12+ Practical Tips for Moving into Your First Apartment

My favorite TV show on the HGTV channel is Love It or List It. The designer and relator, Hilary and David, are talented professionals who try to convince homeowners to love their home again or list it for a new home. In the many hours of watching this show, I’ve noticed that Hilary has a huge advantage as she tries to convince the couple to stay in their current house. 

The truth is, no one likes to move. It’s the unspoken incentive that keeps people where they are. Moving is stressful, overwhelming, and not anyone’s idea of a fun weekend. Still, sometimes it’s necessary, especially for those of us starting the adulting chapter of our lives. So, how can we make moving more efficient and less of a chore? Use these 12 tips for moving into your first apartment and clever apartment moving hacks.  

A bookshelf in someone's first apartment

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The First Apartment Move

Having your first apartment is something to look forward to and celebrate. When I got my first apartment, I was excited about having my own space, being able to decorate, and not worry about anyone hogging the bathroom. It was a new adventure for me in the adulting struggle.

Isn’t that a cause for celebration?!

My apartment is also something that I approached with thankfulness. Apartments are expensive and carry huge responsibility. But by maintaining a thankful attitude through my time as a renter, I am able to be content in the apartment God has allowed me rent. 

I’m thankful to God. It was through his provisions that I could sign my name on my rent agreement and pay that first month’s rent.

What should I know before moving into my first apartment?

Now that the celebration is over, time to prepare for move in. Before choosing your first apartment, it’s important to ask the right questions during your apartment hunting

Additionally, set your first apartment budget and stick to it. Here are some spending guides from Crowne to give you an idea of how much income you should dedicate to rent and utilities. You will also need to budget for a renters insurance plan, ideally one that covers the apartment and your things, should they be stolen or damaged. I use Lemonade for renters insurance.

As you begin the move in process, here are a couple of other things to keep in mind:

  • Moving is expensive – It takes money to get the move started. Make sure you save enough to pay for the upfront costs, like leasing fees, amenity fees, first month’s rent, security deposit, movers, renter’s insurance, etc. 
  • Consider taking time off – You may need to take a day off or sacrifice a weekend to move. If you try to squeeze it in, it could add more stress to an already stressful day.
  • Communicate clearly with the leasing office and management staff – Make sure you understand the move-in policies early. For example, for my first apartment, I was planning to move in on a Saturday. But I found out that the apartment would only do move-ins on Monday-Friday. So I had to change my plans last minute and take another afternoon off work.
  • It’s exhausting – Moving takes a lot of energy and time. Don’t plan other strenuous activities on the day of the move, so you can take time to get settled in. 

Bonus tip! Before signing the lease, ask apartment complexes if they offer employer discounts. You could get a lower rate based on your employer if the complex has a negotiated discount with them. 

How do you plan a successful move?

Planning a successful move starts with clear communication. Once you find and secure a unit that you like, you’ll need to discuss move in policies with the leasing office. Before being approved to move in, you may need to submit documentation and of course settle on a move-in date.

After you have a move-in date set, now you can work backwards to determine what tasks you need to complete and by when. Checklists and planners can help you order the tasks and set due dates.

Moving in Apartment Checklist:

Here are a few tasks you may consider putting on your checklist as you plan your move:

  • Communicate with leasing office about move in policies
  • Acquire and send in all required documents to the leasing office
  • Request time off of work
  • Book transportation (if moving out of state or far away)
  • Hire and Book movers (or round up a move-in crew of your own)
  • Rent moving vehicles (trucks, vans, hand-trucks, etc)
  • Clean out closet / bookshelves / desks, etc.
  • Pack up your belongings for each area of the apartment
  • Furniture shopping or “first apartment” item shopping
  • Pick up keys from leasing office
  • Do apartment walk-through

Each moving situation is different, so this is not an exhaustive list. But working through these items will tell you how much time you need to prepare for a successful move. Some of these moving 101 tips coming up next may save you more time, too!

12+ Tips for Moving into Your First Apartment

These tips and hacks for moving to a new apartment are courtesy of experience—my experience moving to my first apartment and my friend’s experience moving to new apartment. They are lessons well learned for us, and hopefully great advice for you as you prepare for moving into your first apartment. 

Moving 101 Tips- Timing & Preparation

Moving is stressful, right? We can ease some of that stress by doing proper preparation and being cognizant of timing. 

1 – Settle on a Moving Plan

Coordinating timing is the first step to planning a successful move. You need to know when the apartment will be available, how long the complex will hold it for, and when you want to move in. Once you find the sweet spot for those 3 dates, you’ll have a moving plan and clear date to use as a base for other tasks.

What should you do before moving?

With your move-in date set, it’s time to start making important decisions about your moving plan. Answering these questions early on for optimal planning:

  • Do I need to take time off work to move?
  • Am I hiring movers or asking friends for help?
  • How much am I moving? Do I need a truck or van to help me?
  • Am I moving across states or countries? 
    • Will I ship things ahead of me? 
    • Do I need to book travel or plan to drive?
  • How much time do I have until move in?

Now that you’ve answered these questions, you can act on the answers. If you need to take time off of work, then send a request to your manager. Perhaps you’ve decided to hire movers, make sure to ask for good recommendations from people in the area.

Little by little, you’ll see a moving plan coming together for the big day. 

2 – Prepare documents 

On moving day, you don’t want to get hung up at the leasing office trying to take care of documents while your movers (or family) is waiting outside. Instead, be sure to take care of all the required documents beforehand. 

What do most apartments require to move in?

After the application is accepted, some apartment complexes require additional documents. Some things they may ask for are proof of income, proof that utilities have been opened in your name, security deposit, proof of renter’s insurance, or first month’s rent. (Always check with the leasing office or management to confirm what documents are required.)

Having all of these documents sent in ahead of time saves you headache on move-in day. The last thing you want is for your movers to be waiting outside while you’re trying to get the keys.

Moving 101 Tips – How to Pack for a Move 

You may spend little time in the preparation phase, but the packing phase is usually a different story. Most of these tips for moving into your first apartment are for packing because if you can master packing, it might save moving day!

3 – Clean and Organize Before You Pack

Wondering how to move efficiently?  It sounds counterintuitive, but the first task for packing is not packing. It’s to get rid of stuff.  The biggest favor you can do for yourself before moving is to decide what is not moving.

Moving is an opportunity to reassess what you have and why you have it. 

What should I do 30 days before moving?

Even if you don’t have an apartment locked in yet, start to organize your stuff. Determine what should go to the apartment and what should be thrown away or given away. Once you get to the packing step, you’ll know how much you need to pack and the amount of time you’ll need to get it all done. You will also find out what you need to buy for your first apartment. 

Bonus tip! You may not have to move everything at once. If it’s possible to take the essentials from your previous residence and then go back for other things later, that may lighten the load. 

4 – Start with “Off Season” Items 

Now that you have gotten rid of what’s not moving, it’s time to focus on what you’re bringing with you to your first apartment. 

What should I pack first when moving?

Start packing with the items that are “off-season.” For example, if you’re moving in the summer, start by packing up your boots and winter gear. You could also pack up your Christmas decorations, too. 

Next, you can start packing up items that you don’t use often. When I moved to my first apartment, I brought a lot of books for my bookshelf, but I wasn’t reading them all at the time. So, I packed them up early in the process since I knew I wouldn’t need them until after I moved. 

5 – Make a Packing Schedule

Depending on how far your move is and how much time you have before you move, packing can seem overwhelming. In those cases, it’s helpful to sketch a quick packing schedule to motivate you and find a good streaming show or movie series to watch while you pack.

How do I pack without getting overwhelmed?

A packing schedule doesn’t need to be elaborate. In fact, simple and flexible is better when it comes to moving. 

  1. Place the items you need to pack in categories. For example, if you pack by room, your categories may be bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, living room, and office / study
  2. Next, determine due dates for each of your categories and set aside time to focus on packing those items. Voila, you have a packing schedule and an easy way to manage your progress.
  3. Now set up your laptop or TV, and start watching your favorite show or movie. This can be your reward for packing and associate positive feelings with a tedious task.

How soon before you move should you start packing?

Bonus tip! If you can tolerate having boxes around and have the space for it, start packing as early as possible. Procrastinators will get overwhelmed by packing if they try to tackle it all at once. 

6 – Get Boxes with Handles

This apartment moving hack comes from my friend who just moved to a new apartment. It sounds simple, but according to her, it’s a life-saver. Get boxes with handles.

Boxes with handles lighten the load and make things easier to move and carry. A perfect companion to your moving day event.

7 – Pack Smart

Be creative and smart with your packing. For example, instead of packing towels and sheets in another box, use them as separators in boxes with your more fragile items.  Potted plants can be transported in laundry baskets to give them room to breathe and protect from spills in an easily-cleaned container.

Always pack heavier items like books in smaller boxes. No one wants to throw out their back by lifting a huge box of books on moving day.

Moving 101 Tips – Moving Day

The day has arrived! For the actual moving day, use these moving 101 tips to make the day less stressful. Because who wants to be stressed on moving day?

8 – Label Boxes Beforehand

“Where does this go?” This was the question I heard most on my moving day. If I had labelled the boxes by which room they needed to be in. We could’ve put things in the right places the first time, and not have to move things later. Adding a general description like “desk items” is helpful when you start unpacking, too. 


When I asked my friend about her most recent moving experience, she said to write “Get Movers” in all caps and tell you that they’re worth every penny. Tasks which took her all day took the movers only two and a half hours. So…GET MOVERS!

With my first move, I went the family route. If you decide to do round up your own help, be prepared to wait, to spend more time moving, and to feed your friends and family during and after the move. They get hangry fast, LOL.

Bouquet of hortensia flowers and glass bowls on modern wooden coffee table and cozy sofa with pillows in someone's first apartment.

Moving 101 Tips – After Moving Day

Now that the big day is over, here are some tips to help you get settled into your first apartment. 

10 – Note Any Existing Damages in the Apartment 

Before everything is set up, you’ll want to inspect the apartment and note any damages. Don’t forget to test all the outlets, too. After, notify the leasing office of these damages so they can either fix the damages or write them down in your apartment file. If they try to charge you for these damages when you move out, you’ll have proof that they were already in the unit.

Bonus tip! When you do an initial walk through (with or without the leasing office representative), take a video on your phone of the apartment. Keep it as an artifact of what the apartment looked like when you moved in. When you move out, you can use it to contest any charges. 

Bonus-Bonus tip! Do the same when you move out.

11 – Settling In – Tackle One Room at a Time

As you settle in, tackle one room at a time, and always unpack as you start using things. Of course, if the boxes bother you, you can do it all in one day like I did. But if you take that course, make sure to set up time to relax and rejuvenate.

Bonus tip! Have your internet set up the following day or well after all the movers have left. You can use your phone data in the meantime and not have to worry about coordinating with movers and the technician. 

Related: 13 Ways to Save Energy as an Apartment Renter from Save on Energy

12 – Have a House-Warming Party to Celebrate

Moving into your first apartment is a cause of celebration! Start the next chapter of your adult life with a house-warming party. Order food from a restaurant local to your new place or have a potluck. Invite friends and family and show them around your new neighborhood. 

Bonus tip! At a housewarming party, people may opt to bring gifts to help you get started in your new apartment. If someone wants to bring a gift, make sure to have an apartment shopping checklist, so you know what you still need. 

What do I need for my first apartment checklist?

Download this FREE apartment checklist PDF from Kara J Lovett Co. to get you started. 

Related: First Time Movers Guide from MYMOVE with more moving resources

Moving into your First Apartment 

A website about Navigating the Adulting Struggle wouldn’t be complete without tips for navigating the apartment moving struggle. Picking an apartment and moving can be both exciting and stressful. Just like adulting. 

So no matter where you’re moving, I hope these tips for moving into your first apartment lighten the struggle, so you can focus on celebrating this important milestone. Remember to be thankful to God as you steward this gift he’s given you. You have an apartment! Here’s to more adulting!

Don’t miss this! More posts in the Living & Adulting Category:

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