What I learned from renting a storage unit

Photo by Jake Bartlett
Fact: 1 out of every 10 American households rents a storage unit.
Fact: It’s physically possible that every American could stand — all at the same time — under the total canopy of self-storage roofing.

— The Self Storage Association, selfstorage.org

It was 2012 and I was moving from Nashville to Chicago. I remember driving up I-65… my cousin was in the passenger seat of the Uhaul. Google Maps said we’d get to Chicago right around the time the storage facility I was supposed to close for the night.

I had all of my life contents from the last four years packed up behind me in the 15-foot box truck. Attached to the truck was a trailer holding my car, which I would eventually decide to sell.

The 15-foot box truck en route to Chicago, to be unloaded into a storage unit

My plan was to throw all of the stuff into a storage unit. I was moving into a shared apartment on a month-to-month basis until I found a more permanent place to live, where I would then move out of the storage unit and utilize all of my things. At least that was the idea.

We made it to the storage unit facility 5 minutes before it was scheduled to close and we spent the next couple hours unloading all of my stuff into a 5x10 foot storage space.

I made a commitment to myself: I wouldn’t pay for the storage unit for more than one year.

Fast forward 11 months. I was still paying for the storage unit.

Over the course of that year I made only a few visits to the storage unit to pull a few things out. Mostly my drums and other thing which I valued, used, and had a personal connection to. It had been nearly a full year and I wasn’t using any of the other stuff in my storage unit… yet I was paying $95/month to store it. This didn’t make much sense to me.

Actual photo of my storage facility, with a sweet Instagram filter.

I had all this stuff, no place to put it, and no use for it.

So I left it all behind.

On my final trip to the storage unit, I came prepared to part ways with the majority of the stuff I was storing and not using.

The storage facility had a donation area where you could leave behind things you didn’t want. I left about 85% of my contents there. Things like lamps, kitchen utensils, books, a microwave, rugs, even an inflatable kayak and life jackets.

I was done with this stuff. I didn’t need it. I wasn’t using it. I didn’t want it. Keeping it in a storage unit wasn’t adding any value to my life. In fact, it was only costing me money and adding stress.

I packed a box or two full of things I wasn’t ready to part ways with and left everything else behind. I haven’t stepped foot in another storage unit since then.

Here’s what I learned from having a storage unit:

  1. I had a lot of stuff I didn’t need.
  2. Laziness wins. Storage units are dangerous — once you move stuff into storage, and you can afford it (or at least think you can afford it), you stay in.
  3. It made me feel wasteful. Some people can’t afford 1 roof over their head. I was paying for 2 roofs — just to store a bunch of underutilized crap.
  4. Storage units are not a solution to clutter — they’re just different ways of living with clutter.
  5. Storage units are just massive “junk drawers”.

Now, I think storage units can be used wisely short-term. But storing stuff in a storage unit long-term doesn’t make much sense to me. The day I moved out of the storage unit felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

Do you have a storage unit? Do you feel you’re getting value out of it?

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.