by Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering - September: Storage Spaces
I’m starting off harsh – storage units companies promote their units as a way to declutter your home. They don’t. If you’re packing things into a storage unit because you haven’t decided what to do with those items, consider that the money you’re spending is not on storage but on indecision.
(Now, I’m not talking to people who put things into storage because they will be traveling, or renovating their home, or in the process of moving and need to store possessions while they are between homes. Even if you are storing things for a couple of years because of one of those – or a similar – reason, you know what event will prompt taking the items out of storage.)
If you’re using a storage unit to keep the clutter you’ve cleared from your home, consider making the emptying of that (those) unit(s) a priority.
The Cost of Indecision
If you have a storage unit filled with items that you’ve inherited (but don’t want … if you wanted them you’d have them in your home); items that you think you should hold onto for your kids (have you asked?); or stuff that you figured would be easier to sort through after you got them out of the house, you aren’t alone.
Some facts from this article on U.S. self-storage industry statistics:
If you’ve rented a storage unit for years, do you know what you are currently paying each month? Chances are the amount has gone up from when you started.
Add up what you’ve paid every month that you’ve had the unit. Rented that unit for three years? What have you spent in the past three years?
What else could you have done with that money?
The Challenges of Sorting through a Storage Unit
Sorting through a storage unit is more challenging than decluttering a room because you were likely maximizing the space that you’re renting by piling stuff into the unit. Rooms you use, or at least try to walk through, unlike that storage unit. There’s probably more stuff there than you think.
Also, when you declutter your house, you are working in a room or decluttering by category. As you sort through a storage unit you may find a box of kitchen items, then a box of old papers, then a box of clothing, followed by a box of memorabilia. Each box asks you to readjust the way you’ll be evaluating the contents.
A storage unit is filled with things that you’ve set aside because you couldn’t decide what to do with them. Now you’re faced with deciding to keep or get rid of the items. You’re facing a lot of decisions in that storage unit.
Note: If you are cleaning out the storage unit with family or friends and you decide to get rid of something, but someone says something to the effect of, “Oh, you can’t get rid of that! You should hold onto it!” Ask if they want the item since they seem interested in it. If they don’t, then they probably don’t see any value in the item and telling you to keep it was simply a knee-jerk reaction.
Prepare to Declutter a Storage Unit
Declutter Your Storage Unit
Start with what’s closest to the door. Haul out a box, sort through the items deciding whether you are bringing it home, tossing it, giving it to someone or donating it, or selling the item. Then, go in for the next box.
Don’t pull a lot of stuff out of the unit or look for just the right box to sort through. This can lead to you feeling overwhelmed. And, let’s face it, you can only sort through one box or deal with one item at a time. Avoiding pulling everything out means that you can stop when you need to without having to put things back into the unit.
Stop for frequent water breaks. Have a snack. Watch a funny animal video on YouTube. You’re doing hard work, be nice to yourself.
Every couple of hours, process the work you’ve done. Haul out the junk. Bring donations to the donation center. Bring items home or store them in your car. Don’t leave everything for the end of the day – particularly if you are looking at multiple trips.
Remind yourself that just because an item is useful if it isn’t being used then it isn’t useful to you. But someone else may have a use for it. Donate or sell it.
Keep Up the Momentum
Find yourself thinking that this project is too overwhelming and maybe you should just keep renting the unit to hold all this stuff? Remind yourself of what you’ve spent to date to store items that you aren’t using.
How could you spend (or save) the money that you’ve been spending on storage?
If you’ve been willing to store the item for a while, acknowledge that you don’t need or want the item – otherwise you wouldn’t have stored it away from your home, limiting access.
I know. You’re faced with a lot of stuff and a lot of decisions to make about all that stuff. Stay focused, you can do this.
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I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.