I have strong opinions about self storage units. I’ve written about how my family saves money by selling our stuff instead of storing it. But every now and then, I like to consider a different perspective.
Is it possible that a storage unit could help simplify your life? This guest post is written by Art Decker, a self storage manager.
As a self storage manager, I’ve met people who have used self storage as a way to help them cope with moving from a larger home to a smaller one, and then added self storage to reduce the strain of downsizing.
I know that professional organizers say that self storage is not necessary, and that using self storage to cope with extra clutter only prolongs the inevitable choices that must be made about what to do with it. With respect, however, that’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard.
Most of the people I meet every day are not hoarding “extra” stuff. They are storing things they need or will need in the foreseeable future: hand-me-down clothes for a growing child, the inventory for a home-based small business, the boxes of extra nonperishable supplies, the last several years’ income tax returns and related personal documents and files. They just can’t afford to give those boxes of inventory or files or the coats they will need next winter an air-conditioned, carpeted space, complete with kitchen, bathroom, and cable/Internet access, to call their own.
And rightly so. Skeins of yard don’t need a refrigerator, oven, or stove. A winter coat doesn’t need to use the Internet or watch TV. Your income tax returns don’t need a toilet (no, I promise, they really don’t).
But using a self storage unit wisely takes planning, or it, too, can become a source of stress. Try these strategies:
1. Find a self storage facility that is already on your route.
If you can’t find storage close to where you live, look for space that is close to where you work, close to your grocery store or library, or close to your child’s school or daycare facility. This way you will save time by not having to deviate from your everyday route.
2. Consider renting two or more smaller units instead of one large one.
Depending on the facility, you might find that two or three small self storage units are just as inexpensive as one large one. If you are trying to keep your business inventory separate from your family belongings, you may find that it is less work to use two separate units.
The option for climate-controlled units may be worth the small additional price depending on what you are storing. Though your extra lawn equipment or college kid’s sports equipment probably doesn’t need a constant temperature range, if you have treasured photos or other items that may be sensitive to humidity or extreme temperatures such as leather or some art supplies, it would be a smart choice. In the southeast, where humidity reigns, mildew can be an issue, as can the salt air in coastal areas.
3. Store as much as you can on shelves around the outside of the unit.
Leave yourself as large a space in the middle as you can. That way you will be ready if you have to store additional items unexpectedly. More importantly, though, if you have a bit of extra space in the middle (or in a corner, if you prefer), you can, if need be, use it as additional working, living, or hobby space occasionally. But don’t use your space for sleeping, even if you are tempted — a nap may seem harmless to you, but self storage facilities are not zoned for that.
4. Put whatever you can into storage.
Having less stuff around really does reduce your stress, and when your possessions are in storage, they stay organized. Things kept at home tend to get pulled out and disorganized on a fairly regular basis. When you do add to your unit, be sure to take the little bit of time to put it in its place. Though dropping a box off from time to time seems harmless, they add up quick and your storage unit will end up as cluttered and confused as your closets may once have been.
Try to keep an inventory of what you have put into your storage unit, as well. Some people like to keep their self-storage inventory in a three ring binder at home, with tabs for each area or for each family member. Whenever they take another load to the unit, they take a moment to log its contents in the storage inventory. Other people prefer to use an online program so they can reach their storage unit inventory from any location.
Also, watch out for odd-shaped items — the enemy of organization! If you are storing many items with a standard shape, and two or three of rather odd shapes, pull the odd-shaped ones out and put them in their own spot. Even libraries store oversized books in their own special location.
5. Use storage as a way to transition to a simpler lifestyle.
If you would like to have fewer belongings but can’t decide what to get rid of, one way to find out what you can live without is to put almost everything in storage — this time at an out of the way location NOT on your usual route. Then observe what items you find yourself going out of your way to pull back out. Everything else is stuff that you probably don’t really need.