Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Renting Self-Storage Units Can Be a Big Mistake

Ad for Pak-N-Stor: Suddently your 3-bedroom has 3 bedrooms.

We have too much nicely stored stuff and too many homeless people. -- twoleftfeet, on Metafilter, via Discardia

Does it sometimes make sense to rent a self-storage unit? Sure! But heed these words from Paul, on FiscalGeek:
There are legitimate uses for storage units no doubt. People need a place to put their stuff when they move, or change jobs, or have short term assignments. ... But I’ll wager the overwhelming majority of storage units are filled with the stuff of broken dreams and promises.
Paul also writes about how the use of self-storage gets rationalized:
I can’t possibly scale down my beanie baby collection so I’ll get a storage unit to preserve them. Oh no I can’t part with my collection of civil war chess sets those will be worth millions some day. No they won’t. They’ll sit there for ever, sucking money from your checking account every month and will be your kids problem someday.
For one story about someone who did indeed have a lot of money sucked out of her bank account, head on over to Wise Bread and read the full story about Sarah.
Convinced that she would be able to sell, donate or otherwise dispose of her extra stuff during the "First 30 Days Free Rent" period that her storage company offers to all new customers, Sarah moved her designer guest room furniture, her Christmas decorations, her art collection, etc. into four of the cheapest storage units available. ...

She never moved out. ...

Although she has plenty of very valuable things in storage, as we surveyed the contents of one of Sarah's units earlier this week, she finally did the math. ... 5 years x $200 a month per unit x 4 units = $48000. And that total doesn't even account for the money spent on gasoline to get her to and from her storage or all the late fees she's paid on other bills because she chose to pay her storage bill on time so her stuff wouldn't be seized for non-payment.
And certain items don't do well in your basic self-storage unit, as noted by An_Fear_Glas on LibraryThing:
Books easily grow patches of insidious mold if left in nasty generic storage units. Ideally, you would want a space that has less than 50% humidity, at or below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and reasonably well sealed away from six and eight-legged critters. Key term there is 'ideally', though. Decent storage units are rarely cheap, at least in the USA and Canada; ... climate-controlled is even more expensive.
Thanks to Susan Tiner for the pointer to FiscalGeek, and Louise Horner for the pointer to Wise Bread.

[Image: Ad for Pak-N-Stor, by Taxi, found here - and many other places.]

Related Posts
Self Storage - A Growing Business
Storage Units: Ads and Anecdote
Self-Storage Units: Sometimes a Great Notion (But Often Not)

12 comments:

Amy@thecircusmcgurkus.blogspot.com said...

Wow, $48,000 to store stuff she didn't even want! Just think, even if she donated it to Goodwill she would have had so much more money in her pocket.

Lelah Baker-Rabe said...

What a great post. Unless you're using them for a transitional period such as a move, in my opinion storage units are never a good idea. Instead of providing you with peace of mind and space, as you think they will, they just drain your money, time, energy and resources.

Amber Kostelny-Cussen said...

I suggest only renting a space under two conditions: The 1st condition: only rent if you have a definite ending date on the calendar. If you know you will be absolutely, positively taking the contents back out on a date within the next year and for a specific purpose then go ahead. The 2nd condition: only rent if you are out of time and have no other option. Sometimes a natural disaster or death occurs and you have no other choice under those unexpected times.

kbfenner said...

Just yesterday I had to explain to my husband, whose parents are chronic storage unit tenants, that just because you could fit something somewhere, doesn't mean it's a good idea to do so. This was in the context of his bathroom vanity--he'll never remember the thing underneath is there and never use it. I think the same thing is true of a lot of things we save--realistically, if we don't have any way of really comprehending that we have them, we might as well get rid of them.

DebraC said...

Those storage units can certainly get expensive to maintain. The sooner you can reduce the number of storage units you have to pay for, the better. I's a good idea to make an inventory list of each unit so you can start to prioritize which clutter to get rid of first.

C.M. Mayo said...

Fascinating. What a nightmare. Sounds like credit cards...

Jeri Dansky said...

My goodness, this sure struck a chord with many of you; thanks for the comments!

kbfenner, you reminded me of this quote from Barbara Hemphill: If you don’t know you have it, or you can’t find it, it is of NO value to you.

billf said...

Well...I've never had to use a storage unit, but I have purchased things from people that were stored in one. You could tell the items were in there for a long time and the owner just wanted to get rid of them. So it actually worked to my advantage.

I do have a lot of stuff stored in my basement though. Recently I've started giving much of it away through a local forum that lists stuff for free. I just state in the post it's not for re-selling. I have no way to prove they don't do that, but I can usually tell if the people I'm giving it to will really use it.

Jeri Dansky said...

Billf, I'd be interested in knowing if you use Freecycle, the "free" section of craigslist, or something else.

JustGail said...

I wonder if storage units aren't the "stuff" version of buying on credit. Most people (including myself sometimes) see only the monthly payment, not the total cost. Not a lot of people realize that charging a $50 meal and then making minimum payments on it turns it into a $200(?) meal.

I just read an article in a quilting magazine about just such a philosophy "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" and then the writer went on to give some very good examples. I think I should have that framed in my house.

David from Bakersfield said...

Agree with the above that people tend to only look at monthly payment not the overall. Also, usually people didn't plan for such a long time when making the rental originally. The average length of rental is 6 months.

Cyndi from Los Angeles said...

$48,000 is a lot stuff, which if you don't need them now, you will likely not need them later. So sell it or donate it.