One of the primary benefits of living in rental homes is flexibility. Every year or so, you have the opportunity to find somewhere new, better, or more interesting than your last place and it's pretty cool to be able to just pick up and go. However, this free spirit mentality has exactly one hiccup when it comes time to actually move out: your security deposit. When you leave a rental home or apartment, you need the entire place to be as nice as it was the day you moved in, including clean walls, floors, vents, and all those nail holes from wall decor. And to top it all off, you've scheduled the movers to arrive in a week.

If you're worried about having time to clean and get repairs done, now is the time to calm down and build an action plan. Even a few days is enough time to pack and clean the rental home if you know what you're doing. Keeping your security deposit is simply a matter of consideration and strategy.

Pack Your Wall Decor Early

The best way to start your security deposit project is to take down all your wall art. Rental tenants are most likely to get a small amount taken off of their security deposit by forgetting to fill all the little nail and you can avoid that trap by exposing them early. Pull down every poster, painting, photo, and hanging piece of art. Take down any shelves you put up and pull all the nails and screws that used to hang your wall items. Now grab the putty and carefully full each hole. It shouldn't take long, nails are small.

Start Cleaning from Top to Bottom

Once your wall decor is down, start cleaning absolutely everything, starting with the ceiling. Your goal is to clean from top to bottom so that any dust or grime you knock down from the upper levels of your furniture, the ceiling, vents, and built-in cabinetry is cleaned in a lower-stage cleaning wave. Judge when to clean based on when is most convenient in your packing process but always remember the top-to-bottom procedure so you never have to clean any level twice. Be sure to wipe down anything that even resembles a surface and to vacuum everything remotely soft.

Pack and Clean One Room to Hold Boxes

You will need a place to collect completed, labeled, and sorted boxes and you'll want this to be a fairly large area. You can either clear an unused bedroom, designate the garage, or start packing up your living room early in order to make room for the rest of your project. Clear the box-holding area, clean it, and then start the mother of all box piles as you prepare to clear and clean the rest of the home.

Clear and Clean Rooms One at a Time

One room at a time, leaving your personal spaces for last, clear every room in the house. Start by packing up the items and clearly labeling the boxes by room and item category. Remove the boxes to be stacked in the hold room and then clean the empty room thoroughly including wiping down the walls, doors, handles, windows, and closet bars. Seriously, wipe down everything. Check for any lurking nail holes that might get you in trouble, even if they were left by a previous tenant, and fill them with putty.

Don't Forget the Vents and Molding

When cleaning, there are some very specific things that can make your rental look eerily clean when you're finished. These are details like the vent covers, the floor and ceiling moldings, and the ceiling fan blades along with all the windowsills, and the narrow upper lips of splash guards. Dust tends to collect in these places and when they're clean, a home looks sparkling.

Put Down Floor Covers for Movers

If there is ice or mud outside, there is a distinct possibility that all the moving in and out with boxes could create muddy tracks on your freshly clean floor. To prevent this, throw down a bunch of old towels, a tarp, or an area rug over the pathway between your front door and the motherload of boxes you have assembled while cleaning the other rooms. This will keep your carpets safe and ensures you won't have to spend the rest of the day cleaning them.

Rent a Steam Cleaner for Moving Day

That said, because your floors literally can't be completely clear until the movers have come and gone, you're going to want to do your final floor cleaning wave after everything is in the truck. Rent a steam cleaner for a few hours and prepare to do at least three or four passes before the liquid in the discharge tank comes out white and soapy instead of gray and gritty with dirt. When the solution becomes mostly clear, your carpets are as clean as they possibly can be.

The Final Wipe-Down

For your final duty as a responsible renter, take a sponge or a roll of paper towels and wipe down everything on your way out. When everything is sparkling, take a very thorough set of pictures to prove how nice the home was when you departed. Turn off the thermostat, lock up behind you, and rest easy, having concluded your responsible renter duties.

Moving out and getting an apartment or rental home clean at the same time can be quite challenging but with this technique, you're sure to get your security deposit back and your movers will appreciate not having to scout out boxes in far-flung rooms.