Although she cleans up well, once you check under the surface...
January 3, 2014 7:28 PM   Subscribe

I just moved into a furnished apartment (in Ontario, Canada) that I knew would have some of the owner's knick-knacks and belongings... but I didn't realize just how much stuff would be here. This is for a (relatively) short-term stay. How can I politely (and does it need to be polite?) request that I need some of her stuff cleared out?

When I agreed to rent the place, I knew that there would be some stuff left behind. When I showed up, it was clear that was the case, but it seemed that it would be no worries when I got the keys. However, now that I've started unpacking my stuff, I realize that the problem is much, much worse than I thought.

Some of the shelves have books on them which is a bit annoying, but not the end of the world. If that were it, I'd be fine. However...

Places that have too much stuff:

The desk drawers are crammed full of papers and the like. The storage space above the entry-way is full. The space under the bed is packed full of boxes. The bedroom closet has a bunch of old shelves from some dresser (with no obvious dresser in sight). There are some chests in the den that are full of stuff as well, including quite the collection of (empty) mason jars.

The place is pretty clean, otherwise, and in part this is "my fault" for not checking each of these areas first. But seriously, who actually checks that the desk drawers are empty in a furnished place? Most of these places are places that I think were perfectly reasonable to assume would be vacant and so never bothered to check until I started putting things away.

I think that this is really a miscommunication on our parts: She told me that she is a bit of a packrat and that some things were going to be left behind. I assumed that she meant the things that I could actually see on the shelves, not that which fills all of the other spaces.

My partner and I will not have room to store all of our stuff here, unless we're willing to make it even more cluttered, which neither of us want. So what can we do? Should I even worry about being polite? Considering that she lives in another (~2 hours away) city, how do I get her to deal with this mess?
posted by vernondalhart to Human Relations (16 answers total)
Personally, I would get some boxes,big envelopes, etc. and just neatly pack up all the drawers and such up, then try and stack it up neatly somewhere out of the way.
posted by stormygrey at 7:34 PM on January 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

"We must have misunderstood how much you were going to leave behind. Realistically, we are paying rent for space that has no storage for our personal belongings. Because of this, wed'd like to .... ". And since you did not specifically mention what YOU want out of this situation, suggest the following options from her:

A). Receive a reduction in rent
B). Request that she come back within a reasonable period of time and remove some of her belongings

Then follow up with the consequences that you feel are adequate, i.e. If condition A is not met, then xxxx will happen.
posted by HeyAllie at 7:38 PM on January 3, 2014 [11 favorites]

How long is the stay? Is it more than a few weeks? I would either:

a) Move stuff into a box that you can tuck into an unused part of the place and then put the stuff back the way I found it before moving out -- she probably won't notice and what if she does? She left it there knowing a stranger would touch it and can't really get mad.


b) Just ask permission to clear out some drawers and shelves you want to use and offer to put them in a box for her that you can either put in a closest somewhere or give her to take. "I wanted to use the top desk drawer and the shelves in the closet and I was wondering if I could carefully move that stuff into a box for the duration of my stay? Thanks!" If you really want the stuff completely gone, ask if she can take some of it away. But I don't think you need to open with "Hey lady, this isn't what I agreed upon and I want a reduction in rent." Just nicely ask and she what she says. Escalate only if necessary, especially if you think this lady seems nice and reasonable.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:39 PM on January 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ah, I should perhaps have been more clear. The "short" stay is a six-month stay, not just a few weeks.

Moreover, as much as it'd be great to just put her stuff in a box while we're here, the problem is that there is too much of her stuff to put in one box, and the place is small enough that if we put things in a box, we would have nowhere really to put that box.
posted by vernondalhart at 7:43 PM on January 3, 2014

In that case, do ask if she can clear out some of the drawers and shelves for you to use and offer to throw the stuff in a box or boxes for her. At least that's what I'd do. If she refuses, then I'd be tougher about it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:45 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

In your request, I would stress to her that you don't have enough space for your belongings. That both conveys the importance and softens it a little bit (you're not just asking to be grumpy to her, you have a legit concrete need for stuff to be gone.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:51 PM on January 3, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think the easier you make it for her to comply with your request, the likelier you'll get to a resolution. I'd call her and say (nicely) something like "For this to work out we're going to need to use that space, so I'm going to pack this stuff in a big box for you and make it easy for you to transport all at once, ok? When can you pick it up? Thursday? I'll have it on the curb for you."
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:08 PM on January 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

This just happened to a colleague in a 3 month sabbatical stay. She packed up all their stuff and put it in boxes in the basement. Is there anywhere like that around? This is what happens when you rent out your place.
posted by k8t at 8:10 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Explain that there is no room for your stuff, and tell her you're willing to box her junk and arrange to put it in a storage unit. Of course, she pays the unit rental. As a favor to her, you will pick the boxes up and return them to the apartment when you leave.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:18 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is what rented storage lockers are for. HeyAllie's opening line--"We must have misunderstood how much you were going to leave behind. Realistically, we are paying rent for space that has no storage for our personal belongings."--is polite and clear. Next line is "so put your junk in storage". I would not offer to pack and move stuff that she should have moved before you moved in. You are renting a furnished apartment, not an occupied apartment.
posted by domnit at 8:24 PM on January 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I hear implicit criticism in "we are paying rent for space that has no storage for our personal belongings." That makes it sound ridiculous. She doesn't know how much stuff you have, so unless there's literally zero storage, it seems unfair. I'd go with a more neutral way of explaining that you do not have enough room for storage for your stuff.
posted by salvia at 8:40 PM on January 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Unless you're paying considerably less than market rate for the apartment, she needs to arrange to pack and remove most of her things ASAP. You're not a guest and you're not paying to live in someone's storage unit. A furnished apartment comes with furniture, dishes, and some decorations. It shouldn't come with desks, closets, and cabinets filled with someone else's belongings.

If the apartment rent is a great deal and much less than similar apartments in the area, now you know why.
posted by quince at 8:54 PM on January 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

What does your lease say? What was on the inventory you signed when you moved in?
posted by goo at 10:07 PM on January 3, 2014

Prioritise the spaces you need and then send her an email:

Hi Landlady:

Thanks for the keys and the foo - we are settling into the apartment and the neighbourhood and are so glad to have found your rental. Previously, though, when you told me some things were going to be left behind for this furnished rental, I assumed that you meant the things that I could actually see on the shelves, not that which fills all of the other spaces.

With the desk drawers filled, overhead closet spaces containing boxes and underbed storage space used up, we do not have enough room for our own possessions in the apartment. What would you suggest in terms of proceeding so that we can have more storeage space utility for the duration of this rental?

posted by DarlingBri at 5:18 AM on January 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

I'm going to quibble a bit: this isn't a furnished rental, it's a short-term sabbatical sublet. It's not like a furnished apartment, which is a vacant suite that the landlord has put some furniture in -- you're living in someone's house. It's like living with with a temporarily absent roommate, and just like living with a roommate, you need to be prepared to negotiate with their stuff.

I have done this every summer for a decade -- renting my place to another person while I rented an apartment that's been temporarily vacated by someone who is leaving the city I'm researching in to research somewhere else. What I normally negotiate for a summer sublet is 1) the closets and dresser drawers in the bedroom will be empty 2) the bathroom cabinets will be empty (but the towels and linens will be there) 3) the office will have clear surfaces and one or two shelves and drawers emptied for my use and that 4) the fridge and a bit of space (one cabinet) will be cleared in the kitchen. The storage spaces will be all be full -- usually with boxes of the stuff that's been moved to make space for me! I will use their internet, cook using their kitchen stuff and use their linens for their bed.

If you've arrived with minimal stuff -- suitcases, your laptops, one or two boxes of books and papers and a few personal effects -- and there's not enough space, then tell her what you need to move and ask her what you should do with it. She may be able to store boxes with a friend for a few months.

If you have brought lots and lots of stuff (you're moving) or if you want every drawer and cabinet to be empty, you probably need to rent a storage locker yourselves.

If it makes you feel better, you're probably not paying the full rent for the apartment, and even if you are, furnished places (which are usually awful) are usually priced much higher than unfurnished suites. They're comparable to a long-stay hotel. It's better to deal with the mason jars.
posted by jrochest at 12:47 PM on January 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I agree with jrochest. When I sublet someone's home, I expect their stuff to be in it. I appreciate it when they make space for me - but I expect people leave their home basically as is. If I were in your scenario I'd write to her and just say, "Hi Person, We love the apartment but are having a tough time figuring out where to put our things away. Would it be possible for us to have the use of X, Y and Z? We'd be happy to box up the items that are currently in those locations and ship them to you if you send us a mailing label or have it ready for you to pick up."

When I sublet my own home I do make space for other people's stuff...but I'd be very surprised to get an email essentially telling me my things were boxed up and would be on the curb Thursday.

Remember, you're not renting a furnished apartment, you're subletting someone's home. You deserve to be comfortable - but it is their home.
posted by arnicae at 8:47 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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