Storage Units: How to Use Them, How to NOT use them

Storage Units are great for holding onto items TEMPORARILY!  Storage Units are not great for long-term storage because they are EXPENSIVE!
I tell people that having Storage is like paying rent for people you don’t really like. If someone you LOVE needs a place to stay, you would make room for them at your place or help them find a place to go.  You would visit them and spend time with them. But when you take items you think are very important to you, stick them in storage somewhere and never look at them again as years go by, how much do you really need, want, or love those things?
Storage Success Stories:
Doug and Liza sold their big house and moved to a small apartment while their new condo was being renovated. They put a bunch of art, collectibles, and memorabilia into storage for one year.  They spent about $1800 for that unit.
Elizabeth went off to college and her Mom sold the house.  Her Mom put a bunch of items, furniture, memorabilia, household goods and things like that into storage for Elizabeth so that she would have it all when she got her own apartment. The storage unit cost $5,400 for 3 years.   When Elizabeth got out of college and got her first apartment, she hardly had to buy anything new.
Storage Sad Stories:
Sarah cleaned out her Mom’s house and put a lot of furniture, art and family china into storage, intending to sell it someday.  Time went by and she continued to pay $300 a month for the storage unit. She didn’t even remember what was in there until she finally hired me to help her clean it out.  Unfortunately, at that point she had spent $32,400 (that’s $300 per month for 9 years) storing her Mom’s things, and none of it was very valuable anymore.  She ended up donating it all just so she could get rid of the storage unit ASAP.
Betty had to clean out her house in order to sell it but didn’t want to get rid of many items.  Her son finally just put a bunch of things into storage and figured they would “go through it a little at a time.”  Time went by and before they knew it Betty had paid $12,000 for a storage unit she had never been to once.  As usual, no one could remember what was in there.  Betty’s son hired an Auction House to sell the contents.  They Auction brought in $3,200 and his Mom received $1,500 of that money.
How to Make your Storage Unit a Success Story
Rule #1:  Make a detailed list of everything in your Storage Unit.  If things are in boxes, you can number the boxes and list the Contents somewhere else.
Rule #2:  Take photos and measurements of big items like furniture.  That way if you decide to sell something that’s in storage, or move it to another location, you will already know exactly what it looks like and if it will fit into your new plan.
Rule #3:  Have a plan and do the Math.  If you can buy a new sofa for $1500, it doesn’t make sense to store an old sofa for 2 years, because you will have spent more money than if you bought it new.  When you rent a Storage Unit, have a plan, a timeline, and a budget.  If you are going to “go through” the items in Storage (which most people don’t do because it is REALLY not fun to sit in a chilly steel box and go through stuff that you will regret you kept all this time), then put those Sessions on your schedule, in your
Calendar and have a plan.
Rule #4:   Understand the physical demands of moving things around.  Hauling boxes of books, furniture, and knickknacks in and out of vehicles and storage units is hard physical work.  Be prepared to do it yourself or have some strong labor to help you.

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The Big Lies we all tell about our Clutter

Lie #1:  “I’m going to get this fixed.”
The best way to deal with this is to break this down.  Its a broken clock that is your grandmother’s?  Okay, here are the steps to get this done.
  1. Decide on a budget or getting the clock fixed.
  2. Google local clock repair shops and pick the top two or three. (1 hour)
  3. Call each one and make an appointment (30 minutes)
  4. Put the appointments in your calendar. (5 min)
  5. Put the clock in a box and put it in your car. (20 min)
  6. Go to each appointment.  (4 hours)
  7. Decide who will fix your clock. (10 minutes)
  8. Take your clock to them. (1 hour)
  9. Pick up the repaired clock (1 hour)
  10. Decide where your clock is going to live in your house (or in storage). (10 minutes)
You can see that this whole process can take about 10 hours of your life and hundreds of dollars.  Multiply this “reason” times all of the broken items you have that you “plan” to get fixed.  That probably adds up to a lot of hours and money.  Is it worth it?
Lie #2:  “I have to keep this.” 
Who is the ultimate authority of this item?  Who is the decision maker here?  The CDA? (Chief Decluttering Authority). Who is responsible for storing, cleaning, maintaining, insuring and taking care of this item? Is it you?  Okay then.  You don’t have to keep it, but you do have to give yourself permission to let it go.
Lie #3: “This is worth a lot of money.”
This may be true, but usually, people have no idea what their things are worth right NOW.  What they really are thinking is, “I paid a lot of money for that item when I bought it.” or “It was very valuable at one point.”  That’s true about a lot of things. Televisions used to be a major purchase and were very expensive, now you can buy a big one for $200.  Beautiful antique furniture, handpainted china, fine linens and collectibles like Hummel figurines were very expensive to purchase new and were passed down through generations. The truth is, and I have had this discussion with so many clients, things are only worth what someone will pay for them right now, today.   Try selling a piano and you will see what I mean.  Some things you can’t even give away or you have to pay someone to come haul it away. If you aren’t sure what something is worth it, have it appraised professionally, talk to a reseller or estate sale/auction person, or look online at what items have sold for.  On eBay you can search on Closed Auctions to see what the final price is.  It doesn’t matter as much what items are selling for, if no one is bidding then the price is too high.
If you don’t want or enjoy the item anymore, and it is worth a lot of money, you could sell it and buy something you really like instead. Or you could donate it and take a tax credit. But keeping something just because it was once valuable isn’t a very good excuse.
Lie #4: “I bought this because I was going to do…and someday I still will.” 
I was going to learn to knit so someone gave me a beginners knitting kit, with yarn, knitting needles, books, etc. I stuck it in a drawer for years. I moved 3 times, I packed it, moved it, and unpacked it every time.  Every time I would come across it I would say to myself, Oh Yes, someday I’m going to learn to knit.  Finally, during my 4th move, I came across that stuff and was suddenly struck by how silly I was to carry that around for the past 10 years!  I am not going to ever learn to knit and if I really want to I can buy a new kit, or ask for it as a birthday present or something.  For 10 years, I selfishly held onto something that many of my friends or clients would have been glad to have because they really DO knit and would have made something lovely out of that beautiful yarn. So I finally gave it away and felt silly for waiting so long. Many people do this, and I can tell you it feels much better to pass on things I’m not using to people who will use and appreciate it.  Plus I don’t want to keep things that don’t bring me joy right now, that stuff was just bringing me stress as something I was procrastinating about. 

Storing Kids Clothes Quote

Store children’s seasonal clothing and shoes in stackable storage containers or boxes labeled with the season, gender, and size rather than by child’s name: for example, “Summer – Girl’s Size 10-12.” That way, you’ll know what’s in the box without having to open it. Organize boxes by season or gender.
    – D. Smallin, Organizing Plain & Simple

Kid Wrangling: Earning electronics

This is something very simple that I did with my sons. We had a house rule that the kids could not do anything electronic, like watch TV or play video games, unless they asked a parent first.  (We preferred them to read, play or go outside, so we tried to discourage brainless tv watching).  The 2nd part of the rule was, the kids weren’t allowed to ask us unless their rooms were picked up.  Not cleaned exactly, but nothing on the floor that wasn’t supposed to be there.
This rule was great because it eliminated the need for us to ever nag them about tidying their rooms. We knew that eventually they would want to watch t.v., and they knew the answer was an automatic No unless their rooms were clean.
Now a word to the wise. If you have a Jeremy, a smart but rebellious child, he will test this rule to the utmost.  Jeremy decided, when he was about 8 years old, that he would rather NEVER watch television again, rather than clean up his room. He lasted for two weeks and finallly he dramatically announced, “FINE, YOU WIN!!! I CAN”T STAND IT ANYMORE!” And he went to tidy his room. But it was such a mess by then that it was completely overwhelming so we did it together. I thought it was fun. I think he’s still mad about it though.
A genius rule that my sister SaraJane had for her son was that he was only allowed to play video games before she woke up on the weekends.  Once she woke up it was chore time.  This ensured that he and his friends would play very very quietly and not wake up Mom for as long as possible. Sneaky!

Getting Your House Ready to Sell – Declutter your Outside too

You walk up to your front door every day and probably don’t even notice your yard anymore.  If you plan to sell your house, you may be primarily focused on the inside, going through closets, decluttering, packing some things.  But don’t forget the outside of your house may need some decluttering and freshening up as well.
Here’s an easy checklist to help get your Yard looking its best:
Get rid of clutter like anything that is broken, in poor repair, or not serving a purpose.
Make sure there is a place for kids or pet toys, garden tools, hoses and other items that may look too busy.
Check your mailbox, does it need to be replaced, or get a fresh coat of paint
Is your house number easy to find, and read?  Is it well-lit?
Look at your trash cans and recycling bins. Are they broken or cracked? Do they have lids? Do you need to call your trash company for replacements?
Look behind your sheds and garages for forgotten trash, old fencing, broken pots, old bricks or cinderblocks and recycle or trash these items.
What about your porch, walkways, and stairs?  Do they need a good sweeping, scrubbing or power wash? Is everything in good repair?
You definitely want your front yard to invite potential Buyers inside. Just looking at your house with fresh ideas will give you a whole new perspective.

Can’t let Your Clutter Go? Here are some unusual Questions to ask Yourself about your “Stuff”:

Am I wearing or using this item, right now, on a regular basis?

Does this item make me feel a positive emotion?  Do I feel happy, grateful, motivated or peaceful about it?

Do I have multiples of this item, that I probably won’t use in the next few years?

Does this item remind me of something I don’t like to think about?

Does this item make me feel lazy, guilty, or overwhelmed?

Do I pick up and move this item around without using it or loving it?

Does this item serve the purpose of the room that it is located in?

Do I love, need, or use something that is more important than this item?

Is this item worthy of the space, importance, and care that I am giving it?

Adopt this one habit from nature lovers and eliminate clutter forever

If you are a hiker or nature lover, you are probably familiar with this philosophy.  My sons’ learned it at summer camp.  They all went to Calleva, a non-profit outdoor adventure camp where the Instructors really teach the kids how to love and respect nature.  I LOVED the Leave No Trace idea when the boys told me about it.  It makes a lot of sense, to honor the beauty of nature by making sure no one can tell you were ever there.  Packing out all trash, sweeping up signs of your campsite, sticking to trails rather than tromping through meadows.  My sons’ were able to practice this while they were backpacking, kayaking, and caving throughout Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
When they told me what they had learned, I wasted NO TIME adopting the Leave No Trace policy at our own house.  What a great idea!  And it was something that their adored Camp Instructors had come up with, instead of something I was trying to get them to do.  It also made a lot of sense as a general rule for living.  Basically just clean up after yourself.
But “Leave No Trace” sounds a lot cooler!

Overwhelmed by Clutter? Where to start (and the answer may surprise you)

I suggest you clean out your Storage areas first. I know you want to jump in and clean out your Guest Room so you can turn it into a Craft Room or something like that, but here’s the problem.  Everything has to go somewhere. And it should go in a place that makes sense.  

Clutter is just stuff that is basically homeless. That’s kind of sad, isn’t it?  It doesn’t have a place to be, or it does, and that place isn’t working out for some reason. We need to make sure everything you own has a place that makes sense, and how often you use it is a big deciding factor.
So yes, we can start going through stuff in your Guest Room but I guarantee some of it really belongs in Short-Term or Long-Term Storage.  We can just open the Attic door and put that stuff in there, but then we aren’t really solving the problem, we are just delaying it and then it will be harder because we have just made it worse.
This is why one of the first things I always ask new clients is, “Where is your Long Term Storage?”  This is the stuff you want to keep but rarely need to access, like old Tax Returns, family photos, childhood memorabilia, that lamp that Great Aunt Sally gave you, old bed frames, etc.
I also ask about Short Term Storage, which should contain items you only need to access once or twice a year, like Holiday Decorations, Party Supplies, Seasonal Stuff (beach items or winter gear), etc.
I love tackling these areas!  Garages, attics, basements, crawl spaces, it is very rewarding to have an archeological dig through all of that stuff.  Pull it out, make decisions, put like items together, Label those boxes or bins and BOOM you did it!
I will also drop a Super Secret Amazing Tip that will make your world better.  Create an Inventory for the space you just cleaned out and list all of the contents. Put one copy on the inside of the door to the space itself, and put another copy in your HOUSE file or tape it to the inside of a cabinet or closet door.  Then you won’t forget what is in your Storage areas!
Now you are ready to go through your Guest Room and when you come across old family photos, you will know instantly that you should add them to the FAMILY PHOTOS box that is now stored in the Long Term Storage area.  See how that works?  It’s like MAGIC!  You will amaze your family and friends with your organizational skills!  You’re a Rock Star, Where do you get this stuff?