Master the Logistics and Etiquette of Moving Out

On a recent episode of the award-winning highly acclaimed scandalous homoerotic merely adequate “moms love it!” Bitches Get Riches podcast, we discussed how to get your first apartment.

It’s an exciting time! You’re moving into your very own place, getting one of your very first Adulthood Merit Badges!

But what do you do when your time in that first apartment comes to an end? In short, how do you handle moving out?

As tempting as it might be to toss the keys over your shoulder and just walk the fuck away, there is definitely an etiquette for moving out.

Don't be like Kermit's evil doppleganger when moving out.

For one thing, it’s best to leave on good terms with your landlord, as you’ll likely need them to be a good reference for another apartment later on. Plus, you really want them to return your security deposit. And that means making your exit from the apartment with all the grace and aplomb of a Shakespearean actor leaving the stage.

(Exit, pursued by bear.)

Basic moving out etiquette

Give your neighbors a heads-up

Especially if you live in an apartment building or shared house, moving out can be a disruption to your neighbors. I not so fondly recall the thumps and muffled curses of upstairs neighbors carrying couches out at 6 a.m. back in my apartment days. Then there was the time our neighbors blocked my car in with a U-Haul right around the time I needed to leave for work. Rewd.

So briefly warn your neighbors ahead of time. Tell them, “Hey, I’m moving out on X date. I’ll try to be as quiet, clean, and non-disruptive as possible, but I’d appreciate your patience. Is there anything I can do to make my move-out more tolerable for you?”

Hopefully they’ll pay your courtesy forward, and the world of neighborly rental dwelling will be a little bit brighter.

Be fair to your help

My husband Bear owns a big old pickup truck. Not only does he need it for work, but it’s one of the few vehicles on the market that will fit his bulk behind the steering wheel.

A side effect of truck ownership, though, is that every time someone we know moves… they call us.

And we’re happy to help haul their stuff in our truck! But the truth is that no one actually enjoys moving. Carrying heavy furniture and boxes in and out of doors is hard and tedious work. Not my preferred way to spend a Saturday, is all I’m saying. And yet!

Especially when it comes to moving out!

Still, nothing sours a friendship faster than that hard work being taken for granted.

So be gracious with your truck-owning friend, your friends willing to give up a day to shlep your furniture between homes, your friends who agree to help you box shit up and scrub the refrigerator in your old apartment. I generally consider a case of beer or a home-cooked meal to be the going rate for moving help. But you might want to refresh your memory on the etiquette of the friend trade.

Cleanliness is next to Bitchliness

Cream on the inside, clean on the outside

When you move out, you’re expected to leave the rental property move-in ready for the next tenant. That means cleaning the place to within an inch of its life.

Let this be your moving out cleaning checklist:

  • Vacuum all floors, especially carpets.
  • Mop all non-carpeted floors.
  • Wash the windows.
  • Take a vinegar-soaked rag to the edges of cabinets, around door handles and light switches, and the walls around headboards… all the places you put your grubby fingers and never noticed the greasy marks left behind.
  • Dust the baseboards. Seriously.
  • Take a fire hose to the bathroom. Trust me on this one: if you haven’t wiped down every fucking surface in there, it’s still dirty.
  • Wipe the crumbs out of kitchen cabinets and drawers.
  • Scrub down the stove, kitchen sink, and the interior and exterior of the refrigerator. They nasty.
  • Dust off light fixtures and shelves.
  • If you have pets, pay extra attention to the areas where they eat and sleep. I don’t know about your dog, but mine is basically Pig-Pen.

Minor repairs

Remember that security deposit you paid when you moved in? Yeah, your landlord is looking for any damn excuse to keep that.

They’ll be going through the place like fucking Hercule Poirot, looking for the merest hint of damage or debris. If the place is dirty, they’ll take a cleaning fee out of your security deposit. And if shit’s broken, they’ll keep the whole deposit just on principle.

  • White toothpaste is your friend. You can use it to fill nail holes where you hung pictures on the walls.
  • If there are scratches on wood anywhere in the place, rub it with a walnut. Trust me.
  • If paint is chipped or scratched, snoop around basements and storage areas—there may be a can of the same color paint left down there! You can also take a chip to the paint store and get them to match it in a sample size. Paint over the scratches at least a day before the landlord comes over so the smell of wet paint has time to dissipate.
  • Remember our list of tools every apartment-dwelling hominid should own? Grab your screwdriver and take it to every loose hinge and piece of hardware in the place.

There might be some repairs that are beyond your ability to fix. I still recommend either hiring a professional (or a handy friend) to do repairs instead of leaving it to the landlord. They’ll charge you for the cost of the repair as well as their trouble, which will likely cost way more than handling it yourself.

Leave no trace

Don’t leave a single thing behind. This includes taking out the trash and recycling before you go.

It sounds nonsensical, but your landlord can and will take a disposal fee out of your security deposit if they need to throw out your stuff. So don’t forget to check drawers and cabinets!

Ideally, the next tenant should feel like they’re moving into a brand new home. They don’t want to be reminded of the literal skeletons in your closet. Don’t invite negative karma into your moving day, it’ll dent your U-Haul. Do unto other tenants as you would have done unto you!

If you're moving out and your closet looks like this... maybe just grab some garbage bags.

Mind-numbing technical crap

Cancel or transfer the utilities

If the water, electric, or other utility bills are in your name, cancel them or ask your landlord about how to transfer them to the next tenant. If it’s something like cable or internet, you can cancel on your own or sometimes get the account transferred to your new address. 

Time this right: you don’t want the water or electricity shut off when you’ve still got a week to go on your lease!

Return your parking permit and cancel services

If you had to pay for a parking permit or other services at your rental unit, cancel that shit. If you ask, you might be able to get a partial refund on the remainder of the year, depending on the terms.

This goes not only for parking, but extra storage, yardwork, and even garbage disposal services. Check your lease to make sure you know what you’re responsible for and take care of it before your move-out date.

Get your security deposit back

This is vitally important: before—not after!—you pay your last rent check, ask your landlord about your security deposit. Get them to commit, in writing (if it’s not already on the lease), when and how they will determine how much you get back and how you’ll be receiving the funds. Provide them with your new address and contact information so they definitely know how to reach you after you’ve moved out.

As part of this discussion, schedule a walk-through with them for when you’re fully moved out and have completed all cleaning and necessary repairs. Take your own pictures during that walk-through so they know that you have proof of exactly how you left the place. You should both be present for the walk-through. Don’t let them do it without you.

I’m not trying to shit on landlords. I know the vast majority are decent human beings! But on the off-chance you have a villainous landlord shitty enough to try to keep your security deposit for no good reason, you need to take steps to defend your money.

Change your address

There are two ways you can change your address with the USPS:

  1. Go to the Post Office and ask for a change of address form, also known as Form 3575. Fill it out and either hand it to the postal worker behind the counter, or drop it in the mail box, no stamp needed. This is free.
  2. Go online to the Post Office’s moving site and fill out the form there. This’ll be faster, but it’ll cost you $1.05.

Note: changing your address with the Post Office will not automatically change it everywhere. If you have any regularly scheduled deliveries that don’t rely on USPS, or accounts with your address attached, you might want to spend a few minutes online changing all that shit just before you move out.

Here’s more advice, both on how to live on your own for the first time, and on how to move:

Pinching pennies when moving out

Moving can be heckin expensive! But you have a few ways to mitigate the costs.

Sell or donate your stuff

Moving is a great time to slough off excess baggage, mentally and physically. The less stuff you have to move, the faster and cheaper the whole process. You won’t need to buy as many boxes, and you might not even have enough to warrant renting a U-Haul. A case of beer for your truck-having friend is vastly cheaper!

So Marie Kondo your shit well in advance of your move-out date. Sell what you can on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, gift stuff to friends, and donate the rest. Use the proceeds to fund your move.

Use up your toiletries and groceries

Few things are weirder to pack than almost empty bottles of shampoo and condiments. Yet throwing that shit out is definitely a waste. (You already know I’m frugal af, don’t @ me.)

So in the weeks leading up to your move, focus on using up the food and toiletries you have to reduce waste and start fresh with a more organized new place. This means meal planning around what you’ve got in the refrigerator that’s aaaaalmost used up, and maybe combining a few bottles of body wash. Don’t be precious about it.

And don’t be afraid to throw shit away.

Marie Kondo: wise in the ways of moving out.

At this point in our lives, we are home-owning Bitches. So we firmly recommend you go straight to the expert on moving: Your New Apartment. Not gonna lie, most of the advice in this article comes directly from their top-shelf blog and podcast. So go straight to the source if you need more advice on how to move in and out of rental properties!

And if you’d like to know more about the cost of moving, check out this post from our dear friend and fellow financial feminist, Financial Mechanic.

One last thing…

Finally, a bit of housekeeping. Not in the living space sense, but the administrative information sense.

You might have noticed this article is coming a week late. I know you guys hang on our every word and must be faint with worry due to the disruption in our normal publishing schedule! Yet I promise I have a good excuse.

Last weekend I was rock climbing, as I am wont to do as The Crunchier Bitch™. I took a really bad lead fall and royally fucked up my ankle. It was heckin scary, and my climbing partner and I had to hobble down the mountain for nearly two hours on steep scree, which definitely didn’t help the injury. We were worried the ankle was broken, so I had to go to the doctor, get some X-rays, obtain a walking boot and crutches, and deal with medical bullshit. Which you know I hate.

To make a long story short, my ankle is not broken, just horrifically sprained. So I was a little distracted and bummed out last week when I should have been writing.

I’m now facing some nice fat medical bills. Naturally, this comes at a time when I’m unemployed, and my partner is partially furloughed, so we don’t have that sweet, sweet employer-provided health insurance. My insurance deductible is… (non-American readers, please look away now, lest you faint from shock and have to take a free ambulance ride to receive affordable medical care) … $12,000. Yeah.

If you’d like to contribute to the Let Piggy Walk Again fund, I humbly submit you donate to our Patreon. If you’ve financially benefited from our advice, but haven’t contributed anything back, now’s your moment! We understand that not all of our readers are in a position to help, but even a small donation would be very meaningful right now.

In exchange, I will post a special surprise there exclusively for all our patrons! No spoilers… but it’s gonna be good.

9 thoughts to “Master the Logistics and Etiquette of Moving Out”

  1. Thank you for this great article. I hadn’t thought of tightening the screws.

    And I feel you on the American health insurance. My deductible is also $12000! And I’m just $161 from hitting it according to the helpful website. yay.

  2. I would also add: be strategic about what you spend money on. I’m not very athletic, and my gf has a recurring injury that flares up from too much pressure on her feet. So you better believe that every time we move, we shell out money to pay the van people to do the heavy lifting. Neither of us is comfortable asking friends for help, because we know we won’t be able to pull our weight on the day, even with help. I could ask a friend to help me carry a couch, but I can’t ask them to carry the couch for me while I daintily bring the lamp down. If I’m paying someone to carry my shit, I don’t feel obliged to contribute as much, and I can just putter around carrying the light stuff while my gf literally does nothing. Once all is done, we pay the nice people, I fall on the couch to recover, and my gf indulges in her deep love for unpacking boxes.

    In short: be frugal, but don’t hurt yourself for the sake of saving money.

    1. Totally agree with paying for movers! I randomly stumbled across the section on U-haul’s website that allows you to include moving help in your order and my moves have never been the same again!!

      Personally, it’s well worth the few hundred bucks to pay for movers to pack my shit into my moving vehicle for me. They are always way faster than my hubby and I could ever be, and the help we’ve gotten so far has done an amazing job of tetris’ing that sh*t in the vehicle for us. I still pack the boxes myself, just pay the movers to do the physical lifting and stacking into the moving vehicle. (Obvious disclaimer here is that I realize how fortunate we are to be able to blow a few hundred dollars to pay for help).

      1. Same. I calculated it out once, and it was roughly to same to pay the movers for 3 hours as it was to rent a truck for the day and provide pizza/beer for our friends. The “pay the movers” benefit is, you’re not expected to help them on the flip side! 🙂

        Plus, I don’t have to listen to Permanent Roommate whine about how lifting things hurts his back.

  3. I was so sure I wasn’t going to get the deposit back from our first/only apartment. We had 2 cats and they had *destroyed* parts of the apartment: broken blinds, ripped holes in carpet, stains (actually from husband’s kool-aid spill), etc. I still did a deep clean and did what I could to spruce things up. I didn’t think about or realize I could swap blinds or actually do some repairs on my own, so we just hoped for the best. My husband did the walk through and can you believe it, we got our entire deposit back! The rental employee was actually amazed at how clean/well kept we left the place.

    Kinda made me scared in retrospect for what the other complex tenants do if ours was a sterling example of cleanliness and good shape.

    On the injured ankle note: my husband just took a fall off our porch step this morning and probably broke his foot. He’s a dummy so he got in the car and drove 30 min to see Dr. Mom (she is actually a dr) even though it was his right foot! I was so mad about that. He has an appointment in a few hours for x-rays. Fingers crossed he doesn’t need surgery, but he does have decent insurance whatever the verdict, thank god.

  4. This hits on everything! And some things I have totally not done but definitely should have (ahem walk abouts WITH the landlord). We have been supremely lucky to always receive our deductible, but my peace of mind is always satisfied by my partner’s meticulous photo-taking when we move in and out. Also dear Piggy I am so sorry to hear about your lead climb disaster on top of unemployment. I hope you will be back on your feet soon (double entendre intended)!

  5. RE: utilities, I found in my apartment-dwelling days that, if given enough notice, the electric/gas/etc company was usually willing/able to overlap the two properties by a few days (to avoid the dreaded “no electricity two days before you move” experience). I never lived in a communal house, so I’m not sure how that would work; but the worst that can happen is the utility company says no, right?

    Aside to K&P: When we moved out of the “hotboxing neighbor” apartment, the management (this was one of the major property management corporations) tried to keep our security deposit with several bogus damage claims, such as: the ancient Shih Tzu had created horrific messes on the carpet; huge holes in the walls (which were painted an entirely different color in their photos); and damage to the wood floors. Unfortunately (for them), we had several friends who were former residents, and the management company used *the exact same photos* to claim they also owed damages from their security deposits. I had also taken both photos and video before turning in the keys, so it was hard for them to make a convincing claim that the damage was legit. (We did eventually get our deposit back, but it required Permanent Roommate doing the Scary Attorney thing; and was entirely more hassle than it was really worth, from a $$ perspective. But the principle, man. The *principle*!)

    All in all, not sorry to have left that particular apartment. But I cannot stress enough how important it is to do the final walk-through with the landlord/management representative, and to maintain your own documentation of the space after you’ve vacated. #lessonslearned

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