Have you ever made small, temporary and reversible changes around your apartment to improve the look of your space, completely and fully intending to put everything back in its place when you move out? You'll want to read this quick, surprisingly obvious but incredibly important guide to ensuring you can put everything back the way it was when you moved in when the time comes to move out.
First step, of course, is to open the line of communication with your landlord and share your plans, even if the small changes you have planned wouldn't permanently alter or damage their property.
Now, you may have already developed your own way of keeping track of changes and stuff. But if this is your first foray into the world of rental customization or you've done a terrible job in the past of keeping track of changes, keep these ideas in mind next time you whip your screwdriver out on a restless rental day:
Step one: Keep an ongoing, easy-to-find list of what you do
Start a list — Preferably a digital one on your computer and/or phone of each change you make. Organize it by room, jotting down what you've done, what the original condition was, what date you made the changes and where you'll be storing any elements of the property you plan on hiding.
Step two: Take pictures
Don't just take pictures of what the rental looked like before you delved into customizing it...take pictures of the process of taking apart things, too. I once had this apartment with really old metal kitchen cabinets that had these insanely complicated metal hinges you had to twist in a hundred directions to get in and out of the base. Having photos of the process made putting the doors back up way easier.
Step three: Mark original elements clearly and temporarily
Also with those cabinets, I marked on masking tape with a sharpie the directions they went in, which side went up and what order they went into. You might undertake similar efforts when it comes to marking the right side up of an item and more.
Step four: Keep it all safe and in one spot
Don't just tuck that ugly ceiling fixture into the closet behind the water heater (I think I've done this like in every apartment I've ever rented). Go get yourself a nice-sized plastic storage container, some bubble wrap and whatever else you need to safely store the items you'll have to replace when it comes time to move. Wrap things up so they don't break. Know that when it comes time to move out, you'll know where everything is — all in the same spot! Or if your landlord seems open to the idea, ask them if they'd like to hold on to the items you've removed.
Step five: Fix any mistakes or breaks NOW
Accidents might happen, but don't store things in a broken state. Not only will doing that damage it more, storing it damaged might make it impossible to fix later, or you might forget how it needs to be fixed. Confront any problems that come up directly and honestly.