A Guide to Your First Apartment

“I’m getting my own place” — . Every parent’s worse nightmare. I know it was for my parents when I reported that I had gone apartment shopping without them even knowing. They worried about what I would be eating, who would cook the food, what kind of furniture I was going to have in my apartment and so forth. Most of all, they were worried about my schedule. With a full time job on my hands in a declining economy where workers sometimes put in long hours, and part time school on the side, they wondered about how many times I would stay up late, or have friends over until an ungodly hour. Young adults often associate the thought of living on their own as full time freedom. No one to dictate what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. This new sense of liberty isn’t a bad thing. I believe having your own apartment is great for learning responsibility, especially financially. So you worry about the finances, and I’ll provide quick tips and things to consider before you move in, while you’re moving in, and after you’ve settled into your new place.

De-cluttering your life
This is the best place to start. Once you get the idea of moving out, the easiest way to move your life from one home to another is to clean up your parts. Go through the things you’ve held onto over the years that have no value to you or just throw anything away that does nothing and takes up space. One of the points of moving out is to leave childhood things behind and start a life. Why clutter your life with useless things of the past. I’m not saying discard all memories. I’m saying is that huge teddy bear that takes up half your bed that your aunt gave you when you were five really going to serve much use to you in your new place? While cleaning house, you also may find things that you forgot about. But most importantly, you will decide what you want to throw out and what you want to keep and take with you. Removing all the junk from your possession is one thing that makes packing a lot easier.

Sit down and have the conversation
When my parents found out that I was moving out, I already put down a deposit on a place and was due to move in less than a week later. Needless to say, they were shocked and very emotional, stating that the development came out of left field. While I admit that delivering in the news a week before move in date wasn’t the best choice, it still made things easier had I told them a day or two before I took my things and left. Open up the possibility of a conversation so that your parents thoughts could be at ease. Tell them why you think it’s a good idea and what your plans are once you get there. My parents gave me their blessing and hoped for the best. It’s not a bad thing to have a support system when you’re worried about things working out and you have doubts. Don’t burn bridges over your life change. Make it a joyous and coming of age event.

When I say shop, what I mean is look into second hand stores or thrift stores. Yes this will be your apartment, but moving out is a critical time in a young person’s life and you need to remember that you will be on a budget. Find furniture in reasonable places. I furnished my apartment for less than one hundred dollars by using Craig’s List, relatives with unwanted items, and shopping at local second hand stores. Yes the furniture isn’t brand new, but it was still in great condition and with the right eye and talent, can be made to look quite chic and fashionable. Use things like couch covers to brighten the look of the furniture. Even old bedsheets with floral patterns can be made to fit couch cushions and the rest of the body. Be creative and open minded when making your apartment your own. You don’t have to shop Ikea to make your home look comfortable and homey.

Get the basics set up
The first night I was at my apartment, I had a few friends over for a get together. The next morning, I woke up and went to shower only to realize that all my stuff was moved in, but not unpacked. Sure I had a towel in one back and my soaps and shampoos, but I didn’t have a shower curtain. Let me tell you, it’s very awkward to shower without a shower curtain. Upon returning to clean the mess we had made the night before, I came to the realization I had no garbage. I didn’t even have a garbage can. Needless to say, the first few days were hectic. With no dish soap, no trash system, and no house hold cleaners, I found myself making many emergency trips to the store around the corner to buy all of the everyday household needs.

Make sure it all works
When you move into your apartment, you would assume things are in working order. But you want to make sure everything stays working. When I moved, I was settled in February and so months went by before we were hit with a typical Chicago summer. One night, it was just too uncomfortable to just have the windows open so I turned on the air conditioning unit. To my utter dismay, it only blew out hot air. I was so angry and I realized that I never checked to see if it worked in the first place. I had to wait an entire month to get a new unit brought in by my land lord. I strong urge you make sure everything works. As for services, get in touch with your electricity provider to set up your service account. Same with the water and heating company. You don’t want to find yourself camping out in your living room for a weekend with a flashlight because you realized you never set up an account with the electric company.

Cook real food
Groceries will cost you a lot less in the long run than eating out or fast fooding it every single day. My average grocery bill for two weeks was under fifty dollars, including nifty snacks for when I was craving something crunchy or chocolatey. Let’s say you eat a seven dollar value meal at a local fast food place every day for two weeks. Just dinner alone would cost just under one-hundred dollars not including tax. One of the joys of living on your own is you can explore an array of recipes now that your parents have nothing to do with controlling what food is in the house. Try a new recipe every week and maybe you’ll even uncover your secret ability at being a master chef.