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Storage Units: Short or long-term solution?

by Vali G. Heist, Certified Professional Organizer

Jul 22, 2019

“Have you seen the show Hoarders?” As soon as someone finds out I’m a professional organizer, they ask this question. I believe one of the reasons people watch the show is they understand how clutter might get out of control, even if it’s not at that level. Compared to the rest of the world, many Americans could look like hoarders: We have garages filled with equipment we haven’t used in years with no room for cars; we have attics filled to the rafters with things we haven’t seen in ages; and we have basements filled with stuff we haven’t taken the time to go through for quite some time. It’s a scary, fine line between a hoarder with a disorder and The Great American Consumer with too much stuff.

Even though the size of the American family has shrunk, the number of rented storage spaces to has grown exponentially. According to U.S. Self-storage industry statistics, storage construction spending increased from $241 million in 2011 to $5.27 billion in 2017; a 2,000% increase in 6 years! Many of these facilities have better security than most homes with climate-controlled units and electronic key gates. Businesses use units to store inventory; home sellers use them to store excess belongings while they stage their home to sell; and people relocating across the country can store belongings until a new home is purchased.

Unfortunately, many storage units that were meant to be a short-term solution end up being a long-term drain on a family’s finances. Many of these units are simply the result of delayed decision making from uncluttering their own homes or cleaning out their parents or relatives family homes. The tag line for one storage facility in my area is “Clean your house, Clear your mind, Store with us.” But cleaning your house doesn’t mean putting your stuff in another location where you could end up paying more money than the items are worth.

Before you rent a storage unit, consider the following:

  • Give yourself a deadline. Think of the storage as temporary and fluid, not permanent. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
  • Making the tough decisions before you rent. Are you delaying decisions because going through stuff can be difficult, emotional and exhausting? Bite the bullet, schedule time to get started and ask a friend to help.
  • Does someone you know need this stuff before you store it? Before you decide to rent, ask family and friends if they could use the item(s). Should you sell it on Facebook Marketplace or LetGo?
  • Calculate and understand the costs: figure it out for 3 months, 6 months and a year. How accessible are the units and will weather deter you from getting it cleaned out?

Finally, don’t let your storage unit go from a short-term convenience to a long-term burden. Continuing to pay money to store “stuff” is silly when you could probably use the money for…well, you fill in the blank!

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