Those infamous Public Storage commercials paint a perfect comedic picture of what it’s like to have too much stuff with too little space, a call to turn to storage facilities as a solution – but is this a short term or long-term economical solution? In light of slowly exiting this recession we wanted to get an inside look at the business of storage facilities and use our findings as a barometer for the economy when it comes to storing discretionary items, vs. more importantly, a downsizing or transition phase solution in one’s life. We interviewed several storage facility owners from across the country and asked them the following:
1) Does your storage facility keep track of how often units are accessed?
2) Do you find the majority of renters use the facility for a short-term or long-term solution?
3) What percentage of unit leases start with a minimum 12-month commitment?
4) Does the storage facility company allow garage sales on-site? (Outdoor Facilities only)
5) Are the rental rates/leases always a fixed price or do they increase upon lease renewal?
The recession delivered a major blow to many households across the country and millions are still pinched for spare cash as we start to build a new path to better economic prosperity. We were intrigued with some of our findings but most of the responses were on par with what we expected. Shockingly though, we found many people tend to use their storage facility as a dumping ground for their pack rat habits and discretionary spending. Not only are they paying the monthly rents on the units, a majority of lessees haven’t checked in or accessed their units in over a year. Are we still in that materialism mindset of “too much is never enough?”
Based on the facility owners we interviewed, our findings show 30% of renters use the facility as a short-term solution, typically two years or less while they make a lifestyle transition or work abroad temporarily – a perfectly reasonable and a very economical decision when it comes to storing personal property. However, an overwhelming 70% of renters have become “Mayors of Stuffville” and have too much clutter in their lives, forgetting even what they own, thus loosing money on possessions that could be sold or donated. You’ve heard the expression “if it’s not broken don’t’ fix it,” there should be a similar saying “if you won’t use it, don’t buy it (or store it).”
Naturally we had to ask about allowing garage sales on-site at the outdoor facilities, and while only a handful of facilities offer this option, many don’t allow them for liability reasons. One portable storage unit owner did tell us that he’s had a couple of storage unit garage sales in his driveway after downsizing a relatives home and it worked out perfectly, keeping items dry and shaded, and offering a quick and easy setup and clean up.
Next we inquired about rental rates and contracts, nearly all the facilities we interviewed offered month-to-month contracts and annual contracts. We were surprised to learn that some facilities’ rental rates depend on market demand and thus could change at anytime, while others guaranteed a fixed price for the first year. Most rate increases are only applied after a tenant has occupied a unit for 12 months.
Prior to our study, we understood many folks used “garage-style” storage facilities for storing outdoor sporting goods such as small watercraft like jet skis and kayaks. But that’s not the crowd we were looking to understand here. In this economy, we wanted to know why some renters commit to a lease and virtually toss the key once they store their stuff. Why does the “quick fix to clutter” become an everlasting solution for some folks? We discovered, for the average clutter junkie, it doesn’t pay to store your stuff. Financially speaking, you’re spending on average $100/month to store your clutter, even more to insure on your clutter, and don’t forget transportation costs for moving your clutter (if you ever do).
So we ask, “is the problem really solved?” Where do you draw the line for “too much is enough?” If you don’t have room for it at home, why do you pay storage fees to never use that stuff?
Our world should be more about “reduce, reuse, recycle” rather than the “pack rat for life” and “stuff breeds stuff” lifestyle.
Special thanks to those who participated including:
Mabey’s Self Storage, Albany, NY
And a few sources and wishing to remain unnamed at this time