Undoing the Nest

One of the things I preferred not to think about over the course of the 13-months I lived in my apartment was the process of undoing the work I did. I knew all along, of course, that I’d eventually have to return the apartment to something resembling its original condition for my security deposit’s sake, yet still I went about things like I owned the damn place. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, I decided early on, and forged ahead with doing basically whatever the hell I wanted in the meantime. So, in spite of rational logic and often my better judgment, I painted and nailed holes in walls and changed light fixtures, among many other offenses. I had a running mental list entitled “THINGS TO DO WHEN I MOVE OUT” filed somewhere in a back corner of my brain, because I’m responsible like that.

Finally, I sat down and committed said list to paper while I was in Las Vegas, freaked out a little, and went about performing each task. This, while also cleaning, packing, and purging all my shit and disassembling most of my furniture, of course. I’ll admit there was a moment of brief paralysis and a short temper tantrum was had over making my apartment all ugly again, but as soon as I got going it’s actually been kind of fun in its own sickening little way. Some of the things below I’ve done already and some are still left to do before I officially have to be out on Tuesday! Please, gentle stranger, give me strength:

-Remove hooks from door
-Rehang towel rod
-Remove roller blind
-Patch, sand, and paint holes in door
-Prime and paint walls white

-Remove spice racks, baking sheet holders, and shopping bag holder from inside of cabinets
-Remove Orange Glow light, rehang old light fixture
-Rehang old cabinet door hardware
-Remove curtain and curtain rod
-Patch, sand, and paint walls white

-Patch, sand, and touch-up paint on walls
-Remove roller blind from window
-Remove fabric from doors, clean glass (this was SUPER EASY, in case you were wondering. The fabric peeled right off and a little Windex got rid of any lingering cornstarch paste!)

-Take down roller blinds
-Rehang security gate on window leading to fire escape (Yes, I took it down. No, I never got robbed. Success!)
-Patch, sand, and touch-up paint on walls
-Remove Bubble Lamp
-Spray paint old light fixture gold and rehang

-Rehang closet doors
-Prime and paint interior of closet white

Phew. I think that basically covers it? Maybe I’ll get extra special lucky and discover that I actually created more work for myself that’s slipped my mind? Dare to dream.

Worth it, I still say.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 6.12.11
    megan said:

    pretty unrelated, but on the subject of roller blinds…any suggestions for good cheap ones now that ikea recalled all of theirs?

    • 6.13.11
      Daniel said:

      No, not really! I’m going through the same thing myself, since a few of the windows in my new apartment are too wide for me to recycle the ones I already own. So frustrating!

      On the bright side, apparently they’ve just discontinued them temporary while they redesign, so hopefully they’ll be back sooner rather than later with something similar enough. I’ve seen some solar shade-type blinds at home depot that filter light nicely, but they aren’t nearly as cheap. Crossing my fingers for the Enje’s speedy return!

    • 6.14.11
      Laura said:

      I had the same issue recently (no enjes) and found nice, light-filtering, custom blinds here. http://www.selectblinds.com/roller-shades.html. They’re around $30 each but buy 3 get one free and free shipping. And they’re custom, so no cutting. Best of luck with your new place!!

  2. 6.12.11

    You’re a better man that me. Faced with that kind of task list, I’d probably just throw out the security deposit like a fuzzy Tupperware container. Can’t wait to see what you do with your new place!

  3. 6.12.11
    Emily said:

    I have to say that I’m pleased to see this stage in the whole moving out business, since no one ever covers this aspect of things. “Throw caution to the wind!” they say. “Paint all of the walls. Drill a million holes! Who cares?!” they exalt into the blogosphere. Um, I care. I wish I didn’t, but I need that move out deposit check in a serious way. Moving is expensive! Kinda sucks to go back on all of the obvious IMPROVEMENTS you made to the place in that year, but hey – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Nice that you can move a lot of those to your Brooklyn Nest.

    I’m not moving, but my roommate is, and so I’m getting a small sense of what it’s like to separate from someone and have to sort through your stuff. Now that I’ll be living with someone with almost no furniture, I want to up the ante around here a bit. Goodbye, particle board! Hello, MCM solid wood dresser I got from Craigslist today for 30 bucks!

  4. 6.13.11
    Meade said:

    Just went through the same thing with my dorm, though not quite as heavily. Re-lofting beds, painting over scratches with white-out…quite a scene. But at the end of the day, we got all of our security deposit back. You go, Daniel!

    • 6.13.11
      Meade said:

      Oh,sub-question: where have you been storing all of this stuff: the security bars, old shades, etc? It must have been a pain in the butt to hold on to, especially when all you want to do is kick it to the curb.

    • 6.13.11
      Daniel said:

      Most of it went in the big IKEA Pax wardrobe in my bedroom! I kept everything pretty organized in labelled plastic bags and whatnot so I’d know where everything was when it came time to put it all back up!

      (the big security gate thing was in the 9″ gap between the wall and the side of the wardrobe, seen here!)

  5. 6.13.11
    Charlotte said:

    Urgh, I feel your pain. Have faced this many times over the past 10 or so years and will be moving again this summer–but this time from a rental to our first owned house. Hurrah! You can have all my leftover positive moving energy :-)

  6. 6.13.11
    Janet said:

    We move house every three years. Not only do we move house we move country (read; different size windows, ceiling heights, styles, floors etc etc etc) makes one quite imaginative. On the note of deposits; last place we lived in I left it in better shape than when we arrived but when we moved out the owners summarily deducted $1500 (1000 euros) from our deposit for a supposed ‘stain’ on the stair carpet (she claimed they ‘had to change the carpet on the stairs, in the hallway and the first floor corridor to keep it coherent’ WTF?*@X?! I wish I hadn’t bothered. (not all landlords are as dishonest thankfully).
    Give us more gory details about the move.

    • 6.13.11
      Daniel said:

      Oof, that sucks! I really don’t know my landlords very well at all… they seem like decent people, but of course I’ll let you know what happens with the deposit, etc.! I’ve definitely heard horror stories about NY landlords withholding big chunks of deposits without good cause, so I’m cautiously optimistic about mine.

  7. 6.13.11
    Deborah said:

    In my head, I see you leaving the apartment exactly as you have fixed it and the landlord is so ecstatic with all of the changes that he actually doubles your deposit back to you.

    No? Rats.

    Renting is a crazy world. I can’t wait to see the new place.

  8. 6.13.11
    Christine said:

    You are a trooper for being so thorough. A question – have you thought to ask the incoming tenants if they’d like to keep any of your proposed changes? I’m sure you want to take the more pricy items with you, but for the small mods and painting, it’s possible they might prefer to live with them and make the changes themselves when *they* move out.

    • 6.13.11
      Daniel said:

      I really don’t have any way of talking to the new tenants directly without the landlord disclosing their contact information, which they’re probably not even allowed to do (and certainly not inclined to do!). I did ask the landlord, just in case, whether I HAD to repaint or if the new tenants liked the existing colors, and they confirmed that I do. At the end of the day it’s REALLY not about what the new tenants want, it’s about returning the apartment to its “original” condition so that my changes wouldn’t eventually become the landlord’s responsibility in the future.

    • 6.13.11
      Christine said:

      Oh, damn. Well, at least you tried. I understand the logic of it all, but repainting a wall… how discouraging.

  9. 6.13.11
    elissa said:

    Geez, I’m definitely too lazy for all that. I left almost all of my improvements in my last apartment. I figured (and aparently my landlord agreed) that as long as a future tenant would see it as an improvement, it was okay. I switched out the light fixture I changed because I wanted to keep it, not because I though my landlord liked the hideous 70s thing that was there. I patched holes from hanging art, but that’s about it. I guess it depends on the landlord and the nature of the improvements.

  10. 6.13.11
    o said:

    Have you considered asking your landlord what they want you to do?

    Nicely installed towel hooks or new blinds in the bathroom are probably not something you need to take down. Same with the gold-to-black fixture…landlord probably won’t even know the differance.

    I would think the only thing you *really* need to do is go back to white and remove the fixtures and things that you want to keep for the new place. Even painting back to white may not be necessary in the bathroom if you ask the landlord about it.

    Also…keep in mind that it is quite hard for a landlord to withhold a security deposit legally. They will need to fully document everything they had to fix beyond wear and tear and can only withhold the actual cost from you (and they have to actually fix it…if they yell at you about the light fixture but don’t actually paint it gold or replace it, they can’t do anything)

    • 6.13.11
      Daniel said:

      Yep, I’ve talked to them! The big things are definitely painting the kitchen and bathroom, and beyond that I’ve chosen to do almost everything else, pretty much. I’m sure they’d be more than happy to keep my roller blinds (only the kitchen window had a blind when I moved in, which I tossed because it was disgusting), but I want them for the new place. Same with light fixtures.

      I know I could probably leave some more stuff undone and maybe it would be okay, but a lot of this stuff is pretty simple for me to do and I don’t want to give them a reason to take money out of my deposit if I can help it!

    • 6.21.11
      A said:

      Does your landlord know that you are an awesome and popular shelter blogger???? with style out the ying yang????

    • 6.23.11
      Daniel said:

      Golly, I hope not! I feel like that could get a lease application rejected faster than I can type “DIY”!

  11. 6.13.11
    Charlene said:

    A packing tip…When you pack up your kitchen, stack all your plates together in nice piles (same with cups, bowls etc) and wrap them up with plastic wrap (saran wrap). It keeps them nice and snug so you can toss them in a box and when you unpack, no washing necessary. This is what caterers do…Best of luck!

  12. 6.13.11
    Carol said:

    Out of curiosity, what did your landlord think of the beautiful redone bathroom vanity? Or has that not been discussed?

    • 6.13.11
      Daniel said:

      Hasn’t (and hopefully won’t be!) been discussed!

  13. 6.13.11
    Jennifer said:

    Wow! I seriously would never be as thorough. Good on ya! Going completely off topic…It is big garbage day in my neighbour and people are getting rid of all sorts of good stuff…When I see a cool table of chairs I think of you Daniel! So much good stuff for free! Oh and Value Village is the best place to get great shit.

    Have a great move!

  14. 6.14.11
    nicolezh said:

    Invest in good high pigmented paint that won’t make a mess while applying and coat after one or two layers. That’s my matra when it comes to painting and moving.

  15. 6.14.11
    Alicia said:

    I left this in my 2008-2009 apartment on the UES: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aliciaphoto/2962194821/in/set-72157603808870141 (pegboard-covered wall and custom-made shelves)… I just hung a note on it that said in sum, look, I cut these shelves to perfectly fit this wall, this kitchen is small as hell and your next tenant will probably appreciate it. I also had painted every room in the apartment and didn’t change a thing when I left, but when I received it, they were painted even worse colors (the kitchen was salmon orange and the bathroom was a dark turquoise!). But I got 100% of my deposit back. :)

    Anyway, can’t wait to see your new place and I can totally see why you’re doing all this work because risking losing the deposit is surely nervewracking!

  16. 6.14.11
    annie said:

    I appreciate the thoroughness of your list and it reminds I’d better get started on a similar list of “undoing” tasks for my rental as I prepare to move out of state. I was lucky in my last move that the new tenant wanted to keep the colors I had painted, including a ridiculously-time-consuming-for-a-rental stencil job in the bedroom. Here’s to hoping that the next renters of my current place like color and pattern on the walls as much as I do and I don’t have to repaint a thing!

    It does suck to spend time and money making a space I’ve personalized more drab to “please” the apartment-hunting public, but in the end, like you, I find it so worth it to have made all the changes (down to the damn switch plate covers) while I’ve lived somewhere. It’s really only a few days of inconvenience to undo the changes and upgrades I got to enjoy for years. I don’t want to feel like I’m just transient wherever I live; I want to feel like I’m at my own home.

    Good luck in your move! I look forward to seeing the new place all done up!

    Side note: I started reading your blog in the middle of your adventure in helping your friend in Portland set up house. Such an entertaining and informative series — loved reading it!

  17. 6.14.11
    Mom said:

    I feel bad for those poor new tenants who saw the apartment at its best and now get to occupy it without all your improvements. I’d be pissed if I were them. I’d expect to rent it the way I saw it, minus like light fixtures and window treatments. If that Landlord doesn’t get, he just doesn’t get it. I have words for those people but I don’t care to use that language online.

    • 6.14.11
      Mom said:

      BTW, it starts with a p and ends with icks. Fill in the blank. I couldn’t help myself.

    • 6.15.11
      Janet said:

      PicknICKS? LOL

  18. 6.15.11
    JKB said:

    from the comments it’s easy to see that you come by your coolness and sense of humour honestly- your Mom is awesome!

  19. 7.22.11
    Sinclaire said:

    Wow, you are *such* a nice tenant to change it all back! I act like I own my rental too and I would never, ever change it all back and force some poor unfortunate soul to live in that mess how I found it. Angry landlords, be damned! We are improving their piece-of-shit housing and should be forever grateful to people like us :)