Grown-Up Goals: Home Stuff Everyone Needs to Know

No more excuses. Here are the basics. 

One of the biggest milestones of transitioning from college life to the real world is having your own space. It's something to be proud of, yet many young adults feel lost when it comes to taking care of their home, hosting a real party or even knowing basic etiquette. If you're just starting out and need some adulting help, here's our starter kit.

Design 101

Intimidated by blank walls or all the beige in your new space? One of the most common struggles young adults have is not knowing how to decorate. YouTube star and DIYer Mr. Kate recently helped us with some design basics in our new series, Grown-Up Goals. Here's how to decorate a living room for the first time and get a high-end look from thrift-store items.

Grown-Up Living Room 02:24

Mr. Kate and Joey share ideas for creating a living room that doesn't suck.

One of the most popular questions we get from urban adults is how to make the most out of a small apartment. If you live in a one-bedroom studio, it can be tough dedicating space to a home office, so Mr. Kate came up with a great mobile work station you can set up and store when not in use. Turn any part of your flat into a work area.

Creating a Workspace Anywhere 02:36

Create a simple portable workspace using these tips from Mr. Kate and Joey.

Stock Up on Basics

Walking through a homewares store can be overwhelming. Here are the essentials you need to stock your kitchen with so you can prep any meal and entertain friends.

Stocking Kitchen Essentials 01:00

Mr. Kate runs through her must-have tools and equipment for any kitchen.

The kitchen pantry isn't the only place you need to stock up on things. It's so important to keep common medicines, bandages and ointments at the ready. Avoid a trip to the pharmacy, especially when you feel bad. At the minimum, here's what you need.

10 Medicine Cabinet Must-Haves

See All Photos


Keeping a variety of different sized bandages will prevent you from getting caught unprepared just when you need one most. From small to large, waterproof to sensitive skin, patterned or skin-toned, a stockpile will never let you down.


Some folks swear by ibuprofen, some prefer acetaminophen. Whichever works best for you, be sure to have some on hand for headaches, muscle and joint pain, and minor bumps and bruises.

Allergy Medicine

No matter where you live, at some point in the year, there’s probably something that blooms outside, or kicks up indoors that will set off a storm of sneezing. If you have seasonal allergies, stock up on a once a day allergy medicine. If it’s once in a while thing, it’s still a good idea to have some antihistamine on hand for those random one-off occurrences of allergic reaction.

Antibiotic Ointment

Keep these next to your bandages and you’ll be ready to treat cuts and scrapes, protecting from infection.

Pink Bismuth

There is nothing worse than an upset stomach. Don’t let overindulgence or a bad bug catch you off guard when you’re least able to make a run to the pharmacy.

Cortisone Cream

New laundry detergent giving you red bumps? Mosquito bite driving you crazy? Cortisone cream will calm most itches quickly.

Cough Syrup

Sometimes the cold wasn't bad, but the lingering cough is a bear. Rather than relying on cold medicines that cover everything, try taking only the medicine you need. A good cough syrup will keep that cough from keeping you awake all night, without loading you down with a decongestant and painkillers, too.


No matter how old you are, it’s important to keep an eye on a fever. A working thermometer is a must in every medicine cabinet. No need for anything fancy, just make sure it works.


Overdid it in the sun? Pamper torched skin and soothe the burn with aloe.


You knew that last helping of pie was a mistake or maybe it was the heavy-handedness on the Sriacha? Either way, you’re paying for it. This is the moment when you’ll be thankful that you made sure antacids were on the list for your medicine cabinet.

Keep It Clean + Organized 

Sure, you sweep once a week and wipe down the bathroom, but that's just the beginning of cleaning. There are several items that need replacing on a regular basis. Do you know the last time you changed your air filter? Think about what you're breathing in. A clean space is a healthy space. 

9 Things to Replace Frequently

See All Photos

Air Filters

When the air in your house is being circulated through an air conditioner, it pays to clean out the filter regularly. If it’s been a while, brace yourself, these hardworking filters can accumulate quite a coating of dust, pollen and debris. For HVAC units, change the filter every three months. Two months if you have pets. And every 30 days if you have allergies. For window units, shake out dust and wash the filter. Allow the filter to dry completely before placing back in the air conditioner so it doesn't mold.


It's gross to think about but you share your pillow with dust, dirt, oil, dead skin cells, and dust mites. Pillows should replaced every three years or as often as every six months for allergy sufferers. Pillows should be washed every three months. Down alternative pillows can go into the washing machine, while down feather pillows need to be dry cleaned. Looking to extend the life of your pillow? Buy a zippered cover and wash every three weeks.

Batteries in Safety Equipment

If you’re waiting for the smoke/carbon monoxide detector to beep before you change the batteries, you may be putting yourself and your family at risk. Set an alarm on your phone, put it on the family calendar, or pick a holiday as the yearly reminder to change those critically important batteries.


Who knew your favorite mascara had such a short shelf life? Only three months. The same goes for liquid or gel eyeliners, too. As for the life of other cosmetics, you’ll get a year out of lipsticks, lip liners, concealers, oil-free foundations, cream shadows and cream blushes. Sturdier makeup like pencil eyeliner, lip gloss, and powders (blushes, bronzers and shadows) will last two years. Once an item has hit its lifetime max, ditch them so you don’t end up with icky (and infection causing) germs on your face.


If your sponge has an odor or feels slimy, bad news. It’s likely that sponge is harboring E.coli, salmonella, yeast and mold due to the warm, moist environment that’s so welcoming to those nasty germs. To reduce the germs, wash the sponge, then microwave while wet for two minutes, or run it through the dishwater. But remember, you may be able to reduce the number of bad bugs, but washing probably won’t eliminate them. That’s why sponges should be replaced every week. Or make the switch to a dish brush.

Water Pitcher Filters

If you tend to ignore the indicator on the water pitcher you're not alone. But you should change the filter every 40 gallons, which normally works out to every other month. Change more frequently if you have hard water.

Refrigerator Water Filter

Modern refrigerators often have indicator lights to remind you to replace the filter for the water dispenser, but if yours doesn’t, you should be replacing it every six to 12 months.

Vent Filters

If your range hood filter is stainless, chances are it has collected an impressive amount of cooking grease. Remove the filter and soak it in a solution of boiling water, baking soda and dish soap before scrubbing with a dish brush. Rinse and replace. Filter too far gone? You can get replacements at most home improvement stores. 

Toilet Brush

Make sure the gunk you’re removing from the toilet doesn’t end up hanging out and festering on the brush bristles and in the cup. After cleaning the toilet, sandwich the toilet brush between the toilet rim and seat, so that the brush head is suspended over the bowl. Spray with a disinfecting cleaning spray and allow to sit for a few minutes. Rinse with hot water and allow to sit until dry. The key is not putting this bad boy back dirty or wet, trapping any germs in the holder. Replace every six months.

It's so hard to keep clutter under control, especially in open-space lofts where there are no closets and everything is visable. Mail is the worst. It piles up and takes over countertops and tables. It's tempting to toss out a pile of papers, but some things should be saved. Here's what you should hold onto and where to put it. 

How to Organize Paper Stuff

See All Photos


Did you know you’re supposed to keep seven years of tax filings? Yep, that’s right. Seven Years. Keep things organized and in the right place by using accordion folders to store each year’s tax return, along with supporting documents. As each year goes by, shred the return from eight years ago, and put the current year’s return in the accordion folder. A document box in a closet is a great place to store these, since you only touch them once a year.

Annual Reminders

Paperwork that needs to be filed once a year can be tricky. What month was it you renew your pet permit with the city? When are the car tags up for renewal? When does the renter's insurance expire? Keep those papers in a specific folder so you can always refer to them, and put the renew date on your calendar, including a reminder on your phone two weeks out so you can get that paperwork completed and mailed out on time. 

Keep Your Checkbook With Your Stamps

How often do you go to pay the bills and have to spend 15 minutes hunting down your checkbook, stamps and the bills? Avoid that by keeping everything in one centralized location, organized in a desktop organizer.

Keep Precious Items Safe From Fire

Now that you have legit “official documents,” it’s time to enter the world of fireproof document storage. Protect birth certificates, passports, deeds, heirloom jewelry, social security cards and so on in a fireproof chest, which you can find at big box stores or online. As a bonus, having all of those documents safely stored in once place eliminates that paralyzing moment of panic where you can’t remember where you stored your passport the night before a trip.

Set Up A Folder System

Know what’s less fun than doing taxes? Sorting through a shoebox of receipts. Do yourself a favor and create a system to store each type of receipt you get, so you can get the max number of tax deductions at the end of the year. Even better, each month, add them up and include the total in a spreadsheet, so all you have to do at the end of the year is add up twelve months of subtotals, instead of 365 days worth of jumbled receipts.

Keep Track of Appliance Manuals

It’s all fun and games until an appliance breaks or a piece of furniture gets recalled. All of a sudden that manual you tossed out with the box is looking pretty valuable. Grab an extra accordion folder and use it to store manuals for reference.

Prevent Paying the Bills Late

Paid the power bill late last month? Late payments can affect your credit score! Create a mini binder to store bills and keep track of due dates. Divide the binder into five weekly sections and as soon as a bill comes in, stick it in the week when you need to send it out. Each Sunday, gather the bills that need to be paid that week and send them out.

Keep Outgoing Bills Close to the Door

OK, so you gathered up your checkbook and stamps, created a binder to know when to pay each bill, but if the stamped envelopes never make it to the mailbox, all of your effort was wasted. Make sure those suckers make it out on time by clipping them together and hanging them on the same hook as your keys. That way, you can’t get out the door without grabbing the bills, too.

Ditch the Paper Receipts

Paper storage not your thing? No problem. There’s an app for that. Genius Scan is one of our favorites, but there are several to choose from. Snap a pic of your receipt, then save and store for later. Easy peasey.

Keep Time-Sensitive Papers At Your Fingertips

Need to remember to send out Great Aunt Edna’s birthday card on time? Set up a folder system for all the non-bill paperwork that needs to go out each month, ranging from birthday cards to school permission slips to party invitations that need an RSVP.

Hosting 101 

Gone are the days of college keggers. Being a good host or hostess takes planning and prep time. Here's how to impress your friends and throw down as an adult.

Entertaining Without a Keg 02:30

Mr. Kate and Joey show you how to throw a party without a keg or beer pong.

How to Actually Set the Table

See All Photos

What Goes Where

Everyone wants to set a gorgeous table when guests are coming over. And most of us have a general idea of what needs to be on the table for a casual dinner, but when it’s a special occasion, do you know if you have what you need to dress up your dinner table? We’re going to spell it out, step by step.

The Blank Slate

First, think of what kind of accessories you want to complement your table. Don’t worry about fancy centerpieces. Simple can be just as elegant. A pretty dish for salt, a few branches of eucalyptus, and a couple of succulents set the stage perfectly.

The Placemat

When you were a kid, the setting of a dinner table probably started with a tablecloth. But we encourage you to embrace the woodgrain of your table and nix the cloth. Instead, find a few placemats that play up a few colors in your dining space.

The Dinner Plate

Dinner plates are the foundation of a place setting. It’s nice to have a set of plain white dishes so you're able to be flexible with the colors and elements you use to accessorize for each party and season.

The Dinner Fork

Finding silverware that’s classic but chic isn’t as hard as it used to be. Look for simple, clean lines in different metallics. We love trendy rose gold or brassy gold. To set the table, start by adding your dinner fork. If you’re serving fish, a fish fork can also be included.

The Dinner Knife

A dinner knife is a must. If you’re serving steak, be sure to add a sharp knife with that course.

The Salad Fork

A salad fork should be on the table for the first course, then cleared with the salad plates.

The Soup Spoon

The same applies to your soup spoon. It should be on the table when your guest sits down and cleared after the soup course. 

The Dessert Spoon

Depending on what you’re serving for dessert, you can set your table with a dessert spoon, a cake fork, or both. 

The Salad Plate

The salad place is where you can add another layer of color and texture. Choose a complementary color, a touch of gloss or unexpected texture. 

The Napkin

It’s always tempting to go with napkins that have fun colors, patterns or textures. But you (and your wallet) will appreciate the ability to throw them in a hot wash with some bleach. It's the easiest way to remove all traces of stains. In our book, white cotton is the way to go. Dress up the simplicity of white linens with a napkin ring or vintage brooch. You can find great costume jewelry at the thrift store.

The Water Glass

You can never go wrong with a water glass that’s simple, functional and elegant. They also make great bud vases on a bedside table or desk. 

The Wine Glass

Your dinner course will dictate whether your wine glass is a red or a white, but either way, a clean, sparkling wine glass is a must for any dinner table.

The Champagne Flute

On special occasions, especially those celebrating something, you might want to make a champagne toast. Be sure you have enough flutes on hand (and washed and ready) for the moment. 

The Bread Plate

The bread plate is yet another place to infuse a little personality into your tablescape. Think coordinating, but not matching. 

The Butter Knife

Don’t worry about finding a set of silverware that includes every single piece you need. A mix and match approach is so much more appealing. And also way easier on your budget.

The Coffee/Tea Cup

Depending on the preferences of your guests, you might be serving coffee, tea, or espresso, but no matter what, a hot after-dinner drink is a lovely way to wrap up the night.

The Teaspoon

The teaspoon for your guests’ after-dinner drink is such a small detail, but it adds something special. You can easily build a collection of these small spoons for next to nothing by hitting up local thriftstores. Baby spoons also make great spoons for tea and sugar.

Etiquette Essentials

Thank-you notes are still very relevant. It's your chance to make a lasting impression after a job interview, brighten someone's day and so much more. Keep a stack of stationery and stamps on hand.

How (and When) to Write a Thank You Note

See All Photos

When: After Receiving A Gift

You probaby already knew this one from every single birthday when you had to go down the list and write thank you notes to your family members for the gift they sent. But even as an adult, even when everything is digital, a proper thank you note will set you apart from your peers and show off your class and poise.

When: After A Job Interview

This. Is. Critical. Send it by mail (stick it in the mail within an hour of your interview to be sure it arrives the next day) or by email, but within 24 hours of an interview. You need to send a note thanking your interviewer for their time, mentioning one or two specific points from the interview that you enjoyed or were thought-provoking, and a subtle, but positive affirmation of why you’re the ideal candidate for the position, based on something you learned in the interview that wasn’t in the job posting.

When: After Attending A Party

It’s no easy feat to be a party host. From all of the prep work to the expense of the food, decor, and drinks, it’s a massive amount of work. Show your appreciation to your host by sending a note detailing why the party was the highlight of your social calendar for the month.

When: After Leaving A Job

This one often gets overlooked in the chaos of getting situated in a new position. But where you land next is always about who you know. Keeping in contact with colleagues and bosses from previous jobs will serve you well throughout your career. A short note about why you enjoyed working with that person and what they taught you will be appreciated and will cement a positive lasting impression of you.

What to Say

We’ve all been there: Sitting over a blank notecard, paralyzed with writer’s block. The easiest and most authentic thing to write is an honest thank you. If you're writing about a gift, include a personalized observation of how the gift made you feel/cheered up your space/functioned while using it. Keep the note short and sweet and you’ll be done in no time.

Stock Up on Stationery

Having cards and stationery on hand will make it easier to jot down messages and send out thank you notes promptly. With so many gorgeous stationery choices, the only hard part with be picking which ones to buy. Shop handmade sets online or DIY your own with craft stamps or watercolors. 

The Perfect Pen

As analog letters are gaining steam again, there are more and more people who are using notes to express themselves. Shop craft stores for pens that allow you to add decorative elements, a pop of color, or a little calligraphy.

DIY Calligraphy

Addressing an envelope in an unexpected way will set the tone for a killer thank you note and leave the receiver blown away that you took the time to hand letter the envelope, instead of scratching it out illegibly. Show off your creative side. Use a brush pen and ink to create some brush stroke calligraphy, or space out the address block. Try adding decorative elements on the back like birthday candles or garland for the holidays.

Novelty Stamps

Stamps always seem to be in scarce supply just when you need them most, right? Avoid letting that thank you note sit on the counter awaiting a stamp by making sure you grab a few sets of pretty stamps the next time you make a post office run. 

Make an Address Stamp

Another trick to add to your bag, if you’re hoping to make note writing habitual, is a customized return address stamp. It’s a small detail, but it’s affordable and ups the wow factor on any envelope. It also makes mailing large batches of holiday cards a breeze.

Thank You Note Etiquette 01:00

Mr. Kate shows how to make creative, personalized thank you note cards.

We have more ways of communicating with each other than we've ever before, yet when a friend or family member goes through something bad, we're silent because we don't know what to say. Part of being an adult — and this is way more important than thank-you notes or making conversation at dinner parties — is being there for someone.

How to Act When a Friend Goes Through a Tough Time

See All Photos

Send Care Packages

It’s so tough to be far away from a friend going through a tough time, but don’t let the distance discourage your support. Remember how amazing care packages were when you were a kid? Now’s the time to bring them back. Pack small things to cheer up your friend, like cheerful stationery, or nonperishable treats like a gourmet chocolate bar. Lightweight items like gift certificates can be slipped in to treat your friend to a massage or facial. A super soft pashmina is easily packed and might be just the thing for your friend to cozy up with after a long day. 

Check In Frequently

If this is your first encounter with tragedy, grief, suffering, or struggle, it’s impossibly difficult to know what to say. But make the effort. Those going through a tough time are often isolated for exactly that reason: Friends don’t know what to say, so they stay silent. Maybe your friend doesn’t want to talk about their struggle. Your conversation about the funny thing your puppy did or where you found the most bonkers delicious tacos might actually be just the escape from reality your friend needs. No matter what, call, text, FaceTime, or email. Just check in often.

Deliver Meals

When times are tough, food can be the last thing on your friend’s mind. Dropping off easy to reheat meals is a thoughtful way to help unobtrusively. Even better, offer to drop the meal on the doorstep, so that if your friend isn’t up for guests or small talk, you can still lend a hand without causing stress.

Offer Heartfelt Words of Comfort

There is no circumstance ever, no matter what, in which cliches like those you hear repeated over and over are helpful. If you don’t know what to say, be there silently for your friend until you have something heartfelt to say. But avoid phrases like “everything happens for a reason” or “time heals all wounds.” At the very best, they’re empty platitudes. At the worst, they discount the very real pain your friend is experiencing.

Invite Your Friend For Dinner

Sometimes, returning to the normal routines of life can be daunting. That first time going out after something horrible happens can feel overwhelming. Offer a baby step to your friend by inviting them over for a low-key dinner, but don’t push if they refuse your invitation.

Run Everyday Errands

There’s nothing worse than things stacking up on an already overwhelmed friend struggling to just survive each day. Lighten his or her load by running to the grocery store, picking up the dry cleaning, buying pet food, running to the pharmacy, etc.

Offer Specific Acts of Service

It’s amazing when, in the midst of a crisis, your whole crew shows up to support you. But in those moments, it’s absolutely and crushingly overwhelming to try to answer the question, “What can I do for you?” Do your friend a favor by offering specific acts of service like, “I’m going to come over on Thursday and do your laundry/clean the house/make you dinner and do the dishes.” That lets him or her off the hook from making decisions.

Take Care of The Lawn

Sure, check in on your friend, but also make sure you keep an eye on helping out with things that may go untended while your friend heals. Mow the lawn, weed the flower beds, rake leaves, trim the shrubs, prep the house for winter, etc. Do the things your friend doesn’t have the strength to do right now. 

Stock The Fridge and Pantry

When times are rough, it’s easy to turn to junk food. We all crave comfort, even in the form of food. But you want your friend to stay healthy and be in the best possible state. So avoid dropping by with junk food even those decadent seven layer bars your grandma taught you to make. Bring foods that are packed with protein, nutrients, fruits and veggies.

Keep Showing Up

Going through a struggle is a long process, whether it’s losing a loved one, the end of a relationship, or a health crisis. Often there’s a rush of support in the beginning and then everyone goes back to life as usual, leaving the grief-stricken person on their own. Show up in the beginning, but keep showing up as your friend takes weeks and months to get back on their feet.

We know there's more to adulting than the topics above. The real world comes with surprises, obstacles and letdowns. Sometimes you might not feel like an adult at all. But with these tips you can create a space that you can always come home to and that's always ready to welcome friends. And at least, at home, you know you've got it together.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Design Goals: Meet the Hilarious Design Talk Show You Didn't Know You Needed

Our new web series is perfect for the design-obsessed HGTV fan who doesn't mind getting a little irreverent. Read: All of you!

5 Trends From New York Fashion Week You Need to Know About

HGTV design experts bring you the top five fashion trends straight from New York Fashion Week and into your home.

6 Ways to Glam Up Your Instagram and Make Everyone Jealous

It's time to ignite your inner creativity, and you don't need an expensive camera to do it.

8 Home Office Design Hacks You Need to Try

Check out this round-up of some of our favorite home office design hacks to help you take your space from “meh” to “wow!”

5 Reasons You Need to Print Your Photos Again

Don't let those precious memories get lost in your phone's camera roll.

5 Design Trends From NY Now to Try at Home

The design trade show always showcases the best of the best, and this year was no exception.

10 Design Podcasts to Listen to Right Now

Perfect for your work commute or treadmill hike.

5 Quick Tips for Energizing Your Home for the New Year

Learn easy ways you can bring a fresh new look to your home from feng shui expert Nancy Canestaro.

Meet the Team

Get to know the talented writers and editors of HGTV's show and design blog. 

Go Behind the Blog

From the Archives

Take a look back at our past posts, from entertaining and design trends to up-and-coming HGTV shows.  

Read All Our Past Posts