Monday, March 25, 2013

Self-Storage Units: Sometimes Useful, Often Wasteful

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"We never anticipated having a storage unit for long but month after month (and 1 1/2 years later) we found we were still shelling out $77 every month for it (!). So we paid $1,386 to store our crap. Talk about a waste of money!" — Anna, from her blog entitled And Then We Saved, found via Donna Hoo

"You know you're going to use that practically new exercise equipment some day — you just don't have room for it right now. So, like one in 10 households, you cave and rent a storage unit. Next thing you know, you've paid $2,000 to keep a 10-year-old Soloflex." — Melody Warnick

Storage units are often a waste of money — but under certain circumstances, they can also be a worthwhile investment. I've recently read four articles about self-storage, and thought I'd share them with you.

Erin Doland of Unclutterer explains how her family made good use of a self-storage unit:
When we sold our last house, we rented a small, off-site, storage space for three months. We put all of our personal items into it — family photos, kid's artwork, etc. — so potential buyers could "see" themselves in the space. We also swapped out a few chandeliers and window coverings that we had purchased and wanted to take with us instead of leaving in the house (we bought new ones and installed them before anyone came through the house). Finally, we put into storage a few things that just didn't make the home look like a magazine — a chair that made a room look too crowded, our bikes and golf bags from the basement storage to make the room look bigger, etc. 
Once the house was sold, we moved all the stuff into our new home and closed up the off-site storage space. For a temporary purpose, I think storage lockers can be a good idea. Our house sold in 10 days and we got the asking price, so the couple hundred we spent on the storage space was well worth it in our minds.
Here's another, very different story of storage unit use, from Julia Ann Miller writing in The New York Times, and found via Margaret Sullivan, the paper's public editor. This is just the beginning of the article; if you're interested, go read the whole thing. In this case, the need seems to be emotional rather than purely logical — and that can be OK, too.
I pay $189 a month ($2,268 a year) for my Single Girl’s Starter Kit. My Single Girl’s Starter Kit is a storage facility I keep in Brooklyn. I recently moved in with my boyfriend of seven years. Giving up my low-rent apartment in Park Slope is as serious a commitment as I’ve ever made to any human being.

In my starter kit, I have: one single girl’s bed, one set of flannel sheets, one pillow, my grandmother’s afghan, one each of various kitchen utensils, one tool kit, one ladder and one box of love letters from past admirers. Everything I’ll need in case my boyfriend and I ever break up. My Single Girl’s Starter Kit is the opposite of a hope chest.
Christine Bilger wrote an article on Consumerism Commentary that lists many reasons not to use self-storage lockers, and she notes the potential problem of unpaid bills:
It’s important to consider that there are many unfortunate circumstances which can easily lead to unpaid bills, and therefore, cause your items to be sold without your knowledge. If you become severely ill, for instance, you might not be able to get your stuff out before it’s too late. If you pass away, your loved ones may not even find out about the locker before the items are sold.
Note: If you do have a storage unit, make sure you note that that when you pull together your estate-related information for the person with your financial power of attorney, and for your executor.

And finally, here's an article positing an alternative to the traditional storage unit, from Rob Pitingolo, found via Unclutterer. Again, this is just the start of the article; if you're intrigued, go read the whole thing. (Added note: OK, the real point of his article is to ridicule local parking rules, not to suggest an alternative to a storage unit.)
Occasionally I joke on Twitter about my plan to buy an old, beat-up Chevy Astro Van, park it on the street near my house, and use it exclusively as storage space. It sounds ridiculous, but it's actually an interesting thought experiment.
Related Posts:
Renting Self-Storage Units Can Be a Big Mistake
The Stuff That Resides in Self Storage Units

5 comments:

JustGail said...

It sounds like storage units need to be treated like the relative that wants to stay with you "until I'm back on my feet" - give them a time limit at the start or they may end up getting way to comfortable.

SueBK said...

I've just applied for a position overseas. If I get it we wouldn't be taking all our belongings. We *would* be decluttering, but there will be some things that we'd still want to keep.
We have two single seater lounges that we've dragged everywhere; most comfortable chairs on the planet. We've just had them recovered, so they now look as nice as they are comfortable. BUT they wouldn't suit a tropical climate. Books, personal papers, winter doonas and jackets, CDs/DVDs.
As we have no family close by with a spare shed, I'm thinking our only option will a storage unit.

Marcie Lovett said...

I used a storage unit when I relocated but didn't have a place to live. I think I kept it for 4 months.

When I ask people how long they've had stuff in storage, how much it costs annually and what the stuff is, they often are amazed that they've spent so much money to keep things that aren't worth the amount they've paid to store them.

I remind clients that self-storage is best for short-term use to house things you use and care about.

SMARTBOX said...

Storage doesn't have to only be long-term, off-site storage. You actually have a lot of options and a lot of reasons to invest in storage.

When you use portable storage, you can have on-site storage, off-site storage, and you can use the containers to move to a new place.

For anyone looking for a storage facility, make sure you find a place that is climate-controlled if you have an sensitive belongings! Otherwise your things could be subjected to extreme temperature changes, which can lead to damage.

Clayton Steadham said...

It really is a case-to-case basis for the most part. Ideally, storage spaces are really convenient when it’s a temporary thing, but if you’re thinking permanent, make sure that the stuff you’re storing is worth it.

Clayton Steadham