5 Mistakes You'll Make The Next Time You Move

Most people think that moving to a new apartment is a wonderful experience: You pile into a car with all your friends, drive for a few hours, get a hotel, and then spend three days dropping acid while riding roller coasters. But, sadly, that's a common misconception: What I've just described is "taking a trip to Disneyland." In reality, "moving" is when you pack your entire life into boxes, drag those boxes several miles (or several hundred miles) closer to your ultimate goal of being dead, lose half the boxes, spend all your money, stub your toe really bad, and then fall asleep on your box springs because you locked your mattress and your keys inside the U-Haul.

But, don't worry -- moving is balls, and I've done it enough (the longest I've ever lived in one city is 2.5 years; I did it from 2011-2014 in Seattle, and I moved six times during that period, and I'm moving again right now) to where I've figured out what the big pitfalls are. The big mistakes. The big "Life Un-Hacks," if you will. Oh, you won't? "Mistakes" is fine, then.

#5. Trying To Get Back At Your Old Landlord

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Listen, I've sung several verses in the "Song of Slumlord Sorrow" before, so, when you share your stories, I sympathize. We've all had landlords who refused to fix broken ovens, didn't care when sewage erupted from our kitchen sink at 2 a.m., refused to replace the window that a meth addict broke in November, and kept "forgetting" to turn the heat on or, ya know, have it installed. I've battled ant colonies big and advanced enough to have their own rudimentary currencies, and I've had fistfights with rats the size of rottweilers for dominion over the bathroom. And the whole time, I blamed the landlord -- because it's his or her goddamn fault.

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I probably should've picked up on some hints.

By the time I was moving out of this particularly crappy basement in Seattle, the concept of cleaning the place up to get my deposit back seemed ridiculous. The place was cleaner than it ever had been because the simple act of living there had kept most of the invasive species out. "So, now I'm supposed to clean it up more, just so this asshole can have an easier time renting it when I'm out and not give me my deposit back, anyway?" I said. "To hell with that."

This is a trap, and it's exactly what landlords want. The thing most people don't realize is that the owner in a lease agreement can't just return or keep a deposit on a whim -- there are laws in place to protect renters (more on that in a moment) -- and even though those laws don't usually get followed, they do end up mattering because, just like you, landlords are trying to avoid a big hassle. They want to keep your deposit, but they also don't want to end up in small-claims court. And they know that the more effort you put into cleaning up your home, the more likely you are to go that extra mile. Sure, scrubbing down your entire home with bleach and a toothbrush until you're bleeding out the tips of your fingernails isn't fun, and it's also not a guarantee you'll get your whole deposit back -- because some states are less protective than others and some landlords are the walking malignant butt-hole tumors who weird dark lawyer magic to ruin the lives of everyone they come into contact with. But, if you really need that cash -- and the more likely you are to have a shitty landlord, the more likely you are to need that extra check -- it's totally worth the effort.

So, mix some toothpaste, water, and vinegar together in a bowl to make homemade Spackle, and smooth it over all the holes left from the tacks holding up your Jem And The Holograms posters (I'm not here to judge!). Or, even splurge by going down to the hardware store and buying some real Spackle, as well as a Spackle-applier-thingy. You know the tool I'm talking about. It costs like $3.

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My point is, you can be shitty at tools and still clean up some drywall.

Even if you don't get your full amount back, then at least you fucking went for it, man. At least you gave them hell.

#4. Not Realizing How Many Rights You Have

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At first glance, the whole "leasing" game seems explicitly designed to screw us renters. All the pressure is on our side, after all: Landlords are the ones doing credit checks and demanding deposits and picking from all our desperately upstretched hands, while we're the ones rushing around town filling out as many rental applications as we can to escape the looming spectre of homelessness. Then, after we've signed that blood-contract, any issues with our new home immediately become our issues: No electricity? No running water? Colony of spider-creatures living in your shower drain? Too bad, sucker: You signed a lease, and they own your soul now.

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There's a serious blood-magic problem in the housing industry, but that's for another article.

Except that's not really true. There are all kinds of options available to you, and, actually, tenants have more rights now than they ever have had in human history. In California, for example, if your home becomes "untenantable" and your landlord doesn't fix it when you ask, you can just stop paying rent and leave with no repercussions. Landlords may not have to fix minor issues like peeling paint, but they do have to fix carbon monoxide leaks and an invading army of street-snakes. Sure, your rights are usually written in what appears to be the Language of Mordor, but if you're curious about whether or not your particular problem is worth ditching your apartment, then look into free legal clinics (here's one in my old hometown of Seattle I've heard good things about) that can explain your rights. And if shit gets real bad, you can hit up small-claims court, where you don't even need a lawyer.

The hardest thing to do is to convince yourself it's worth the time and effort to figure this shit out, and that's what the landlords are counting on. They like how everything's written in confusing legal jargon, and you need a lawyer to figure anything out because that always gives the wealthy an advantage over the poor. Their dice just has more sides than yours, and, also, your dice are blank, and you thought you were playing an entirely different edition of Dungeons & Dragons than you really were. Even in the best case scenario, figuring all of this out is an annoying time commitment. But, if you really need your deposit (and again, if you have a slumlord, you probably do), then you have a better shot than you realize, and it's worth taking it.

#3. Forgetting That Every Problem You Have Is Already Solved

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Did you know that you can get all your mail forwarded from your old place if you ask nicely? Seriously, just go right here. It's like a dollar. And if you're just made of cash and decide to pay $18 a week, you can even have it sent by Priority Mail to you anywhere. It's not perfect, because nothing is, but it gives you some extra time to get all those addresses changed (like, a straight year). Plus, each letter that gets forwarded comes with a helpful yellow sticker saying, "Hey bro, remember to change this address."

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Hey bro, you forgot your dog.

The thing is, missing bills and payments don't just screw you, they screw everyone: the people you owe money to, the people who need you to do your job, your landlord -- silly bureaucratic nonsense isn't a problem isolated to you. It's an inefficiency in the system. And even though it feels like the system is evil and broken and working against you, it actually does want to maintain itself -- even if that means helping you out. So, yes, there's a good way to fix your address change.

Even when you can't find a form to sign or a government-funded solution, then -- unless you're moving into a shack in the middle of the desert -- you'll still have neighbors, and it's super useful to ask them for help. Trying to figure out which of the two possible Internet providers is better? How to get your bed up that narrow flight of stairs? The best place to score weed? Ask your neighbors because they've already done all that, probably multiple times. Regardless if they can't physically help you out, they'll probably be happy to answer the question because a lot of human beings are actually pretty rad folk.

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J.F. Sargent

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