Storage Wars is a suspenseful reality TV show in which people blindly bid on the contents abandoned (or seized) self-storage lockers in the hope of finding items of value inside. When the locker doors are finally cut open—the winning bidder gets to pick among the old, dusty stacks and piles. Sometimes it’s all a bust, but a typical yield includes salvageable furniture and household goods that can fetch a few bucks at a re-sell shop. Jackpot items include vintage clothing, antiques, and collections. Yet, for every locker opened, probably no more than 10-20% of the space is occupied by the treasures. The rest? Money down the drain in storage fees.
The United States has more storage space than any other country on earth: fifty-eight thousand facilities cover two and a half billion square feet – an area equivalent to three times the size of Manhattan. What does it cost us? According to the National Storage Association, $22 billion a year.
Why our overuse of storage? The story is almost always the same: people don’t want to get rid of something because they paid for it, (and might need it in the future) but end up spending more to store the items than it would cost to replace them. (E.g. the dining room table purchased for $1,200 costs $6,000 in storage fees.)
If you have items in storage, odds are the expense isn’t worth it and you’ll want to commit to recouping that cash. Calculate how much it’s costing you (the monthly cost multiplied by how long you’ve had it), then do quick cost/benefit analysis. If the sum exceeds your threshold of reasonable value, go to your unit with the goal to deep-six 75 percent of contents on site and bring the remaining 25 percent home to either use, give away or sell.
If you absolutely must put items in storage, click here for tips to make sure you don’t forget what’s there, abandon the contents or spend more to store the items than they were ever worth.
New York Times bestselling author Julie Morgenstern is an organizing and time-management expert, business productivity consultant and speaker. Her company, Julie Morgenstern Enterprises, is dedicated to using her philosophies and methods to provide a wide range of practical solutions that transform the way people and companies function.