Jen Jackowski
make apartment home

Moving to a new apartment inherently comes with an adjustment period. You’re in a new place, both in terms of the neighborhood and the apartment itself. There’s going to be some time where you’re not exactly comfortable.

That feeling won’t last forever, and eventually your new place will feel like home . The question is how you get there.

Understand the situation

To start, you need to figure out what is bothering you about your apartment when you move in. Here are a few things that can be an issue:

  • “I don’t own it, I’m just renting”: Even if you’re “just renting”, you still live in your apartment. While there are limits, you’re able to do a lot of things to make it more like somewhere that you want to live, so don’t let this idea take over your mindset.
  • Reflect on what’s making you uncomfortable: It takes a lot of self-awareness but try to pinpoint the things that are really bothering you. Walk around the rooms, trying to pick out the things that are causing you to feel uncomfortable. It takes a lot of effort and your first answers probably won’t be the right ones, but you’ll at least have some starting points.
  • Know your limits: Your lease limits the things that you can do – as much as you’d want to knock out a wall you don’t like, you don’t want to deal with the consequences of that. You also have limited time, money, and energy, so make sure to choose things that will have an impact without taking up too much of your time, money, or energy.  While you’re walking around in the apartment, think about why you’re having trouble in certain rooms. You may have trouble coming up with the answers but give it a serious effort to put into words what’s bothering you. Those obvious things should be your priority.

If the above exercise gave you answers, then you’re already on the right track. If not, don’t panic – there are some simple things you can do that will help get you started and make what you need to do a little clearer.


Fully set up/unpack one room at a time

If every room is in a state of disarray, there’s nowhere in your apartment you can go to feel sane. It doesn’t matter which room you start with, just pick one as your zone of sanity, and set up that room fully. Get everything up and running in the kitchen, set up everything in your office, or just get the bathroom finished – whichever you choose, this gives you somewhere to retreat when you’re overwhelmed, as well as some help in how to handle the rest of the rooms.

Get boxes/junk out of the way

Tripping over boxes or even just looking at them is going to stress you out. As you get things unpacked, break down the boxes and get them out of the way. This can be recycling or throwing them away, but depending on how much progress you’ve made, you might be best just throwing them in another room to have to take care of them later. It’s not the best option over the long term, but can help out a lot at the beginning.

Plan Lighting

Lighting is a powerful and often under-appreciated element that can make your apartment feel different immediately. The right lighting turns a drab space into an intimate and cozy one, so you should work on it as soon as you have the items needed for basic living set up. Here are some tips for using lighting to make your new place feel like home:

At Least Three: Interior designers agree that every room should have at least three lighting sources to help create zones. Each of the three must be task or decorative lighting, as these types create pools of illumination–the ceiling light that came with the apartment doesn’t count. You can add a lamp to your side table that makes reading at night possible, place a standing lamp in the corner, or decorate with string lights.

Consider Bulbs: Look for compact florescent light bulbs that produce warm, gentle light, similar to incandescent bulbs, but last longer and use energy more efficiently .

Dont forget the walls: Bright lighting can lose all its impact if it collides with dark or drab walls. If you’re looking to make the room bright, make sure that the walls are painted accordingly. If you can’t paint the walls because of your lease, viable alternatives can be wallpaper or light decorations hung on the wall.

Notice the smell

Not to say that your new place smells bad, but does it smell right? We tend to remember scents more than the other senses, so you’re going to make sure you have the right scent in the new apartment. Set up some plants that give off good odors, burn some candles (if your lease allows it, of course), or set some air fresheners around the apartment. Like lighting, it’s a small, easily overlooked change that can completely change the feeling of your apartment.


Decorate According to Your Tastes

Remember that this is your space now, so decorate it with that in mind. What do you want to hang on the walls? Pictures of your friends and family? Artwork you really like? Artwork you’ve made? Any of these things can be a starting point to feeling more like you’re really at home.

make apartment home


Be picky about what you decorate with– only use items that match your overall decor scheme and fit your tastes. When you shop for items, don’t just pick something up because you like it. It should be cohesive with the rest of your belongings. If it’s not, it will feel out of place and you may not get much use out of it.

Include Sentimental Items

As you plan your decor scheme, include personal items that mean a lot to you. A painting that hung in your grandma’s house, the throw blanket your mom knitted and the mirror from your study abroad trip are all examples of decorations that not only look nice but have sentimental value.

Surrounding yourself with both new and old items can help make the place feel more like yours. If you have a lot of meaningful belongings, pick and choose just a few. They should match the rest of your decorating design and not create clutter.

Clean Up

Most apartments have already been cleaned before a new tenant moves in, but not always. Before you put stuff away, do a deep clean. This gives you a fresh start both literally and figuratively. Plus, you’ll quickly get acquainted with your new space.


Everything should have its place. It doesn’t need to be a perfectly regimented system, but having no idea of where things should go and leaving them the first place you put them will just feel like clutter.  This is doubly the case if you’ve wisely invested in items with multiple purposes. A bookshelf is both decorative and functional, so if you find a place that’s good for both functions, it’ll feel much more like part of a real home, not just where stuff happened to land.

Explore the Neighborhood

Did you pick your apartment because you liked the neighborhood? If so, you should probably explore it. Take a walk outside to see what bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and stores are nearby.

As you do, you’ll start to see how it can become part of your life. Your home isn’t just a living space you lock up when you leave, but the area that surrounds it. Look for the coffee shops, stores, restaurants, and bars that are going to become a regular part of your life very soon. Look for community groups to join or just somewhere that neighbors gather to have conversations. Anywhere that you can meet new people will help the new area feel more comfortable.

Have a Party

While talking to those people, you’ll want to invite them over for a party. New friends, old friends, and family coming over to your new place is a great way to break it all in and start to feel like it’s part of your life.

Even more important, there’s nothing like the fear of public embarrassment to get you to make your apartment looking presentable. When the party is in two days and everyone you know is invited, everything you needed to fix, straighten up, and decorate will become incredibly obvious. Don’t worry: Your new apartment will really start to feel like home in no time. With these tips, the unit will transform from just a building into a place filled with great memories.



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