How to Get Settled in Your New Rental Apartment & Make It Feel Like Home


With so much to do, a new residence can often feel more overwhelming than exciting. You can’t hit ‘pause’ on the rest of your life when you move. No matter how badly you may want to get settled into a new rental apartment as soon as you get there, it’s going to take time. You need to call your internet provider, forward your mail, sell furniture that doesn’t work in the new space, and the list goes on and on.

If you’re handling it on your own, there’s no quick-fix for the long to-do list that comes with moving. However, you can alleviate some of the stress by breaking down your move-in process into more manageable steps. Here is our own to-do list to help you get settled in your new place.

1. Make a List of Everything You Absolutely Need to Do

Some items to get you started:

  • Confirm that your building management company has all of your completed rental paperwork on file. Make sure that any move-in costs (security deposit, broker fees, etc. are taken care of. 
  • Call your new electricity company and internet provider to set up your new account and schedule a service appointment.
  • Check the condition of everything in your new rental apartment. Take photos of any damages and make note of anything that isn’t working properly. Next, write an email to your new landlord, documenting the move-in condition of your apartment in writing. By putting this information on the record, you are ensuring that your building management company will not hold you financially accountable for preexisting damages down the road. (Bonus: With so many less-than-stellar building management companies out there, it doesn’t hurt to let your new management know right off the bat that you are on top of everything.)
  • Make sure that your apartment has fully-functional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Set up all of your mail to forward to your new address, and share the news of your new mailing address with close friends and family.

2. Make a List of Everything You Want to Do

Here’s where the fun part kicks in! Do you want to upgrade your coffee table? Buy new throw pillows? Paint your bathroom? Making a comprehensive list of your “want-to-dos” will help you set aside all of the creative projects and optional expenses until you have completed the priority items on List #1. If you want to purchase things for your new apartment, try your best to wait until after you have taken some time to get settled into your new place. It is usually worthwhile to take your time to find the right furniture and decor at the right price. (We’ll talk about this more in #5.)

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3. Tackle Everything on List #1 & Explore Your Building

It is often a frustrating and time-consuming endeavor, but make all of your service provider phone calls ASAP. If you’re switching providers, make sure to verify that your old provider has closed out your account by requesting written confirmation. Switching, opening, or closing accounts can take a while due to factors like installation and processing time, so it’s best to tackle these tasks right away.

While you’re sitting on hold with the cable company, why not get acquainted with your new building? Where do you put your garbage and recycling? Where are the emergency exits? Do you have rooftop access? If you’re lucky enough to have a gym or a laundry room in the building, take note of important details like the cost, hours, and available amenities.

4. Clean Your New Home

Hopefully your apartment was deep-cleaned before you moved in. Regardless, taking the time to clean the apartment yourself will help make you feel comfortable in your new place. Wash the floors, wipe down all surfaces (including the walls, refrigerator, closets, and hardwired lighting fixtures), and deep-clean every inch of the kitchen and bathroom.

Wipe down the inside of all of the drawers and cupboards, and consider lining drawers and cabinets with some decorative contact paper. As you clean, make note of any organizational items you may need to pick up for your new space, such as hooks, under-the-sink storage drawers, or a shower shelf.

5. Time to get settled: unpack, arrange and decorate

Once you’ve finished cleaning, it’s time to unpack! It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by this step, especially if you and/or your moving company did a less-than-perfect job packing up your belongings at your last residence.

Try your best to enjoy the process of finding each one of your belongings a new home. If you just can’t figure out the right place for something, don’t waste too much time on it. Set the item aside and revisit it in a few days, or even a few weeks. As you continue to get settled in your new rental apartment, you will naturally figure out the right place for most, if not all, of your belongings.

Try not to put unnecessary pressure on yourself to have everything in perfect order before you invite anyone over to your new place. Would I plan a giant housewarming before I had any chairs? Probably not. But it’s important to cut yourself some slack when it comes to having a picture-perfect space.

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Everyone knows that getting settled into a new home is a process. Take as much time as you need to get settled and let your new apartment speak to you. Frantically buying things you think you need for your new apartment will make you far more likely to waste money on items you don’t love, or you don’t actually need. You just moved, for goodness sake! Give yourself a moment to get settled and spend some time in your new home, then tackle your shopping list.

Personally, I was in my first apartment for three months before I purchased a couch. Instead of jumping into a major purchase, I focused on finding the best place for the furniture I already had. I made sure to unpack all of my belongings so I could be sure I had taken inventory of everything I already owned — plus, I didn’t want to live with mounds of bubble wrap and boxes. 

Bonus Tip: On move-in day, set up your bed first. Even if your bedroom dresser is still in your entryway and your dishes aren’t unpacked, the most important thing is to make sure that you have a comfortable place to crash at the end of your moving day. You don’t want to dig through boxes for your bed sheets at 2 am when you’re already exhausted and cranky!

6. Add your personal touch

Before you do anything, check your lease for your building’s rules on painting the walls, hanging wall decor, replacing lighting fixtures, etc. If you don’t see the information you’re looking for, reach out to your building management company and ask any questions you have prior to making changes.

If you’re looking to take on a project that may require professional help (such as mounting a flat-screen TV or installing a dimmer switch on a lighting fixture), ask your building’s superintendent if the project is something they could assist with. This is an important step because (a) some building management companies have a policy against bringing in outside contractors; and (b) using your building’s contractors instead of hiring your own could save you a lot of money! Your management company might be willing to cover some or all of the cost of the labor, so don’t hesitate to ask.

This may be hard to believe, but it took me two and a half years in my first apartment before I finally decided to hang pictures on the walls. I kept thinking, “Well, what if I move next year? Or the year after? Or the year after that?” In retrospect, my “what ifs” were absolutely absurd! Of course, once I finally hung up my wall art, I wished I had done in years earlier.

If you already own a collection of wall art with sentimental or monetary value, then you’d probably be eager to hang it up in your new space. However, if you don’t have enough framed art or photos to fill up the empty wall space in your new rental apartment, there are plenty of great places to find affordable wall decor that will personalize your space.

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If you don’t know how to properly hang items on your walls, either hire someone for the job, or if you’re feeling adventurous, Google it! There are plenty of excellent how-to articles and YouTube tutorials that will help you avoid any common mistakes.

Wait to purchase hanging hardware until after you have identified which walls you would like to hang items on, what each of those walls are made of (plaster, drywall, concrete, stone, etc.), and if you can find a stud. Especially in older buildings, wall structure and material tends to vary, and hanging items on the walls can involve a lot of unwanted surprises.

Regardless of whether or not you move in 12 months, six months, or even sooner, wall art is a good investment because you can easily take it with you to your next living space. As long as you did your research prior to hanging any items on the walls and followed all of the rules, taking down wall art when you move out will be quick and painless. Any money or time that you spend will be worthwhile for the feeling of home that personal wall décor will bring to your living space every day.

7. Enjoy your new rental apartment

You did it! You successfully moved into your new residence: your living room is no longer covered in packing materials, your Amazon account has been updated to your new address, and you have personalized your living space with your own furniture and decor. (And it looks absolutely amazing, if you do say so yourself…)

The next time you move to a new place, you’ll be more prepared to take it on, and maybe you’ll even find some of the process to be enjoyable. With the right amount of street-smarts, diligence, and a positive attitude, you can get settled into a new rental apartment and have some fun while doing it.

Congrats!! Now it’s time to invite some friends over to start making memories in your new space!