Saturday, September 23, 2023


Leaving home – A checklist for successful domicile “abandonment”

By Greg Illes
Every RVer’s dream is to wander off, leaving home and hearth behind, on a weeks- or months-long meander through far unknown lands. Usually, a lot more attention is paid to RV preparation and where the trip will lead than to how well the old homestead might fare without daily supervision.

After years of business and personal travel, including unpleasant surprises upon arriving back home, we have a departure checklist to help avoid the avoidable.

  • All trash out — Empty everything in the house, especially rotten or stinky stuff.
  • Thermostats set or off — You may need to keep a winter house above freezing; otherwise, turn everything off to save $$.
  • Sprinklers set or off — You’ll have to decide about watering, or letting the yard go fallow. Make settings accordingly, but don’t forget that any active sprinkler can break and create a small flood. House plants will need a sitter, or a funeral.
  • Garbage disposals run/empty — Residual food can make big stinks and molds.
  • Toilets cleaned and flushed — Did little Johnnie use the john just before you left? Make sure there’s only water in those bowls.
  • Laundry hamper empty — Dirty clothes become throwaway clothes after awhile.
  • Windows and doors locked — Of course, but put it on your checklist to make sure you do it.
  • Small ventilation — Leave a little ventilation somewhere to prevent a houseful of stale air.
  • Electronic items off or unplugged — TVs and other appliances may use background power consumption and need to be unplugged.
  • Mail on hold at USPS — You can do this on the Internet. They’ll hold mail until a date, or notification, and then deliver the whole bundle to you at once.
  • Bills on autopay — The best way to deal with scheduled payments, using transfers or email.
  • Notifications — Let folks you trust know that you’re gone, and to be aware of what’s going on at your address. Let your yard care and house care services have a break. Suspend your satellite TV service, Internet, etc.
  • Emergency credit card — A lost or scammed card is useless. Keep a spare (that you never use).
  • Emergency cash — A few stashed $50 bills can save the day when that gas pump or RV park won’t take cards or checks.

You don’t need to ask me how I know about all these “gotchas” — each and every one has been (sometimes painfully) experienced. I keep my list on my cell phone so I can read it as I walk around the house. As you can see, a little preparation will make sure your home is still happy when you get back. Good travels (and returns)!

Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at



  1. In the world of electronics and wireless devices, I use wire less electric outlets. Some are timed and some I control so we can turn a TV on and off to simulate someone at home. Wireless indoor and outdoor cameras. Be sure to have access code on the devices. We have to log in and then a authorization is texted to us before access is enabled. Yes it is a little work.

  2. Cover the toilet bowl and tank with plastic wrap. We learned that when the water evaporated, and I had to replace dried out rubber parts. Palm Beach County, Florida, had a check list for leaving your house for an extended period. They may still have it. It’s worth a look.

  3. Have someone mow the lawn to keep the place looked lived in. Grass will be a foot high, here in Fla. in just 2 weeks. Turn water off. A leak will keep the well pump running and really flood the house – found out the hard way. Leave A/C on high to keep the house from getting too hot and mildew, here in FLa.

  4. We have found here in Michigan,if home temp is left below 50 degrees in winter some paints will blister and peel. Also turn off pump if you have a well and drain the water. we had the hose from the pump to the plumbing get a pin-hole leak and came home to 4 inches of water in the basement. It also helps to do this in case the electricity is off for an extended period during freezing weather. We have experienced three to ten days without power in the past, plenty of time to freeze anything in the house. It always helps if someone you trust can check the house periodically, and we have security cameras inside and out that we can monitor from our phones.

  5. Have an excel spreadsheet I print out about 2 weeks before a trip for many of the things listed as well as things we need to bring. We definitely have our gardener keep their schedule. 2 months is too long not to be maintained. We turn off water to upstairs, but leave downstairs as step daughter sometimes uses house when in area working. Plus we need water on for the lawn, plants. Can’t cancel Sat service, although would be nice, as we bring a DVR box from home to use with MH sat dish. We check pick up at Post Office. Never sure the exact day coming back so don’t want boxes of mail sitting on front porch.

  6. Very good! We’ve had a similar list used twice a year for the past 15! (Primary home in Alaska, vacation home in AZ and RV in between. ) Prevents alot of stress!

  7. And don’t give your yard care people time off! At the very least, make sure the lawn gets cut on its regular schedule…even if you have to hire a neighbor kid to mow it.

    I don’t remember if it was mentioned or not but stop all mail and newspaper deliveries.

  8. We let all neighbor’s know our schedule so if they see any activity on the house to call police. We have control of lights from our cell phone.

    • We have solar on our AZ house. We set AC at 85 when we leave for simmer. Monthly APS summer bill is less than $10. Annual is less than $300.

  9. A low wattage light on a timer will simulate someone at home. Several are even better.
    Tell local law enforcement if going for long periods.
    Have grass cut.

  10. Floridians have taught us that air conditioners should be set to a higher temperature, rather than off. A little cooling will keep inside air dry and deter mold.


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