Back to School: Bare Essentials for Your First College Apartment

August 22, 2012           


The glow of early summer has faded into the hot, lazy days of August. Soon, autumn will be here, bringing with it our favorite things like pumpkin spice lattes and skimpy Halloween costumes. But before we can focus on any of that, there’s a more important task at hand: moving into your first apartment!

While the absence of mom and dad has numerous perks (no imposed curfew, no being required to take out the trash, or being held accountable for skipping class) it also has a few drawbacks. Like, now you need to learn how to feed yourself. And do your laundry. And pay your bills in a timely manner so that your cable doesn’t get turned off in the middle of watching Project Runway.

We’re here to get you started on your journey to becoming a quasi-adult by filling your first college apartment with the stuff grownup people use regularly.


Bedroom Essentials


  1. Memory Foam Pillow. Your lumpy goose-down pillow from home isn’t going to cut it if you want to survive on less than six hours of sleep a night. We know you went to that keg party instead of studying. Now get some Zs.
  1. Memory Foam Mattress Topper. After pulling an all nighter to finish up that Brit-Lit paper, you sat through two boring lectures and then cycled all the way to your apartment from campus, narrowly avoiding an old lady in the crosswalk. Reward yourself by sinking into this fluffy piece of heaven!
  1. Egyptian Cotton Sheets. You want to look like an adult, right? That’s why your Spongebob sheets from home have to go. No, they’re not cute in an ironic way. They’re old and gross and will prevent you from getting laid.
  1. Laundry Hamper.  Your jeans from the beach party are covered in sand and marshmallow goo and that dress from the “academic” meeting with the French club has red wine spilled all over it. But those clothes don’t go on the floor. This isn’t a hotel with maid service (unless of course you go to USC – oooh, Bruin editor dig) get them into your laundry hamper!
  1. Shoe Organizer. If you want your stilettos (or if you’re a dude, limited edition Nikes, or leather loafers – whatever) to continue looking new, treat them nicely. Not only will your shoe organizer help your footwear appear new, you’ll never be late to class because you couldn’t find the other pair.
  1. Clothes Drying Rack. Does your apartment have its own washer & dryer? I didn’t think so. You’ll be hanging out at the Laundromat with that homeless dude who smells like crap. Sure, he has some great theories on aliens, but with your own drying rack, you can hand-wash your favorite shirts and let the sunshine do the rest! Viola, clean clothes, no hassle.
  1. Storage Container. You couldn’t bear to give away your multiple Xbox controllers, your stuffed animal collection, or that broken handbag you swear you’re going to fix. But since you’re not using any of that stuff right now, please put it in a storage container and shove it in the back of your closet.
  1. Full Length Mirror. Check yourself out before you leave the house! How will you know if those “jeggings” are, in fact, completely sheer unless you can see them in their entirety? Mount your mirror on the back of your closet, and let the fashion police speak.
  1. Alarm Clock. On the chance that you left your cell phone in a cab (again) coming home late after the bars, you’ll need another way to know what time it is. Rely on your trusty alarm clock to wake you up for history lecture!


Bathroom Essentials


  1. Egyptian Cotton Towels. Yes, towel(s) plural, because you can’t have just one towel and let it get all stinky. When your girlfriend gets out of the shower, she doesn’t want to use your beach towel that reeks of wet dog and surf wax.
  2. Bath Mat. On those mornings when you’re waking up early for Bio-Chem, start your day right with a fluffy bath mat under your feet. (Though slipping and falling when you get out of the shower is a legitimate excuse to miss the mid-term).
  1. Shower Caddy. Between your Old Spice body wash, half-empty toothpaste tubes and your roommate’s pink loofah and five different kinds of hair product, you’ll need a shower caddy to organize everything. (And don’t try shaving your face with her Gillette Venus – it’s bound to end in disaster.
  2. Toilet brush. Mom isn’t here to do your dirty work anymore: you’re going to have to clean the toilet yourself. And on those tequila shooter nights where you end up face-down, praying to the porcelain god, you’ll be so grateful that you scrubbed the toilet until it sparkled.
  1. Shower Curtain. Give your apartment some class with a snazzy shower curtain! There are so many to choose from, you can be Boho bold with a chic print or show your Twi-Hard fanaticism with Edward Cullen’s face. (But if you choose the latter, let’s hope you live alone.)


Kitchen Essentials

  1. Coffee Maker. Coffee is your savior. You’ll drink it at night when you’re only on page six of that twenty-page paper, and again in the morning on the way to your Linguistics seminar. You’ll drink coffee more than Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist do in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (Seriously, re-read the book. All they do is drink coffee.)
  1. Coffee Mugs. These are needed to drink your dark-roasted goodness, preferably with ugly floral prints and sayings like, “World’s Best Grandpa.” Goodwill will leave you well prepared here.
  1. Wine Glasses. Because serving that nice Pinot Noir in the aforementioned Grandpa mug will not have the romantic effect you intend it to.
  1. George Foreman Grill. Every college student must have one! Impress your boyfriend with your ability to make tuna melts and burgers with less fat (you know he’s on some crazy Paleo diet and counting calories). Or if it’s raining outside, have an indoor barbeque.
  1. Can opener. On the chance that you didn’t learn how to cook (surprise), you’ll buy a lot of canned goods. And you’ll want to open them with as little effort as possible, because you are hungover most of the time and everything is far more difficult than it should be
  1. Crock Pot. For the slightly more advanced cooks, behold the brilliant crock pot. It cooks things while you’re in class, so that when you come home, dinner is ready. Throw in a few carrots, some potatoes, a packet of Lipton onion mix and some meat, and your date will think you’re the next Martha Stewart.
  1. Microwave. For the truly kitchen-averse, this purchase is for you. Boiling water for Mac n’ Cheese requires too much effort. Easy Mac it is!
  1. Pots and Pans. Even if your only skill is heating up water for ramen, chances are you still need a pot. Or, take your cooking magic to the next level by simmering pasta noodles in the pot while heating up a can of tomato sauce in the pan. By Gandalf, you’re a culinary wizard!
  1. Plates, Bowls and Silverware. I shouldn’t have to explain this. You need utensils to eat, and bowls to eat out of, unless you plan on dumping your pot of pasta into an empty can of Pabst and then slurping it back out again. (Gross.)
  1. Sieve.  Chances are you’re not sifting flour to make some kind of delectable baked good, but you will need something to strain your pasta with. And if you don’t buy one? You’ll contemplate tearing the screen off the window. Bad idea.
  1. Corkscrew.  While everyone else is showing off their beer-bottle-cap opening skills by begging for a dental emergency, be the classy guy at the party who knows how to properly uncork wine. Smart girls will like you.
  1. Dish Drying Rack. Unless by some miracle your apartment has a dishwasher, you’ll need to purchase a rack for your dishes to dry. And no, dishes do not dance around and wash themselves like in Beauty and the Beast. (Disney totally effed up our expectations, both in romance and in life!)
  1. Large Stainless Steel Trash Can. If you buy nothing else, at least buy this. All those leftover pizza boxes and empty cans of Keystone light will bury you alive if you don’t have a garbage can. Please don’t become the youngest star of “Hoarders” because your first college apartment was filled to the ceiling with trash.

Cleaning Essentials

  1. Vacuum Cleaner. That’s right, I said it. You have to vacuum now. If your new apartment has carpet, then this will be a must. Hair happens. Crunched up Doritos also happen.
  1. Swiffer. If you have wood floors or tile in the kitchen, this may become your new favorite cleaning apparatus. With both wet and dry cloths, your Swiffer can wipe up beer spills or catch the dust bunnies that accumulated under your bed.
  1. Bleach. It’s good for everything – your nasty toilet, oily stovetop, moldy bathroom, and skuzzy floors. But despite the wisdom on My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, we do not recommend using it to bleach your teeth.


Bonus Essential

  1. Beer Pong Table. Fire up the George Foreman grill and have some friends over for a game (or 6) of beer pong. Like your bed, couch or television, your beer pong table is absolutely essential to your college experience. Go for the bounce shot!


And now, for your shopping convenience – a printable list! (Minus images & our hilarious interjections.)


August 22, 2012   |   Posted in   by  

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Meredith Jaeger

Meredith Jaeger

Writer at Apartment List
Meredith Jaeger is a freelance writer and author of women’s fiction. When she’s not working on her novels, she's dancing badly to techno music, whether at Coachella or in her kitchen.
Meredith Jaeger