Solving Space Problems with Self Storage

A building just for closets

Last year an article on organizing in O magazine featured a woman who had run out of storage for her 127 pairs of shoes. After customizing her closet in Manhattan and still not having sufficient shoe space, she decided to rent storage for the additional pairs. I couldn’t help but think that this lady didn’t have a storage problem, she had a shoe problem.

The phenomenon of what we call “storage” is  actually unique to the culture of the United States. The storage industry was originally dependent on business clients when it began in the 1800s, but since the mid 1900s, the broader demand for self-service storage (or “self storage”) has led to a whole new industry.  According the Self Storage Association, of the 58,000 consumer-facing storage facilities in the world, 50,000 of them are in the U.S. This is over and beyond our attics and basements!

 About 10% of U.S. households currently rent at least one unit, and many of these units are permanent second homes for 100 to 2500 cubic feet of household possessions. Are we really so attached to stuff that we will pay rent for it just to keep it out of our sight?

There are occasions when storage makes sense, like when your house is on the market and you need to emphasize its open space, or when you’re in transition and will have to reunite with your things later. Some suggestions: 

1. Determine what you need. There are many self storage services that will charge you a higher fee while offering bonuses you’d otherwise have to hire out elsewhere or pay much more for up front, like use of a moving truck. If you already have access to a truck, your decision’s made. But if you don’t, you should base your decision on how long you plan to stay. Storage space costs vary by location, size, and amenities.

2. What do you need from storage space? Easy access? Proximity to your home or business?  With our heat and humidity, climate control can be extremely important. If you wouldn’t store it in your garage, you probably need to pay extra for climate control.

3. How much space do you need? You’ll need to pack as tightly as possible and stack carefully to use every bit of vertical space. On the other hand, be reasonable. I’ve seen someone store a couch vertically just to fit it into a storage unit, and I figured that was the ruin of a good piece of furniture.

Aggregators like SpareFoot.com and SelfStorage.com can provide current information on amenities and pricing for facilities that are mapped in your area. 

4. How long do you need storage? Consider time-based promotions carefully. Storage facilities count on your inertia to leave things  longer than you planned and extend your rental period. Could this be because you dread dealing with all of it again?

Finally, ask yourself, do you have a storage problem or a stuff problem?

Data on storage facilities used with permission.