Subletting 101: 9 Must-Read Tips To Ensure Success

If you’re thinking about subletting your apartment, lucky you! It means you get to return to your home once you’re done living it up somewhere else.

Before you hand over your keys, though, be sure to prep your place for its new dwellers. Whether you’re listing on Airbnb for a weekend, or traveling for an extended period of time, a few smart actions will make you and your home top hosts.

And if you do nothing else, be sure to declutter with abandon … and then declutter some more. This will not only make your sublessee happy, but your home will also be the better for it. As the saying goes, clutter piles do not make good friends. (I made that up, but it’s most likely true.)

Ready to learn how to sublet an apartment?

Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks. Here are my top tips on getting your place ready to sublet:

1. Work backwards

a hand-lettered calendar hanging above a desk with flowers on it
Delineate Your Dwelling

What this really means is picking the date that you need to be out by, and count the days backwards to today.

For instance, if you want to be out of your current home by November 1st, maybe you’ll find you have 50 days to get your place rent-ready. (This handy date calculator will help you do the math quickly).

Working backwards does two things:

  1. It forces you to pick an exit date (if you haven’t already). In productivity circles they call this accountability. We call it lighting a fire under your bum.
  2. It shows you exactly how long you have.

You may think that 50 days is enough time, but if you’re juggling work, friends, and training your rescue pit bull, then it gets tricky. If you’re realistic about this part, you’re going to have a much smoother time with your subletting project.

When you’re looking at your calendar, don’t include holidays, busy work days, or weeks when you have other stuff already planned. You’re just setting yourself up for stress.

So even though you write down “I have 50 available days to get my apartment ready to sublet,” it may turn out only 20 of those days are viable. This is where you may have to ask yourself whether you need to push back the exit date, or say “no” to some of your social calendar.

The truth will set you free!

2. Tour your apartment

the entryway to a home with a hanging chandelier
Life on Virginia Street

When I have a big home project like this, what helps is to physically walk through each room and make a master list. Consider starting in the driveway, and walking through the front door.

What you might first consider overkill is actually leaving no stone unturned. You don’t want to get to Day 49 and realize you haven’t forwarded your mail yet.

Some pointers:

  1. Start on one side of the room and work your way around. Remember, you don’t have to actually do any of the tasks yet. You’re simply auditing what needs to get done.
  2. Open cabinets and drawers, look under beds, and check in boxes. Be thorough.
  3. Have a step-stool handy so you can reach those top shelves.
  4. This process is made easier by listening to your favorite radio, Spotify, or Sirius station (my current fave is Yacht Rock on SiriusXM).

3. Write to-dos on your calendar

A closeup of a DIY cork board desk organizer
Sugar and Cloth

Look at your master list and decide how long each task will take, then plug it into your calendar. This will ensure that you have accounted for enough time to get each job done.

My favorite app for permanently housing these tasks is Todoist. You might create a project called “Sublet Home,” and type in the things that need your attention. From there, you can assign due dates, schedule reminders, and share the list if you’re working on this project with a roommate or significant other.

Free Bonus: How To Share An Apartment With Your Significant Other (Without Driving Each Other Nuts)

4. Use these five tools and resources

a self-made study nook with a desk and floating shelves
A House Full of Sunshine
  1. A Sharpie and pack of Post-its are my go-to for labeling “Donation” versus “Sell,” and everything in between.
  2. While Craigslist is still a favorite for selling stuff, the app world has opened the door for a multitude of platforms that allow you to declutter responsibly.
  3. NextDoor is another local platform where you can not only sell or donate belongings, but also ask for recommendations for everything from a handyman to a plumber.
  4. Stuffster is relatively new, but that doesn’t stop it from making big promises. Once your pics are uploaded, the app matches you with places to donate, sell, or even let friends know what items you’re getting rid of so they can pick them up.
  5. If you prefer to donate your stuff to charity, check out MakeSpace’s comprehensive guide on where to donate your old clothes, books, furniture, toys, cell phones, and more.

5. List your apartment on these sublet sites

DIY cork boards hang above a desk with plants
The Merry Thought

Similar to online dating, there are so many places to list your sublet. Unlike online dating, though, most sites charge. So do your homework! Ask friends where they have had the best experiences, and go from there.

Here are my top three spots to list your sublet:

  1. The Listings Project (mainly NYC, but they’re expanding to other locations). I like to call this a curated Craigslist, but it’s honestly even better than that. The listings are top quality, and it’s actually the site from which we found our diamond in the rough in Brooklyn. I cannot recommend it enough.
  2. Sabbatical Homes lets brainiacs list their places for $45 ($65 for non-academics).
  3. Your favorite social media network. If you can keep it in the family (so to speak), you’ll ease some of the anxiety that comes with renting out your pad to strangers.

6. Leave these thoughtful things behind for your sublessee

a closeup of under-the-sink organization
Copy Cat Chic

Less is usually more when it comes to leaving stuff for your sublessee. However, there are some nice, simple things you should leave behind to make his or her stay top-notch:

    • A coffee maker (bonus points if you leave coffee, too!), wine opener, and can opener
    • Cleaning supplies, a broom, and a working vacuum
    • A plunger for the bathroom
    • An umbrella
    • And while you don’t have to leave a lifetime supply, one of each of these items will be considered oh-so-helpful: body soap, dish soap, a packet of detergent, a roll of paper towels, toilet paper, and some trash bags.

7. Ask yourself these important questions

one side of a bed on top of a colorful carpet
This Little Street

No two sublets are the same, but here are some things to kick around in the old noggin:

  • Will you leave linens or ask them to BYO?
  • Will you consider pets, and if so, will you require a deposit?
  • How many sets of keys are you willing to dole out?

A sublease contract is a great way to keep it all in one place. Look to old rental contracts of your own. Or find a general sublease agreement online that you can repurpose for your needs, like these:

8. Pack like a pro

four wicker baskets for in-home storage
Ugly Duckling House

You don’t have to be a mover to pack like a pro. Reference this treasure trove of a blog post for tips on how to get all your belongings stored neatly into boxes: 41 Moving And Packing Tips To Make Your Move Dead Simple.

9. Call a storage pro

MakeSpace movers lifting a couch on the stairs

If you don’t have a basement, attic, or family home to unload your boxes, you’ll need a place to store your stuff until you return.

The service that I recommend to clients, friends, and family is MakeSpace. Their full-service storage is the best for many reasons, but here are the selling points for me:

    • I don’t have to rent a moving van.
    • I don’t have to deal with signing a contract or securing a self-storage unit.
    • I don’t have to hire anyone to move me.

MakeSpace makes it so easy to store and retrieve your stuff without actually having to do it yourself. They even create an online photo catalog of your stuff so when you need something back from storage, you simply click the item’s photo to have MakeSpace deliver it back to you.

Beth Penn is a professional organizer and author of the book, The Little Book of Tidying — an illustrated gift book that is part inspirational and part how-to while being light and airy (because decluttering can be emotional and sometimes a little heavy). The book uses science and psychology for insight as to how things come into our lives and why they stick around for so long. You can also find her in Los Angeles with her professional organizing business, Bneato Bar.