The number of storage facilities in the US doubled from 1998 to 2012 and now, in 2016, there are well over 50,000 facilities with over 2.5 billion square feet of available storage. That’s almost 8 square feet for every man, woman and child in this country. I’m not using my portion and many of you aren’t either. So who’s using all this storage and why?
Before I go any further, let me state clearly that I’m not against self-storage. There are a lot of good reasons to use a storage facility, I’ll cover those. I’ll also look at the not-so-great reasons people use a storage facility and ways to avoid them. If you’re already using one for the wrong reasons and want to end the monthly payments, I’ll make some suggestions that could save you a lot of money … if you’re interested.
So, what’s a good reason to rent a storage unit? There are lots of them … most of them with a limited time span :
· Renovating a home or business and need space for furniture and housewares.
· Space for furniture you’re saving for someone who’s not ready for it.
· Seasonal storage (snowboards/skis in the summer and pool toys in the winter)
· Inherited items that you want to work into your home but need time to clear out room.
The list reasons that aren’t so good is a bit longer, here are a few examples :
· Acquiring things that don’t fit in your home or moving things from your home to fit in new things with no plan to get rid of anything.
· Storing inherited items that you’re not ready to deal with (ok in the short term but not a year or two later).
· Clearing out clutter to make room for a new baby or for a special event like a wedding.
About half of the storage units are rented for a period of less than a year, but 30% are for 2 years or more. With rents for an average sized unit (10 feet x 15 feet) running over $100 a month, the bill adds up quick. What you initially imagine being a short term solution costing several hundred dollars becomes a crutch costing well into the thousands.
So, what are the options when you need some extra room and don’t want to fall into the trap of long term storage?
1. Get some help – hiring an organizer can help you think through what you should keep and what to get rid of. Once you’re organized, they’ll help you with donations, disposal of trash and/or selling items (possibly paying for the organizer and a bit of profit for you). They can even help you with things in a storage unit. Most organizers can pull together a team and deal with whatever size issue you have … quickly.
2. Plan a yard sale - Yes, it's a lot of work, but the space you open up and the money you can make it worthwhile. Anything leftover can be donated to a local charity (if there enough, they may even pick it up from your home).
3. Rent a “pod” – Pods are weatherproof containers delivered to your home. Once filled, they can stay on your property, moved to a storage facility or moved to another location. Keeping it on your property makes it hard to ignore so that’s preferable. Plus, having it close makes it easy to deal with when you do have time. Be sure to check with your local authorities to find out if they allow pods on your property and for how long. Also, if you need climate controlled storage, you’ll need to have the Pod moved to a facility that offers that.
4. Use a storage unit - BUT have a plan (with a timetable) to get out of it. As I mentioned there are lots of good reasons to use storage and many people (50%) are able to use it for a short period of time.
So, before you make what seems like a quick and easy decision, think it through. If you’ve got a plan to keep it short term … go ahead. Otherwise, it may be better (and cheaper) to get some help to solve the problem in the short term.