How to go from an apartment set up to a functional furnished house

Guest post by Beretta Fleur

Our Humble HomeHusband and I have lived together for three years. Last year, we married and up-sized from a small apartment to our first (rented) home. When we moved in, we weren’t used to having so much space. We had a yard to deal with, a garden to maintain, a hot tub to balance, a fireplace to use, and major appliances. We had SPARE ROOMS.

At first it was great, but we quickly found ourselves overwhelmed. Rooms kind of took on lives of their own. A suite with wood paneling, a rock wall, a bathroom, and in-room tub (which we call The Sex Room since it looks like a ’60s porn set), became “Storage Room B” instead of a swanky guest space or a darkroom for The Rock Wall TubHusband’s photography.

Our dining nook was crowded with a table that didn’t fit. The front room, after serving as our dumping ground for moving boxes, sat empty except for a sofa that awkwardly faced the front door (not my idea of a Focal Point… Oh hi, you’re home? I’m just sitting here staring at you…).

We discussed one bedroom serving as my office, but ended up becoming a retreat for our cat (who is scared of our large dog), while my stuff sat in boxes.

We would say “Let’s use the hot tub!” then remember it had been two weeks since we last balanced it, and wake in the night to hear the sucking sounds of our suddenly bone-dry water feature.

For a few months we were busy planning our wedding reception party, but afterward it was time to realize that our house, though great in layout, character and space, was a hot mess with no system. After a summer’s worth of tripping over boxes and feeling overwhelmed, I made it my project to GET ORGANIZED, PEOPLE.

I got the idea from Nonny from A Slob Comes Clean to start with a daily checklist (you can download her printable ones here for $2, a worthy investment) to tackle everyday things like laundry, the hot tub, the dishes (maybe now that we have a dishwasher, we should run it every other night instead of letting the sink pile up with disgusting pots?) and making sure our pets ate.

Our checklist is now on our fridge, and we have both daily and weekly charts. It’s a great way to help us realize when our floor hasn’t been mopped in two weeks, or when one of us is doing too much of the shared workload. It also doubles as a shopping list organized by store, which helps minimize the multiple weekly trips we were making to Ralph’s, Home Depot, etc.

For figuring out how to organize, decorate, and actually USE the rest of our house, I made a shared Google document with Husband called Home Intentions. This was part checklist and part journal, where we listed and discussed what systems we needed, what we wanted out of each room in our home, what we currently had in there, and brainstorming ways to solve the problems.

We realized we hated the dining nook being crowded by the table and the front room being empty except for Awkward Sofa. We decided to use the front room as our dining area, with the table in the middle and a nice little sideboard, and put the sofa in the dining nook for a place where one of us hangs out while the other cooks, does dishes, or feeds the dogs. I realized that rather than just an office, the Cat Retreat could also be a sewing room, reading room, and Craft Center.


The Sex Room is now where I get ready in the morning, as well as a place where we store our camping, photography and sporting gear, and where Husband keeps his tools so he can work on projects. I use the tub for my weekly pedicures, and it’s a great space for guests to use when they stay over. It still needs some creative shelving solutions to make it complete, but at least we KNOW what the problems are and what the goal is for the room.

Looking back over our document, we can see how far we’ve come when things feel oppressive. (Yeah it took us three months to hang that crazy Ikea light fixture in the dining room, but by golly it’s DONE!) Now we truly enjoy our home, and can enjoy sharing all of the extra space with our friends. If you need help, I’ve made a free, public copy of our home worksheet available here. You can make your own write-able copy from it and specify it/ fill it out to your needs.

Comments on How to go from an apartment set up to a functional furnished house

  1. This couldn’t have come at a better time! We’re in the process of moving from our ~1000 square foot apartment into a house that’s 3x the size, and my biggest fear is that we’ll just have a maze of clutter and junk… not to mention that I have no idea how we’re going to keep all that space clean.

  2. we called ours “the disaster room”…and now, almost three years later, it is an office and not full of boxes of crap that needs going through.

    on the subject of “see how far we’ve come when things feel oppressive” – every time my mom comes in (from out of state) she raves about how much we’ve done and how much better the house looks than the last time. it is unfailingly awesome, because it always seems to feel like you’re getting nothing done when things come together tiny piece by tiny piece and you’re busy focusing on the stuff that *isn’t* done.

    i highly recommend a positive, occasional visitor to make you see the “larger view”.

  3. I hear you.
    We recently found a list with jobs to do around the house from a year ago. We made some progress, but did not accomplish everything. Oh well, we will probably move within a year…

  4. You have impeccable timing! Husband and I are moving from a terrible, two bedroom apartment we share with my brother to a wonderful two bedroom. Same-ish amount of rooms, but the differences are big and since it’ll just be us two, we need to assess our needs and then act!

  5. We’ll be moving to our new house in less than a month now – after living for 4 years in a tiny apartment (about 400 square feet). Our house will have about 1000 more! We DO need most of the space, since we’ve been longing for seperate offices for all these years, but there are a couple of rooms intended for future children, and we need to find them a different duty until then to keep them from getting clutter magnets.

    One we already know – it will be our library, where we’ll display all out awesome books we both use for work. The other spare room will probably be out guest room.

    In any case, what’s been really useful for me to figure out where we want to put the furniture we already have, and what every room should look like in the end, is Google SketchUp. I have a 3D Model for every level of our house, totally on scale. Then I just have to measure the furniture and put it in, and I can move it around and see what it feels like, without having to lift any heavy stuff at all! It’s really awesome.

    So, I recommend doing that, probably best BEFORE moving.
    I think if you already have and idea of what you want every room to be, it’s much less likely that you’ll just leave all the clutter there. Or so I hope. XD

  6. I love your home worksheet! I am creating a list of “Things to Buy Someday Instead of Pizza or Makeup”, which is just stuff like… a dish drainer. Some sort of stand-alone closet thing. Some wall-mount hooks.
    Having it all in a document that sort of lays out WHY you’re doing what you’re doing is awesome. It’s so nice to be able to say “Hey, we made a goal to make this room feel less like a garbage pail, and we’re getting there!”

  7. I am super jealous of your sex room- My partner and I are looking all over for a little house, but I guarantee we’ll never find a bedroom with an in-room tub like yours. An in-room tub! Wow- Mind blown.

  8. It’s a bit small/awkward for a bedroom but it’s an awesome place to get ready every morning…. a raised platform, theater-esque lights above a built-in armoire… once we get our shelving in, I’ll submit a home tour!

  9. THANK YOU for posting the link to A Slob Comes Clean!!! I’ve started reading it from the start, and it is very inspiring. My boyfriend drunkenly/jokingly teased me about not being good at cleaning last week and it’s been nettling me because it’s true. In all fairness I’m working two jobs and he was on winter break from school so it was easier for him to do it, but that is no excuse for me not contributing. If I can get into the habit of keeping things clean now, when we do finally move it’ll make it so much easier!

  10. This! After 5 years of dorms and little tiny studio apartments, my husband and I have learned to DOWNSIZE, but now we have a really cool 1920s three bedroom house and we have nothing to put in it! Haha! This is our third week here, and I don’t even know where to start! I’m still exhausted from the move, but half of my things are still in boxes! Eeep! Totally gonna get on those lists! What a great idea!

  11. OMG this post just described the past 8 months for us. We had three full rooms of nothing but boxes (after the two of consolidating from two large apartments) and I was always, ALWAYS frustrated about not being able to find something that hadn’t yet been unpacked, but still didn’t have a space. We finally sat down and discussed where everyhting we remembered we had would go, and then started unpacking room by room. At Christmas there was a special rush because we were planning on having people STAY in those rooms, so that helped motivate us a little. Finally? No more rooms full of boxes! Almost everything is in its place! That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s completely unpacked or built or what-have-you, but it is IN its SPOT. And I love the house so much more now. Now on to tackling the awful ordeal of hanging all of our art!

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