What I learned from renting a storage unit
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.
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.
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:
- I had a lot of stuff I didn’t need.
- 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.
- 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.
- Storage units are not a solution to clutter — they’re just different ways of living with clutter.
- 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?