a coffee table for well over a year—a cheap and easy fix for $14!
- Something to put your TV on: Be it a custom-built entertainment center, a $15 Ikea TV stand, or an old desk, put your TV on something. It's helpful to have some media storage as well so you don't have stacks of Seinfeld DVDs lying around.
- Lighting: Whether it be floor lamps, table lamps, or ceiling lights, assess what your place needs and make sure it's well lit. You can find fun lanterns for as little as a couple bucks at a thrift store. A dark place looks dirty and uninviting while a well-lit home looks warm and welcoming. Plus, it scares away the cockroaches.
- Dining table and chairs: These too can be found second-hand, and don't worry if the chairs don't match—just call it "eclectic."
- Desk and chair: This is optional, but you can use it for your laptop, keeping your mail organized, or writing those long letters to aunt Gracie.
- Fan and/or heater: You should definitely look into if your apartment has central heat and A/C. If not, depending on the time of year, it's smart to get a fan (or an A/C unit) or small heater.
- Something to cover your windows: You'll want to see if your apartment supplies window blinds or shades. If not, purchase some ahead of time (measure your windows first!) or bring a sheet to temporarily hang.
For the Kitchen
Here's what I use most in my kitchen:
- Coffeemaker: But then again, I'm a severe addict...
- Skillet: A good-sized one with a lid
- Saucepan and/or stockpot: 1.5 qt and/or 3 qt, with lid
- Mixing bowls
- Utensils: wooden spoon(s), spatula, slotted spoon, slotted turner, ladle, can opener, bottle opener, and tongs
- Oven mitts
- Baking dishes: Glass or ceramic. I mostly use an 8x8 inch or a 9x13 inch.
- Cookie sheets
- Cutting boards
- Knives: A large chef's knife, a serrated knife, and a small utility knife for everything else.
- Kitchen shears
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Plates, bowls, glasses, and mugs
And here's a list of things you may not think of:
- A drying rack (especially important if you don't have a dishwasher)
- Toaster or toaster oven
- Aluminum foil and saran wrap
- Zip-loc bags
- Dish soap and a sponge
- Salt and pepper
Investing in these items ahead of time will ensure you don't blow all of your money on takeout every night. Plus, it's way more fun to cook!
For the Bathroom
- Bath towels and washcloths
- Shower curtain: Go with something PVC free. I use a cloth one, and it's so easy to clean—I just throw it in the washer and dryer.
- Toilet bowl scrubber and plunger: Get the plunger before you really need it.
- Bath mat
- Toothbrush holder
- Toilet paper
- Hand soap
Other Things You'll Need
- Trash cans: For the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Don't forget the bags.
- Cleaning supplies. You'll need a vacuum, broom, dustpan, mop, bucket, Windex, paper towels, cleansers, scrub brush or sponge, duster, laundry detergent, etc.
- Step stool: When your fire alarm is going off at 3am and you need to change the batteries, you'll be thankful you have this.
- Towels: Kitchen, bath, hand, washcloths, cleaning cloths, etc.
- Iron and ironing board if you care about your appearance.
- Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors: So your mother can sleep soundly.
- Fire extinguisher: To aid in your Top Chef attempts.
- Light bulbs: The lights won't work without them, after all.
- Toolbox: You can buy a basic set just about anywhere. Make sure you have essentials like a hammer, flathead and Philips screwdriver, measuring tape, level, nails, and screws, and some duct tape!
- First aid: At the very least, you should have some band-aids, antiseptic, a thermometer, and Tylenol on hand.
- AA and AAA batteries
- Flashlights/candles for blackouts
- Extension cords
- Bins for storage
- Duct tape
I suggest searching for "wedding registry checklists." While you may not need twelve fine china place settings, it's a good reminder list to maybe print and check off when you go shopping for basics like toothbrush holders and cutting boards.
Home Decor to Consider
Here are some other optional pieces you might want to purchase:
- Entry table and entry hooks or coat rack: For keys and jackets
- Hanging shelves: For either books, media, knickknacks, or anything you wish to display
- Rugs: To make a room seem cozier and more colorful
- Artwork or interesting accessories to decorate
- Curtains: To keep your place warmer in winter and cooler in summer and to cover those hideous vertical blinds
- Microwave cart or buffet: Useful in the kitchen if you need more countertop and storage space
- Candles: You want your place to smell nice, right?
Don't Go Crazy on Home Decor
This is the first place that is all yours, so it will be tempting to go to the nearest Target or Crate and Barrel and go crazy. You want your apartment to look like it one of those places you see on HGTV. But it's important to be frugal. You don't want to blow all of your money on paint, trendy pillows, or a $1,000 rug. It will take some time to decorate your home, and that's okay! Your priority right now is to make sure you have all of the basics. Plus, it's fun to go to estate sales or second-hand stores in search of unique items to make your apartment feel like home. Don't rush it.
Some Tips to Make Moving Day Easier
- Buying empty boxes can be expensive! Ask around to see if you can score some free boxes from friends who recently moved. Local grocery stores (like Trader Joe’s) are often happy to fork over boxes. (Insider tip: you’ll want to ask for DFN, frozen, and chip boxes.)You'll also want to make sure you have bubble wrap if you're moving any fragile objects, like glasses.
- Label your boxes using different colored markers or tape based on what room it's for.
- Make sure you pack anything you'll need those first few nights in a separate box. The last thing you'll want to do at the end of the day is dig around looking for your toothbrush or medication.
- If possible, set up utilities ahead of time so you'll have electricity and water the first night. You might need to schedule an installation for Internet, so you could be without it for the first few days.
- If you're doing a DIY move, start enlisting friends and family members to help you on the big day. Offer to buy them dinner in exchange for their assistance. It's also a good idea to reserve a moving truck and confirm the reservation a few days before the move.
- If you're buying furniture ahead of time, measure the doorways at your new place to ensure it will fit.
- If you're renting an apartment, take photos of it before moving in. You'll want to document anything that's broken or damaged as part of the move-in condition report.
- Create a to-do list, so you can keep yourself on track.
Don't Forget the Toilet Paper
Or you're in for one awful realization after you've eaten that Havana omelette.
What Will I Need Money for When I Move Out?
Before you make the move, you should start saving. Everyone should have a financial cushion substantial enough to cover three to six months of living expenses. Here are some costs you'll likely incur:
- Rent and a security deposit (usually first and/or last month's rent)
- Moving: Even you don't hire movers, you might need to rent a U-Haul or a furniture dolly.
- Utilities: You want to have Internet, electricity, and water when you move in, right? Well, some companies will require a deposit for these services, especially if you haven't established credit yet. Plus, the bills will start coming in before you know it.
- Furniture: Hopefully you have a mattress you can take from your old bedroom, but you're going to want a couch or a chair to sit on.
- Renter's insurance
It's also wise to establish a small emergency fund. You never know what kind of snags you're going to run into during the move, so you'll want to be prepared.
Other Questions to Consider Before You Move Out
Do you have a job lined up?
If not, make sure you have enough money saved so you're not scrambling if it takes you a little bit of time to find one. However, you should really think about getting a job before moving out.
Do you know how to pay bills and understand what you'll be financially responsible for?
Up until now, it's likely that your parents have been paying most of the bills. Ask them if you have any questions and confirm what bills you'll be expected to pay when you move out, including things like car insurance or student loans
Are you going to live alone or have a roommate?
Living with roommates if definitely cheaper, so if you are on a budget or are moving to a city, you might want to consider this option.
What's your credit score?
If you're moving into an apartment or house, you'll want to know what your credit score is so you'll know if you qualify for an apartment or if you'll need to put down a deposit for utilities. If you don't credit established, now is the time to work on that. Open a credit card and ask your parents if there is a bill you can start to pay.
Have you set a budget for yourself?
You'll be surprised at how fast your money dwindles when you live on your own!
That should be enough to help you survive your first week without ordering out every night.
Remember, it may be a bit expensive right at the get-go, but you can always ask family and friends for old furniture and dishes or go bargain hunting, and once you have your basic setup, continue to add décor as time and money allow. Just make sure you have dishes before you get that amazing hand-painted urn.
Good luck, and here's to independence!