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100 Incredibly Helpful Hacks for Your Very First Apartment

January 13th, 2011

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Moving into the very first place you'll really be able to call your own can be an exciting time. It can also be a stressful one, as you may not know quite yet how to take care of all the things you need to do as a renter or even where to begin in making your place look like a home. These helpful hacks draw up some useful guidelines when it comes to helping you stick with a budget, learn about life on your own, keep you safe and make your life easier so you can concentrate on taking classes or furthering your career. You'll find tips on everything from the basics of apartment living to how to make room for all of your stuff in a tiny space, so get reading so you can start living large in your new place.

Renting Basics

These tips will help you learn the ins and outs of being a renter, even if you're doing it for the very first time.

  1. Know the rules. Look at your lease carefully so you'll know what you're allowed to do in your space and what you could be charged over.
  2. Ask permission. Anytime you make a big change to your apartment, like painting the walls or installing shelves, make sure it's ok with the landlord first to avoid future issues.
  3. Be responsible. It's your space, you're responsible for it now, so make sure it stays clean and in good repair.
  4. Establish ground rules with roomies. Living with someone can be fun, but it's also be difficult at times. Decide up front how you will divide the space, clean up and manage the common living areas.
  5. Watch out putting holes in the wall. If you want to hang art on the walls, that's great, but make sure you love where you put it before you punch holes in the wall. One good method is to lay out the art on the floor first to see how it will look before hanging.
  6. Don't be afraid to ask for repairs. If something isn't working right in your apartment, don't be afraid to ask for it to be fixed. Your landlord is responsible for the building and must keep it in good repair.
  7. Make sure the appliances work. You might not spend a lot of time cooking but you want to know your oven works before you're starving and trying to make dinner. Test everything out when you move in.
  8. Know your rights. You have rights as a tenant, so learn them. It could protect you in the future if something goes wrong in your place.
  9. Always pay rent on time. You can get into major trouble by being late on your rent; so always make sure to mail it out before the last day of the month to make sure it will arrive on time.
  10. Don't wait to deal with problems. If something goes wrong with your apartment, don't wait for it to be fixed. Contact your landlord right way before a small problem can become a major one.

Safety

Check out these hacks for help keeping your home a safe one.

  1. Watch out for fire hazards. While you want your place to look good, you also don't want to get caught in a house fire. Look out for any potential fire hazards you might have in your place and rearrange accordingly.
  2. Test all smoke detectors. When you move in, make sure your smoke detectors are in good working order and test them periodically.
  3. Install carbon monoxide detectors. If you live in a place with central air and heat, make sure to have a carbon monoxide detector.
  4. Don't store keys outside. While it might be helpful to have a spare key under a mat or rock outside, it can also be dangerous if the wrong person finds it.
  5. Don't let too many people hang out on a balcony. Overloaded balconies can collapse and are potentially very dangerous; so if you have one, use it wisely.
  6. Hang emergency numbers in a central location. Make sure you or your roommates will be able to easily find all emergency numbers when necessary.
  7. Ask your landlord to change the locks. If you are afraid your safety may have been compromised, ask your landlord to change the locks.
  8. Install a DIY alarm. There are some DIY tutorials online that can show you how to install a basic alarm on your place.
  9. Know what to do in the case of a kitchen fire. Do you know what to do if you have a kitchen disaster? Learn how to deal with these emergencies if you plan to do some cooking.
  10. Keep doors locked at all times. Never leave your door unlocked, even if you're at home.

Make It a Home

These hacks will help you transform your place from a boring box to a real homey hangout.

  1. Put up personal items. Nothing will make it feel like home faster than displaying personal items like blankets, photos, knick knacks, posters and even some favorite books.
  2. Get some plants. Whether they're herbs you can eat or just plants that are nice to look at, they'll add some life and greenery to your place.
  3. Set up a study space. If you're in college, you're going to need a place to study. Set up a desk in a quiet area so you can work.
  4. Paint a wall. If you're allowed to paint, a simple coat — even on one wall — can transform a room immediately.
  5. Get some rugs. Rugs will help to warm up a room and can protect the floor or carpet underneath.
  6. Choose lighter hues to make a small room look bigger. If your place is small, go with lighter colors to help it look bigger and brighter.
  7. Cover an old table with a tablecloth. Have an unsightly old table? Cover it with a decorative, perhaps stylish tablecloth to give it new life.
  8. Make use of natural light. If you have windows, don't obstruct or cover them. Let in the light so your place feels warm and welcoming.
  9. Respect the space and your things. Everything in the apartment is your responsibility and much of it will be your personal property. Take care of these items and the apartment. You'll thank yourself later on.
  10. Keep expensive things in your room. If you're living with a roommate, it may be best to keep some of your more expensive things in your room so that they'll be out of the way and won't get broken.
  11. Re-purpose cheap items. You can get a lot of inexpensive items at places like Ikea, that you can transform into amazing, cool decor and furniture for your home.
  12. Agree on a style. Whether you're living alone or with a roommate, pick a style that suits you and will make you feel at home.
  13. Comfort should trump looks. At this stage in your life, look for furniture that is comfortable, even if it doesn't look the greatest. You can always slipcover or paint later on.
  14. Make your space cozy. Warm colors, throw pillows and a good setup can help make your place feel cozy and comfy year round.
  15. Hang up photos. Your place will be instantly personalized by hanging up your photos of friends, family or places you've been.
  16. Have fun! It's your first place, you should be enjoying it. Have fun decorating and making it your own.

Cleaning

Make sure your new place stays clean and tidy by following these tips.

  1. Make your own cleaners. If you're worried about the environment or want to save money, it's easy to make your own cleaning supplies.
  2. Don't let grime build up. Keep up with your cleaning instead of letting things get super dirty before tackling them. It will make your life much easier and your place much more livable.
  3. Have a chore chart. If you're cohabitating, decide which roommate will take on set cleaning tasks each week.
  4. Clean out that fridge. Don't let old food fester in the back of your fridge; clean it out regularly.
  5. Invest in a vacuum and broom. You're going to be using these tools a lot, so make sure you have them on hand.
  6. Take out the trash. Pests, from roaches to mice, would love to feast on your garbage. So take it out regularly to prevent an invasion from happening.
  7. Wash your sheets. Is it kind of annoying to wash sheets? Yes, but it's something you should do every one to two weeks to ensure they stay clean and allergen-free.
  8. Watch out for crumbs. They can attract ants and other pests.
  9. Do a thorough cleaning every month or so. Clean out places that you don't normally get to so that dust and dirt won't build up.
  10. Keep shoes by the door. Help keep gross things out of your home by removing your shoes when you come in the door.
  11. Care for your furniture. Vacuum and wipe down your furniture to make sure it stays looking good.
  12. Install a dry erase board. It can be an easy way to communicate with your roomie about what needs to be done.
  13. Use cable ties. These will keep cords out of the way so you're not tripping over them. Plus, it keeps the place looking much more organized.

Shopping

You're more than likely going to need quite a bit of stuff to fill up your first place. These tips can help you save and get the right stuff for your needs.

  1. Shop garage sales and thrift stores. These places will often have great deals on furniture that you won't be able to find anywhere else.
  2. Dumpster dive. You can't beat free furniture. Pick up something someone else no longer has a need for and use it to decorate your new place. Just keep an eye out for upholstered items, as bed bugs have made a bit of a comeback in recent years.
  3. Look at Craigslist and Freecycle. These online sites are excellent resources for scoring deals on gently used furniture and household items.
  4. Re-purpose what you have. Look at what you already have and see if you can't use it in another way. For instance, a trunk could go from serving as storage to making a great coffee table.
  5. Get hand me downs. Friends and family members may be more than willing to hand off older items for you to use.
  6. Find multipurpose furniture. You can cut down on costs by finding items that can do double duty, like storage ottomans or end tables.
  7. Measure. Always measure to make sure your items will fit before buying them.
  8. Get the basics. You don't need to get everything for your place right off the bat, just stick to the basics and get the rest as the year goes by.
  9. Don't be afraid to haggle. You can often get a better deal just by asking. Don't be afraid to ask if the price could go lower.
  10. Have a budget. It's easy to go overboard with spending for your first place. Make a budget and stick to it.
  11. Skip the fancy kitchen tools. You don't need them, even if you are a chef. Get the essentials– they should be enough to keep you well-fed.
  12. Paint old furniture. Just because furniture is old doesn't mean it can't look new again. Give it a fresh coat of paint for a new look.
  13. Invest in a few quality pieces. There are a few things that may be worth spending more for even in your first place. For instance, a nice mattress or a comfortable bed. Decide what's important to you.

Decorating

Check out these ideas that can help your place look stylish and livable on a budget.

  1. Make your own art. If you're artistically inclined, you can make all kinds of amazing art to go on the walls of your new apartment.
  2. Sew pillows and curtains. These items are easy and cheap to make and can totally change the look of your place.
  3. Move around furniture. Try out several different ways of laying out your rooms to make sure you've got the best setup.
  4. Invest in floor cushions. Floor cushions will provide additional seating and frequently look nice stacked up as well.
  5. Slipcover. Any couch or chair can get a new life when you dress it up with a slipcover.
  6. Use curtains to hide unsightly areas. Cover up a closet or a utility box with a set of pretty curtains.
  7. Reupholster. Items like dining chairs are usually pretty easy to do a DIY job on, but you can still save big by having old furniture revamped instead of buying new.
  8. Add blankets and comfy items. Your place will feel a lot softer and more inviting if you place pillows and blankets around the living space.
  9. Frame fabric. Bold and interesting fabrics, when framed or stretched over a frame like a canvas, are a cheap way to add a lot of color and vibrancy to room.
  10. Have several light sources. Sometimes you might need a lot of light, sometimes just a little, so have some options in your room when it comes to lighting so you can set the mood.
  11. Be creative with old items. You can revamp just about anything with paint and a little know-how. An ugly old lamp can look like an expensive new piece with just a few hours of work.
  12. Keep it clutter-free. Clearing clutter off of countertops and shelves can go a long way towards making your place look nice.
  13. Frame anything. Whether it's concert tickets, some pretty leaves or a page from a book, put it in a frame and it can look stellar on your walls.
  14. Go modular. Modular wall hangings or storage solutions offer a wide range of possibilities and are extremely adaptable.
  15. Consider decals. Decals can be a cute and fun way to add some personality to a room without making a permanent change.
  16. Consider the arrangement of your room. Different setups can give the place a whole different feel and make moving around a lot easier.
  17. Go digital. Instead of having stacks and stacks of CDs, put them on a small, digital device.
  18. Add mirrors. As long as you don't go overboard, mirrors can open up the space and make it feel bigger and lighter.

Conserving and Saving

Now that you've got to pay the bills on your own, it can be to your advantage to use less. These hacks can help.

  1. Get fluorescent bulbs. They cost slightly more up front, but will save you big over their lifetime.
  2. Start recycling. A few bins in your kitchen can make it simple to recycle just about everything. Better yet, for some items you could even make money.
  3. Plug in electronics to power strips. You can easily switch them off when you're not using them so you won't waste energy.
  4. Watch your power and water usage. You don't want to waste energy, and now that you're footing the bill you should make sure to turn off lights and water whenever they're not in use.
  5. Don't buy what you don't need. Just because something is on sale doesn't mean you should buy it. Stick to what you need, not what stores are trying to sell you.
  6. Don't use disposable items. Save paper plates and plastic cups for parties and use the real deal every day.
  7. Share with roomies. There's no reason for each of your to have your own of everything. Sharing can be an easier and better way to save space and money.
  8. Buy in bulk. You'll save on packaging and might even get a better deal.
  9. Look for apartments on a middle floor. They might be noisier, but they'll keep you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
  10. Block drafts. They'll waste energy and run up your bills. Stop them with simple draft dodgers you can make at home.

Storage

Most first apartments are pretty small, but you can maximize the space by using these ideas.

  1. Utilize underbed space. Putting bins under your bed can add a ton of storage space to your bedroom.
  2. Loft your bed. If the ceiling is high enough, you may want to consider lofting your bed to give you some extra room.
  3. Utilize vertical space. Walls are great for displaying pictures, but hang some shelves and you can fit a lot more stuff into the space.
  4. Use shelves as room dividers. You can get storage and privacy by using a bookshelf or storage unit as a room divider.
  5. Get organized. It'll feel like you have a lot more room when your things are cleaned and organized.
  6. Check out storage rails. These simple rails are great for kitchens and bathrooms and let you hang all kinds of items from them.
  7. Store items by how often you use them. Rarely used items can go into hard to access places while things you use regularly should be kept in reach.
  8. Keep seasonal items at home. If there's not room at your place, ask your parents to store your seasonal items when not in use.
  9. Be a minimalist. Only bring what you really need into your new place to give it a roomier feel.
  10. Protect your stuff from pests. Keep moths and other pets that can destroy your clothes away, especially if you're keeping items in places they won't be accessed regularly.

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