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This should come as no surprise: Americans love stuff. We store it in basements, attics and garages. We pile it in closets and spare rooms. When space becomes tight, the idea of stuffing it into a storage unit seems like a good solution to the problem. Suddenly, it’s out of sight, out of mind.
For many, the idea of renting a storage unit to store items you’re not using every day can certainly feel like a frivolous expense.
It’s not always a bad idea. But there are some factors to consider before using a storage unit as a catch all for your stuff.
Consider the monthly cost of the unit, how many months it will be there, the value of the contents in the storage, cost for transfer in and out of the unit, and the value of the sentimentality of the content. If the cost of renting a storage unit is greater than the value of the items, consider donating or selling them and purchasing them again or borrowing them when you need them.
If the storage is for a short period of time, for example during a move, and it would be more expensive to replace everything than to store it for a few months, a storage unit makes sense.
If you decide you need one, make sure that it is organized well so you can find things if you need them in the meantime.
Here is the process we recommend you take when placing items into storage.
1. Edit your stuff before you store it.
This is the most important phase of this process. It gives you a chance to assess what you need, what you value and review your priorities. Dedicate significant time to this phase as it will set you up for success in your next steps.
Make sure you make firm decisions on your items. Having a pile of “questionables” will likely mean they will fall into a dark storage hole and never be seen until you need to move them again.
Don’t store unopened or unwanted wedding gifts. If you are certain you will not have use for these gifts, return them to the merchant for refund or credit. The worst place to store these gifts is in your in-laws home, where they will never be seen again.
To decide whether or not to keep an item, use our W.A.S.T.E. process:
W- Worthwhile. If the item is broken or worn out, toss it. If it is, move on to the next four questions.
A - Again. Will you use this item more than once?
S - Somewhere else. Can you find it somewhere else or borrow it if you need it?
T - Toss. Will anything happen if you throw it out? If you need it for tax or legal reasons, keep it.
E - Entire. Do you need the whole thing, the complete catalog, or do you just want a page? If not, keep what you need and throw the rest out.
2. Donate or consign what you don’t want.
Donation gives new life to an item for someone else who will actually use it. It also saves things from ending up in the landfills.
Set up individual contractor bags (heavy duty waste bags) for each of the following categories: keep, give away, donate, consign, and toss. Do not leave your bags for other services or individuals to pick up or deliver. The sooner you remove the clutter, the sooner your memory and fondness of the items will fade.
Here is a list of good places to donate unwanted items.
Goodwill - locations all over
Local churches/schools typically take donations as well
If you feel like your item still has some value and you want to get something back for it, consider consigning or selling it.
Here are a couple of good marketplaces for used items:
RealReal (offering virtual consignment appointments - sign up on their website)
Dora Maar (DM (@shopdoramaar) or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and they can get a virtual consignment appointment started with you. Once connected, they will send you a prepaid shipping label, schedule a courier pick up for delivery to their HQ. Sit back and let the team do the rest for you!
3. Structure your storage unit for use.
Don’t just pile everything in your storage unit and lock the door. Make sure you make a sensible plan on how you set it up so you can access it easily. You are less likely to use your items if they are hard to get to.
Just as you would set up a closet, start by categorizing your items and placing them in bins or other containers. Make sure you choose bins that have a lid, and seal and stack well, like these bins from the Container Store. Then stack your stuff vertically from the floor to as high as space permits. Make sure every bin has a label.
The metro shelf is excellent for storing out-of-season clothing or items that you want to put in a holding pattern until you decide whether or not to sell them. Do not leave them in limbo for too long, otherwise your storage will be overstuffed with your “do not know what to do with”clothing.
Out of season garment racks can be covered with heavy duty plastic to protect garments from water and mildew damage.
Kids memorabilia is a good candidate for storage. Make sure it is labelled in sturdy bins. Decide to donate clothes your child has grown out of or keep them for another child. If you do keep them, make sure they are categorized by size, stored in sealed bins and labeled.
Your storage unit doesn’t have to be a pit for both your money and your junk. If you are intentional in how you store your items, it can be a sensible way to make a transition or store items temporarily.
Looking for more products to help you store your items? See our shop.