The day I moved into my old house, I found something odd: five three-gallon glass jugs of port wine, sitting on the floor of the garage, pushed into a corner as though the person who left them hoped I’d never discover them. It wasn’t the first weird remnant of a former tenant I’d ever found when I moved into a new place, and it certainly wasn’t the last. But as my then-boyfriend settled down with a glass of port (and as I watched him drink it in horror), we began to wonder. Who are these people leaving all these random things behind? Why did someone decide to stick me with their garbage wine instead of pitching it (or drinking it) themselves?
Leasing agent Brett Summerfield and brokers Liz Melvin and Savannah Whittington, all at Pioneer Realty Group in Chicago, attribute the phenomenon to a few different things. The three run an Instagram account called “Shit the Last Tenant Left” that documents all the fun, fancy, and borderline frightening things tenants abandon in their homes when they move out. They’ve encountered everything from a panic button wired into the wall to a live chinchilla still in its cage (don’t worry, it’s safe now).
“We’ve come up with a couple different themes for why people leave things places,” they said. “They usually fall into some pretty specific categories: oddities, neighborly stuff, haunted things, adulting, breakups, and escapes.”
In the oddities category, think things that are just completely random or too difficult to move, like an abandoned piano or — in what’s possibly the best submission Summerfield, Melvin, and Whittington have ever received — a pinata with the keys for the apartment tucked inside.
Neighborly stuff is a pretty common occurrence if you know your neighbors; perhaps you offered to leave them a bed or a couch, and you’re just waiting for them to come get it after you move out. When I eventually moved out of the port wine house, I left something like this behind: a portable fire pit I’d promised to the family across the street.
If whatever you’ve left behind falls into the adulting category, that’s a good thing — it means you’ve probably grown up a little. “Like with the poster of two wolves fornicating,” Summerfield, Melvin, and Whittington said. “We figured someone was like, ‘I’m 30 now. Maybe I shouldn’t move this into my new adult place.’”
Leaving things behind due to a breakup can apply to both romantic or roommate partnerships. In some cases, no one can agree on who takes what, or the item is just something that no one wanted anymore. It can, though, get pretty sad — like a single Valentine’s Day balloon in a room next to scattered dead roses.
Haunted things, meanwhile, are obviously something the last tenant was afraid of bringing with them. No one wants to move with a creepy doll, so the thinking is probably to leave it behind for the next person (and hope its spirit doesn’t follow you), right?
The escapes category can get particularly messy. In situations like this, the tenant usually needs to leave quickly. This can result in dishwashers still full of dishes, closets of clothing, and even half-cooked moldy food in the microwave. (And in the case that the last tenant left angrily, they might’ve completely trashed the place.)
If you’re lucky, you’ll never have to see any of this because your landlord will clear the place out before you move in. But if you do, grab yourself a glass of port and post the junk to social media.