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!