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Tips for moving from a house to an apartment

Key tips to help you shift from house to apartment living

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    Apartment living can mean reduced maintenance duties, lower monthly expenses and access to amenities, like pools and shared green spaces, that can elevate your day-to-day life. But leaving behind a roomy house for the tighter confines of an apartment can also mean making thoughtful choices about what to keep — space suddenly becomes a precious commodity.

    Whether you're just contemplating the move or already packing your boxes, check out our tips for transitioning from a house to an apartment so you can make it through this process with ease.

    Key insights

    • Downsizing is a crucial step. Take inventory of your belongings and be realistic about what to keep.
    • Create a checklist of tasks, set a budget and schedule your move in advance to get everything in order early on.
    • Measure the new apartment space before packing so you have an idea of what furniture and belongings to bring.
    • Consider donating or selling items that won’t fit. You can responsibly discard items you no longer need.

    How to downsize

    The first step to downsizing is taking a complete inventory of your belongings. This means going through every room in your home and making a list of everything you see. Be as detailed as possible, including the condition of each item, its value and where it’s located.

    Divide your belongings into categories (e.g., clothing, kitchenware, furniture, electronics, sentimental items, etc.). This will help you streamline the downsizing process and make it easier to decide what to keep.

    Be realistic and practical when assessing your belongings, and let go of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose or holds sentimental value — as Marie Kondo would ask, “Does it spark joy?”

    Research local charities, shelters or thrift stores that welcome donations if you have gently used items you no longer want or need. For anything with significant value you’re willing to part with, consider selling. Recycle or responsibly discard any items that are no longer useful.

    » MORE: Tips for a successful garage sale

    7 tips for moving to an apartment

    Before you start packing, measure your new space to get a clear idea of how much room you have for your belongings. Then, you can start plotting and organizing to ensure a smooth transition.

    1. Make a plan

    Start early and take some time to plan out the entire moving process before you start packing. Create a checklist of tasks, set a budget and determine a timeline for your move. Consider factors like the distance between your current and new locations, the size of your new apartment and any rules your building has.

    » MORE: Moving checklist

    2. Declutter and pack

    If you can’t downsize as much as needed leading up to the move, consider renting a storage unit — or you can donate or sell any items you no longer need or want (or have room for). Take the time to sift through your belongings, distinguishing between essentials and items that could be stowed away.

    » LEARN: How much do storage units cost?

    High-quality packing materials, like sturdy boxes, cushioning wrap and packing tape, can make the process significantly smoother. Also, have a good marker on hand to label each box with a clear description of its contents and destination to save you or your movers precious time and effort.

    » LEARN: How to pack for a move

    3. Change your address and utilities

    Don't forget to update your address with the post office, service providers and any other institutions that need to get a hold of you. Also, inform your bank, workplace, subscription services, and any relevant government agencies about your new address, ensuring you include your apartment number if applicable. Arrange for utilities to be transferred or set up in your name at the new apartment if needed.

    Make sure you know your exact address — including the apartment or mailbox number — when you update your information with the USPS.

    4. Hire movers or enlist help

    Decide whether you want to hire professional movers or gather a group of friends and family to help you. Research moving companies, read reviews and get cost estimates to make an informed decision.

    If you're moving on your own, ensure you have access to a suitable vehicle and enough manpower to move your belongings safely.

    » MORE: Moving yourself vs. hiring movers

    5. Consider your furniture and apartment layout

    Take note of your new layout and other features (e.g., doorways, staircases and elevators) that could make your moving day difficult, especially if you plan to move large furniture pieces. Create a basic plan for where your furniture will go — and how to get it there — to save time and frustration on moving day.

    6. Pack an essentials box

    Pack a separate box with essential items you'll need the first day or two in your new apartment. Include toiletries, a change of clothes, basic kitchen supplies, important documents and any medication you might need. This will prevent you from scrambling through boxes to find crucial items right after you move in.

    Keep aside one box or bag with things you’ll need immediately once you’re in your new place. This way, you won’t have to dig through your boxes as soon as you relocate.

    7. Move — and unpack

    On moving day, stay organized by supervising the process and keeping track of your belongings. Check each room to ensure everything is loaded onto the moving vehicle.

    Once you arrive at your new apartment — maybe after some rest — start unpacking strategically. Begin with essential items and gradually work your way through the boxes, focusing on one room at a time. Take breaks, and don't rush if you don’t have to.

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      How do I decide what to keep and what to let go of when moving?

      Deciding what to keep and what to let go of when moving can be challenging. Items with emotional significance can be worth keeping even if they’re impractical, but don't let sentimentality cloud your judgment. Ask yourself the following:

      • Will the item serve a purpose in my new apartment?
      • Can the item fit comfortably in my new space?
      • Have I used the item in the past year?

      If your answer to any of these is no, it might be time to part with the item. Also consider the cost of replacing an item versus the cost of storing or moving it.

      Should I rent a storage unit for items I can't fit in my apartment?

      Renting a storage unit might make sense for you, but it's important to evaluate the cost versus the value of the items you're storing. If the items are valuable, can’t be replaced or have strong sentimental value, storage might be the right move. However, if the cost of storage exceeds the value of the items or if you're simply storing clutter, it might be better to sell, donate or give away those items.

      » MORE: What size storage unit do I need?

      What's the best way to pack fragile items for the move?

      To pack delicate items, you’ll generally want sturdy boxes, cushioning wrap, packing paper and packing tape. Wrap fragile items individually in the packing paper or cushioning wrap and fill empty spaces in the box to prevent shifting. Clearly label boxes as "Fragile" so movers know to handle them with care. Place heavier items at the bottom, and avoid over-packing boxes.

      » MORE: How to pack fragile items for moving

      What should I know about apartment leases and contracts?

      Read your lease details carefully, making note of things like your rent, when it's due, how long the lease lasts and any fees for ending your lease early. Make sure you know how much you'll need for a security deposit, the conditions to get it back and what counts as more than regular usage wear.

      Also, get to know the apartment rules regarding noise, pets and upkeep. Learn about how lease renewal works and how much notice you need to give if you plan to leave. Figure out who's in charge of maintenance and fixes — landlord or tenant — and how to report problems.

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