So you’ve done it — found a new apartment, signed the lease and moved in.
Problem is, your new apartment doesn’t quite feel like home yet. 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 do you get there?
Making your apartment feel like a home
The first thing you need to do is figure out what’s bothering you about your apartment when you move in. Here are a few potential issues:
- You don’t own it, you’re 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 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. 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.
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 to make your apartment feel like home.
1. 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. The bedroom is a great place to start. Get your bed set up with your favorite sheets and your pillow in its proper place. If it makes you more comfortable, add your night table, reading lamp and any books or photographs.
It will give you somewhere to retreat when you’re overwhelmed, as well as some help in how to handle the rest of the rooms. You may also want to make sure the bedroom is free of boxes before you go to bed, so you don’t have the obvious reminder of more unpacking to do as you’re drifting off to sleep or waking up the next day.
2. 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 mean 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 take care of later. It’s not the best option over the long term but can help out a lot at the beginning.
3. 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 a cozy one. Here are some tips for using lighting to make your new apartment feel like home.
Many 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.
Look for compact fluorescent light bulbs that produce warm, gentle light, similar to incandescent bulbs, but last longer and use energy more efficiently.
4. Don’t 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 removable wallpaper or lighter decorations hung on the wall.
5. The nose knows
If you’ve just moved, you may not be quite ready to put pictures or artwork on the walls. A faster way to make yourself comfortable is to introduce a favorite smell into your new apartment.
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 lightning, it’s a small, easily overlooked change that can completely change the feeling of your apartment.
6. Decorate based on your style
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.
Be picky about how you decorate — 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.
7. Include sentimental items
Do you have anything that functions as the adult equivalent of a security blanket? This may be photographs of loved ones, your personal bulletin board or a folder full of souvenirs. Whatever it is, don’t put it in a box on the moving truck. Keep it with you, so it can be one of the first things you lovingly feature in your new home.
As you plan your decor scheme, include your 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.
8. Clean and organize your space
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.
9. 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 places that are going to become a regular part of your life very soon. Find 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.
10. Have a party
One frequent recommendation is to go ahead and decide on the date of your housewarming party before you even move. That way, you won’t be tempted to put off the party — and the unpacking it requires. You’ll feel much more at home after you’ve been able to host a gathering of your favorite people in your new space.
Make your apartment feel like home
Don’t worry, your new apartment will really start to feel like home in no time. With these tips on how to make an apartment feel like home, the unit with plain, empty walls will soon become your home filled with great memories