Essential Items You Need for your First NYC Apartment

Moving into your first NYC apartment is exciting, but you might be a bit underwhelmed by how far your money goes. It might be the best city in the world, but it comes at a high cost and tiny apartments. Even the outer boroughs are getting more expensive and in many cases you might end up having to share an apartment with a roommate or two (or three). With such limited space, you need to be careful when deciding what to bring into your new home. In order to maximize your space, here are a few essential items you will need to make your NYC apartment a home.

Comfortable Bed

This should go without saying, but you’ll need a place to crash that will hold up to consistent use. Sure, an air mattress or futon might be fine in the beginning, but in order to get a good night’s sleep, you’ll need to invest in a quality bed and mattress. You don’t need to spend a ton of money though. Nowadays, you can get fairly decent foam mattresses for less than a thousand dollars depending on the brand and size.

When choosing your mattress, take your time. You want one that supports your body and won’t break down in a few months. Maybe that means spending more money, but having a comfortable mattress will do more for your mood and job performance than almost everything else! Do your research and, when possible, test out the mattress before you buy.

While you’re at it, pick up a bed frame. You can find relatively cheap metal ones that do the bare minimum or you can splurge on something more expensive. Bed frames are essential items for any bedroom as they protect your mattress from getting dirty and they free up floor space under the bed for storage. If you want to get fancy, you can purchase something like a captain’s bed, which comes with built-in drawers for your clothes, sheets, or other items. Or you can invest in a Murphy bed to really clear up floor space.


Unless you’re an extreme minimalist, you’ll need to invest in some storage options for all of your belongings. Since you have limited floor space, your best bet is to get creative with vertical space. That means investing in hanging shelves, ceiling hooks, portable closets, wall lights, wall hooks, clothing lines, and the list goes on.

Before you start throwing around you money, take these steps:

  • Take stock of everything you currently own and consider items you might need to purchase down the line for your new apartment
  • Measure every room and don’t forget to measure the height!
  • Get a stud finder and then mark off where the studs are in each of your rooms. While you can use wall anchors, your hanging shelves will be sturdier when screwed into a stud
  • Think about what kind of storage would work best for different rooms and items. Maybe you want a blocked off storage tray/box for things like your cables and cords and wall hooks for your pots and pans.

When choosing your storage options, try to find items that are both sturdy and look nice. You don’t want your wall shelves to suddenly break on you especially once they get loaded up with items! In terms of aesthetics, find options that match the look you’re going for. If you’re going for an industrial look, maybe metal shelves or cabinets would be cool. For a clean look, go with floating shelves and magnetic hanging strips. There are a lot of options so look them over.

Extension Cords/Surge Protectors

You don’t get to choose where the electrical outlets are located, unfortunately. While you can and should plan the layout of each room based on the location of outlets, you likely won’t have enough for all of your electronics. After all, many NYC buildings pre-date cell phones and other household electronics. You can expect that there likely won’t be enough outlets and many won’t be in ideal locations.

Luckily, you don’t need to hire an electrician to add more outlets to your apartment. Instead, invest in both surge protectors and a few extension cords. If you planned out your apartment well, you should hopefully have at least one (hopefully two) central outlets that you organized your furniture and electronics around. Buy several surge protectors for these outlets with the appropriate number of sockets in them.

Don’t overload a single outlet as you might end up tripping the breaker if there’s too much power going through it. Usually you can get away with hooking up 3-4 items into a single outlet. Any more than that and you might end up with some issues, especially with power hungry kitchen appliances.

In the event that you can’t organize your room around an outlet, invest in some extension cords. Do your best to keep the cord against the wall to avoid tripping over it. That might mean borrowing a staple gun or getting some adhesive clips to put against the baseboard. Either way, the goal is to keep the cord out of the way.

Kitchen Essentials

Eating out every day for dinner can get expensive. Even if you’re not the best cook in the world, you’ll likely do some home cooking once you move into your new place. And while it might be useful to have some paper plates and plastic-ware the first few days after you move, constantly using disposable plates and flatware can get expensive as you’ll need to buy new ones consistently. Plus, it’s not great for the environment either!

When choosing your plates and bowls, go for ceramic items that are dishwasher and microwave safe. Bowls and plates are stackable so get a few. Yes, it might take more space, but it’s good to have a few extras in case you entertain some guests or you just don’t want to wash dishes immediately. The same is true for your flatware. Invest in several spoons, forks, and knives!

When it comes to cookware, get a nice pot and a couple of pans. You’ll also need a spatula and chef’s knife. Invest in quality items. Sure, you can probably get a 3 piece pan set for $20, but chances are it won’t last very long. The same is true for knives. Get one good chef’s knife and a paring knife. You don’t need to buy the most expensive option on the market, but a good knife will make cooking more enjoyable and safer.

Trash Cans

It’s not exciting, but trash cans are a must have for your apartment. After all, you’ll need some place to put your trash. It’s a good idea to have a trash can in every room, but you don’t need a giant trash bin in every room. Instead, keep a small one in your bathroom and bedroom and a larger one in your kitchen. You probably don’t need anything larger than a 15 gallon bin, especially if you live alone.

There are a lot of different designs when it comes to trash cans so choose one that makes sense for your apartment. Do you want to have a foot pedal to open the lid or are you okay with a simple revolving lid? There are even some that have motion activated lids! While you’re getting your trash cans, don’t forget to pick up some trash bags as well.

Cleaning Supplies

Living in a small apartment means things get messier faster. Unfortunately, messes also mean your apartment looks and feels smaller and dingier than in a large house. With that said, cleaning is often faster and easier since you have less space to clean. The best cleaning method is to clean as you go. So instead of letting those plates sit in the sink for a few days or for the floor to get dirty, do the work immediately. You’ll end up doing less in the long run.

Some standard supplies you should have on hand include:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Multi-purpose cleaning solution
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Mop or rags
  • Dish soap
  • Sponges
  • Toilet brush
  • Toilet cleaner
  • Tile cleaner for the bathroom
  • Laundry detergent
  • Hamper

You can find all of these for an affordable price so make sure to stock up! Also, don’t forget other necessities like a plunger, Dran-O, hand soap, etc.


You might be able to get away with putting together simple furniture without tools, but actual tools will make your life a lot easier. Plus, you’ll want some good tools if you plan on hanging shelves on your wall. You can get basic tool kits for pretty cheap, but they might not last you very long. Plus, a lot of tool kits include things that you probably won’t really use too often, so why not just purchase key items like:

  • Hammer
  • Screwdrivers (Phillip’s Head and Flathead)
  • Pliers
  • Drill + bits
  • Screws and nails

Yes, tools aren’t cheap, but you’ll be happy to have them if you ever need to make any basic repairs and improvements to your furniture and apartment.

Moving to Your New NYC Apartment

Now that you have a list of basic essentials, it’s time to make your move! Instead of going the DIY route, consider hiring professional movers like us. We’ll get your into your new place in no time at all with zero hassles!


My lease says I can’t make any modifications to my apartment. Can I put up shelves?

Before you put up shelves, call up your super/building manager and ask if it’s okay. In many cases you can put them up, you will just be responsible for taking it down after you move and fixing any holes in the wall. If they say you cannot install them, see if you can find creative ways to utilize book shelves, storage containers, cabinets, and more.

I’m moving in with roommates. How do I manage the cost for household items?

Before you buy anything, you should talk with your roommate(s) to figure out if either of you already have some items that can be shared like tools, cleaning supplies, etc. That way, you won’t end up with two of the same things. From there, work out a budget and payment method. The best way to do it is to split any costs down the middle for shared items.

Can I bring my old mattress or should I buy a new one?

You can certainly bring your old mattress to your new apartment, especially if you just got it not too long ago. However, if it’s not particularly comfortable or you’ve had it for 6+ year, you might consider buying a new one.