Up until five years ago, Mr. Groovy and I were the ultimate chumps. We rented a storage unit. We could not fit the entirety of our stuff into a 2,000 square foot home with an attic and a two car garage. No, we paid $60+ a month for the luxury of a temperature controlled 10 x 10 heap of metal junk that we could heap more junk into.
We easily duped ourselves into thinking our storage solution would be short-term. We bought a new (used) dining table—so what did we do with the old? Aha! “Let’s tuck it away for now,” we thought. For many others, a move or a relocation is the impetus that triggers the quest for storage. And just what are the most popular items found in storage units?
- Baby clothes and diapers
- Starter pots and pans
- Old clothing
- Stationery bikes, treadmills and other fitness gear
- Children’s toys
- Documents and records
- Lawn chairs
- Bread machines and appliance parts
Less popular, but dubious uses for storage units include hiding meth-cooking equipment, marijuana plants, firearms, and even body parts. A more practical reason to rent storage that is growing in popularity is for a survivalist cache—this is the “bug out” gear a prepper tucks away for grabbing when the sh*t hits the fan. A facility outside of a busy city might work well for this purpose as long as it’s on the way to a chosen BOL (bug-out location). And then there’s this fellow. I don’t want to give anyone ideas, but he made his home in a storage unit. That is, until he got busted.
Prior to writing this post I believed that apartment renters were the mainstay of the self-storage industry. I was wrong. 65% of self-storage renters have a garage, 47% have an attic, and 33% have a basement. There are 58,000 self-storage facilities in the U.S. with 2.3 billion square feet of space. Almost 10% of U.S. households rent storage. Occupancy rate is 87.4% and the annual revenue of self-storage units in the U.S. is $22 billion. That’s a whole- freakin’-lot of storage!
If you think renting a storage unit appeals mostly to the average Joe, think again. As if owning 14 homes—including a French chateau, and a yacht does not provide him enough space, Johnny Depp keeps his private jets and Hollywood memorabilia in 12 storage units.
Because storage has become such a mainstay in our society, one New York City-based start-up jumped on board the craze with an on-demand service in Manhattan. Handy, as it’s called, will send workers to your home to box up your junk and haul it to a storage facility. For a mere $249 a month, they will schlep your stuff to a warehouse in New Jersey. What a deal compared to the $300+ a month that a unit runs in Manhattan! However, with Handy your belongings are placed in a group space rather than an individual unit. But don’t worry; a bar code will easily locate your items through Handy’s database.
The sharing economy also got into the act with peer-to-peer storage. Spacer, an Australian startup, recently acquired the San Francisco based Roost. And in the U.K., Sharemystorage.com has become the Craigslist of self-storage—type a desired location into its search box to connect with someone offering or seeking to rent space. Both Sharemystorage.com and Spacer’s services include rooms, attics, garages, driveways, and storage for boats.
A common misconception about keeping stuff in self-storage is that the storage company’s insurance covers you. If you are currently renting a unit, don’t assume you’re insured unless your agreement specifically states so. A homeowner’s insurance policy may include possessions kept “off-premises,” but only up to a specific value, if at all. Check your agreement. And if you’re considering adding extra coverage for your belongings in storage, it’s time to examine why you’re holding on to these possessions in the first place.
For Mr. Groovy and me, our last self-storage renewal agreement was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Fed up with making the payment and with the incremental fee hike each season, we gave ourselves six months to clear our unit out. We sold a dinette set through consignment, gave away a dresser, and dumped books. The Salvation Army came directly to the facility and hauled away two mattresses. We put a lamp or two in our garage but didn’t find a rightful spot for one other single item inside our home.
Be honest. If you rent storage is it out of sheer laziness or inertia? Do you believe you will ever use any of the stuff you’re holding on to again? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I love it enough to put it in my home right now?
- Can I repurchase it at another time if I truly want it?
- Do I know anyone who can use it today?
- Can I sell it?
- Can I donate it to an organization?
Your answers to these questions may prove to you it’s time to move on. And if you find yourself truly struggling over whether you should hold on to something, ask yourself “would I buy this again today?” If the answer is no, you don’t need it.
And finally, let’s talk about clutter and finances. I have never seen a neat storage unit, have you? Usually a storage unit is more like a jungle-gym; you have to climb over junk to reach other junk. Does this messiness speak to other aspects of a person’s life, especially money? Clutter can be the enemy of good personal finance habits. Do your bills and important mail pile up? Is your wallet or purse a mess, too? Are you proud of your possessions and your home? Can you find your possessions in your home? Can you make a correlation between your storage habit and other habits?
If you are considering using self-storage my best advice is—don’t do it. And if you already rent storage, give yourself a deadline and get out! It’s difficult to justify the expense and the emotional toll of holding on to “things” you don’t need. When Mr. Groovy and I returned the key to the office of our storage facility we felt cleansed. It was not quite as satisfying as writing a final mortgage check was for Claudia and Garrett, but it was a small victory.