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Parting with your storage unit


I recently read a Huffington Post article that stated as of 2014, there were more self storage facilities in the US than McDonalds and Starbucks combined.  In fact, one out of every ten Americans rents an offsite storage unit, spending an average of $2000 annually.

What is in these storage units?  In most cases, it’s a collection of items that are no longer useful or important to our current lives: clothing that doesn’t fit, obsolete electronics, text books and baby furniture.  In other situations, the items are sentimental:  grandmother’s pie chest or Aunt Eileen’s quilt collection.  In almost every case, the items haven’t been opened or looked at in years.  They are collecting dust, molding and aging.  Why do we hang onto items like this? I own a downsizing company and for most of my clients, making the decision to part with possessions is difficult and a storage unit is an easy way to procrastinate on those decisions.

Empty room full of cardboard boxes and cleaning things for moving into a new home

Let’s tackle the easiest category first…the items that do not have sentimental value.  Any items you haven’t used in two years should be donated or sold…clothing, books, games, household items.  Period.  Be tough on yourself.  You are paying money to store items that are not important to you!  Why not make a little pocket change by having a yard sale or selling some of your items online?  Or, donate what is in good condition and feel good about helping someone in need.

The more difficult items to let go are the family heirlooms.  Can you use any of the items you have stored from relatives?  For example, could you use one of Aunt Eileen’s quilts on the foot of your bed or back of your sofa?  Could you hang one on the wall?  If you have glass bowls or china, could you use these items instead of your everyday dishes?  I have had clients use shadow boxes to frame war medals, embroidered handkerchiefs, etc.  Do any other relatives want some of these items?  If you have exhausted your options for using any stored items, call an antique dealer or auctioneer.  There are many local experts who can help you sell your heirlooms.   You can use the proceeds to honor your grandmother or Aunt Eileen by donating to a museum or taking a trip to the place your loved one was born.

I recently helped one older adult empty her storage unit.  She had rented the space for 10 years and had been inside it only two or three times.  Over the course of those ten years she spent $20,000 in rental fees.  Gulp!   Thinking about the financial implications of your storage unit may give you the impetus to clean out yours.

About the Author:

Natalie Ahern, Founder and Principal, All the Right Moves

Natalie has extensive experience in project management, home decorating and floor planning in homes on and around Boston’s South Shore. Whether a client is downsizing, relocating or aging in place, Natalie manages it all with calm efficiency. Her favorite part of the job is the lasting relationships she forms with her clients. “When you spend time going through a lifetime of personal belongings, you really get to know a person. It’s a gift to be able to share so many memories with my clients.” Natalie is a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers,the leading membership organization for senior move managers.

All the Right Moves


Reprinted from the April 2019 edition of the South Shore Senior News.