Friday, May 25, 2007

Create Space using Offsite Storage

Someone told me a long time ago not to use storage facilities; they were a waste of money and you'll end up spending thousands of dollars to store junk that you'll never use again, or that at the very least you'll wish you had sold / donated and kept the thousands of dollars. "Think about it", I was told, "you're going to pay $100 per month to store a couch & a couple of chairs. Then, three years from now you'll move into a new place and you won't even want this old couch. Why not just save $100 per month towards buying new furniture?"

That made perfect sense to me. Yet I was left to wonder why these self storage facilities have been springing up across the valley as fast as new houses are being built? And I think the answer lies in not just what you store, but how you store it. If you store things you actually need, but not very often, it can help make space in your home. If you store a dusty old box for five years without ever needing it, you've wasted your money.

Here are some thoughts about how to use storage effectively:

  1. Determine your needs, both in terms of type and space. Do you need an air-conditioned unit? Or would an outdoor shed work? (You'll get a lot more flexibility out of an air-conditioned unit.) How much space do you need? 5 x 5? 10 x 20? Somewhere in between?

  2. Store it close to home. You want to be able to access your stuff as easily as going to the grocery store for a gallon of milk. Don't use a facility five miles away just because it saved you a couple of bucks.

  3. Store it based on frequency of use. If you use it every month, keep it at home. If you don't use it for over a year, donate it to charity. Store the stuff you actually use, but infrequently – maybe a couple of times per year.

  4. Organize it. Make it easy to find what you're looking for (like a gallon of milk at the grocery store). If you have to sort through lots of dusty, unlabeled boxes to find a particular tool, you're less likely to use your stuff, which means you're wasting money. Use lots of shelves (picked up at garage sales) and labels. Make it easy enough for anyone in the family to retrieve their stuff.

  5. Plan it out. What are the largest things around the home that you have to keep, and that you use the least often? Holiday decorations. Power tools, shop vacs, and other common garage items. Boxes of clothes one child has outgrown but the next one doesn't fit yet. Winter clothes & sports equipment (skis, snowboards, etc). Arts & Crafts supplies. Anything is fair game – as long as the unit is air conditioned and clean, your stuff will stay in great shape.

  6. Be Selective in what you store. Don't fall into the trap of spending $3,000 to store a $500 couch! If you use the storage effectively, this could be a great way to gain more space in your home; maybe even take back that extra garage bay! If not, this could be a colossal waste of money.

I'm putting my money where my mouth is this month and just rented some space at Fletcher Heights Storage Solutions, right around the corner from my house. I'd love to hear your feedback about what has & hasn't worked for you..

- Chris Butterworth