storage unit

How to Use a Storage Unit Without Regretting It

I have seen this so many times. People who finally “do the math” and then realize that for the money they have been paying for a storage unit, they could have just bought new stuff by now. Or in many cases, they didn’t know what was IN the unit, couldn’t find it, and didn’t want to take the time to dig through it all, so they just bought new stuff anyway. 

You Must Do the Math

Storage units can be very helpful but you must do the math, and have a plan. So many people say, “oh I’ll just put that in storage” without really thinking about the consequences.

Here are a few examples:

1. Bridget was downsizing from her big house where she had raised 3 kids and was moving out of state. Her kids said they wanted many things from their childhood rooms in the old house but had no room to store any of them. Bridget would have no room in her new house either so she had the movers take everything the kids wanted and put it into a storage unit in her new town. This decision ended up causing Bridget immense stress. She had spent almost $10,000 to have those things packed up, moved, and stored for two years. Her grown kids were busy and didn’t have time to visit her and go through their things in the storage unit, so now she was stuck with it all.

Conclusion: Bridget ended up paying my company to go through the storage unit, inventory what was in there, communicate with each person about what they wanted, and pack and ship it all to them. Bridget regretted not giving her kids a deadline to get their stuff out of the house as soon as she decided to sell and move.

2. Bill and Tanya were remodeling their house and had to empty the entire main floor. They paid my company to create an inventory of all of the items and create a plan for where everything would go in the new model. We had movers come to pack it all and put it into temporary storage for six months until the remodel was done. When the remodel was complete, we had the movers bring everything back and we unpacked it all and organized it into the new locations in the home. Bill and Tonya had planned for these expenses as part of their remodel and were thrilled with the end result. 

Conclusion: Bill and Tanya were happy with their decision and felt like the money they spent was a great investment. 

3. Patrick inherited his parent’s house and all of the contents when his Mom passed away. He donated and trashed as many things as he could but he didn’t know what to do with all the antique furniture, houseware, and collectibles; like Hummels, crystal, a few sets of china, etc. He was sure at least some of it was valuable so he had it all moved to a storage unit while the house got cleaned up and sold. The monthly bill for the unit got paid automatically and seemed to go up in price every few months.  Finally, he sat down with the bill and did the math. He realized that 4 years had gone by and he had spent more than $14,000 to move and store all of these items. He hired my company to empty the unit. We worked with local auction companies and resellers to try and get him the best price for the unit’s contents, but unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a market for antiques and china. One company gave him $500 and took some of the items, and we had the local Habitat for Humanity come to pick up the rest of the items for donation. 

Conclusion: Patrick regretted not selling or donating those items before selling his parent’s house.  

4. Betty was in a hurry to sell her house while homes were going for record prices. She tried to declutter on her own but just couldn’t seem to let go of the things she had owned for so long, even though she knew she wouldn’t have room for them in her retirement condo. She had a deadline to get it all done, but when that day came and the house still wasn’t ready to sell, her Realtor insisted she hires a professional organizer to get the job done. 

Since Betty was not ready to let go of so many things, and the house had to be cleaned out for the sale, we packed it all up and put it into several storage units, with many warnings about “doing the math” and “having a plan” to get the units emptied. Betty was going to go over every week and go through boxes but the few times she tried it was very difficult. The boxes were heavy, there was no room to go through them, there wasn’t good lighting and no way to plug a light in anywhere, and no place to put recycling, shred, or trash. After a year of not getting rid of a single thing, and having spent over $10,000 on storage, Betty hired us to empty the units.  

We had Betty rent another unit on the same floor for one month (sounds crazy but hang in there). We brought in folding tables, comfortable chairs, battery-operated lights, plastic bins, and trash bags labeled “trash” “donate” and “shred”. We spent the next four weeks moving items from the full storage units into the empty one, starting with 10 boxes at a time. We helped Betty sort through everything used the plastic bins for the things she wanted to keep and labeled them accordingly. We hauled out the trash, shredded, and recycled items, and moved the labeled bins to Betty’s condo. All three Units were empty four weeks later. 

Conclusion: Betty somewhat regretted spending $10,000 on storage, but she was actually glad she sold her house when she did because she made such a profit that the storage costs were worth it. She found the whole process so stressful though, that she DID regret not decluttering her house years before. 

How to Use Storage the Smart Way:

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? 

Rule #1: 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 two years, because you will have spent more money than if you bought it new.  

Rule #2: 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 #3: 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 #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.

Rule #5: If you are going to go through the items in storage then be prepared to put in that time. Put those sessions on your schedule and make time to deal with the trash and keep items. 

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