You’ve inked your name on the lease and those golden keys are finally in your hands. Signed, sealed, delivered – you have a home! Now what? As someone who tends to learn life’s lessons the hard way, I’m compiling a list of lessons I’ve learned in the first few months of renting my first apartment. On its best day, your apartment will be your oasis where your decor looks like a Pinterest-y dreamscape and you wake up feeling like Snow White in a magical forest. On its worst day, your apartment will be that dreaded slab of concrete or dry wall where half of your stuff is in shambles and the other half can only be mentioned when paired with curse words, grumbling, and looks of psychotic rage. And so to save you some time, money, and strange looks from people around you, here are:
10 Dos and Don’ts When Moving Into Your First Apartment
(a.k.a – Lessons Learned the Hard Way)
Do: Plan your move as far ahead in advance as possible and save up for deposits, security fees, moving expenses, and furniture.
Don’t: Wait to start your moving fund until the week before your move-in date so you’re left scouring the streets for fallen dollar bills. Once the moving fees start rolling in it’ll feel like you’ve pulled the plug on your bank account and are watching your funds gurgle down the drain. Truthfully, it’ll probably feel like this regardless of when you start saving, but the goal is to create as much of a financial cushion as possible so it’s less painful to spend several hundred to several thousand dollars on moving expenses.
Do: Put thought into how you want your apartment to look. As I had discussed in my previous blog entry, be sure to brainstorm color schemes, themes, styles, and pieces of furniture you will want in your new home.
Don’t: Rush into big and costly (or cheap-o) decisions just to get your apartment set up as quickly as possible. Initially, this is what I did, and I’ve regretted many of my oatmeal-colored decisions afterwards. Respect your time and money and give thought to what you want to buy and bring home with you.
Do: Be true to your style and aesthetic when decorating or designing your new home. Let your freak flag fly flamboyantly, or keep it ironed and pressed neatly inside your drawer – whichever suits you better.
Don’t: Feel as though you need to follow every white-furnished-and-walled, earthy-accented trend you see on Pinterest or Tumblr, unless you truly want to. If that’s your aesthetic then by all means go for it, but don’t be afraid to branch out and live in an apartment that reflects who you are. Even though we are living in the age of sharing everything with everyone, you are still allowed to create a space that only you would be happy to live in.
Do: Splurge on quality items that you want to keep for years to come, such as your mattress, bed, and sofa.
Don’t: Think that you need to spend top dollar on home accessories and accents in order to have nice things or to get the look you want to achieve (unless you’re searching for antiques – those can be more difficult to find at lower prices). You can find ways to save on smaller accoutrements by hitting up your local thrift shops and outlet stores, getting DIY-crafty, and letting friends and family know you’re on the hunt for decor.
Do: Visit brick and mortar furniture stores when buying major pieces, such as dining sets, beds, large area rugs, etc. By doing this, you will know how the item looks in person and how it’s made before spending your money.
Don’t: Buy furniture online before reading the company’s return policy. I have recently purchased approximately three pieces of furniture from online furniture stores and have either had to return, exchange, or work with terrible customer service for each of these three items due to damages, defects, poor quality, or the item not arriving as shown in the picture or description. Save yourself the time, money, and frustration – shop in person!
Do: Have a purge-fest before you make the big move to avoid incurring unnecessary moving costs and to make space in your new apartment.
Don’t: Half-ass the purge and spend the next few months living among boxes of things you’ll end up selling, donating, or getting rid of anyway. Again, respect your time, money, and back muscles.
Do: Create and stick to a budget! This should probably be the first tip on the list, but I’m assuming you’re probably well-aware of this if you’re apartment hunting or moving in to your first place.
Don’t: Spend money like it’s going out of style and as a result have nothing left to pay your bills. Those shoes may be cute and those books may be calling your name, but knowing that you can maintain a roof over your head is a much better feeling. It provides a basic sense of security, which is a fundamental human need. I’m planning to write a blog entry about personal budgeting at a later date because it’s a topic I’m highly interested in and have had personal experience doing, but in short – savings and bills first, fun and frivolous purchases later**.
**Side note – I understand that this may be difficult to adhere to at first. You’re looking at a girl who signed the lease on her first apartment and then promptly purchased a $32 eye shadow (yes, one lone eye shadow) to celebrate. It’s possible, though, and if you put your mind to it, you can do it.
Do: Set deadlines for small and large tasks, such as painting, setting up your book cases, laying down kitchen tiles, etc.
Don’t: Settle for “later” or “maybe next month” because, as I’m sure you already know, that day can take forever to come and slowly creep to the bottom of your to-do list. Set definite dates, make a list of everything you will need to complete each task, and create a timeline and/or schedule to tackle each task. You’ll thank yourself once you see your home come together and the mountain of boxes shrink.
Do: Ask your landlord or property manager questions before signing the lease! How is the roach and vermin situation? Do the heat and hot water work properly? Are there any leaks or concerns you should be aware of? And of course, keep your eyes open and report issues as soon you discover them.
Don’t: Assume that issues with the apartment will work themselves out or be disclosed without prompting. Landlords and property managers want to rent out their apartments as quickly as possible, so it’s up to you to be sure it’s in a condition you’re comfortable living in.
Do: Get a sense of the neighborhood you’ll be living in beforehand. Do you feel safe, comfortable, and at home in the environment? Does it have the amenities you need, such as a local grocery store if you don’t have a car? Comfort is key! There’s nothing quite like coming home and feeling at ease when you get to your neighborhood.
Don’t: Pick an apartment just based on the apartment unit itself. Yes, it may be spacious, beautiful, and better than you had imagined for the price, but remember the other factors you’ll be encountering in addition to the apartment. There are your neighbors, the surrounding neighborhood, transit options, building amenities, and crime rates, just to name a few. These factors will influence whether you will have a quality of life versus a quality of strife – and me thinks you’ll want the former!
Are you looking to move into your first apartment? Have you already moved into your first home and have tips to share? Leave your responses in the comments section below! 🙂