How to make an apartment a home

How to make an apartment a home

How to make an apartment a home

Transforming your rental into your space

December 14, 2023 | Mollie J.

Aeronautics and Astronautics

So you’ve just survived the Boston housing process and signed a lease on a cozy new apartment. Now what? While moving can feel like a daunting task at first, it really isn’t as bad as it seems. Take it from someone who’s moved 8 times within the past 5 years. Whether it was for school, study abroad, or internships, within the past 5 years I’ve lived in on-campus dorms, off campus apartments, new “luxury” buildings, old historic buildings, hostels, houses, studios, and four-bedrooms. Needless to say, I’ve become quite accustomed to the moving process. Searching for housing is a different story altogether, but I’m here to share tips that I’ve picked up along the way on how to make an apartment feel like a home.

Cleaning before moving in

First things first, it is best to spend 1-2 days doing a thorough deep clean  before things are moved in. Do it all ASAP so that all you have to do later is a touch up and routine maintenance— don’t let problems persist or grow! On this note, here is a checklist of things to do as soon as you move in.

  • Clean floors before furniture gets put away.
    • If you have hardwood floors, consider investing in felt furniture pads to prevent scratches.
  • Clean cabinets/drawers before things are put away.
    • Line the bottom of kitchen drawers with parchment paper, especially if you store things like spices or utensils in the drawers. This helps with crumb cleanup and cleanliness. You can also buy drawer organizers.
    • Most cabinets have removable shelf inserts that sit on adjustable pegs. Remove the shelf inserts, wipe them down, then replace them upside-down. This way you’re putting your stuff on the unused side!
  • Remove hair from shower drains and clean the shower heads using either vinegar or a cleaning spray.
  • Dust surfaces and clean windows.
  • Thoroughly clean the refrigerator, microwave, and stove.
  • Clean the dishwasher by placing a cup with ½ cup vinegar on the top rack and running a regular cycle.
  • Set up a water filter and/or replace the fridge water filter.
  • Sanitize door knobs, handles, and light switches. These areas tend to collect a lot of hand oil buildup.

Renter-friendly ways to liven up your walls

  • Command hooks are your friend! When I was a freshman in undergrad, I invested in a Costco-sized pack of command hooks. They’ve lasted with me since then; the hooks themselves are reusable, and I still have extra sticky patches in case I move again. Definitely avoid nails and harsh tape if you want your security deposit back.
  • If you have posters, use masking tape (also known as painter’s tape) to stick them to the wall. This makes taking them down super easy. Avoid picture frames— while a poster can be rolled up, frames are hard to pack!
  • If you don’t have posters but want some, take advantage of campus printing services and print your own posters! Wall decor is a super easy way to bring dimensionality into a room with bare walls.
  • If you move frequently, opt for plastic plants over live plants, because it may be hard to transport a live plant when you move out. And yes, a little bit of greenery really makes the difference. I’ve had the same 5 plastic plants since undergrad, and while I’m in between housing situations they thrive in their storage boxes.
  • RGB lights are both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, they look awesome, but on the other, they’re a common cause of wall damage. I suggest using many mini command hooks to hang up RGB lights and I would not trust the self-stick lights on rented walls. It’s either $20 in command hooks or $250 in paint damage, your choice!

General decorating tips

  • Thrift stores are treasure troves. Places like Goodwill are great for finding things like fake flowers, glass/ceramic vases, knickknacks, storage baskets, kitchen organizers, and other small decorative pieces. When you move out, you can re-donate and restart the cycle.
  • Avoid bringing too many books. They’re heavy and hard to move around. If you’re a super-studier, you likely won’t have time to read an entire bookshelf anyways. Itching for a read? Borrow books from the library!
  • Getting used furniture is a great way to furnish an apartment for cheap. Items that are not upholstered or woven are very easy to clean, and if needed, to repaint. Upholstered items like couches are a little different— you definitely want to watch out for bugs. Unless you personally know the previous owner, used mattresses are NOT worth it.
  • If you do find a (bug-free) couch, here’s a guide on how to clean your couch:
    • Vacuum any dirt and debris from the armrests, back cushions, seat cushions, and crevices.
    • If the cushion covers are removable, throw them in the wash. If they aren’t, use a disinfectant spray over the couch.
    • Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the entire couch. Let the baking soda sit for 30 minutes, then vacuum it all off. This helps neutralize odors.
    • Spot clean any existing stains with soap, water, and a dishrag.
    • Opt for a couch cover! These are relatively inexpensive, and this in combination with a used couch is definitely cheaper than buying new.

Hopefully these tips help you with move-in! Remember, the most important thing to know about decorating a space is to decorate it how you want. Your living space is an expression of your personality. If you keep this in mind, then in no time your apartment will start to feel like home.

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