The accidental landlord: clear your clutter and feel the relief
Just as I thought my life couldn't get any less glamorous, I find myself driving on a freezing morning to the vast new Wandsworth tip with a boot-load of junk from my friend's flat, which has to be emptied before her new tenants can move in.
Still, once we chuck the last cardboard box full of old cushions, broken picture frames and a brand-new coffee maker she'd never used into the skip, I do feel a huge sense of satisfaction. There's nothing quite like clearing a house of all its clutter to lift the weight off your shoulders.
Letting out your home is an excellent excuse to get rid of all your (partner's) stuff that you never really liked but couldn't quite bring yourself to part with. Editing your life down to the bare essentials is wonderfully cathartic. I recommend everybody does it once in a while.
However, it takes a while to empty a property of personal items, especially if you've got a family, so don't leave it till the last minute. My friend is single but she's still been at it for weeks, sifting and sorting. It's been an exhausting process.
Remember that old clothes, books, records, CDs and bric-a-brac can go to your local charity shop — you might be able to find one that will collect any unwanted furniture for free, or your local council might pick up bulky items for a small fee.
If you use a private waste collection service, make sure that it's licensed. There are plenty of rogue outfits that will take away your rubbish for a few quid, but if they're fly-tipping, you might be fined. And you don't want to see your sofa at the edge of the A3.
Don't forget to empty cupboards, attics, lofts, cellars and garden sheds. Tins of old paint, the odd "spare" tile/pieces of wood/pot of glue you've been saving "just in case" — everything should go.
When you remove pictures and mirrors from walls, there will be screw holes to fill and sand and you'll probably need to touch up the paint. If it's been a while since you decorated, you might not get away with repainting the odd patch — the colours will have faded so you might have to re-do whole walls. Then, when you've painted one wall, it'll make the rest of the room look shabby, so be prepared to re-do the whole lot.
Once you've lived in a place for a while you tend to no longer notice stuff that's not quite right — the odd cupboard door that doesn't close properly, redundant picture hooks, that curry stain on the carpet — so get a friend to walk through the property with you and point out things you've missed.
I noticed my friend has left a plastic holder for a long-since defunct cordless phone screwed to her living room wall. It sticks out like a sore thumb but she's lived with it for so long she'd forgotten it was there.
A thorough check-in clerk will also pick up things you might not have noticed, like dust on the dado rail, so get the report done a day or so before the new tenant moves in and you'll have time to sort all these things out beforehand.
When we return from our early morning trip to the tip, my friend realises that she's forgotten to remove two huge house plants from her flat. Seriously, they're as large as triffids, but like I said, you live with things for so long that you forget they're there. So hi-ho, hi-ho, it's back to the dump we go.