The real cost of a storage unit is not just the monthly check or automatic withdrawal from your bank account.
Besides the financial stress (which is usually not a tax deduction) there is a underlying mental and emotional stress of having a storage unit.
I have used storage units in the past. Being in the military, we moved every 3 years, and the waiting list for housing was sometimes several months long. This meant that we had to find alternate housing and we usually just moved enough with us to get by until our house was move-in ready. The only choice that we were offered was to put everything into a storage unit for a short period of time.
What I have found, however, is that the highest monthly cost of a storage unit is not necessarily the financial cost but rather the emotional and mental cost all of the items that are stored in the unit. Storage units can be like your long-term filing cabinet. Once an item goes into the file it is never seen again for years – usually when an emergency arrives. At that point, finding the item in the storage unit is usually another reason for stress because organizing a storage unit isn’t usually a top priority on most people’s list.
Here is a great article “Why Paying for a Storage Unit is always a Horrible Idea“.
I understand that storage units have a purpose. They provide a real need and should be used to help you through a short term period of transition. When organizing your storage unit it can be helpful to follow these following steps:
- Make sure that the boxes are medium to large in size.
- Be careful about how you pack the boxes. Putting heavy boxes in a storage unit will make them too hard to manipulate and maneuver.
- List the items that are in the boxes – don’t be too generic – you won’t remember later. The simple “Living Room” may not be enough to help you identify that one item that you are looking for 3 months down the road.
- When it comes to packing up the storage unit consider what you will need to have frequent access to and put those boxes in the front of the storage unit if possible. This will save you time and frustration finding items.
- Rent a unit that is large enough that it will allow you to walk in and move items around as needed. You should not have to pack and unpack your unit every time you need to find an item.
How long should you keep your storage unit?
The longest period of time that I know about someone keeping a storage unit was 7 years. A client had a unit in Charlottesville, VA (many years ago). After getting married, it was easier to put the unnecessary items into a storage unit rather than purge their household items.
When he received notice that his company was transferring him to California (with just 2 weeks notice) he knew that he needed to finally make a decision about what to do with the items that had been in storage for all these years.
So he packed up a suitcase and moved out to California to report to his new job. His company set up the move (which included the items that were in the storage unit).
The client provided me with a list of the items that he “remembered” were in the storage unit that would need to be loaded (and a list of the items that we could donate for him). And this worked for about 60% of the stuff in the unit.
The other 40% of the items were long forgotten. So, as I opened each box, I described what was in the box and was advised about whether it would need to go onto the moving truck or be put into my truck for donations.
I remember that the one big item that HAD to make it onto the moving truck was his wife’s wedding gown!
This client’s real cost of a storage unit was about $8500. The reality of it is that is was about 1/2 of a truck load of items that were shipped off to California. (Talk about a reality check)!
The storage unit business is a Billion $ industry. They are popping up everywhere and yes, they do serve a purpose. Here are my tips to avoid the long term cost of a storage unit:
- Purge and eliminate before purchasing the unit. Maybe you won’t need to use one (?)
- Avoid randomly tossing items into your storage unit. Be very clear about what you are storing – you shouldn’t store junk.
- Have a plan for the length of time that your items should stay in storage. Set a goal with a time frame to either eliminate or sell the items if necessary.
- Shop around – you can usually find places that offer 1 month for Free so you can actually store your items with $0 cost
- Don’t forget about the items in your storage unit. It is easy to treat the bill as a regular monthly expense and include it in your budget.
The Biggest Tip!!! Don’t Procrastinate. If you haven’t used or need the items in your storage unit, release them and reduce your financial, mental and emotional stress. Professional Organizers can help you through the process. It all starts with a phone call or email.