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8 Free Or Cheap Ways To Make Your New Living Situation Feel Like Home

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 being an adult. 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 during 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, vaccuum. 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 anyone but myself when it comes to keeping my apartment clean. 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.

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 the 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, invest in several plug-in air fresheners, air freshener spray, candles, or even splurge a little on 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. Get to Know Your Neighbors

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…kind of.)

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 try and make a few extra bucks babysitting every now and then. And let’s be real: when you’re a twenty-something, or any age, really, 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.

Elise is a writer, editor, not-so-professional wine taster, and the founder of Earn Spend Live. When she’s not working, she’s watching a KUWTK marathon. Follow her on Twitter here.

Image via Unsplash

  • Lauren

    100% here for living alone content. I love, love, love living alone and I wish it was more accessible and acceptable.

    • Summer

      Same. I’ve said for years that living alone is the greatest luxury and I honestly still believe it, even speaking now as a married person living with my husband. When he’s out of town for work, those are my opportunities to throwback to my “glory days” of living alone and doing whatever tf I want.

  • Ellie Hamilton

    I moved into my new place last weekend! I’m renting a house with two other women, but I’ve got the master suite, which is up a set of stairs and includes four windows on three walls, my own AC (important lol), a glorious newly tiled bathroom (with another window!), and a walk in closet. It feels like heaven being in my own place after 11 months of being literally all over the place and living nomadically. I ended up going cheap on a bed, but may upgrade later on. I’ve been going back and forth on painting and ultimately started putting up painters tape and decided to go for it. I want this place to feel like home! And a soft gray tone > olive green, which my landlord apparently thought looked good for every room in the suite (hallway, room, closet, bathroom). I had a bath in my new tub last night, replete with candles and wine and a tiny thing of roses I got on manager’s special from Kroger. Definitely helped the place feel more like home. I’ve cooked two meals (well, boyfriend cooked, I cleaned up haha), and every little thing like that makes it feel more like home. I’m so anxious now to be done painting and for my bed frame to arrive, and to go to estate and yard sales this weekend and buy actual STUFF FOR MY HOME! (nightstands, chair, shelves, etc, because i literally have nothing).

    I would say having an -intimate- experience, whether solo or with your significant other, is another great way to break in a place and feel more like it’s your own! Not sure that tip would fly in the post but wanted to add it here, hehe. 🙂

    Also, play your favorite tunes in your place! That’s another free way to start to claim the space and really feel your energy absorbing into the walls (figuratively).