It Never Pays to Use Self Storage

I have mentioned in previous articles that I am often asked by friends and relatives for advice because I am successful, happy, blessed with 2 perfect sons, and happily married for 35 years, 6 months and 20 days. For those of you doing time in prison, that's 12,987 days.

A friend of mine was breaking up with his girlfriend of five years and was asked to kindly leave (the house they were living in belonged to her parents). Over the years he accumulated a lot of stuff and so he asked me if I could recommend a self-storage facility because he was moving in with a friend but his friend's apartment was too small for all his belongings.

I told him that it never pays to use self-storage and to sell what he could and if it could not be sold to throw it away. Whatever you think you need, if it doesn't fit in one room, you really don't need it. Now I know what you are thinking, suppose he wants to keep furniture that won't fit into the apartment but if he finds a bigger house later on he won't need to buy new furniture. Sadly, most people don't do the math.

Putting furniture in storage is completely foolish. In 99% of the cases, by the time someone finally finds a bigger home to move into they have laid out thousands of dollars in storage charges. And that's not counting the cost of moving the furniture into the storage facility and then moving it out again into the new home. It's cheaper to sell whatever you would have put in storage and put that money into a CD. Then when you find a bigger home, years later, if ever, you can then buy new stuff.

But suppose the piece of furniture is a Louis XIV Walnut Dressoir worth a hundred thousand dollars? The answer is even a more strongly voiced NO! Certainly you do not want to put anything of value in self-storage. There is no control for humidity, temperature, mold-proofing and security. If you have anything this valuable and you have no room where you live, you should sell it.

If you cannot afford to live in a big home, you cannot afford to store things. I know relatives who ignored my advice and put their furniture in storage until they found a bigger home. After two years they spent more than five grand on storage charges, more than what the furniture was worth. Had they sold the stuff in the first place and bought furniture when they needed it, they would have saved money and instead of having old junk, they would have had new furniture.

Sell It or Throw It Away

In fact, in many cases it is cheaper to simply throw the stuff away than store it.

If the stuff is cheap, it's idiocy to pay 60 bucks a month to hold onto something worth 50 bucks. If the stuff is expensive, it's too valuable to store.

I am not unsympathetic to people who lost their homes and even their jobs and think they have no choice but to put all their stuff into storage. But if they are out of work or in financial difficulties that is precisely the most important reason not to rent storage space. People with limited income or no income should not be paying hefty monthly rentals to keep junk. And that's what it is if it can't fit into your new apartment or trailer - junk. Sell it, take the money and put it into the bank because you'll need the cash more than stuff.

Let me tell you why I am an expert on this. I deal with quite a number of people who go around to storage auctions to bid on storage units that were abandoned because the owners ran out of money. Those auction hounds come to me with coins and jewelry and stamp collections left in those units. That's what I do, or at least one of the things I do - buy old gold and collectibles. Now don't you think it's pretty foolish to put gold and coins in storage and run up monthly bills until you can no longer afford to pay back rent and then someone else comes in and sells me your gold and coins when you could have sold that stuff right in the beginning?

Almost Everything in Self-Storage is Worthless

Before you go out and start bidding on abandoned storage units, I should tell you that based on my experience, the majority of the stuff in storage is completely worthless. If you are not careful you'll end up with bags of cement, old books, non-working lamps. It takes some experience to spot how valuables are stored and even more experience on getting rid of the stuff, much of which, if it's not thrown away immediately, will end up in flea markets, yard sales, eBay or selling to people like me.

In California alone there are about 10,000 such auctions annually on units left by non-paying tenants generating as much as $3 million in winning bids. Now that's a lot of wasted money for the formerly paying tenants.

If you have an example of a situation where paying monthly storage charges for something makes sense, I'd certainly love to hear about it. In more than 5 decades of giving advice, I never came across one example where it makes sense to pay money to store anything. There's a free dinner (for two) to any reader who can give me such an example.

Addendum - 4 Jan 2011

Obviously it won't devastate anyone to rent a storage unit for a month or two and if you read the comment section, there are a few situations where the storage was fortunately only needed for a very brief time. But having said that, I still do not recommend it if you can help it because no one knows the future and what you might think will only take a few months of storage may turn to months and then years.

The examples given in the comment section turned out OK for those involved because they were lucky it was only for a few months. But consider that most drunk drivers do not kill anyone - but just because it turned out lucky for them does not mean the practice should be recommended. Avoid renting storage if possible.

From my experience, most people misjudge how long they will have their stuff in storage and so it is a very dangerous and slippery slope toward eventual abandonment and loss.

### End of my article ###

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