What to do After You Signed a Lease


You’ve signed your lease, paid your rent and security deposit, and just picked up the key to your new place. The next step is getting the utilities turned on and in your name.

Your new landlord, manager, or agent probably has the names and numbers of the utility companies that service your area. You may even be able to transfer services from the previous tenants and avoid full setup charges. Be sure to ask. The utility companies are listed in your local phone book, or of course, you can ask your new neighbours for the companies’ names.

When you call to set up your new accounts, make sure you have your personal information handy, including:

  • Your driver’s license number or other identification information
  • Your Social Security number
  • The exact address of your new place
  • The day you want the services to start
  • Your employment information, including the company’s name, address, phone number, and the date you started working there
  • Your bank information, including a credit card number if you have one

Depending on your credit history or the utility company’s policy, you may be required to submit a deposit for the services. This will usually be returned to you after a certain amount of time, usually one year.

Since some utilities require more time than others to get setup, make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible after your rental agreement is finalized.

Water and Sewer. If your rental unit does not include the water and sewer, you will need to contact the Water Department.

Gas and Electric. These utilities are often combined or may require separate accounts. Generally, your account can be set up in a day.

Phone, Cable, and Internet. Depending on your area, these services may take several days or over a week to get in place. Be careful not to sign up for more services than you really need.

Garbage. Depending on where you live, you may need to set up an account with the Sanitation Department.

Reminder: If you are sharing expenses with a roommate, consider the arrangement regarding the responsibility of the utilities very carefully. Will the bill be in both your names? If so, your roommate will also need to provide the necessary application information to the service providers.


No matter how simple or involved your move may be, keep the following in mind:

Be prepared. Do whatever you can do ahead of time. If your new place requires any attention, such as cleaning or installing some shelf paper, now is the time to get it done. It will be much easier facing it now than waiting until after you’ve moved in.

  • Fill out a mail forwarding card from the post office. Be sure to include the date you want the forwarding to begin.
  • Notify everyone of your new address and phone number.
  • If you are moving out of town, wrap up any unfinished business. For example, did you get your dirty clothes out of your locker at the gym? Return your library books? Return everything you’ve borrowed from friends? Pick up your dry cleaning? Visit or call your family and friends?
  • If your pet is going with you and will need a new license or tag, make sure you have its immunization certificate.
  • If you are not using a moving company, make sure you have plenty of help. You may want to line up more support than you need just in case someone doesn’t show.
  • If you are renting or borrowing a truck, make sure it is one you can drive. Don’t get stuck with a stick shift if you can only drive an automatic.
  • Do you need to rent or borrow a dolly? This can make a huge difference if you are moving large, heavy items.
  • Think about where you are going to place your furniture. Even good friends run out of patience, picking up and putting down a couch a dozen times.
  • If you are planning to use a professional moving service, do some research to make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. Stay away from a company that gives you a quote over the phone or Internet without actually looking at your stuff, or from a company that wants cash or a very large deposit before the move. Obtain at least three legitimate estimates before you decide which company to use. The estimates will either be binding (you will not be charged more than the estimated amount) or nonbinding (there is no guarantee that the final cost will be as low or as high as the estimate.) Here again, you will be entering into a written agreement, so make sure you are aware of, and understand all the details. It is important not only to finalize the pick-up date and time but to make sure you will have your things delivered exactly when you need them. Get it in writing.

Gather these things to have available on moving day:

Moving Supplies

  • Can opener
  • Carton-sealing tape
  • Cleaning products and cleaning cloths
  • Dish soap
  • First aid kit that contains a pain reliever
  • Hand soap
  • Light bulbs
  • Paper cups for water or drinks
  • Paper towels
  • Snacks
  • Toilet paper
  • Tools: utility knife, hammer, screwdrivers, and pliers
  • Towels for the bathroom and kitchen
  • Trash bags

Moving Out

If you use any boxes that are not new, such as from the grocery store or a friend’s garage, check each one for insects and insect eggs. You don’t want to bring cockroaches or other insects into your new place inadvertently.

Even if you are only moving down the street, you’ll need to pack carefully.

  • Keep in mind that the heavier the item is, the smaller its box should be.
  • Heavy items go in the bottom of the box with smaller, lighter items on top.
  • Try to use unprinted newsprint instead of old newspapers to wrap items. Newspaper ink will rub off.
  • Prevent items from shifting in their box by crumpling up wrapping paper to fill all empty spaces. You can also use towels or clothes for this, but it makes unpacking more complicated.
  • Think about unpacking when you pack. Items that go together should be in the same box. Packing by room will make unpacking easier.
  • Clearly label your boxes’ bedroom, kitchen, and so on.
  • When loading the trailer or truck, be sure to put the heaviest things in first.
  • Carefully keep track of your valuables, important papers, and medications. Keep them with you.

Moving In

  • Turn on the refrigerator.
  • If you have not already done so, take time out on moving day to familiarize yourself with the electric circuit breaker or fuse box. Find the location of your gas and water main valves. Learn how to shut them off in an emergency situation.
  • Put the boxes in the rooms they are labelled to go in. This will help streamline the unpacking process. Keeping all the boxes together in the dining room, for example, and unpacking them one at a time may be neater, but may also involve more time and effort.
  • Prioritize your unpacking and setting up. For instance, set up and make your bed before you get too tired. If you have to go to work the next day, make sure you can find your clothes.
  • Once everything is moved in, take your time unpacking. If any item is dirty, now is the time to clean it. Consider very carefully the best way to set up your new home.

Reminder: If you have permanently changed states, you will need to get a new drivers license and change your vehicle registration. Also, contact the Board of Elections if you wish to register to vote.


Chances are you will organize your own place similarly to the home in which you grew up and were comfortable. The point here, though, is actually to do some thoughtful organization. Being well organized will not only save you valuable time, but will save you unnecessary stress as well.

 Who wants to run around hunting for car keys when late for a movie? Yet, the forces of natural law are working against you here. Are you familiar with entropy? If you don’t work to keep your place clean, it will turn into a mess. The order goes to chaos. It’s a fact of life. The quip we are all familiar with – “a place for everything and everything in its place” – has been around forever with good reason. It’s the key to maintaining order. Here are a few tips you may want to consider:

  • Remember your cubby from day care or kindergarten? It was your personal little area to put your stuff, and you knew right where everything went. Having such an area in your own place can be a great time-saver. Faithfully put your outgoing mail there, and you will automatically grab it on your way out. The same goes for library books that need to be returned, outgoing dry cleaning, the gift you need to deliver, and anything else you need to have with you when you run errands.
  • Choose a convenient, safe, private place to keep your keys, purse, or wallet.
  • Organize to fit your lifestyle. Are you more inclined to come in the door and toss your jacket somewhere than to walk to the closet and hang it up? If you are, you may want to install a wall coat-rack. Do you need to set up a special area to do paperwork or will anywhere do just fine? Think about what will work the best for your individual needs.
  • Whether it’s clothes, bedding, or kitchenware, items that are used together should be kept together.
  • Items should be kept closest to where they are going to be used the most.
  • The most frequently used items belong in the most accessible spots.
  • Think ahead and organize to make getting out of the house in the morning as easy as possible.
  • Put cleaning supplies in the area where you use the – not in a closet somewhere, unless they are in a caddy or basket with a handle that you can carry with you from room to room.
  • If you have a landline, arrange the area by the phone to include:
    • List of emergency numbers, including those of a neighbour, your doctor, poison control center, and your landlord.
    • List of frequently called numbers, like your favorite take-out restaurant.
    • Pens and paper
    • Calendar (Fill in all the birthdays you need to remember for the year when you put the calendar up.)
  • Invest in a high-quality flashlight, and keep it close to your bed.
  • Establish and maintain a simple, logical filing system:

Basic File Headings

  • Automobile
  • Bills That Need To Be Paid*
  • Checking Account Statements
  • Credit Card Information (account numbers and customer service numbers)
  • Insurance
  • Medical
  • Paid Bills (statement stubs and receipts)
  • Tax Documents
  • Warranties and Manuals*

*If you create a “Bills That Need To Be Paid” file, make sure you check it regularly. Otherwise, use a container to keep the bills organized and in sight so you will not forget about them.

  • What’s in your wallet? Take a few minutes to make a detailed list of the important things you have in your wallet or purse, in case you lose it or it’s stolen. File the list. Carry:
    • ATM card
    • Cash, not more than a week’s worth
    • Credit card, only one
    • Drivers license or photo identification card
    • Make an In Case of Emergency card that lists the names and numbers of those to be notified, your next of kin, and important medical information a first responder would need to know.
    • Emergency money—try to keep at least $20 tucked away
    • Medical/prescription insurance card
    • Supermarket discount card
  • Make sure you do not carry around your Social Security card or anything else you don’t really need to have with you.
  • Process your mail every day. You may want to do this standing by the trashcan.
  • If you are going to recycle, set up a system that makes it easy for you to keep at it faithfully. Even if you think it is too much for you to think about now, perhaps you can at least commit to recycling glass and cans.
  • Most importantly, deal with things as you go along. If you bring home dry cleaning, take the time to walk it to the closet. Clean the kitchen after you eat, not three days later.

Experiment until you find the organizational solutions that work for you. But remember: even the best organization ends up being useless if you don’t maintain the order.


Shopping List-Nonfood Items

  • Aluminum foil
  • Cellophane tape
  • Coffee filters (if you make coffee
  • Dishwasher detergent (if you have a dishwasher)
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Facial tissue
  • Garbage bags
  • Light bulbs
  • Matches
  • Muffin pan liners
  • Paper napkins
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic food-storage bags
  • Plastic wrap
  • Soap
  • Steel-wool soap pads or sponges
  • Toilet paper
  • Waxed paper

Additional Items You May Need

  • All-purpose stain remover
  • Batteries
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Cleanser
  • Fabric softener
  • Glass cleaner
  • Laundry detergent
  • Leather cleaner and conditioner (for shoes)
  • Liquid detergent for fine fabrics
  • Multipurpose cleaner
  • Oxygen bleach

Medicine, First Aid, and Emergency Supplies

Medications and Emergency Supplies

Having basic over-the-counter medications or natural remedies, as well as emergency supplies around the house, is part of setting up your new place. Use the following lists to help you prepare the essentials that you should always have on hand. Decide whether you want to combine your medications with your first aid supplies. Either way, store all the supplies in an easily accessible, easily transportable container. In the event of an emergency, you will want to have them with you.


  • Antacid (such as Mylanta)
  • Antidiarrhea medication (such as Imodium A-D)
  • Antihistamine (such as Benadryl, for allergic reactions)
  • Cough syrup
  • Decongestant
  • Pain reliever (aspirin or nonaspirin)
  • Throat lozenges
  • Good thermometer

Note these important tips:

  • Read all labels and accompanying information carefully and take only as directed.
  • Keep all medications in their original containers, and toss them after the expiration date. (Be sure to take the full dosage of prescribed antibiotics.)
  • Store your medications in a cool, dark, and dry place.
  • Keep up-to-date with your prescription medications. Plan ahead to get your refill before you run out.

Call The Poison Control Center at 800.222.1222 if you have a poisoning emergency.

First Aid Supplies

Keep your first aid supplies in an easily accessible place (preferably the kitchen, where accidents are likely to occur). Store the supplies in a container with a handle to make it easy to grab on the go. Be sure to return or replace items after use.

Household First Aid Supplies

  • Adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic (such as rubbing alcohol)
  • Calamine lotion
  • Cleansing agent or soap
  • Elastic bandage
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Latex gloves
  • Roller bandages
  • Safety pins (large and small)
  • Scissors
  • Two small bath towels
  • Sterile cotton
  • Sterile dressings (assorted sizes)
  • Sterile roll of gauze
  • Tweezers (to remove splinters and glass)
  • Wooden tongue blades (for finger splints)

Emergency Supplies

While natural disasters may be more likely in some geographic areas than others, you should be prepared for an emergency situation no matter where you live. Many emergencies, such as an evacuation due to the release of hazardous material, can happen anywhere. 

We may never know when a disaster will strike, but we can take comfort in knowing we are prepared. The following information is a short excerpt from Disaster Supplies Kit, developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross. Call your local Red Cross chapter for natural disaster preparedness information specific to your geographic area. 

For instance, if you live in southern California, you should keep an earthquake survival kit in your car as well as in your home. Keep your supplies in a lightweight container that is easy to carry if you have to evacuate.

  • Store at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food. Include ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, and juices. Also include high-energy foods, such as granola and snack bars, trail mix, and peanut butter.
  • You need at least one gallon of water per person per day. Have at least three gallons.
  • One complete change of clothes, including a pair of sturdy shoes.
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Flashlight (with extra batteries)
  • Battery-operated radio (with extra batteries)
  • Can opener (nonelectric – or pack only pop-top canned food in your kit)
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Cash and change
  • Personal documents: copies of important papers such as deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, and proof of address.
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Paper cups and plates, plastic utensils
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Toilet paper, moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Soap and personal-hygiene items
  • Medications (7-day supply), medication list, and pertinent medical information

Contact the American Red Cross at www.redcross.orgor 800.733.276 for assistance or additional information. You can support the Red Cross by buying emergency preparedness kits and supplies from them directly.

Consider using a password-protected USB device to store your important electronic files, including your financial account numbers and the customer service numbers of the institutions you use. Having everything organized and easily accessible after a disaster may help you get up and running faster. Eventually, you might want to consider researching and using a cloud storage service provider.

Additional Resources

  • Visit Operation HOPE to download and print the document Emergency Financial First Aid Kit. This simple tool is designed to help you have your most important financial information in order and on hand in the event of an emergency.
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign encourages individuals to prepare themselves for the unexpected. Their website, www.ready.gov, is a great source of information, tools, and checklists.
  • If there is a presidentially declared disaster in your area, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), may be able to provide you with assistance. The Disaster Assistance number is 800.621.3362 and the web address is www.fema.gov. Are You Ready? is an in-depth FEMA guide to citizen disaster preparedness that you can download from the website or order by calling 800.480.2520.

Safety and Security

Fire Safety

Few people realize how fast a fire can take hold and how quickly it can become uncontrollable. Please take the danger of fire seriously.

  • Make sure you have at least one smoke alarm and that it has good batteries. Check the batteries at regular intervals. Some people have a New Year’s Day tradition of changing the batteries in their smoke detectors.
  • Buy one or several multipurpose fire extinguishers. At a minimum, keep one handy in the kitchen and know how to use it.
  • Be careful not to set your potholders on fire.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Use extra caution when burning candles. Don’t place lighted candles in windows or near exits.

The National Fire Protection Association offers tips regarding candles. The following advice is taken from their recommendations:

  • Make sure the candle is in a sturdy holder that will not tip over.
  • Place the candle on a sturdy piece of furniture in the center of a one-foot “circle of safety.” This means you have checked that there is absolutely nothing that could possibly ignite within at least a one-foot radius, such as wallpaper, curtains or draperies, towels, shelves, plants, and silk flowers.
  • Absolutely never leave the room or fall asleep with a candle burning.
  • Stop burning your candle when it burns down to half an inch from the base. Throw it away.
  • Blow out candles or use a snuffer, but never use water to extinguish a flame. Water can cause wax to splatter and can spread the flames.

Personal Precautions

Take a class in self-defence. Please don’t put it off. You will feel more confident and secure knowing you know the basics of protecting yourself. Check for classes at your local YMCA, community, or adult education centre.

  • Do not label your keys with your name or address. Give an extra set of keys to a relative if you wish, but do not label them with easily identifiable information. Doing so may allow someone to enter your home if the keys are lost or stolen. Carry a spare car key or key card in your wallet.
  • Always have your door key ready before you approach your home.
  • Always pay close attention to what is happening around you.
  • Buy a small flashlight that hooks onto your key ring. This is a big help in locating a keyhole in the dark.
  • Set an interior light or radio on a timer when you are away at night.
  • Make sure you look in the rear-view mirror and close your automatic garage door (if you have one) as soon as your car clears the door.
  • Make sure your garage door opener is always in the same place. You should not be sitting in your car searching around for the opener. You may choose not to leave the opener in your car when you park outside your garage.
  • Take your parking ticket with you when you park in a pay lot.
  • If you leave your car somewhere overnight, remove all identifying information. You don’t want to return to find your car stolen and your home broken into.
  • When driving, be alert, and avoid high-crime areas. Allow a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you. Carjackers often work in pairs, and you don’t want to allow yourself to get boxed in.
  • Don’t ever pull off the road when driving by yourself at night, except in a true emergency.
  • If you believe you have been intentionally rammed from the rear, proceed to a populated, well-lit area or a police station for help.
  • When driving, be alert to the signs of a drunk driver:
    • Swerving and weaving
    • Wide turns
    • Driving to the left of centre
    • Driving in the dark with the headlights off
    • Driving on the shoulder
    • Unusual stopping

Watching Your Pennies-Around Your Home

  • Lowering the thermostat even one degree saves money. Turn down the heat when you go to bed. *
  • Contact your electric company and ask if enrolling in load management, off-hour rates, or other cost-savings programs will save you money on electricity costs.
  • If you live in a house or apartment where your responsibility is to keep the heating and air conditioning filters clean, check them at least once every season. If they look dirty, replace them, as clean filters save money and energy. *
  • Turn off the air conditioner if you’ll be away for several hours. *
  • Using compact fluorescent light bulbs will cost you more money up front, but because they use two-thirds less electricity and last up to 10 times longer than regular bulbs, the savings can amount to about $40 over the life of each bulb. *
  • Many small appliances use phantom energy. Unplug them when they’re not in use. *
  • Turn off lights you’re not really using. *
  • Make sure to close the door to the refrigerator. *
  • If you do not have an economy cycle on your dishwasher, skip the dry cycle. Let the dishes air dry. *
  • Be mindful of how much water you are using, and how you can cut down. For example, you might be able to shorten the time you spend in the shower and make a point not to leave the water running while you brush your teeth. *
  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees. *
  • Cover water when you boil it. Not only is this more energy-efficient, but the water will boil faster. *
  • Consider carefully what cable and satellite television services you sign up for. Will you really use those premium channels?

*The suggestions marked with an asterisk count toward “going green.” They can save you money, and they are environmentally conscientious choices, as well.

Related Reading

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe in a Crisis by Peggy Dianne Layton. Clarkson Prima, 2002.

Go Green, Live Rich: 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth and Get Rich Trying by David Bach and Hillary Rosner. Broadway Books, 2008.

Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-Friendly Life by Sophie Uliano. Collins, 2008.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008.

How to Organize Just About Everything: More Than 500 Step-by-Step Instructions for Everything from Organizing Your Closets to Planning a Wedding to Creating a Flawless Filing System by Peter Walsh. Free Press, 2004.

Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less by Peter Walsh. Free Press, 2011.

Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home by Martha Stewart. Clarkson Potter, 2006.

Organize Now! A Week-by-Week Guide to Simplify Your Space and Your Life! by Jennifer Ford Berry. Rev. ed. Betterway Home, 2010.

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider. Betterway Home, 2010.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why by Amanda Ripley. Crown Publishers, 2008.

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