4 Life Lessons I Learned Moving Into My First Apartment

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This fall, I moved into my first apartment. I’m twenty-one and have moved from my family home to university residence buildings to room rentals in my neighborhood. And now, finally, my girlfriend and I have a little place to call our own!

I go to school at York University in Toronto. And as most of you probably know, Toronto is incredibly expensive. Especially the housing near campus. So I decided to move a little bit on the outskirts of the city and commute to school. Essentially, this move would be a great decision for my finances. 


As a first time apartment hunter, this was definitely a learning curve. But, through my treacherous search and gradual house-making, I’ve come out of this experience with important lessons that will stick with me for any futures moves!

It takes time

Looking at an empty apartment and loads of suitcases when you first move can be overwhelming. Turning empty rooms and blank walls into a home might seem like an impossible task, but trust me, you’ll get there.

You don’t need to perfectly furnish and decorate the whole place at once. In fact, if you take it slow, you’re more likely to be able to find and afford the things you really want. The only furniture  I purchased before moving was a bed and side tables. Obviously, a bed is essential. So I wanted to ensure I had what I needed before I bought anything else I wanted. The side tables were fairly cheap so I added those to my order to make the delivery fee a little more worth it!

Make a list of immediate essentials

I had quite the hectic month before my big move which didn’t allow me as much prep time as I would’ve liked for saving up for decor, furniture, and miscellaneous household items. I decided to make a list of essential items for myself as a guide to how much I could spend within the first few weeks of living in my new place:

  • Bed
  • Comforter and sheets
  • Recycling and garbage bins (moving tends to involve lots of cardboard that you’ll be eager to get rid of)
  • WiFi router
  • Groceries
  • Shower curtain
  • Dishes 

These are pretty basic items, but nonetheless they’re important to remember seeing as I need to sleep, eat, shower, and work. Of course, this means I spent a bit of time eating our dinner in bed, but I made it work.

Practice Patience

Like I said, it takes time. It can be frustrating to finally make your move and still have it not feel like home but patience is key in this situation. 

Your apartment won’t be perfect

I went to multiple showings, and each unit had its own different pros and cons. What I instantly realized was that my apartment wouldn’t be perfect. I made a list of wants for my new apartment before heading into showings. I was hopeful, but realistic about it:

  • Accessible transit
  • Nearby grocery store
  • Good natural lighting
  • Laundry
  • Utilities included
  • Maximum rent of $1400

After each showing I’d review my list and develop another list of pros and cons for each unit I visited. Keeping in mind location, costs, the impression of the landlord, and overall quality of the apartment, I was able to decide on a place that checked off the most of our boxes. And we ensured any of the unchecked boxes would be manageable by alternative means. For example, my apartment doesn’t have a laundry room so I located a local laundromat and asked my sister who lives nearby if I could do a load any time I come over to hang out (thanks Sarah)!

The apartment I went with cost a bit more than some alternatives, but I decided that its pros outweighed the higher cost. Sometimes it is worth it to spend more money (if you can) for the effect it will have on your life. Despite a basement apartment I viewed being $100 cheaper, I went for a place with higher rent because I know I function better in a well-lit place, especially in the colder months. 

You don’t need to spend all your money

When I remembered the lack of furniture I own, I was immediately stressed. I wondered: how can I afford to furnish a new apartment on such a tight budget?

Well, past Emily, you don’t need to spend as much as you think!

The dollar store is a great place to start for household items. On my first trip I left with a broom and dustpan, drying racks, tea towels, utensils, storage bins, garbage bags, and a few cleaning supplies. This haul cost me about $30 and let me check tons of necessities off my list! 

I also made sure to shop the sales when it came to furniture. You know that button on online stores that lets you sort the prices from low-high? Use it. Seriously, this was my first step. From there I’d check out the lower-priced items and read through their descriptions and reviews before making a rushed decision based solely on price.

You’re going to spend money on a bed frame regardless. As much as you want to see the lowest deduction from your bank account, you also don’t want to waste money on something insufficient.

Ask for help!

This is one the hardest parts of any experience, especially situations like moving where you know there is loads of work to be done. But if you’re lucky enough, let yourself lean on the people who are willing and offering their help. You won’t regret it!

Being a city-liver, I don’t have a car. But I was able to save money on moving vans by having my angel of a mom help me out with her car. It may take a bit more time, but it’s worth it if you have such an option.

Same goes for furniture. I was eager to set up my office so I could start working from home right away! But a desk wasn’t in my budget at the time. Luckily, my brother in law had just replaced his desk and offered me his old one (thanks, Matt). If you know a relative or friend has furniture they don’t use, see if you can borrow or buy it from them! You can also buy used furniture from other places too.

Making your own little home is worth the stress

And I can personally attest to this. Despite the bumps in the road, having my own little home rather than a dusty dorm room makes it all worth it. Overall, my moving experience has been stressful, but exciting.

Having great people in my life to help me take on this adventure was definitely a perk. But even if you struggle to get and/or ask for help while you’re moving, the lessons I learned from it can guide you! With a little bit of patience, even someone on the tightest of budgets can turn a bunch of empty rooms into a home.

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