Moving into your first apartment is an awesome experience, but most people have no idea what to expect.
I've been there, and a lot folks have: You move into your first apartment and think you have everything under control because, well, you're awesome. So you start unpacking, you make your bed, you set up the utilities, and then you go to make dinner and realize you don't have a skillet, or glasses, or a microwave, or silverware. So you decide to order a pizza, then it arrives and you realize you don't have any plates, or paper towels, or napkins. So you give up and use your chest as a plate and fall asleep with tomato stains on your favorite t-shirt, then you wake up late because you don't have an alarm clock and you get fired from your job and can't pay rent and have to move home and you've lost your first apartment all because you didn't think through the most basic amenities of your first apartment.
Okay, that's a bit extreme. But it's not uncommon for young folks to overlook some crucial items for their first pads. We're here to square that up for you with a list of the bare essentials.
Maybe you're not much of a cook, but when you start living on your own, there's never enough to know about how to best prepare meals. Because you're new to living on your own, we'll focus on the basics, as well as a few items that will simply make cooking easier for you.
• Cutting Board Or two, if you're scared of germs––one for meat and one for everything else.
• Skillet Cast iron, preferably.
• Strainer / Colander Easier than holding a handful of lettuce under the faucet.
• Measuring Cup More convenient than using non-measuring cups.
• Pot or Saucepan At least one, but aim for three. Pasta and sauce never gets old.
• Cookie Sheet For reheating leftovers and making frozen pizza.
• Baking / Casserole dish For other frozen meals and baked goods.
• Oils and Seasonings This is where flavor comes from.
• Toaster Oven Quicker than a big oven.
• Microwave Quicker than a toaster oven.
• Tea Kettle Easier than boiling water on the stove.
• Coffee Maker French Presses are cheap, easy, and, in my opinion, superior to drip machines.
• Slow Cooker / Crock Pot Delicious meals made easy.
Gettin' the Food to Your Mouth
In my first apartment, I lived with two girls; my second, two guys. I took some things for granted with the women, and didn't realize they'd be missing by the time in moved in with two guys.
Silverware? Gone. Plates? Gone. Cutting boards? Gone. It was like I had to start all over again. Worse yet, it has kind of embarrassing when my roommates and I hosted a housewarming potluck, only to have our guests rely on Solo cups, paper plates, and plastic utensils. Dumb.
At the bare minimum, here are the utensils you'll need:
• Basic Utensils Forks, spoons, butter knives. At least 4 of each.
• Chef's Knife Better than cutting meat with a butter knife.
• Can and Bottle Openers Beer, beans, and soup.
• Whisk For prepping egg omelets.
• Spatula For serving egg omelets.
• Wooden Spoon For stirring occasionally.
• Ladle For serving soup and other broths.
And as for the table:
• Plates At least 4.
• Glasses For water and pints of other drinks. At least 4.
• Mugs At least 4.
• Bowls Handy at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At least 4.
• Salt and Pepper Shakers Because duh.
Cleanin' Up Your Mess
Yes, that's right: There are no more moms or disgruntled dorm employees around to clean up the mess you made. It's one of the most unfortunate realities of getting older, you big baby, on par with realizing that Rolos aren't nearly as good as you thought they were.
The best part about cooking is that it's cheap and delicious if you know what you're doing. The worst part is the effort it involves––not merely in terms of preparation and serving, but cleaning too. Even if your chicken turns out black and rubbery, and your vegetables bland and soggy, you still need to scrub them dishes and wipe those counters.
Of course, a dishwasher helps, but not everyone has one, so we'll approach this challenge with manual dishwashing in mind.
• Dish Towels Buy plenty, and don't forget to wash them.
• Dish Soap Y'know, for cleaning.
• Sponge Buy the 3-pack. We like the ones with the scrubby surface on the back.
• Garbage Can A foot pedal to open the lid will come in handy.
• Garbage Bags You can never have too many. But never buy the cheapest ones.
• Dish Rack Dishes don't dry when they're stacked.
• Paper Towels Never enough. Never.
• Surface Cleaner 409, Fantastik, or something along those lines.
This seems like a long list for equipping your first kitchen, but this is about as minimalistic as we could get. Almost all of these items are completely necessary for a clean, welcoming kitchen, and a hospitable apartment overall.
You don't need to buy most of these items brand-new. Craigslist, yard sales, and family offerings are the best ways to amass your the core of your apartment needs. You'd be surprised by how much useful stuff you can find on the street, too. When I moved into my second apartment one of my roommates found a DVD player and a TV stand just up for grabs outside someone's house. On a different occasion I found a box full of mugs, wine glasses, and wooden utensils.
It helps to live in a city, but these opportunities can pop up anywhere. Pay attention to common moving dates, and if you live near a university, be on lookout for free giveaways from departing students. Found goods can help turn your first apartment into a home (aww…).
We'd love to hear from our readers. What experiences did you have in your first apartment? Do you have any further recommendations? What else is needed?
Photos: Flickr user Courtney Lynch, Creative Commons license; Flickr user Juan-Calderon, Creative Commons license; Flickr user Misty Kelley, Creative Commons license; Aimcotest, Wikimedia Commons [CC-BY-SA-3.0]; Brett Davis, Flickr [CC-BY-3.0]