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Are You Wasting Money on a Storage Unit?

Minimalism is catching on, and I'm excited about streamlining. I'm sharing what I've learned about decluttering and simplifying our lives.

Is your storage unit a waste of money?

Is your storage unit a waste of money?

Storage Rentals Aren't Cheap

I know several people who keep belongings in storage units and are often tasked with moving their belongings from unit to unit in search of the best deal. I couldn't help but wonder: what are they storing, and is it worthwhile? Do they have so many valuables that they won't all fit in their house? Or is it just junk that they don't really want anymore, but can't seem to part with?

The monthly fee for a storage unit can be a real drain on the budget. Pare it down, make it fit in your home, or let it go. You could save a serious amount of money.

Ask Yourself Some Questions

What use is anything if it's in storage?

  • Storage makes sense for someone who runs a small home-based business that requires a stockpile of supplies and perhaps tools that he or she uses every couple of months.
  • Storage might make sense for someone who redecorates a big house every holiday needing a storage space for all those containers of seasonal goods. (Yes, I know people like that!) That's a luxury, though, so when the budget gets tight, you might want to rethink that.
  • Storage doesn't make sense if it's just to store stuff you don't use but are reluctant to part with. What a waste of money. Indecisiveness is costing you too much.

Why Do People Rent Storage Units?


I've rented storage space in the past when I was living in temporary digs.

I can see if you have to move in somewhere temporarily that you may have to store your belongings for a short time. When people let it go on for years, that's crazy.

A friend rented a couple of storage units for years for her extra stuff.

But for years?

In the process of moving onto my boat, I got rid of, one way or another, all of my furniture and 95% of everything else.

I'm glad I did. A small number of treasured possessions is nice, but the amount of stuff we ordinarily lug around? Never again! That said, even after this process, I still need to get rid of even more!

I have stuff piled up here and there and do need to whittle it down.

I refuse to rent a storage unit though I could fill a small one. I'm too cheap!

Why not use storage bins in your home?

Why not use storage bins in your home?

Storage Can Be an Emotional Decision

I remember my husband's grandmother moving from Ohio at age 90 to live with her daughter in Maryland. She moved reluctantly, so to soften the transition, they brought quite a bit of her furniture to Maryland and put it in a storage unit.

Everyone, except the grandmother, knew that she would never be able to live independently again as she had difficulty walking and was almost blind. They kept all that stuff in the unit for years until she passed away. Any value the vintage pieces might have had was long lost in the costs of storing them. Very sad.

I have stuff that I just need to let go of. I really must make a decision and not just keep pushing things back into the closet.

— Virginia Allain

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Read More From Toughnickel

Do You Feel Guilty About Storing too Much Stuff?

I should practice what I preach. If I'd been willing to give up my collections of quilts, vintage china, baskets, Tindeco tins, etc. when we moved from Baltimore, we would have fit into a much smaller house. Think of all the money we would have saved.

It's 20 years later and the ownership of all that stuff now seems not so important. We hang onto things for much longer than seems sensible.

Even though I'm not renting a storage unit to hold all this stuff, there is a cost to hanging onto it all.

Free Yourself From Storage Costs

It's all too easy to postpone action on clearing out your rented storage space. The task may seem overwhelming and you wonder where will you put all that stuff. Add up the costs of the storage for a year, for 3 years, for 10 years. Then compare that to the value of the items in the rental space. That might inspire you to take action.

Start by assessing what you have stored and what the ultimate goal was for storing the items.

  • Decide what you need to get rid of and ways of doing that. Consider a yard sale, auction, donation to charity, or give to friends and neighbors. You might have to use a combination of these methods.
  • If there are things you value that you need to keep, consider free and lower-cost solutions. Rearrange any living space you have to make room for some of the items.
  • Ask friends and family to keep a few boxes or pieces of furniture that are essential to store.
  • Give yourself a deadline for the steps above. Ask a friend or family member to help you with the process or with transporting items.
  • Promise yourself a reward for completing the project.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is it better to get a small shed for your yard than to rent a storage unit?

Answer: If your storage needs are short-term, the shed may not be a good idea. Most people with a shed tend to fill them with clutter and then ignore it. With longer storage needs, a shed gives you a one-time cost that would indeed be lower than paying for years at a commercial storage unit. Be sure to factor in the cost of assembling the shed if you are unable to do that part yourself. Also, consider how much of your yard space you are giving up for the shed and will it need repainting and repairs over the years. Ultimately, reducing the amount of stuff you are holding onto is the best way to go. Keep in mind that a shed might be humid and hot or get invaded by rodents and insects, so do not expect to store things like boxes of books or your family photos or things like quilts and clothing. Those need to be in climate-controlled storage such as inside your home or in commercial storage space.

© 2017 Virginia Allain

Tell me: Do you rent storage space? Do you really need it?

Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on July 23, 2017:

Great article giving cause to consider possessions. Makes you wondered if the person is possessed by their possessions. I think interestingly storage units come after someone realizes they need their garage back.

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