America has more than four times as many self-storage facilities as Starbucks locations. That’s right: 53,000 storage facilities to 12,000 Starbucks coffee shops, to 14,000 McDonald’s nationwide.
Our country has more storage facilities than all the Starbucks, McDonald’s and Subways combined.
Fifty-three-thousand! The rest of the world only has 10,000 self-storage facilities.
America, we have a problem. And let me be clear. The storage facilities are not the problem, just as professional organizers aren’t the problem, or doctors who treat cancer aren’t the problem.
The NEED for so much off-site storage is the problem. Consider this:
▪ America has 7 square feet of self-storage for every man, woman and child living in the United States.
▪ Over 90 percent of it is rented.
▪ The self-storage industry has been the fastest-growing segment of the commercial real estate industry for four decades running. Self-storage generated $24 billion in revenues in 2014.
▪ Nearly 1 in 10 households currently rents a storage facility.
▪ Of those who rent off-site storage, 65 percent have a garage, 47 percent have an attic and 33 percent a basement.
According the national Self-Storage Association, the top four reasons Americans rent storage units in order are not having enough room at home, storing while changing residences, storing items they no longer need or want, and storing a relative’s items due to a change in living situations.
“What’s wrong with us?” I recently asked professional organizer Sue Marie Bowling of Orlando, Fla. (You want to see an organizer get whipped up, just mention storage units.)
“It’s a sad American paradox that we tend to equate quality of life with having more, but the opposite is true,” said Bowling.
“Especially if you’re paying for a storage locker!” I added. Average rent nationally for a 10-by-10 storage unit is $125 a month, and $159 a month if the unit is climate controlled, according 2016 statistics from the storage association. For what? Our excess.
Storage units are a perfect temporary solution when used wisely. My college-age daughters rented storage units with classmates when they needed to store their dorm furnishings over the summer.
For folks going through life transitions, renting storage can buy needed time. When the emotions of a situation are too intense, when a life change is coming too fast, or when the divorce, job loss or loss of a home leaves someone too overwhelmed and uncertain to make decisions, a storage unit is a perfect short-term solution.
The operative word here is short. If you do store, have a brief time limit in mind and stick to it.
“Life is full of challenges we have no control over,” said Bowling, who has herself moved from a large family home to smaller quarters. “We can, however, restore our personal equilibrium by ordering our nest.”
And lightening our footprint.
Before you store, think it through:
▪ Check your motives. Sure, paying $125 once a month might feel easier than facing a bunch of tough, emotional decisions. Believe me, when I cleared out my parents’ home of nearly 50 years, I, too, was tempted to dump half the household into storage and lock the door. Sorting and selling were emotionally overwhelming and time consuming. But I knew better than to postpone the inevitable.
▪ Ask what decisions you are avoiding. Then ask whether those choices will get any easier to make later. Delaying decisions you have to make anyway will cost you.
▪ How much is your stuff really worth? Be honest; it’s likely worth a lot less than you think. Calculate the costs of storage, at $125 a month, that’s $1,500 a year. Now ask: Would you rather have the money or the stuff? Or better: Would buy your stuff back for $1,500? Because you just did.
▪ Think of alternatives. Let’s say a piano you cannot house in your home is worth $2,500. You pay $159 a month to store it in a climate controlled unit. After two years you’ve paid $3,800 for a piano you already bought once. Would it be better to sell it, donate it or temporarily loan it to a school’s music program or a church?
▪ Take the write-off. If the items are useful and you’re not using them, let someone else use them. That’s called being charitable. Donate them and take the tax deduction.
▪ Think of your legacy. Letting stuff go is a gift not only to yourself, but also to whoever will be left when you’re gone. Your kids do not want your stuff. If they do, give it to them now before you pay to store it. Leave a blessing, not a burden.