How to Move into Your First Apartment as a Couple
Moving in together for the first time? Here’s a checklist for moving into your first apartment with your boyfriend or girlfriend and the best tips for living together.
Table of contents
- Ask yourselves important questions before moving in together.
- Find an apartment that meets both your needs.
- Be transparent about housing costs and bills.
- Develop a moving and furnishing budget.
- Determine whose stuff is coming into the new place (and whose isn’t).
- Start a Pinterest board for your apartment vision.
- Make decorating and choosing a vibe into a team effort.
- Set ground rules for bedtime, waking up and noise levels.
- Get renter’s insurance (don’t skimp on this!)
- Delegate monthly tasks for paying bills and rent.
- Pick who will be the point person for the landlord or management.
- Talk about expectations for pets and plants.
- Decide on your tolerance for clutter and mess.
- Divvy up cleaning and chores.
- Talk about lighting preferences in shared spaces.
- Pick new appliances or gadgets you both agree on.
- Choose what to do about floors, carpets and rugs.
- Set norms for having parties and guests coming to stay with you.
- Talk about things that will go out of sight, and storage.
- Decide who will take care of which responsibilities during moving.
- Talk clearly about your home office spaces in your new home.
- Set up the new apartment after moving in together, and assess!
- Have a housewarming party and celebrate shacking up.
There’s a first time for everything. When we moved in together for the first time, we were excited.
We also had a lot of ground to cover in terms of developing a checklist for moving in with the other, as neither of us had ever lived with a boyfriend or girlfriend before.
Was there a checklist of questions we were supposed to ask about moving in together?
How could we live with each other as boyfriend and girlfriend and make it work?
Were we moving in too soon and was it a good idea? Where did we even have to start, in terms of how and what to pack? How would we figure out how to combine both our homes into one?
This type of experience is a huge undertaking, and when you’re planning on moving in with your boyfriend, girlfriend or partner for the first time, there are so many tips we can provide for things we wish we did, and tricks that we keep working on even today.
This article is for anyone who’s moving in with a significant other for the first time, getting ready to live together and decorate a home or apartment together as a team.
Ready to see all the ways we recommend moving in together to your first apartment and shacking up for real? Let’s go.
Ask yourselves important questions before moving in together.
Moving in together as a couple for the first time can be really exciting and pretty overwhelming, too.
You might be looking for tips for moving in with your boyfriend, or girlfriend, but the bottom line is communication, clarity and trust.
Some people say moving in together as a couple for the first time is a bigger commitment than marriage (that’s debatable, having done both now), but it’s true: sharing a space and a home is a HUGE step in a relationship and it is serious.
Some checklist questions that are just a smattering of what you’ll read below are:
- Do we trust each other sharing bills?
- Do we share the same values when it comes to what it means to build a home?
- Are we moving in together for the right reasons?
Moving in should feel good, if you’re moving in with your boyfriend or girlfriend of several years, and if you haven’t known each other that long, it should feel healthy rather than scary.
Find an apartment that meets both your needs.
Apartment hunting is something we actually love to do. We love seeing the real estate inventory in a city, and moving within NYC has been something both of us have done lots of times due to the nature of the beast that is this wonderful city.
Apartments have SO many features to choose from and prioritize. Unless you have money falling from trees, you probably won’t get a rooftop pool, private balcony and three bedrooms in your first apartment as a couple (if you do, then lucky you!). If you’ve moving to New York City, check out our breakdown of all the NYC neighborhoods you can move to.
If you are logical and strategic, consider which of the following are important to you:
- Space to work from home
- A new building versus an old building with charm
- An area close to the mass transit stops and stations that you take to go to work
- Proximity to a park, the water or green spaces
- Distance from your other friends
- Distance from family
- A quiet street versus a street with lots of action and noise
Decide which items are make-or-break, and which items are nice to have.
For us, we wound up with our first apartment together as a couple on a pretty busy street, but we faced the back of the building and I rarely remember any noises ever waking us up. The building was a 10-year-old luxury complex, and to offset the budget, we had one of the smaller one-bedroom units.
Be transparent about housing costs and bills.
Money, money, money. We actually really do not mind talking about money.
Moving in together as a couple for the first time means talking about rent, bills, moving costs and buying new things to outfit and furnish your home.
It’s hard to NOT talk about money when you move in with your boyfriend or girlfriend for the first time.
Go into the experience knowing that money is an issue to talk about, and prepare. Be ready to talk about expectations, comfort in sharing expenses, and your maximum breaking point for shared rent, bills and a budget for decor.
Develop a moving and furnishing budget.
While we didn’t exactly pin down a budget, we knew we wanted to be smart, and that this probably wasn’t a home we were going to stay in for decades, so the choices we made would reflect the ‘now,’ rather than the future.
We didn’t want to spend our annual incomes on furniture that we’d have til we were 70, so we went into our first shared apartment furnishing budget looking for deals and being open to buying things on Craigslist.
In fact, we found like-new IKEA bar stools on Craigslist and Dan brought them over by walking a mile with both of them. He really impressed me (first, because he was resourceful, and second, because they were HEAVY!).
If you blow your budget on a couch, or a beautiful rug, or a home office setup, then use Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to find the rest of the items you’ll need, like products for the kitchen, bathroom, dining area and miscellaneous decor needs.
And for more budget lifestyle hacks, especially when living in a big city, check out our budget hacks lifestyle guide to living in NYC.
Determine whose stuff is coming into the new place (and whose isn’t).
When we first moved into our first apartment as boyfriend and girlfriend, Dan had been in a temporary sublet via a friend of mine, and I was in a month-to-month apartment sublet with a very good friend of mine.
My main ‘kitchen and home stuff’ was in storage, aside from bedding and clothes, and Dan didn’t have much furniture because he had recently come back from Remote Year.
For us, it was an easier situation because my boyfriend and I didn’t have to decide whose bed to sell and whose to keep, or whose desk to bring and whose to leave behind.
For Dan, he got lucky because his girlfriend already had a queen-sized bed in storage all ready to go, and I even had three shelving units, a whole kitchen worth of plates, pots and pans, and more.
If you have a lot of trouble deciding, take measurements. Is your boyfriend’s couch too big? Sell it. Is your girlfriend’s bed frame too big? Give it to a friend.
Start a Pinterest board for your apartment vision.
Like I’ll mention below, a big tip for moving in together for the first time as a couple is starting a Pinterest board.
Even if you don’t know how to use Pinterest or it makes you groan, trust us: learn how to pin some Pinterest pins with visuals of apartment interiors, and you will start getting excited.
Living in the space you’ve always envisioned is like fulfilling a dream, especially when you’re moving into your first apartment in your relationship.
For example, you can see our Work from Home Pinterest board here.
Make decorating and choosing a vibe into a team effort.
One of the most fun parts of moving in together with your boyfriend or girlfriend is that you might get to make some decisions together about decorating your new space.
If you’re the one who doesn’t have an eye for deco or visuals, then let the person whose stronger suit is interior design get to work!
I have a love for clean, bright and simple spaces, and our shared fault when we moved in together for the first time was that we didn’t quite have a vision.
We also came with the baggage of some furniture from previous apartments, like dark wooden shelves and one of our queen-sized bedding, and never took the time to work out decisions together.
Let’s just say that our first apartment had Pinterest potential, but it never got to being a Pinterest pin you’d want to click on. This is a big regret for both of us!
In our current apartment, we made sure to make every ‘vertical’ of home decor into a shared vision. This included lighting, desks, dining, rugs, throw pillows, bookshelves, plant arrangements and our beloved brushed brass bar cart.
A brand we like for affordable furniture is Novogratz, where you can find smart storage solutions, trendy tables and even beds, for great prices.
Set ground rules for bedtime, waking up and noise levels.
If you both wake up at different times, set rules of if one should be the ‘human alarm clock’ and take care of waking the other, or, if you’ll set separate alarms.
Also, talk about these things with your boyfriend, girlfriend or partner:
- If one of us wakes up earlier than the other on weekends, do we let the other sleep in?
- If one of us is out late one night, should the other stay up and wait for him or her?
- If one of us falls asleep to the sound of a TV or noise machine, is this now the norm for both of us?
Everyone sleeps differently and it can be a touchy subject! Make sure you know what you are getting into and if there is any flexibility to be had.
Get renter’s insurance (don’t skimp on this!)
Moving in together for the first time means doing stuff that is ‘kind of adult.’
Depending on your former living arrangement, maybe you lived with roommates where one roommate took care of most of the ‘adult stuff’ like paying bills and managing the relationship with the building landlord. Or, maybe you lived on your own in a studio or one-bedroom apartment and you know how to do this stuff. If so, skip to the next tip.
If you don’t have experience setting up renter’s insurance, first of all, know that it is worth it. Renter’s insurance is one of the cheapest things you can do to simply insure a bunch of the valuable items you have in your apartment, because actually, you never know what can happen.
We have friends whose apartments had fires, friends who live in buildings that have floods and friends who’ve had terribly valuable things stolen from their units.
Setting up renter’s insurance can be a simple process for couples and it’s not expensive at all, even in NYC, where we live. We have used State Farm renter’s insurance for the past four years, and to date, we haven’t had to make any claims (luckily), but would feel comfortable doing so if we had to.
Renter’s insurance is the kind of thing where it’s better safe than sorry, and if you’re a new couple moving in together for the first time, this is not a step to skip.
Delegate monthly tasks for paying bills and rent.
I’ve never loved paying bills (no one does), but Dan does not mind being our point person for all things related to bills.
For our apartments since we moved in together for the first time, we have had the following bills to pay here in NYC:
- Gas (for cooking)
- Monthly rent
- Renter’s insurance (paid one lump sum when our lease began)
When moving in with your boyfriend or girlfriend, make sure that your checklist ensures that one of you is the account holder for all your billing accounts. This is so no one points fingers when it’s the time of the month to receive bills, or pay each other back for splitting bills.
Pick who will be the point person for the landlord or management.
If both your names are on the lease (meaning you are officially both tenants of your unit), pick one person to be the ‘face’ of your relationship with management or the landlord.
This is so that your landlord can save one of your phone numbers and email addresses and avoid getting confused.
In our third apartment together, I was the contact person 100% of the time for our management company and formed a relationship with our landlord’s secretary. We started to know each other over the phone, and this helped us when we needed problems solved.
Talk about expectations for pets and plants.
Pets and plants: DEFINITELY on the “first apartment with boyfriend or girlfriend” checklist.
If one of you has a dog or cat (or bird, rabbit, lizard, hamster, etc.), talk about if all of the chores and spending comes from one or both of you.
This means, if you now live together, are both of you the dog’s “parents?” Or, does the dog still belong to one of you, and therefore, that person takes care of all the dog’s grooming appointments, health bills, veterinary needs and food costs?
Put this on the list of things to talk about before moving in together, because dogs and cats and other pets require time, upkeep and attention, so when combining your single-life “families,” pets have to be kept in the picture and high in the topics of conversation before moving.
Plants are important, too! If either of you has high-maintenance plants, work these into the equation of who will take care of the watering, repotting, plant food and other plant-related needs.
Decide on your tolerance for clutter and mess.
One thing we both agreed on, but had trouble acting upon, was how to keep a small apartment decluttered together.
Our fault came when we moved in together for the first time to our first apartment as a couple and kind of haphazardly unpacked our things onto shelves, and then never revisited if we liked how it looked.
We had some parts of the apartment that we both loved and put a lot of soul into, like our photo wall, and Dan’s home office in our living room.
But, there were some aspects of our place that never got so much love, like our bedroom shelves, kitchen counter, entryway wall space and window ledges. These spots felt like they always needed work, and now I realize it is because of the apartment clutter.
What’s the best way to conquer and minimize your clutter?
Honestly, it’s selling your stuff online, and if you can make purging and decluttering your current spaces into a game or competition, well before you move in together, you will be in good shape.
Divvy up cleaning and chores.
If chores are not divided up fairly or evenly, or placed on the shoulders of the person who wants them, conflict may arise.
But, it’s easy to avoid problems when moving in together for the first time!
For us, I happen to adore cleaning and laundry. I make our bed every day, keep our bedroom tidy, neaten up our living room, wash dishes or run the dishwasher, and wash and fold laundry for both of us. I’ve been doing this since the day we moved in together as a couple.
Dan prefers to cook and take care of all of our bills, so those chores fall within his area of expertise and preference. He also has a higher tolerance for mess, whereas I have to have things neat, tidy and clean, or I lose my mind.
Consider this one of the biggest tips for living with your boyfriend for the first time, because without this topic, you’ll run into arguments fast.
Talk about lighting preferences in shared spaces.
In my previous apartments, I inherited lighting arrangements from former roommates and rarely made my own decisions in picking out new fixtures.
When moving in together, if you have the budget, you can consider which types of lighting work for both of you. Since the first week we moved in together, we decided on avoiding overhead fluorescent lighting and opted for soft lighting with lamps. We’re so glad we did!
We’re lucky we agreed on this as one of the topics we discussed when moving into our first apartment together.
Here are some lights we’ve enjoyed and purchased for our first apartment together:
- A cool and modern white ball lamp
- An overarching arc floor lamp that brightens the room
- An LED tripod floor lamp that makes a little more of a statement
Pick new appliances or gadgets you both agree on.
The first thing that comes to mind when talking about new gadgets and appliances is our Roomba.
Oh my gosh, what would we do without it?
If I think about life-changing things we’ve purchased together for a new apartment together, it’s this electronic robotic floor vacuum that will grab crumbs, lint, dust and hair, and it has worked miracles for saving us time in our cleaning!
Think about what you spend time doing, and if there are things you could buy in order to fix or speed up those problems (together, of course).
In starting your new life together by moving into your first apartment as a couple, think of the things you’ve always liked to do together, and if getting some new things to enjoy around the apartment would be great for your relationship.
For us, the other most important products are our coffee-making equipment products! We can’t live without…
- Our Chemex for making a great carafe of coffee every day
- Our unbreakable OXO French Press
- An iPad mini, which is how we watch all our Netflix and YouTube
- Our SodaStream sparkling water maker, which we praise in our small apartment home office guide
Choose what to do about floors, carpets and rugs.
I had never considered this a big topic until I realized that some people grew up being used to carpet, and some people are used to wood, tile, stone or cement floors.
I grew up with carpets all over the house, and in my first apartment on my own, I got a cool rug to cover the entire floor of my bedroom. To note, the bedroom was tiny, and the rug was average size, and I didn’t really want to see the old floor that the apartment had. So, this worked really well.
In our first apartment together, we opted for a high-pile shag rug to cover most of the living room, and it was just like this one by SAFAVIEH.
To be honest, we liked it so much that we sold it when we chose to work remotely and travel, and then we moved back to NYC and just bought it again.
If you’re moving into your first apartment with your boyfriend or girlfriend, talk about what you like under your feet, whether it’s hardwood floors, hallway runners, area rugs or big shag carpets to cover the flooring of an entire room.
Don’t forget to also talk about bath mats and doormats.
Set norms for having parties and guests coming to stay with you.
Everyone has their own preferences on how many guests it is okay to have over and when and how often to hold gatherings or parties.
When moving in together for the first time, talk about if you want to be the place where all your friends stop by and hang, or if you prefer to host friends only from time to time in small groups.
Did you ever dream of being the ‘party apartment’? Well, maybe your partner always wished for the opposite.
Determine if you’re on the same page about having people over as a couple, and then talk about having friends come to stay with you. Set ground rules for how many nights a friend should stay before it’s too much, especially if you move into a studio or one-bedroom where space is limited.
Talk about things that will go out of sight, and storage.
People talk about eliminating visual clutter in an apartment like it’s an easy thing to do, but is it?
No matter where you live or who you are, chances are you have some ‘stuff’ that you look at every day and wish you didn’t have to.
I watched one YouTube video about minimalism once and learned the term ‘visual clutter.’
Visual clutter is when there’s ‘stuff’ and it creates distraction, or looks messy, even if it’s not. If you’re into putting things out of sight, make sure that:
- You plan to have very organized closets, with closet organizing systems
- You have your out-of-closet storage to have solid fronts and solid drawers, like this living room storage unit with solid drawers
- You look for cute and little organizers like this bamboo one that we have in our kitchen
Decide who will take care of which responsibilities during moving.
Moving is not easy, even if you think it will be.
It’s when you tell yourself, “I don’t have that much stuff!” that you really do. And if there’s two of you in the relationship both thinking you don’t have that much ‘stuff,’ think again.
We outlined these awesome tips for moving so that you can stay organized, low-stress and sane during your move.
There are some responsibilities to divvy up for sure, like:
- Who will hire a moving van?
- Who will source and negotiate moving estimates?
- Who will do the final key-handoff or move-out check with management or a landlord?
- Who will take care of deactivating all your utilities and paying out balances of your bills?
Because moving is such a wild thing to do and can really put a sword into your summer, spring, fall or winter, we use this moving checklist now to help avoid going crazy!
Remember: work as a team while moving in together, and start all types of lists and spreadsheets that can make you feel like you’re making progress as a couple.
Talk clearly about your home office spaces in your new home.
Do either of you work from home? Do you work from home as a couple?
You might be talking about setting up a shared home office or creating permanent home offices of your own.
Make sure you talk about which way to face your computer setups so that neither of you has the other walk by during a Zoom or Slack video meeting, and talk about acceptable noise levels in the kitchen if you eat at different times during the day.
Further, if you do wish to create a home office together when you first move in together as a couple, talk about all the things in this checklist for setting up a home office in an apartment.
Set up the new apartment after moving in together, and assess!
If we had spent a longer time in our first apartment together when we first shacked up, we probably could have made good progress. As I mentioned in the beginning, we only stayed nine months because we left to work remotely and travel together around the world.
In our third apartment together in Brooklyn, we were nearing the point at which we could decide to spend the money to revamp and remodel our space (we had already arranged the furniture three times in nine months), or move.
We were truly in the middle of making a list of improvements we could make to our shared home, like optimizing space with a vertical shoe rack for our entryway, when we decided to pull the trigger and move to another building.
If moving is not in your budget (or because it’s a pain), but you want to refresh your shared apartment, look no further than resources like Pinterest and ways to sell your furniture and stuff so that you can start a new feel in your home.
Have a housewarming party and celebrate shacking up.
My favorite part of moving, especially when we moved in together for the first time, was having a housewarming party.
Wait, it gets better! Because we had a commonly-sized and not huge NYC apartment, we knew we couldn’t fit all our friends in there at once, so…
We had a housewarming WEEKEND!
We sent out an invitation to all our friends, inviting them to come on either Friday or Saturday night (or both), and would you believe it? We wound up with more or less the same amount of friends who came on Friday and on Saturday.
It was like an entire weekend of being surrounded by friends we loved, and showing them our new home together as a couple!
So, I really recommend this if you have the space and time to plan. Best of luck in moving in together for the first time, and we hope you liked this checklist of how to prepare.
Last updated on April 1st, 2023
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