Storage units have their place and can be a great solution for the right situation. Too often they get filled with the intention of being temporary, but end up languishing for years. Derek Naylor, president of the consultant group Storage Marketing Solutions is quoted in the New York Times:
“Human laziness has always been a big friend of self-storage operators,” … “Because once they’re in, nobody likes to spend all day moving their stuff out of storage.”
Also, according to the Self Storage Association, only 30% of renters say they will rent for more than 2 years .
Here are some practical approaches to finally clearing out that unit and recovering that monthly rent back into your budget.
Don’t make the mistake of setting aside time to deal with the unit and show up empty handed or with just a garbage bag. These basic tools will enable you to effectively sort, purge and pack both items you’re keeping and those for donation. Be prepared to keep the kit in your unit for use across multiple days.
- Small folding table
- Step stool and/or folding chair
- Marking pens and tape for labeling containers
- Small and medium moving boxes for containing loose items
- Packing tape, box cutter or scissors
- Notepad for listing items in boxes or making notes of to-do’s
- Smartphone camera
- Garbage bag
- Gloves/dust mask
- A friend or helper for motivation and company!
Separate the Wheat from the Chaff
Just like organizing within your home, one of the first steps is to decide what you’re keeping and separate it from things you are not.
- Borrow a rolling cart from the facility and load it with things to just make enough working space in the unit to set up a table. Or use the hallway outside the unit if that’s allowed.
- If possible, start to physically create zones in the space to separate keepers from things going out. If it isn’t possible to literally remove items and take them with you that day, you’ll want to save yourself time in the future by staying organized throughout the process.
- If you’re holding things for other people, use your phone to snap a picture and text it immediately asking the person what they want to do with the item.
- LABEL, LABEL, LABEL! Once you’ve made a decision or opened a box to determine what’s in it, LABEL the outside so you can know at a glance the status of that box.
- Arrange for a charity donation pickup
- Load donations and take them yourself
- Arrange for a hauler to help with donations and trash such as 1-800-Got-Junk, Eco-Haul, or Lugg.com
- Deliver items to family and friends or arrange a pickup day when they come to you
- Arrange for a mover or hauler to bring the keepers home (if they won’t just fit in your car)
Emptying a storage unit can be a laborious process but you get the ball rolling, it takes less time than you’ve been dreading. Don’t plan on getting it all done in one day or one weekend! Be realistic and you won’t set yourself up for disappointment.
Once you manage to get it empty, don’t forget to reward yourself! Take ½ the monthly rent you’ve been paying and go out for a nice meal or treat yourself to a fun experience — you’ve earned it!