Why You Should Stop Paying For Storage And Just Get Organized.


Although these storage companies are taking over the landscape here in Los Angeles, the idea of paying for a storage facility makes absolutely no sense to me unless it is for a short term hold while you are moving or something like that. If I could not fit the stuff I own inside my house, I would just start getting rid of things in order to do so. Paying someone else to hold your stuff does not make any financial sense, especially since the majority of people never see nor use the stuff that they have stored. I was reading Mother Jones this weekend and the article was about people who are fascinated with being organized, but there were a few interesting tidbits I wanted to put into this post about storage:

Since the 1970’s, the average home in the U.S. has grown by 80%, yet according to UCLA researchers Americans are facing a “storage crisis”.

4 in 5 new homes have multi-car garages, but most two car garages have only one or no car in them.

The average American fridge is twice as big as its European counterpart.

1 in 11 households rents storage space, which is 1 million more households than two years ago.

While I understand that “hoarding” is a major problem and is even considered an illness by some people, I cannot understand why people hold on to things that are of no value to them. Paying a facility upwards of $200 a month to store boxes of paper, old china you never will use, musty old furniture and your 21 year olds baby clothes from 1986 is such a waste of money that I have to think about what they could be doing with it instead. Imagine having an extra $2,400 every year to invest, pay off debt, pay of mortgages, go on vacations…anything other than paying for a room with a lock on it full of mostly crap. The thing that really got me was the fact that our houses have grown an average of 80% since the 1970’s yet we still cannot find enough room to keep everything we want to keep. That is a sign of a problem that really needs to be addressed. I have family members with this same problem and I have been working with them in order to clean out the clutter and get organized, all the while trying to teach them the importance of not being owned by your stuff but rather owning what you choose to own. If you are one of these people, here are some tips I can offer on getting started clearing out the clutter:

I know it is overwhelming at first, but the more you get rid of, the less overwhelming it will be. In fact, it will only get easier the less stuff you have to go through, and the less stuff you have the easier it is to maintain.

If you are buried in your stuff, start small working only 10-15 minutes a day. Get a 33 gallon garbage bag from the garage and go into one room of your house. Start going through one desk drawer or one bookcase shelf at a time, filling up the garbage bag with stuff you can throw away today. You can worry about donations and/or reselling stuff later, at first the key is to get rid of the crap you nor anyone else needs.

Once you have cleared out all the trash in that one room, move on to the next room. Two family members I talk to regularly on on their second room in the house and are slowly clearing out their respective houses. You would not believe the difference that it makes in their attitude once they see that it can in fact be overcome!

Continue doing this room by room until you have done the whole house. Sure, it might take you a month or two, but at this point, all the trash will be out of the house and you should be feeling lighter already. Once the trash is gone, it is much easier to see what else can go out the door.

Now repeat the above steps but go back to each room looking for things you can donate and/or sell. Dividing these as you go along should leave you with two giant piles by the time you finish this second round through the house. Take the donate pile directly to Goodwill or your choice of donation facilities and look into selling the rest of your stuff on Craigslist or Ebay, depending on the value.

Now look around. See how much more room you have? But here is the thing…instead of going out and buying more stuff to fill the empty space with, if you have a storage facility, next you are going to tackle that the same exact way. Your goal is to get rid of at least 50% of the stuff in storage and bring the other 50% home so you can stop paying someone else for an extra closet to hold your stuff for you.

This final step is the real kicker. You have to accept that this is a PROBLEM and not an accident. You did not get all this stuff by accident; if you are like more hoarders you have been filling up your life with stuff in order to feel better about yourself. And this is OK to admit at this point because you are working on fixing it. Sure, I have simplified these tips to get you started, but you have to start somewhere! Talk to friends, therapists, organizers…anyone that can help you understand why you have been doing this and you will be on the road to recovery.

A lot of my family has been known as hoarders for a while now…except me. For some reason I was not born with this gene and have always been compulsively clean. (which my wife is tired of I am sure) But the first step in clearing out the clutter and saving money is just finally accepting that something has to be done and to start working on it. There is no reason that you should be paying to store stuff you don’t ever need or want just because it is yours…if you are doing so, you are paying a very high price for A. stuff that probably is not worth the amount you pay out each month and B. stuff that is owning and controlling you in a very negative way. Getting out from underneath that will help get your life and finances in order and at the same time free up some money that you might need for more important endeavors!

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Comments (18)

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  1. Ellen says:

    I have to admit, I do like having stuff around–kitchen gadgets especially. But after the wedding, we have so much stuff, we don’t have any idea where to put it all, in our teeny little ~800 sq ft condo. And my poor miniature little kitchen!

    I’m so overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff we have, though. My mother gave me her grandmother’s collection of crystal, and while it’s really lovely and I like it a lot, it takes up 7 large boxes worth of space. Comparatively speaking: half the spare bedroom, which was not so empty before. I just don’t know what to do with it all. And now it’s blocking off the rest of the room from being worked on!

    I would sell it, though, before paying anything to store it off-site. That’s just–no. First, that’s stupid, and second, it’s far too fragile for that anyway. But I look at our place and want to cry, now, because it’s just so jam-packed.

    (Sorry to wibble all over your blog, David. But every time you post about organization, I get envious all over.)

  2. Mark Shead says:

    When my wife and I were in Mexico we noticed that the refrigerators were all much smaller than what we were use to in the US. But we also noticed that 1 gallon of milk cost exactly twice as much as 1/2 gallon. In the US, you always pay a premium for smaller portions because of the additional cost of packaging. Once we started looking at the prices, the smaller refrigerators made more sense.

    The culture down there is also set to pay for things as you need them. If you don’t need the phone for the next month–don’t pay the bill. You can get it turned back on when you need it again. 🙂

    But back to the topic of organization. When you go on a mass cleaning expedition, make sure you aren’t throwing away papers with personal information on it. I clean out my file cabinets once a year, but I’m always careful to burn or shred the papers to the account numbers can’t be used if found by an identity thief.

  3. david says:

    Sorry Ellen! :-0) I wont talk about it anymore!

    And Mark, good point, thanks for bringing that up. A shredder is a must have prior to cleaning out your stuff!

  4. PJ Doland says:

    There are some great sites online that can help you get rid of clutter.

    My two favorite are:


  5. My dad does this! Keeping junk he doesn’t need. People are nuts they think what they have will become gold one day.

  6. david says:

    Its not even what they think will become gold, its the crap they keep that they cant bear to part with that kills me!

  7. subcorpus says:

    my “clutterism” knows no bounds …
    i dont think i can live without it any more …
    but i wish i could …

  8. While the average home has grown in space, don’t forget house prices have also grown. The result is that while there are a significant number of Americans living in roomy houses, there are also a significant number of Americans living in relatively small properties, not least apartments.

    Let’s face it, LA may be famous for it’s huge celebrity real estate, there are also a huge number of people in LA living in far more basic accommodation, and this is where storage can become a necessity, not a luxury.


  9. MrGPT says:

    Very informative post, and very true.
    They are so costly!
    Keep the posts coming! 🙂

  10. george says:

    I have a family of 4. We like to ski, camp, hike and various other activities that require gear. Renting is ok for some stuff, but it’s more expensive than the storage unit. Plus, it’s way cheaper to rent unfinished storage space then to purchase a house large enough to keep the stuff in. All our camping stuff, ski stuff, etc goes in the storage unit. It’s open from 6 – 9 every day.

    We have 4 people in 1700 square feet. Having a storage unit is nice and

  11. Great post. We have never used a storage facility ($150/month here), but we plan to when we move later on this year. Any tips on how to choose a good storage facility?


  12. david says:

    Just be sure to get a short term lease with a name brand storage facility, and be sure to get rid of it as soon as you dont need it. If you keep it for too long, you will find stuff to fill it up with! Moving is a good reason to use storage, as long as it is short term!

  13. RR says:

    I blog about this, because I’m a hoarder. I have a very hard time letting go of things. However, I have never rented a storage unit for my stuff. That feels like crossing a truly dysfunctional line. Our culture is set up to encourage us to accumulate, and getting more things is prized–we shop for recreation! This is seriously wrong for so many reasons…Excellent post!

  14. David says:

    RR- Thanks for the comment and glad you liked the post. We as a society want more and more, you are right, and there is something just so wrong about that. Thanks again!

  15. […] why you should stop paying for storage and get organized – not many things are worse than paying a fortune to store things that in reality you neither want nor need, I’m a big fan of de-cluttering and am aiming to only have things that I love […]

  16. […] being so OCD. 6. Put stuff away in storage until you need it. I am not talking about paid storage, which I do not believe in, but rather your garage or some place like that. Your Christmas supplies do not need to be stored […]

  17. […] being so OCD. 6. Put stuff away in storage until you need it. I am not talking about paid storage, which I do not believe in, but rather your garage or some place like that. Your Christmas supplies do not need to be stored […]