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After college, I moved back in with my parents to save money. I didn’t intend to stay there very long, but I got used to (and a bit spoiled by) my new roomies, who would cook baked ziti for me, warm up my car on a cold, winter day, and watch The Bachelor with me.
After a year and a half, I decided it was time to start adulting. So I packed up my stuff and moved into an apartment by myself for the first time ever. It was exciting, terrifying, and bittersweet all at once. I was scared of a lot of things — mostly the amount of shopping I would have to cut back on to be able to pay rent each month — but my first night in my new “home,” the loneliness set in.
Moving into a new place is a huge adjustment; doing it all on your own is an even bigger one. Here’s how to make this strange new place your home.
1. Keep Calm & Clean On
Before you move your first box inside, vacuum. Mop. Scrub the toilet and the tub. Disinfect the bathroom and kitchen counters. Yes, a cleaning crew will come in and clean your apartment before you move in, and I’m well aware that I run the risk of sounding like a germaphobe by saying this, but I don’t trust those people for a second.
Knowing that someone else — quite possibly someone who’s never cleaned a day in their life — has lived in my apartment really freaks me out. It’s all I can do not to burn sage to cleanse the place of whatever spirits may be lurking. (What? You didn’t see that episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians?)
2. Light a Candle
If new apartments had that new-car-smell, the world would be a much better place. The truth is, when you move into a new place, it’s not going to smell great. It’ll smell like Barbara, the 23-year-old grad student who only knew how to make tuna sandwiches and had 20 litter boxes for her 20 cats. After you finish cleaning the place from head to toe, you need to invest in several plug-in air fresheners, some air freshener spray, candles, and if you’ve got any money left over, splurge a little and buy a Scentsy (or two).
Another way to reset your new place’s smell? If your apartment has carpet, sprinkle some baking soda and vacuum it up — any old, funky smells will come right up with it.
3. Unpack (Just Do It)
Your new place won’t start to feel like home unless you’re surrounded by your stuff — which won’t happen unless you start unpacking. It’s time-consuming and awful, and it took me weeks to finish unpacking because I just didn’t want to deal with it — but I also suffered a minor breakdown because I couldn’t find my favorite nail polish, and I bruised myself in the middle of the night (on several different occasions) by banging into the boxes. So trust me when I say unpacking everything ASAP is the best way to go.
4. All You Need is Love
It’s natural to want to go out and buy everything in Target the second you get a new place, but if you really want it to feel like home, you should bring a few well-loved pieces along with you. That bookshelf your father built for you, the vintage jewelry box your boyfriend gave you for your anniversary, and the book collection you started the second you learned your ABCs should all be welcome in your new home.
Decorating with your favorite pictures is a great way to warm the place up as well. I personally love those cute little picture coasters — I have one with a picture from my nephew’s first birthday, and it never fails to put a smile on my face.
5. Make it Cozy
Staying in a new place can feel weird, especially if you’re living by yourself. I personally fill the void in my one-person household with a giant collection of pillows and blankets I can snuggle up with at night (and a comfy mattress is definitely worth splurging on).
6. Make Some Memories
You’re definitely not going to want anyone to see your new place right after you move in. But if you set a date for friends and family to come over, you’ll be way more motivated to unpack those last few boxes and get everything organized. Plus, it’ll break up the everyday monotony of coming home to an empty apartment. The first time I had two of my best girlfriends over, the place suddenly didn’t feel so lonely — there were memories to be made.
7. Lend Me Some Sugar, I Am Yo Neighbor
If you’re lucky enough to live in an apartment complex that hosts community events, go. If not, take walks around your complex. Go to the gym. Take advantage of the free coffee in the clubhouse. Smile at people. Say hi. You may not think it’s important, but you never know when you’ll be in need of a cup of sugar. Kidding.
But on a serious note, if you have pets, who’s going to come over and feed them while you’re out of town? On the other side of it, if your neighbor has children, you could make a few extra bucks babysitting every now and then. And let’s be real: when you’re a twentysomething, you should always be open to meeting new people, making new friends, and having new experiences.
8. Pamper Yourself
When all the boxes have been put away and everything is in its place, take a moment for yourself. Break out a bottle of wine, break in your new tub with a bubble bath, and just chill. Because this is your home, and you can do whatever the heck you want.