Transitioning from a dorm to an apartment in college is exciting, confusing and a little bit messy. After a six-day tizzy of Target runs, flurries of tubs and copious amounts of cereal eating, I am finally settled into my first apartment after braving dorm life for the past two years. Here are some things I learned about getting organized, maximizing space and stocking on things I didn’t need before.
Surprisingly, the precariousness of unpacking in an apartment beats out the cumbersome nature of shuffling tubs back and forth in a dorm room. Instead of having a single cluttered room, you now have a heaping bedroom, a bathroom in disarray, a scattered kitchen and a muddled living room to sort out. Before, all of your belongings could be mixed together because walking mere steps to find something was easy.
In an apartment, having to go to your bedroom for a coffee mug, or the living room for your toothbrush is annoying; collocating belongings ensures that you won’t waste time running up and down the stairs searching for things. Putting in effort to unpack in a logical arrangement saves precious minutes throughout the semester. Having an assortment of rooms that all have separate functions is an exciting responsibility, but organizing them all requires patience and time, but it’s worth it.
Getting settled in an apartment is a challenge because while there are designated areas for everything to reside, there are collectively more areas to situate. While you’re busy organizing your bedroom and eventually get hungry doing so, if you haven’t yet set up the kitchen and bought groceries, ramen noodles may be your only option for the time being. Conversely, if you jump into scrubbing down the kitchen and stocking it up first thing, but tire yourself out in the process, your bed may not be made up or accessible come the wee nighttime hours.
The best way to live somewhat normally while your apartment is in a jumble is to tackle putting away essentials first (make the bed, buy some quick-fix meals, set your toothbrush by the sink) and sort through the details later. Eventually each cupboard and corner will be tidied, because you’ll likely need all the space.
Having an entire apartment to live in seems like it would provide more space than the box your university generously called a dorm room, but that’s not necessarily accurate. You’ll likely be living with more people; more people equates to more stuff. While you may share a room with one other person, there may be around six in the apartment total, which can get squishy. There won’t be enough corners in the shower for everyone to leave their shampoo, so don’t toss your shower caddy just yet!
Establishing balance between shared belongings and personal zones is a new challenge that arises as you acquaint yourself with your apartment mate’s living habits. Since everyone will be using the same common spaces, having one of everything for each person is superfluous and unnecessary.
Things like cleaning supplies, dishes and furniture can be shared. But, agreements about who buys what, splitting groceries and divvying up equal space for personal belongings is a process requiring time and communication to perfect. At first, it’s overwhelming to establish boundaries separating “what’s mine is yours” from “what’s mine is mine,” but soon it becomes second nature. Then, the fun of doing things together, sharing inside jokes and late night snacks replaces the initial apprehension.
Renting an apartment comes with a host of new responsibilities and new supplies for your “to buy” list. Many of these items are things you’ll want to alternate buying with your apartment mates, because you’ll all need to use them. For your initial stock up, make sure to grab toilet paper (don’t be the apartment that forgets it, you do not want the consequences of being toilet paper-less to define your first memories), Clorox wipes, paper towels and a vacuum cleaner. Essentials aside, there are a few more tools you’ll need for a successful year.
Now that you’ve moved on from communal bathrooms (hooray!) equipping your new place with cleaning supplies is a must. Be sure to grab a toilet plunger, a brush to scrub the sink, a separate one for the loo, hand soap, a shower curtain, a bathmat and hand towels. You may decide to add other things, but these basics will get the job done.
Outfitting the kitchen depends mostly on individual preference, but having some simple items around is useful no matter how much time you intend to spend cooking. A set of dishes that includes plates, bowls, and some type of glasses is ideal; adding a set of silverware completes the collection. An assortment of pots and pans with some utensils goes a long way. A cutting board and a few paring knives, plus mixing bowls and measuring cups, and your kitchen is functional. Don’t forget the dish soap and a sponge. Some small appliances are nice to have too; I brought a coffee pot and my roommate brought a toaster oven. Someone even brought a waffle maker. (We’re getting fancy now!)
As far as other knick-knacks and necessities go, depending on the lighting situation, some accent lamps may come in handy. Fun accessories like rugs, throw pillows, a tablecloth or place mats for the dining table and wall hangings add a homey feel to your living quarters. The small details make an apartment a home, adding the individual flair in your new space.
Once you take care of the basics, find places for all the things you need and add the decorative finishing touches, the reward is a little home to cherish. Waking up, tip-toeing down the creaky stairs to the kitchen for some coffee while a roommate is fast asleep on the couch is heartwarming; it’s a small welcome into adulthood, ushering in the worries and joys alike.