I am going to be brutally honest here – in my opinion, the only reasons to pay for self-storage are:
1. A death in the family, and the estate stuff has to be put somewhere while it is settled.
2. A big move while you search for/move into a new home.
3. You are involved in activities that involve lots of equipment that doesn’t fit in your garage.
That’s it. If you are paying for self-storage to hold just your “stuff”, you have to much of it. 🙂 If for some reason or another I could no longer fit my belongings in my home, I would most definitely start decluttering to make room for those items that actually mean something to me. You already pay a mortgage and/or rent; why pay even more just to store “stuff”? It just doesn’t make any sense to me to do so. I found these statistics in an article of mine from a few years ago on just this subject:
Since the 1970’s, the average home in the U.S. has grown by 80%, yet according to UCLA researchers Americans are facing a “storage crisis”.
4 in 5 new homes have multi-car garages, but most two car garages have only one or no car in them.
The average American fridge is twice as big as its European counterpart.
1 in 11 households rents storage space, which is 1 million more households than two years ago.
Spending upwards of $100+ a month to store old clothes, baby items, furniture and other junk you think you might need one day is a waste of money. That’s a minimum of $1,200 a year you are spending on storing “stuff”. That’s a great vacation for the entire family, an extra mortgage payment each year, or a good chunk of money that you could be putting towards your retirement. I have never had much of an attachment to “stuff”, which is probably why self-storage makes no sense to me. Mind you, I understand that many people who pay for storage have a problem with clutter and hoarding – it is usually not by accident that they acquire this much stuff. And they need help to deal with it, which hopefully they will get from this site and others like it in my blogroll. People really don’t need all the things that they think they do; and that’s why the self-storage industry is booming. If you are spending money for storage, is it for something useful that makes a difference in your life or just to hold your extra clutter you are afraid of letting go of? What do you guys think about self-storage?
I totally agree. Self-storage can be a life saver though. I was in Situation #2 a few years ago. I had to temporarily move in with my parents in the midst of a job/location change. There was no way all of my furniture was going to fit at my parents’ house.
I also know someone who paid to have a storage locker full of crap. He was 33 and had boxes of school projects from when he was in second grade. He just couldn’t get rid of stuff. It was such a waste of money.
33 and holding on to all that stuff. That’s definitely not good!
Laziness costs money. It takes work to go through things to determine what items are keepers and what should be sold/tossed/repurposed. It is easier to move the whole lot into storage and consider yourself done. This seems to be indicative of society today though. Look at all the money spent to ensure convenience.
Absolutely Susan, I never even thought about it like that!
I agree that self-storage may be overused and is just a replacement for your attic or basement. I have alot of stuff in my attic that I’ve held onto for years, 15 to be exact. My problem is I’m afraid I’ll throw away something I might need later on or I’ll let go of something that had sentimental value. I realize most of my stuff could go, but I think starting the process is difficult.
In the midst of our divorce, my soon-to-be ex-husband cleaned out the storage locker that we had rented for over 10 years. At $100/month, that’s $12,000 that we spent to keep crap. Some of it was older daughter’s bedroom furniture and some was college collectibles from both kids. The bottom line is that for $12,000 we could definitely have replaced anything that needed replacing. As for the collectibles, it’s hard to part with stuff, but I think you have to look at the price tag of keeping it.
Thanks for sharing Debbie. $12K is a lot of money, for sure!
I couldn’t fathom paying to store my stuff. In fact, you probably could have gotten into the cost of storing stuff in your own home that you don’t need.
For example, we have boxes and boxes of old papers and books stacked in one of our closets. We moved a year and a half ago, and just haven’t unpacked them — probably because we never use anything in the boxes. If we got rid of them, we would be able to evaluate what could better go in that closet, and maybe clear out some of the clutter around our house. This would make the house feel cleaner, which would make us feel more calm, which means we’d be more productive and happy overall. It’s hard to put a dollar figure that.
We went about it another way. We do not have a garage in our 84 year old house so we have several out buildings. One is for gardening and storage of lawn mowers and all our gardening supplies and tools. One is a wood working shop and our wood working tools and other tools, and stuff like that in there and then there is the storage barn which we had put on the property a couple of years ago because we were paying for storage. We have our hoiday decorations, our seasonal clothes, and things we use and need and some stuff we just want. We have purged a lot, but it is still pretty full .
If you do not have an attic or basement or garage, and we have none of those, sometimes your only choice is to rent a storage unit or put a building on your property and we did the first and then took a credit card and bought the building and paid it off in two years and the payment was never more than half of what the storage payment had been. A glut of overtime paid it off in full this past month, but without it, we would have had to keep paying for storage, so I think sometimes it just cannot be helped to rent a storage unit if your home has no storage in it.
That makes much more sense to me than paying for storage.
I thought this was an excellent post. I also thought I’d give you an example of why we did use storage; have for 13 years.
From 1996 until 2000, we paid a total of $365/month for storage; we went on the road in our motor-home, and had way too many beautiful pieces of art and nice furniture (selling them would have really caused us to lose about $50,000 given the market at the time).
We spent $17,520 during those 4 years; however, since we paid no rent (and in our area monthly rental was about $1300/month), we’d have paid $62,400 for space large enough to hold our items.
We also keep our gold, silver, and stamp collection in the storage unit; as well as the fine art, so with that value, it was a safe and economical option.
In 2000 we bought a condo; no garage, and down-sized our storage to one unit that costs $64/month. The cost to buy a condo’ with a garage (at that time) would have cost us $120,000 more for the unit because the one we bought, we bought at auction for $41,000. Since we still wanted to keep our gold and silver safe (and believe it or not, most people would not expect to have someone keep $120,000 worth of gold and silver in a storage locker), we’ve kept the few items of great value, safe and sound at a current cost these past 9 years of $6,912. If we keep the unit for the life of our mortgage, it will have cost us for this ‘remote garage’ which is a 12×15, $23,040. We’ve added $23,040 to the cost of our condo of $41,000, and at the end of the mortgage period, we’ll have paid $64,040 (not including interest of course). So, we still paid HALF of what we’d have had to pay for a condo with garage in the market-place where we wanted to live (and the prices are even higher now).
So, we’ve will have saved not only HALF OF THE PRINCIPAL ON THE CONDO, but also on the INTEREST on a $161,000 condo with garage; the value of what is stored far exceeds the life-time of when we’ll sell the gold, silver, and then close the unit.
Also, because the unit is a 12×15, the gold and silver don’t use all of this space of course (we’d be millionaires if it did), so we keep a full ‘fitness center’ inside the unit; the cost to join a fitness club for 2 people would certainly be all of $64/month, and probably more.
The units are surrounded with a high fence; gated, and 24/hour monitored. We also live in a gated community; a high fence – 24/hour monitored and 24/hour guard-service.
We figure if anyone decides to break into our condo, and succeeds, they won’t make off with the most valuable items (or some of the most valuable items), so it’s like not having all your ‘expensive eggs’ in one basket.
We’ve also put our kids’ names on the storage unit as having rights to all the contents and access, in the event of our death. This was simple paper-work we filled out, notarized, with the unit’s owners and copied to all the kids. This means there’s nothing to probate; nothing that requires a lot of paperwork since they simply can bring in the key; open up the unit, and carry everything out and away.
For us, this is a wonderful choice; thought I’d share this because it might cause some of your readers to review not only what’s in the lockers, but how to utilize a locker (particularly if you want to retire as we did, and go for a 4-year tour in your motor-home or r.v.).
Living in an RV is a good reason, for sure!
I really enjoyed reading your post. I’m head of marketing at a storage company (StorageByMail.com) so you might be surprised to hear that I completely agree with you. Our good friend Lorie over at The Clutter Diet Blog (http://bit.ly/13j1X) calls self storage “climate-controlled mausoleums” for clutter. I love that quote and think it sums up many of your critiques of self storage.
We’ve tried to approach the storage business in a different way. We have an efficient centralized warehouse, allow customers to add and remove packages via the mail, offer online tracking & inventory management, and have no minimums or fixed contracts. This attracts a different and smarter consumer of storage. Most of our customers use our service for specific needs, such as relocation or eBay inventory management. More recently we’ve noticed customers adopting a strategy of downsizing into smaller and more sustainable homes. We have customers in Manhattan and San Francisco for example who have saved a lot of money by living in smaller apartments than they otherwise would and using StorageByMail.com for storing things like seasonal clothing and files. And in the process they’re reducing their impact on the environment (too many of us live in homes that are far larger than we really need).
We think compulsive hoarding is a problem and appreciate when individuals such as you take the time to make the case for decluttering. We also think that our industry has contributed to the problem through the construction of ubiquitous self storage warehouses in cities around the country and through marketing tactics that encourage the lazy practice of hiding clutter rather than addressing it. Our goal at StorageByMail.com is be different by offering a better set of tools for managing one’s storage needs more responsibly.
Your point is well-taken, but what if you don’t have a garage? I don’t have one, and the stuff I keep in a storage unit is about what an average garage would hold. In this case, do you still think it’s nuts to have a storage unit at a cost of $80 a month?
At $80 a month, you are spending almost $1000 each year to store your stuff. Could you put up a shed in the yard, which would be much cheaper?
$1000 a year is a lot of money and it does pain me to spend it on storage. But the facts are that I live with my wife in a 1000 sq. ft. condo with no garage or yard. Not much space in a 1000 sq. ft. condo. So, I repeat, do you still think it’s nuts to rent the storage unit?
Yes. Not what you want to hear, but yes. I have lived in much smaller apartments than 1,000 sq feet, w/o a garage, and have still never needed a storage place. Sorry if that’s not what you want to hear. 🙂
No, David, no need to apologize. I appreciate your honesty. If you had told me what you thought I wanted to hear, then your comment wouldn’t mean much, would it? I am aware of the crazy aspect of paying for a storage unit, but am not yet ready to part with my stuff. So I guess I’m stuck . . . for now.
I like your website!
You aren’t crazy; getting rid of clutter and “stuff” is a process that one must go through!!
Well this is a great post, but I have to comment. You see I’m a freelance artist in addition to my job (which I love) working at a school as an aide. However the paintings I love to do are often 5 feet tall canvas. These and the supplies to them are kept in a storage unit along with anything that doesn’t fit in my current rented home. About every 8months to a year I move in the vicinity as I can only afford to rent a room on my salary and those are subjected to the current renters staying put. In addition I keep antiques that I love and could not buy back that sometimes fit, sometimes don’t. So yes I may loose about 1,000 a year but selling even ONE painting often pays for that when it’s the larger one, and about 3 of the smaller so to me it’s worth it. Otherwise I couldn’t have a place to keep them. 🙂
I have a great deal on a storage unit… $27 a month. Locked in rate. Since I don’t have a garage or carport or basement, I consider this a good safe off-site place for me to keep camping equipment and holiday things and yes, a few boxes of personal things that maybe I really don’t need, but well, can’t seem to part with. I’m really careful about keeping it tidy and easy to get to and we often visit, bringing seasonal things in and out.
If it were a lot more money, then yes, I would ditch it. But it’s very secure, safe and well, helps me to keep my home very clutter free. And I use it sometimes for those iffy items that I think I don’t need but I can’t seem to just give away… I’ll pop them in the unit for a month or two and then the parting is MUCH easier.
I have a little shed in my yard, but in our park, those sheds are easy targets for kids and such, so I really don’t want to keep anything very valuable in it.
It’s easy to say that there is a clear cut rule to storage units, as in, no one should use them, but I think if you manage it well, they can be very useful, if you need a bit of space.
Just saying…. 🙂
I am currently unemployed and living with family that has there own financial dealings and i am in need of assistance to help me with storage till i am able to get back on my feet everything in there is clothes and things for a house/apt and do not wish to lose them…I need help please.