When commitment feels rare and everyone’s lonely, Change of Heart is a Valentine's Week investigation of what makes relationships so hard—and how they can be better.
Nothing is worse than moving, right? Almost: Nothing is worse than moving… as fast as you can out of a home shared with someone who is suddenly your ex. Whether or not it's explosive, a breakup with a live-in partner is still pretty dramatic by nature, so it makes sense that undergoing one would mean you probably want or need to move out ASAP. (If you feel like you’re in danger, stop reading this and find help to protect your immediate safety instead.)
Moving is understood to be so terrible because it's expensive, time-consuming, stressful, and all-around nightmarish, and especially so if you're doing it at warp speed while you're already dealing with heartbreak. Here's how to get out as fast as you can with minimal damage.
Know your rights and responsibilities when it comes to moving out.
You share a place with your ex, but how exactly do you share it? Is your name on the lease? If it isn’t, your credit won't be affected by this aspect of a sudden move. If your name is on the lease, though, you're legally entitled to be at your place, so you don’t necessarily have to leave right away just because your ex is insisting on it or because being there is awkward. But if your sanity requires an immediate departure: Talk to your landlord first and explain that you’re moving ASAP. There’s no need to get into why if you don’t want to talk about it—your landlord is a businessperson, and this is a business situation.
“If you absolutely have to break your lease, it’s best to work with your landlord as much as possible to avoid any further negative consequences," said Brittney Castro, Certified Financial Planner with Mint and Turbo. If you break or violate a lease and simply vanish, you may be subject to a lease-breaking fee, and/or forfeit your security deposit—either or both may undercut your immediate and future financial stability, too. That's not to say you shouldn't ever do it, but make sure the years of impact it may have on your credit mean leaving immediately is actually worth it to you.
If your ex is on the lease, too, you can consider whether signing it over to them or coming to some other agreement on rent are viable. It's in your ex's best interests to work with you on a solution, explained Shannon McLay, CEO and founder of The Financial Gym. “If you share your place with someone else and their name is also on the lease, and they continue to make the full rent payments without you, then this wouldn’t negatively affect your credit," McLay said. "But if you were living with someone and that person also stops paying rent, you both could see some damage to your credit scores, and you could end up getting sued.”
Sara Rathner, credit cards expert at NerdWallet, agreed. “If your landlord reported your rent payments to the three credit bureaus"—these are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion —"leaving them in the lurch by skipping payments won’t do your credit score any favors. This can come back to haunt you the next time you try to rent an apartment and need a reference, or even if you apply for a mortgage, and not just because of the potential to lower your credit score. Mortgage lenders ask for proof of 12 months of on-time rent payments to verify that you reliably pay your housing costs.
“Your lease is a legally binding agreement,” continued Rathner. “If you break it, your landlord can absolutely sue you. If they win, that can leave a mark on your credit report for up to 10 years. Plus, you’ll be out a lot of money — probably more than if you had broken the lease in a way that was in line with what was spelled out in the lease agreement, which often involves paying a month of rent.”
An unaccounted-for move could still haunt you when you get your bearings and want to rent an apartment, buy a house, or even just buy a crappy used Nissan on a payment plan. If you’re not sure what to do and think you might need to talk with a lawyer or get other support, it’s possible that your company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers different kinds of professional help to employees who are having personal issues (like, for example, this one). An EAP counselor will likely be able to connect you with a lawyer in your area who can work with you at a discounted hourly rate.
Find a temporary place to go as you sort out where you'll live next.
If you don’t have a long-term place where you can go immediately, you’ll need a place to crash in the meantime. If you have close friends or family who might be OK with letting you stay, hit 'em up! But don’t take advantage of someone else’s goodwill—make sure you set a firm length of time for your stay (e.g., “I’ll be out by March 5”) or break up the amount of time you need to couch-surf by staying at several people’s places, if possible.
If you can’t stay with friends or family, try asking in local social media groups you might be in (like book clubs or sports groups) if anyone knows anyone who might have a place you could stay (again, with guaranteed leave-by dates) or asking your social networks if anyone knows a place you could stay for not-very-much money. A friend of a friend might have an empty room and understand what you’re going through, or know of a great (and cheap!) AirBnB in the area that’s available.
Quickly pack the essentials without spending money you need for other things.
Don’t buy boxes—that’s a fantastic way to spend $100 on garbage. Instead, repurpose other people's garbage, like boxes from grocery and liquor stores. You can also nab a stack of daily free newspapers for wrapping material on nearly any street corner in big cities. This stuff was going to be recycled anyway, and now you have free moving supplies!
Go to the kitchen-and-house stuff aisle of your nearest store and buy the highest-quality trash bags they have. You want the good shit—something with a name like Hefty DragonSteelFlex or Glad UltraProfessionalTitaniumPowerBag. These kinds of trash bags are usually black and could easily hold and lift bodies without even stretching. Buy at least two boxes if you're packing up mostly bedroom things and around-the-house miscellany, and add two more boxes for each room that has a lot of your stuff in it.
Trash bags are incredible for moving your closet, even if you have all the time in the world. Keep your clothes on the hanger, roll them over the hanger once or twice, and stuff them in trash bags. You can pack a whole wardrobe in a few minutes, and when you get to wherever you’re moving, your clothes will be ready to hang. Throw your shoes and bags and accessories into the trash bags, too. (Just make sure you can physically lift the trash bags as you're packing them.)
Coats, bedding, sweaters, sheets, T-shirts: Don’t toss them in the trash bags yet. You need this stuff, because this is how you’re going to wrap anything breakable. What needs wrapping? Knicknacks, fancy candles, your crystal collection… do you have dishes in the kitchen you’re attached to? Funny coffee mugs? Wrap everything breakable in the clothes from your dresser and bedding from your room and pack them in your liquor store boxes.
When you’re done with breakable items, just throw every book, game, kitchen utensil, and shower product you own in more bags. But make sure you keep extremely valuable-to-you things and/or essentials like birth certificates, etc. in a special suitcase, bag, or box that looks different from the others, along with stuff you’ll need immediately, like your face wash and a towel.
In terms of furniture: If you’re on speaking terms with your now-ex, ask them if you can keep the bulk of your stuff there until you’re able to get it all out. There’s no need to put undue stress on yourself unless you absolutely must. See if you can come back for your stuff once you find a permanent place to land.
Otherwise: Was a lot of your stuff found in thrift stores, IKEA, and alleyways? Leave it. The path of least resistance (and fewer moving fees, if you're paying movers) is to relinquish everything you can afford to, or that isn't 100 percent yours. It’ll be more expensive and time-consuming to move it than to leave it behind. Unless the furniture is (a) inarguably your right to take, (b) something you consider necessary that you won't be able to replace for less than the cost of moving it, or (c) extremely special to you, let it go. Eventually, you will find a replacement.
Get your stuff from Point A to Point B with help and/or a little crafty thinking.
Hire movers if you can afford it; otherwise, call literally anyone who loves you (or owes you a favor) and ask, beg, or extend bribes them to help you move. Offer money to the people helping if you can, and at least beer and pizza if you can’t. Support from even one friend, family member, or different ex is better than you trying to move everything all on your own and getting so tired and sad that you start crying in the middle of your apartment while sniffing your ex’s winter scarf, surrounded by the trash bags that hold everything you own in this world.
If no one is available to help and you can’t afford full-service professional movers on a short timeline (and some of them won’t move trash bags, anyway—be sure to ask), you can still move. Think about renting a pickup truck from Home Depot, or renting a car or van from a place like Avis or Enterprise. You could even take things over in Uber XLs, as long as you tip heavily.
It sucks you’re going through this—but at the very least, you know it'll be over with fast, because it has to be. Your life might be in the trash at the moment—but, soon enough, you're going to be OK.
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