We’ve all done it: saved those smaller-sized jeans so that someday we’ll wear them again. We’ve moved them from apartment to apartment, bought extra hangers for them, tried to make space in our closets for them, and felt bad each time we looked at them because yet another year has gone by, and we still cannot fit into them. But why do we do this to ourselves? Why not just give them away, and not feel bad each time we open our closets? Are we worried that if we give them away, we’ll gain more weight? What if we gave them away and lost weight? What would really be so bad about that? We’d be very excited to have lost the weight, and we might go out and buy some new clothes to fit our new selves. Are we keeping them to save money? If we’re like many Americans, we are probably paying on average $100 a month for a storage unit; so we are not saving money there. Why do we rationalize the costs for storage but then hesitate to pay for other things especially when the stuff we are saving, like old jeans that don’t fit, are of no use to us in the current month, year, or decade?
A recent article at curbed.com, stated that “one in 11 Americans pays for space to store the material overflow of the American dream.” Storage units are a $38 billion industry! It’s really amazing how many people pay thousands of dollars a year just to store an old couch, CDs, an old dining room set, bins of clothing, papers, and more! I’ve heard countless stories of folks who, after 10 years, opened the storage unit, decided that there was nothing of use or value in there anymore, and threw everything away. And they had to pay to get help throwing the stuff away! Why pay for the space to begin with? A $100-a-month storage unit at the end of a year is $1200, but after 10 years, it’s $12,000! That’s a new car, a vacation, many months of rent or a mortgage, many nights out enjoying time with friends and family at a local restaurant or at the movies, and lots of food! Then there are also other “costs” like stress and time that go into maintaining a storage unit.
I understand why we do this, but I’m hopeful that future generations will think before putting everything into storage; this post is my way of starting more conversations about it. Storage unit companies are profiting from our fears of needing things “someday.” Of course there are those rare times when a family for example is in between homes and needs to store a lot of stuff or if a home is being remodeled and the homeowners need to put a bunch of furniture in storage for a month. I believe that those were the intended purposes for the advent of storage units, but the use for them has morphed into long-term storage.
Maybe more people will be proactive about decluttering and donating or tossing their old things that they no longer need. And maybe future generations will realize that paying for storage units for years and years is not a good idea. If we all manage our stuff regularly by editing down what we own, then clutter won’t accumulate, and we won’t have to pay for long-term storage. And we can use that money for experiences to create good memories or to send kids to college or to help people we know who are struggling. I think we can all agree that there are countless better things to spend our money on than a storage unit.