The Ultimate Minimalist Apartment Checklist

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Last updated: April 19, 2023

Choosing a minimalist lifestyle has a powerful following today than ever before. It is also a good idea but difficult to decide what to give away or what to bring if you’re moving into a small apartment. Minimalist apartment ideas really need a checklist because it is a good way to plan for any room of your home. Even if you plan, the entire experience could be distressing and mentally exhausting because we’ve all been conditioned to keep things.  

The first question to be asking is “What is Minimalist Living?” It generally means, “simplistic living”. While people may think this is some new trend, it’s been around for a while and may have early origins with the environmentalist movement (care for Mother Earth, reducing the carbon footprint, recycling materials for a better circular economy) and so on. Some media organizations suggest it began in the art world.

This may likely be true but it sells us short on the entire mid-century modern design movement which transformed California in the late 1930s through 1970s with the minimalist living room or dining room area. Palm Springs was the first place and perfect place to incubate this liberating movement.

An entire generation of Bauhaus artists also began to think about more efficient design methods and how best to live within the parameters of a material world. Palm Springs mid-century are minimalist homes are recognized for their signature flat roof and ceiling height windows supported by steel frames.  The large windows would connect outdoor/indoor environments but be also designed to withstand the natural weather elements (winds) of the region.

Table of Contents

  1. Hoarding
  2. Important Questions
    1. Some Amazing Movie Quotes
    2. HOLLYWOOD: Does Not Tell Lies
  3. The Minimalist Apartment Checklist
  4. Before Deciding What to Keep Or Leave Behind
    1. Ask the Following Questions
  5. The Complete Essentials List For Every Minimalist Apartment
    1. Apartment Kitchen Essentials
    2. Apartment Living Room Essentials
    3. Apartment Bedroom Essentials
    4. Apartment Bathroom Essentials
  6. How to Decorate your Minimalistic Apartment and Still Keep it Simple
    1. Minimal Decor Ideas
  7. In Conclusion


The modern world embraced industrialization, commercialization, and globalization. However, baby boomers and generations that followed would be faced with a growing problem. Clutter and hoarding. The show “Hoarders” demonstrates this extreme side-effect that many views as a plague for modern society.

Hoarding is classified as one of several diagnostic criteria for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and is listed within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) Manual by the American Psychiatric Association. By definition, hoarding is the persistent difficulty to part with possessions, even if there is no value associated with the item(s) in question. The need to keep these items and the distress of discarding them creates enormous mental and emotional trauma.

We’ve seen episodes and the emotional trauma is difficult to watch. The rooms were so packed, beyond the “goat trails”, we thought about indoor air quality. Yikes! We’re not saying that you have this extreme pattern experience. We hope you do not. But ask yourself? When was the last time you ever stopped to ask these basic questions:

Important Questions

  • What is essential for me or us ?
  • Do I really need this?
  • Will I suffer any consequences by giving away or disposing of these possessions
  • Consequences include regret, financial loss, or financial burden (having to buy it again later).

    In almost all cases, there are no real needs, no consequences, no loss or burden. You may feel some regret but this is a mental construct created by your mind to some perceived value or connection. So ask this next question? When we are all dead, what happens? Who will worry about this item or possession? NO ONE. What happens when someone dies? Their possessions are immediately donated or sent to the trash. See our point?

    Some Amazing Movie Quotes

    The things you own end up owning you. It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything. You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank.

    - Tyler Durden, Fight Club

    A guy told me one time, "Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.

    - Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro), HEAT

    HOLLYWOOD: Does Not Tell Lies

    Powerful, huh? It seems Neil McCauley and Tyler Durden were minimalists because they did not want to be held down but wanted to feel free. Come to think of it, Edward Norton’s character, only known as the Narrator (we only just figured his character name just now lol), struggles with an IKEA catalog in the opening scene, overwhelmed by the choice of modern conveniences, but is actually screaming for minimalist apartment ideas in his small apartment!

    So, in short, minimalist living is about freeing yourself with less clutter (no, you’re not a hoarder) or “the stuff” that holds us back. Going to extremes is not good either. You can be extreme hoarders or extreme minimalists. We don’t think either extreme is good; unless of course, your apartment building is so small that you basically need to find foldable origami-style furniture designs. LOL.

    For a serious take on the benefits of minimalism and minimalist style, check out the cool documentary, ebook, and podcast made by two very interesting men who helped make this topic ever more popular: The Minimalists.

    The Minimalist Apartment Checklist

    In your first apartment checklist for your new space, you should ask the same questions highlighted above. This also applies if you already live in a small apartment, condo, or home. Perhaps, it was time to take spring cleaning seriously, aiming for reasonable minimalist decor that can work for you. Anything more drastic will lead to failure because it could be too drastic of a change. The first steps begin with serious self-evaluation.

    Upon answering your own questions, you will have hopefully arrived at some conclusion. It means you’ve decided on essential pieces of furniture, kitchenware (like food storage containers), storage spaces, and other home accessories that you will need when you move or live with if you decide to undertake a major cleanup and transformation. If you’re moving to a new place, might want to check up on the existing color scheme and any leftover decorative piece to ensure any new setup matches your final plan.

    These transformations probably need a set of fresh eyes and if you have a really close friend or a family member that knows a lot about your personal tastes, bring them along for help! You want this to feel like home in your new apartment or condo.

    Before Deciding What to Keep Or Leave Behind

    There are things that you think you do need, even if you don’t, and things you think you don’t need, even if you do. Before you get rid of anything or pack things away to bring with you, it’s important to decide if something is or isn’t going to benefit you in your new apartment, home or condo.  Confusing, huh? 

    You don’t want to find yourself with a lot of unwanted items or find yourself with too few items, forcing you to spend a lot of money so that you can enjoy a minimalistic lifestyle. The room of your apartment will determine how to plan by its size and layout. You’ll get bonus points if you answer these questions.

    Ask the Following Questions

    1Does this have any significant importance to me? If so, what is it? Home minimalists will hold onto family photos but the love seat? Maybe not.
    2Will this serve well as storage? (An old bin or shelf for some personal items).
    3Will this fit the look I’m going for?
    4Are the colors and/or patterns present on this item too busy for a minimalist room? Solid colors are perfect in a subdued manner for minimalist rooms.
    5Will this be functionally beneficial in my new apartment, condo, or home? If not, why won’t it?
    6Will this make my new apartment, home or condo look cluttered or messy?
    7Am I holding onto this because of an attachment or because I need it?
    8Do I have a place to put this?
    9How will I use it in my new apartment, condo, or home?
    10Did someone important give this to me?

    Once you’ve determined whether or not to bring a certain item to your new home, you need to figure out what is essential. This will also help you with a decluttered look. You will find that a lot of things in your home are not as essential as you think they are, and you really only need the bare minimum in your new place. Below is a list, for several rooms, of essential items you will need to bring with you.

    The Complete Essentials List For Every Minimalist Apartment

    The following items help make good use of your new kitchen and the good news is that it may not be that hard to prepare for your new minimalist apartment. Everything is within easy reach and doesn’t require too much work or too much time if you plan accordingly. You’ll need reasonably-sized kitchen appliances if you have a small apartment. Other essentials no one ever thinks about include a fire extinguisher or carbon monoxide detector. These are critical in apartments, condos, or even in rural areas.

    You need to think about quality over quantity.  Do you want to have a closet full of paper towels from Costco or is it more efficient to rely on a reusable dish towel?  Then you need to think about another accessory like a paper towel holder.  Part of the trick is to deconstruct actions and items to their most basic, singular use.  If you have a dish towel, you can rely on a hanger but if you get paper towels too, you now also need a towel stand/holder.

    Want to save money?  Check out some thrift stores for retro items.  You will find any extreme minimalist scouring through garage sales and thrift retailers for low-priced, highly functional beautiful furniture and home accessories that can be upcycled with some fresh paint.

    Apartment Kitchen Essentials

    Kitchen essentials are important but what we find with most people is that they have way too much of everything. While cabinets provide utility and designer features for modern kitchens, it doesn’t necessarily mean every cabinet must be filled with some kitchenware. The kitchen requires some serious decision-making because many homeowners have too many china plates, cups, glasses, and utensils accumulated over the years. It’s probably one of the biggest areas of clutter and many don’t realize it!

    1Cooking UtensilsWhen you cook, you will need several utensils.  Any cooking process won’t go smoothly without them. Depending on family size or expected guests, you need to decide on what the kitchen essentials really are. There are the spoons, forks, knives, and any dinner plate numbers.
    2 Pots and Pans, cookie sheet, Baking Dish, and Cutting BoardThe next essential items are really a basic list. A medium-sized large pot and a 10-inch pan may be enough. If you’re moving into or living in a small apartment these should do. You don’t need a mass load of cutlery to survive in a small kitchen. You can boil eggs, make pasta, with the essentials listed above. Only take what you need.
    3Small AppliancesLike an immersion blender or food processor may be available at affordable prices and the great thing is that they pack punch for their smaller size. We know friends that have purchased smaller portable GE washing machines that pack the power and energy efficiency of a regular-sized washing appliance but are perfect for their small apartment or condo because they fit in narrow or small storage rooms. Maybe big isn’t always better.  Think smaller.  Think functional.
    4Drinking glassesYou should have a few drinking glasses in your cabinets for when you want a cup of coffee or juice. While also depending on the size of your family, you should have at least two mugs for coffee or tea, and three glasses of juice.  One thing we absolutely dislike is the amount of glass that some homeowners use vs. reuse several times throughout the day.  Instead of having 10-12 glasses for a dishwasher, people should be more thoughtful or less lazy and just use what they night, reducing the amount for cleaning.
    5Plates and BowlsOne of the necessities of every home is something that is dining table accessories. Plates and bowls, perhaps 4 of each, are needed for serving and guests.  If you’re not into guest hosting, you might be able to get away with 1-2 Plates.  We remember helping some friends move and we couldn’t believe how many plates they had. Why? It takes up a lot of space for no reason. Gifts are great when they are used
    6Coffee MakerWhile it isn’t necessarily essential to everyone, coffee can be a necessity for other guests and conversation. It can also set you up for the day which makes it important to have a coffee maker in your minimalist kitchen. You don’t need a large coffee maker, as a smaller one will is good enough for any small dwelling.  We’ve seen numerous models in places like Walmart that are super small and can serve up a reasonable 5 cups per serving.
    7Large SpoonThis can be used for stirring in the pots or pans that we mentioned earlier. You wouldn’t stir a large pot with a small metal spoon as it could lead to a burn injury. Buying a large stirring spoon is a great choice for sauces, mixes, soups, and stews.  
    8Toaster OvenA toaster can be used for a variety of things and sometimes, might not prove to be essential. But just like a coffee maker, it might be something others use on a day-to-day basis, making it essential in their home. If you truly need it, be sure to bring your toaster along with you.  You have the added challenge of deciding if you need this more than a microwave oven.  Each has its advantages but is available in a small form factor at an affordable price.
    9Oven MittsFor your own safety, it’s best to own oven mitts to use when cooking hot meals over hot stove appliances.
    10Spatula and Large Chef’s KnifeA spatula is needed for various plates and dishes such as hamburgers or flipping eggs. It’s best to have one on hand. A large chef’s knife is needed for cutting larger things that a smaller knife can’t handle. This would include watermelon, turkey, and chicken, and larger products such as butternut squash if you’re making a wonderful comfort soup.
    11Dining Room Table, Bar Stools, and ChairsIf you have a dining room within your apartment, it would make for a wonderful seating arrangement to eat with the family. Investing in new chairs and a dining room table that fits in your new place is an important consideration.  You may not need a lot of bar stools if you have a center island but at least have a few smaller ones might be a good option for extra guests.  Don’t forget a small step stool for the kitchen for those out-of-reach cabinets that torment shorter people. 

    Apartment Living Room Essentials

    When people come to visit, it’s good to have a well-equipped living room. Below, learn about several essentials you should consider for your living room.

    1Sofa or Cushioned chairsThe chairs or sofa you buy or bring must be ones that you, and/or your guests are going to be comfortable sitting in. Although you don’t need that much stuff in a living room, making sure that it’s comfortable is just as important as any styling decision. Accent pieces like end tables will help with plants, photos, clocks, and other ornaments, and even smaller book collections if done properly.
    2TelevisionNot everyone watches television, but many do, and others that play video games or music on it. It can be a source of entertainment for guests even if it isn’t for you.
    3Television StandYou don’t want to put your TV on the floor. It can cause extension cords to tangle easier and can lead to someone tripping over it, and causing damage. You might even consider a DIY (do it yourself) type of TV stand made of harder solid wood like oak but realize, it will be very heavy if you ever plan on moving again.
    4Coffee TableThis is the piece of furniture that will bring everything together. You can use this table for popcorn while watching movies, or for studying with friends. Coffee tables come in a large variety of different sizes so if your space is small, you can get a coffee table that best fits your space.
    5Gallery WallsThese are a perfect way to maintain personal treasures, family photographs, or framed artwork in a grouped manner. This way, you’re keeping the most important memories without storing them away in boxes in a closet somewhere.
    6Light FixturesA great place to start when looking for new pieces in your living space is the light fixture. You need to be mindful of your room size when considering light fixtures for your main living door or the next room under consideration. A great of effort should be spent on lighting decisions. We looked around and found the Ylighting Ideas has some really good suggestions on minimalist light fixtures that may also have a great deal at the time of your purchase. Please review the editor’s picks from Ylighting.   You might consider floor lamps which are a better choice for low ceiling apartments that might not support longer neck/stem lighting fixtures.
    7Vacuum CleanerDefinitely needed.  But think sleek or small.  Some people rave about the small, round Roomba robot vacuums.  If it works for you, great.  We kind of like Dyson’s sleek but high-powered vacuums because they can be stored without the need for a lot of storage space.

    Apartment Bedroom Essentials

    Your bedroom should be your happiest place.  This is where you sleep, have intimate or personal conversations, and could be a place for reflection and meditation. You can keep it simple and beneficial while also having everything you need and want in your room.

    1Mattress and PillowsYou want to sleep comfortably at night. Bring only your best pillows, or invest in new ones, for your new apartment, condo, or home. A mattress is a basic necessity as you don’t want to be sleeping on the floor. After a long day, you should be able to come home to a warm and comforting bed. Treat mattress and pillows as an essential part of your bedroom. 
    The frame or Box Spring
    Its main purpose is to hold your mattress in places so that your sleep throughout the night isn’t disturbed by a squeaky mattress.   You want to really think about this one.  Depending on bedroom size etc., always go for the bed that comes with the split-sized box springs because a single large box spring in a small apartment can’t really bend corners like Beckham, but most mattresses can.
    3Sheets, Pillowcases,
    Consider any duvet cover and a style or pattern that gives your bed a pop of color. This goes a long way to create the feeling of a comfy place, allowing you to be comfortable after a long day of hard work. Buying new bed pieces, especially if you’ve used the same set for a long time, is not only best for comfort but also for your skin. Worn-out blankets and sheets can actually harm your skin.
    4DresserYou need a storage area for clothing and other items. You can place clothes within the closet, but if you prefer a dresser, you must bring it along.
    5HangersIf you’re going to be hanging up your clothes or coats in the closet, you must have enough hangers.  Perhaps consider multi-layers, tiered, or hooked hangers so that multiple clothing items can be anchored off one hanger.  We’ve seen some closets with a zillion hangers! We’re not kidding.  Organized clothing is essential for a minimalist apartment too.
    7Bedside TableThis can be beneficial as it can hold things that you might need to have access to when you wake up in the middle of the night. These things may include glasses or contacts, medication, a flashlight, a book, your phone, and water.

    Apartment Bathroom Essentials

    There are several things you will need in your bathroom that are necessities.  These include bathroom towels, a toilet brush, toilet paper, and a full-length mirror when preparing for sleep, work, or the night out.

    1Shower CurtainUnless you have a shower stall, you’re going to need a shower curtain. Shower curtains cover your shower and offer privacy and safety. 
    2HamperYou will need a place to store dirty clothes until they’re ready to be moved into the washer or dryer or to be hand-washed. It doesn’t have to be in your bathroom but is a good place to store dirty clothes after a shower, keeping these storage items in specific, organized places.  It’s also close to throwing your dirty bath towels into the hamper. 
    3Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, etc.All these basic things matter.  Find storage products that are efficient for storing, organizing, or hanging these bathroom accessories in the most efficient or minimalist way.

    How to Decorate your Minimalistic Apartment and Still Keep it Simple

    Sometimes you might not feel at “home”.  It feels as if something is missing.  When you look at your falls, they are bright white and look plain.  Consider adding a new color tone, for an added kick, and minimal decor living up your new apartment, condo, or home.

    Painting your walls off-white color or neutral color could add more character to your home without making it look too busy. Bright colors such as yellow can be extremely overwhelming, especially in a minimal house.  

    Minimal Decor Ideas

    1Use different textures with similar tones.
    2Stick to a color pattern that contains neutral colors to avoid your living space looking too busy. Neutral colors, or earth tones, can add a unique quality to your space.
    3Add a full-length mirror. A mirror can make your space seem a little larger than it is and makes a wonderful addition to existing decor. There are plenty of mirrors that can fit your style that also have unique characteristics to add to the room.
    4Add plants and other natural elements. Enhance your biophilic environment and embrace nature. Woven baskets and wood benches go together perfectly and add an interesting element to your home. Adding greenery such as succulents, but not buying too many, will give your home a refreshing and professional look without looking too busy.
    5Invest in storage shelves that are stylish and functional for smaller spaces. Functionality, quality, and simplicity can all come together. Storage shelves also help you achieve a less cluttered look, making your home look simple and organized while also being unique.
    6Buy simple artwork. Along with the next piece of decor listed below, simple artwork can make your home more interesting. Without overdoing it with bright colors, find artwork that displays simplicity, and beauty.  You can find some real gems at a garage sale or thrift store.  Have fun with this.
    7Frame sentimental pieces. If your child or niece, or someone you love has ever given you a gift such as a drawing or a photograph: frame it. Put it in a nice neutral tone frame and hang it up. Not only will it add a loving piece of decor to your small apartment, but it will also be a reminder of that person.  This works great with a gallery wall arrangement of several decor items.
    8Adding your own unique style to your home without much restraint is also just as essential as everything listed. Your home is the most important space to express yourself since you’re there every day. Sometimes it can be hard to know what to bring with you when moving the first time.  It’s okay to start with a more simple-looking apartment until you figure things out.
    9It might be easier to make a list of things you find to be essential in your life, and a list of things that aren’t. Then work through the list, and figure out a plan of action. You don’t need to buy new furniture items to achieve the look you’re going for, but sometimes new investments make room for positive change. When changing to a minimalist lifestyle, the benefits to mind, body, and overall health are what is essential.

    In Conclusion

    Even if minimalism emerged in the late 1950s with artists like Frank Stella who moved away from gestural or free-sweeping brush gestures, we’d like to believe the movement began with environmentalism and the mid-century modern movement of Bauhaus and the architecture movement in Palm Springs, Palm Desert and across the rest of California with the expansion of suburban homes.

    What do we think? We think minimalism is here to stay. Current generations are spending more money on “experiences” versus “things” and also face higher living expenses, forcing many to live in smaller apartments and extremely expensive shoe-box condominium developments that force minimalism on homeowners due to spacing limitations.

    Is it a good thing? Yes and no. We also think other movements around the environment from plastics, to reusable grocery bags, all represent a seismic shift in how people think today. They realize our footprint on Earth is damaging and to be able to play some role, they’re adopting approaches from the circular economy with upcycled furniture to save on costs and to prevent furniture products from going straight to landfills.

    These are great changes. However, electronic devices from smartphones to televisions, to computers are creating a different problem. Digital hoarding. This is creating a new layer of complications that will need to be addressed in a hyper-connected world where trees may not be cut for paper but cloud infrastructure continues to grow exponentially, created exponentially great energy demand from a variety of sources to keep data/cloud centers “cool” for digital waste that people can’t even find easily.

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