How to Prep Your Apartment When Going Away

Originally posted on January 13, 2023 3:00 pm
Updated on January 04, 2023 1:52 pm

Going away on vacation can be the perfect reprieve from bustling New York City life. It’s important to take rejuvenating time off work, explore other cities, or visit friends or family. It can be easy to forget small but important things like emptying the fridge or unplugging appliances while you’re busy packing a cute summer swimsuit or planning an exciting getaway. However, when leaving town for an extended stay, it’s necessary to prepare for your return. Just a few simple steps can help save energy, time, and money while you’re away and help you return to a clean, relaxing apartment. 

Apartment Preparation Tips

Save power and money

Be sure to unplug as many small devices as are available, while leaving larger ones like the refrigerator plugged in. Small appliances like toasters, mixers, lamps, and chargers can all be unplugged to save “standby power.” This will both improve the energy efficiency of the home as well as lower electric bills. When adjusting the temperature of the house, however, be careful. Though turning off air conditioning or heat may seem advisable, even empty homes are not suited to being kept in extreme cold or heat. In the summertime, warm apartments can trap air moisture causing wood to expand or mold to grow. In the winter, wood objects and furniture can contract and cause cracks or breaks in the wood. While it’s okay to toggle the temperature a few degrees to cut some costs and energy, try to avoid drastic changes in temperature.  

Clean what you can

Travel can be stressful, and coming home to a clean apartment can go a long way. Clean bedsheets, vacuumed floors, and wiped-down countertops will not only make you feel better, but help keep the space pristine while you are away. Though the refrigerator should remain plugged in, it’s a good idea to clean out any leftover or perishable food. Fruits, vegetables, and last week’s take-out are all things that will rot and cause unwanted smells in the fridge. If the apartment has a garbage disposal, it’s a good idea to let it run for a minute to ensure there’s no food still inside. Dishwashers should also be emptied (dirty dishes with food residue will get very nasty over the course of a week!) and the laundry machines should be emptied as well. Taking care of any soiled laundry in advance is an easy way to prevent both the clothes and your apartment from smelling musty. 

Look out for furry friends

Making plans for pets in the household may seem like a no-brainer, but preparation for leaving furry friends may be more involved than just making sure they are fed. Many pets will act out of character when left alone due to stress and isolation – some pets are prone to chewing or destruction when lonely. To avoid this, place any valuables out of reach of pets and consider turning couch or chair cushions on their side or putting them away. Any stuffed animals or pillows can be placed in a closet or otherwise out of sight as well. Lock any doors to rooms animals may not be allowed in, and ensure that your pet-sitter knows what objects or furniture may be “off-limits.” Be sure to store any pet food in an airtight container or the refrigerator to prevent both insects and hungry pets from trying to sneak in. 

Plant care

No one wants to return from a trip to find wilted flowers and brittle leaves awaiting them. Especially if your trip is longer than a week, making sure plants have plenty of light and water while left alone is crucial. If a neighbor or friend is visiting to take care of plants, you can make this easier by placing all of the plants in one spot to ensure none of them get missed. Be mindful of the light different species of plants may need, ensuring plants are placed in front of windows or in bright rooms. If you’re unable to have someone come over and take care of your house plants, self-watering devices like AquaGlobes can be placed in the soil of houseplants and help keep them watered for up to two weeks.

Notify building management

Especially in cases of long absence, it is advisable to notify your landlord or building management of your leaving. Some leases even have clauses mandating that tenants notify the landlord in event of an extended absence, as it can affect insurance policies for the building. The management doesn’t need to know the specifics of your whereabouts, but in case of emergency the building management should have an updated contact on file and know the date of departure and return. 

In the event rent is due while you are away, you can set up an automatic payment to avoid stress while gone. If paying online, be sure to have all the information gathered about how to pay on time to avoid any late or processing fees. Though the landlord can’t make tenants pay rent before the date agreed to on the lease, you can always cut a check in advance to avoid a headache later.

Forwarding mail

In New York City, many residents have in-building mailrooms or a small stoop to catch deliveries. Before leaving for a lengthy getaway, set up hold mail service at your local USPS post office or ask a trustworthy neighbor to grab packages. Not only is it considerate to your neighbors, putting a hold on deliveries can also deter any package thieves in the building. The United States Postal Service can hold mail for up to 30 days – requests can be made online or by filling out a Hold Mail form at the local post office.  

No unwanted visitors

Though the apartment may be empty, unwanted visitors can come in many kinds; you can protect against pesky critters such as roaches or mice by plugging the sink and shower drains to prevent any insects from coming through the pipes. Cleaning the space will also help deter any pests – be sure to take the trash out before leaving and make sure there is no food left out. On a larger scale, keeping a light or lamp on to make the space appear occupied can deter theft or crime in your absence. Some tenants even invest in doorbells with cameras or security cameras that can connect to phone apps, so as to watch the space while it’s empty. 

Renter’s insurance

Though no one enjoys planning for the worst case scenario, renter’s insurance is there in case of emergency. In the event of a storm, fire, or otherwise unfortunate circumstance, it is best to be covered while you are away. Check to be sure your policy is up to date before leaving the apartment for an extended period of time. You can also check the forecast while you are away to ensure that no preparations are needed for any incoming storms or inclement weather. 

Preparation leads to relaxation!

While planning for a trip away, preparing the place you are returning to may seem unimportant, yet careful preparation can lead to later relaxation and a peaceful return. Instead of coming home to rotting groceries and mildew, it is best to come home to a clean, cared for apartment. The fresh sheets on the bed, clean laundry, and happy plants and pets will ensure a wonderful return back home. 

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