Storage Unit Efficiency: How To Keep Your Stuff From Keeping You

Have you decided it’s time for a storage unit rental? Maybe you have a time-limited, short term need for a storage unit, such as a kid who is going off to college with plans to return home for the summer. Perhaps you need a temporary place to store belongings while on an extended work relocation project, or during a life transition such as a divorce or death of a family member. People rent storage units for all these reasons, but more common is for people to rent storage units just because they have too much stuff. In fact, one in 11 households rents a storage unit, and 15 percent of customers are storing items they no longer want or need. Many Americans find it’s easier to pay for a storage unit than it is to spend a few months going through old belongings and making hard decisions. The problem with this is that before long, the costs associated with such a rental end up owning you. How can you keep your stuff from costing you?

1. Sift and sort

The first thing you should do when considering what to put in storage is to go through all the items you want to keep.

  • First, identify what are simply garden-variety items that have nostalgic value, such as your dad’s golf clubs. These are items that probably are of no use to you and don’t have practical value in your home. For instance, you’re not going to mount the clubs on the wall or use them in a game yourself. Items like this can be sold or donated.

  • Next, separate items that can be of practical use shortly. For example, maybe you have a quality kitchen table and chairs but are slated for a remodel over the next few months. Perhaps you own a treadmill but don’t have room for it until you declutter the garage. You can store items like this short term, motivating you to complete the projects so you can bring these belongings back into your home.

  • Lastly, set aside items that are truly of value. This could be a set of your grandmother’s china or a collection of old family portraits. You may want to store these for an indeterminate length of time to protect them from damage or weathering.

2. Set a goal

Before you sign a contract with a storage facility, decide up front how long you want to keep your items in a unit. Next, see if you can sign a lease for that amount of time. This will help keep you motivated to finish projects so you can bring items home and downsize your unit for the next lease term. Many facilities will lease units for six months or a year. The bonus of a lease agreement is that your monthly rent will be lower than if you rent on a month-to-month basis.

3. Schedule visits

Put on your planner or smartphone a certain day every month to go to the storage unit and check your belongings. This is always a good idea, as you want to make sure there has not been a break-in, flood, or pest infestation. However, an added reason to do this is to hold yourself accountable for the goals you set. Each time you check your storage unit, leave in plain sight a piece of paper on which you have written the following month’s goals; an example might be, “clean out half the garage; bring treadmill back home.” Next month, that piece of paper is going to either give you a sense of accomplishment at having succeeded–or poke you to go home and finish the job right away.

4. Seal the deal

It’s going to be up to you to keep your storage goals. When your lease term is 30 days from expiring, start planning your move-out. Talk to the manager about downsizing to a smaller unit for those items that need long term storage. If you need to bump up your at-home activity to make room for the items you are bringing home, do so. Remind yourself that accomplishing goals feels good!

Storage unit rentals are a fantastic resource for keeping belongings safe and secure for any length of time you need. However, don’t fall prey to the dynamic of “out of sight, out of mind” and pay needlessly for a unit year after year. Be smart, and keep your stuff from bogging you down.