Follow the Decluttering:
Are you paying a monthly bill to store your belongings that you don’t have room for?
How long have you been doing so?
I recently talked to a friend who first rented a storage unit a few years ago when she moved back in with her parents. She was proud of how much she has eliminated from the storage unit lately but wasn’t sure about getting rid of some of the larger furniture. She feared how much it would cost to buy a new living room set if she moved into her own place. That’s understandable at first. However, when we added up the $100 per month she’s been paying for over four years, she realized she’s spent around $5000 on storage.
Therein lies one of the major pitfalls of renting a storage unit. Their purpose is supposed to be for short-term usage, like during a move for example. Unfortunately, about 9% of American families rent storage space and more than half of them have been renting for over a year.(1) Keep in mind that the $100 per month my friend was paying is hardly the upper limit for storage costs. Depending on the size, monthly rent can reach as high as $150 or more.
The self-storage industry has a history going back to England when banks began storing valuables for customers going on long voyages. The trend grew until vaults were overflowing and banks began using storage space at moving companies. By the 1850’s, warehouses were being built just for storage of personal items.(2)
The first modern self-storage units in the United States were built in Texas in the 1960’s and the concept spread.(2) Now, there are about 50,000 storage facilities in the U.S. and the industry generates around $38 Billion in annual revenue.(1) Clearly, we have a lot of important things that we need to keep even though we can’t make room for them in our homes.
When Paying for Storage Makes Sense
I don’t want to bankrupt the self-storage industry. I do think they serve an important purpose in some cases. However, I want everyone who is spending their hard-earned money on storage to weigh the cost against the value of the items being stored.
With that in mind, here are a couple cases where it might make sense to rent storage.
1. In between moves, especially when buying or selling a home.
Changing apartments can sometimes be a problem if your lease is up at one and the other won’t be ready for a few weeks. Store everything you don’t need in the short term until the new place is ready. The same situation can arise when buying and selling your home.
If you’re trying to sell your home and you have a lot, I would first advise you to purge, and then purge some more so you don’t have to rent storage. However, if you want to stage your house for sale you may still need to remove some things temporarily to make it look better. First, see if you can store a couple things in a friend’s or relative’s basement though. Just don’t overstay your welcome.
2. Storing something valuable that you can only use periodically
There are limited cases where this will make sense. Say you have a valuable motorcycle or something larger that you can only use seasonally. It might make sense to protect it from the elements during the winter if you can’t make room for it in your garage, assuming you have one. This is also common for boats, RVs, etc.
3. For business purposes
If you own a business and need space, a storage unit can be much cheaper than renting a larger office to store records or equipment for your business. This makes sense especially for contractors and lawn care companies.
That’s about all I can think of. There may be other specific situations where it makes sense but remember, every payment you make for storage can make the contents less valuable.
The bottom line is if you have no other choice but to rent storage, you want to rent the smallest one possible. Purge as much as possible first and then empty out your storage as quickly as possible.
Do you have a system for keeping track of your phone and/or tablet?
Do you always know where they are when you're at home? What do you do with all those charging cords? Do you have a phone home? (If you don't get the reference, you're young, and you need to go watch the classic 1980's movie ET)
If you're like us, you have a basket or drawer full of tangled chargers. Charging a phone involved untangling a cord from the pile and then plugging it in on the kitchen island. The phone and charger only added to the clutter already on the counter. Sometimes, it would get bumped when accessing the refrigerator or the GFCI outlet would get tripped for some reason. After you thought your phone was charging, you would discover it was still dead. Often, both plugs would be tied up in the morning when someone wanted to use the toaster. This caused a fight over which phone to unplug.
We finally solved all this with the bamboo charging station below. We now have a home for our phones and tablets. Plugged in or not, it's a handy place to put them instead of the middle of the kitchen counter.
I made space for it on our kitchen counter tucked back out of the way next to the fridge. Inside is a 6-port USB charger. We had so many USB cords around that I didn't even need to buy new ones. I even connected the charger for our Amazon Tap device, which can easily be disconnected to use for a phone or tablet.
Several versions of these charging stations are available on Amazon and I'm sure other stores. I like the look of the bamboo and the way the dividers are easily removable, yet strong enough to easily hold several devices. Plus, bamboo is considered a sustainable material.
Below are affiliate links to the charging station, charger, and just in case you're interested, the Amazon Tap. (Note that the Tap is an older model Alexa enabled device. The thing I like about the Tap though, is it isn't constantly listening to you. You have to push the button before asking Alexa a question.)
If you want to be fancy, you can buy all new USB cables for it so they match and are all the same length. If you have a mixture of devices needing their own type of cord then I suggest buying different colors for them. For example, now that my wife is back at work I plan to get a white iPhone charger for her work phone. All the other devices we have are Android based and are using black cables.
If you are tired of seeing your phones and tablets all over the house, you keep forgetting where it's plugged in, or are constantly searching for your phone charger that your kids stole, then this is the way to go. The version above may not be the right one for you, but since they come in several shapes and materials, I'm sure you'll find one that works.
Vintage or Garbage
This is me on my Wonder Horse when I was a kid. It was one of my favorite toys of all time. With my horse and a lasso, I thought I was going to be the next rodeo star. One of my favorite rodeo events to emulate though was steer wrestling. I would ride as hard as I could, then leap off and tackle something - pillows, cushions, whatever.
After I outgrew my Wonder Horse, my little sister played with it and so did many of my nephews. At some point I brought it to my own home for my kids to play with.
Nothing lasts forever though
Before I knew it, I had to put tape over a crack in the saddle to prevent pinched rear ends. The kids kept playing with it and it only got worse. Last month, when I had a wet basement to deal with I moved several things, including the horse, to the garage.
I kept looking at it knowing that I should get rid of it. No one had been playing with it for a while. It was fairly dangerous with the broken seat, the handle that wouldn’t stay on anymore, and the sharp metal stand that was missing a rubber cap.
But how could I possibly part with my horse?
I had spent countless hours playing with it as a kid and enjoyed watching my own kids play with it. After all, this is vintage 1979 and people collect these things. It’s worth money right? What about all the great memories? In other words, all the usual excuses went through my mind about why you can’t part with a sentimental item.
When I mentioned it to one of my sisters I heard, “You can’t get rid of your horse!” I started thinking that maybe I could repair it. Then I thought of all the other projects I have laying around the house I already don’t have time for. Since I have six sisters, advice is never more than a phone call away. I asked another and found out she still has hers. She plans to make a carousel horse out of it. “Then what?” I asked. “It’ll just sit around in a corner I guess. I should probably get rid of it”.
I broke down and decided to sell
I put it for sale on a local Facebook group for the bargain price of $15. After a week, I lowered it to $10. Here’s an interesting thing about selling on Facebook. If you didn’t know, you can check the statistics of your item to see how many people have looked at it, saved it, etc. The stats on my horse were poor. Even at $10.
I finally worked up the courage to put it on the curb
I deleted the posting on Facebook and set it on the curb in front of our house. Normally, you can put anything out here and it will disappear in a matter of hours. Late that night, it was still there and the forecast was for rain. I brought it back into the garage. The next day I did the same thing. An excited grandparent stopped and rang the doorbell to make sure I was giving it away. When I showed him the broken seat, he changed his mind and drove away.
Someone finally took it. I keep telling myself it went to someone who will repair it and not to a scrap dealer. I’m sure my beloved Wonder Horse is being repaired right now so a kid can pretend to be the next rodeo star.
What did I learn from throwing my childhood on the curb?
First, I learned I don’t miss the horse, but I love the extra space I gained in my basement. Second, I learned that while my sisters sometimes have good advice, they are not the ones to ask if I should get rid of something. Third, when you detach yourself from a sentimental item and look at it objectively, it will be lot easier to see why you should let it go. In this case, I zeroed in on the broken seat and sharp metal and realized it was unsafe. I knew I would never get around to repairing it, assuming that was even possible. Finally, you can convince yourself that the sentimental item you were attached to is still out there making someone else happy. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.
My family uses Cozi for our calendar, shopping, and to-do lists. The best part is that it's free.
Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2018
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