In 2011, the self-storage industry in the US generated 22 billion dollars in revenue. And even though the average house is getting bigger, one in ten households now has a storage unit (an increase of over 65% over the past 15 years)*. Clearly storage is a popular choice, but is it really worth the money, not to mention the time and energy of moving things in and out of storage?
Our answer—it depends. At the moment both my sister and I are contemplating storage—Laura because she is moving and will be living in a temporary house while she builds her dream home and Alison because she lives in a loft that although spacious, has a complete and utter lack of closet space.
As we considered storage we realized there are several things to think about before committing to the time and money required to store:
1) Most importantly, do you truly love the item? Is it useful, beautiful and/or cherished? Is it a reflection of who you are now and does it support your current goals, interests and values? If not, let it go.
2) Have you calculated the cost of storing the item (including time and money to move it) versus the cost of selling or donating the item now and then in the future potentially having to replace it?
Keep in mind, no matter how hard we try, it’s difficult to predict the future. The only thing we can know with certainty is where we are in the present moment, so it make sense to make a decision based on what’s happening now rather than what might happen in the future.
3) Are you in a transition? A time when storage may be appropriate is during a transition or “temporary” period. If you move into a rental to renovate a home, you’ll most likely have things that may not work in the rental but will work in your new home. Similarly, if you take a sabbatical for six months and sublet your apartment, storing your belongings may be a perfect solution for what to do with your stuff.
4) Do you not have space for things you truly USE and NEED? Sometimes the size of our living space really doesn’t meet our needs. If you have an organized and clutter-free home, but still find you don’t have space for items that you use regularly, then storage may be more cost effective than finding a larger home. In this case, it helps to think of your storage unit as an extra closet. Keep it organize and check for clutter periodically. Free up space in your home by placing the items you don’t use often storage. You can even rotate items from storage to your home—this works particularly well for children’s toys and of course holiday decorations.
Also, if you are involved in seasonal activities like skiing, boating, or camping it may make sense to store the stuff associated with those activities. But you may want to weigh the costs and benefits of owning these items versus just renting them each season.
If you do decide to store, keep the following in mind:
- The same rules apply to storage as they do in our homes. Even though these items are out of our homes, they are still part of our lives, taking up time, space and resources. Unnecessary stuff weighs us down and takes up not only physical space, but mental space that could prevent new and better things from coming our way. Therefore only keep things that are beautiful, useful and cherished. If you don’t love it and it is not in alignment with who you are and who you want to be, let it go so you can free up space, time and energy for those things that will support your highest and greatest good.
- You will also want to make sure your storage unit is clean and organized. If your home is an extension of your body and influencing all parts of your life, your storage unit is like your big toe—a less then optimally functioning big toe can still throw the rest of your body out of alignment.
- Take care of the items in storage. We are in a relationship with our things. Items in storage should be clean, in good repair and placed properly. If you are not willing to give these items proper attention, then seriously consider whether they are really worth your time and money to store.
- Memorabilia is often not worth storing. Unless you plan to periodically review college term papers, display third grade artwork, or showcase high school trophies—you can just as easily appreciate these items or trigger fond memories by scanning or photographing them.
- Use it or give it away. Once people move something into storage, they tend to forget about it—out of sight, out of mind. If you haven’t opened your storage unit for over a year, chances are you don’t really need the stuff you’re storing. So if you are going to put something in storage, make a commitment to go to your storage unit and “check in” with each item you’ve stored at least once a year to make sure it’s still worth holding onto.
So what did you decide? To store or not to store?
*From the Self Storage Association