7 Tips For Renting A Storage Unit (If You Decide To…)
With the title of this post you probably all think I’ve gone crazy. After my last post & years of saying how much we regret paying for a storage unit, I’m writing a post with tips on how to get one???!!
Well, I’m still partially sane, I swear I am.
As I mentioned in my last post, whether or not to store stuff is not always an easy question and many fulltime RVers agonize over it when they go on the road. The obvious answer is bleeding obvious. If you know you’ll be on the road for many years it makes absolute sense to get rid of as much of your stuff as possible, and the ideal scenario is not having a storage unit at all. It’s a lot of $$ that would be far better spent on travel. We sure wish we’d followed that advice when we started out.
But for some folks the answer isn’t that obvious, and it truly wasn’t obvious for us either. When we first started out we had no idea we’d be RVing for more than a few years. In fact, we didn’t even know we could make a long-term lifestyle out of it. Could we handle living together in a small space? How would we finance it? How would it work? Hindsight is always 20-20 and if we’d known then what we know now….but that’s life, isn’t it?
Also, not everyone goes RVing with an open-ended plan like us. Some people get on the road with the firm knowledge that it’ll only be a short-term thing. Or they have some special items (e.g. art, antiques) that they simply can’t part with, no matter what. So, the universal advice of “just get rid of everything” may not make sense for everyone. It’s really a very individual decision.
So let’s say (despite everything) that you decide to put some stuff into storage? Also lets go one step further and say you don’t have a family member or friend who can store it for you (which would obviously be a better choice). This past 6 years of renting a storage unit has taught us a thing or two which I feel might be useful to others. Amongst other things, selecting your unit carefully and doing some up-front work will make your life infinitely easier down the line, no matter which way you go.
So should you decide to be as crazy as us and actually rent a unit, here’s my top tips and how we’ve fared in our own choices:
1/ Pods Or Traditional Building Storage?
When you start looking at storage units you have 2 basic choices out there. Pods/containers or traditional storage (in a building of some sort).
Pods/containers make moving out of your house super easy. Basically the company drops off a container at your home, you fill it up and they take it away for you. No moving or truck needed. There are multiple companies that offer this kind of service, the best-known of which is probably PODS. Personally I think that this is a great option for temporary storage or cross-country moves, but not for longer-term storage and it all comes down access. If you decide to downsize or need stuff from your pod down the line, you can only get access to your unit by appointment with min 24-hour notice! That’s a major hassle and makes it a poor choice for mobile folks like us IMHO.
Traditional building storage is definitely more hassle up-front. You have to haul your stuff from your house to the storage building which means you either have to hire a company to move you in, or you move yourself with the help of a moving dolly (absolutely recommended) and your own two hands. What you DO get however is open access to your stuff whenever you might need it down the line, which is huge bonus for fly-by-the-wheel nomadic types like us. There are many well-known companies that offer this type of storage including Public Storage, A1 Self-Storage etc. and they all offer a very similar products with a ton of locations everywhere.
Fee-wise Pods are much more expensive than traditional storage for small containers (e.g. they quoted me $150/mo for 7 ft x 7 ft compared to $50/mo for a 5 ft x 5 ft at Public Storage), but prices are comparable in the larger sizes (typically $160/mo and up). If you decide to go with traditional storage do quote around since prices can vary quite a bit by location, even within the same company & city.
How Did We Do? We went with traditional storage, mostly because we knew we needed easy access down the line. That turned out to be a very wise choice, especially once we decided to downsize.
2/ Go As Small As You Can
Smaller storage is definitely better not only because it’s easier, but also because it’s waaaay cheaper. Traditional building storage costs typically go anywhere from $40-$50/mo for a 5 ft x 5 ft (the smallest out there, about the size of a closet) to over $200/mo for a 20ft x 20ft (one of the larger sizes, can fit several bedrooms of a house). Plus you have to factor that your storage price will be jacked up 7-8% per year (guaranteed!).
When you’re looking at units it can be super tempting to get the bigger one, just to make life easy. After all, if you have more storage space you’ve got less downsizing to worry about. But think about the costs for a minute. If you’re paying $200/mo, you’re paying $2,400 per year and if you’re on the road for 4 years that’s almost $10,000 in storage costs!! Is your stuff worth that much to you? Perhaps it is. But run the numbers before you decide on the bigger unit.
Also having a smaller storage will make life infinitely easier when/if you decide to move out down the line. Smaller storage means less stuff to sort through if you’re downsizing, and much lower moving costs (if you’re paying someone to move) once you get out.
How Did We Do? We went with a 10 ft x 15 ft storage not quite the largest, but the next step down. Way too big, in retrospect.
3/ Make Sure Your Storage Has Easy Access
If you decide to store, choosing a storage with easy accessibility (open long hours, easy parking, easy access) is so very important. Not only will it make moving into the storage easier, but it will make downsizing (if you chose to do it) or moving out easier too. You definitely want security (of some kind), but you don’t want the security to be so prohibitive that you can’t easily get stuff in/out. Plus anything that makes it easier to move on-site will be super helpful moving off-site too.
How Did We Do? We did well! We got a unit on the 3rd floor of a Public Storage building. It has 2 huge elevators, free on-site moving carts, it’s open super long hours and it has a large, free parking lot outside. Also it has security codes to get into the actual building, but no gate.
Now that we’re selling stuff we are soooo thankful for all this. We can have people meet us at the storage without any kind of hassle and we can bring stuff downstairs to the parking lot easily. If the storage had a security gate, or wasn’t easy to access (or hours were limited) this would be a royal pain in the b**t!
4/ Get a Storage Close to an RV Park
When getting a storage unit for the first time, many folks get a storage unit close to their stix & brix house. This makes perfect sense for move-in, but what they don’t think about how they’re going to handle everything when they move out of the unit x-number of years later, and honestly this is just as (if not more) important. If you decide to store stuff I’d highly recommend getting a storage that is close to somewhere you can park the RV. This way, if you decide to downsize the unit or move again in the future you can stay close to your stuff in your home and not have to drive hours back and forth to address it.
How Did We Do? Honestly we didn’t even think about this when we chose our storage and it’s total dumb luck that our unit is only 15-20 mins from our favorite San Diego RV Park. This lucky coincidence has been KEY to keeping our sanity, especially during our current downsizing process. We’re constantly driving back/forth to meet buyers (often last-minute) and whipping stuff between the RV, storage and charity. If we weren’t this close I would be tearing my hair out.
5/ Packing Well Is Well Worth The Time
One of the things we did do right when we went on the road was to pack our storage well. We put “like” items together (books in one place, kitchen items in another), labeled all our boxes, stacked “like” pieces of furniture together (and kept whatever hardware went with them in the same place, also labeled) Plus we wrapped anything fragile & made sure stuff was efficiently packed inside the unit. Now that we’re downsizing this has made things soooo much easier. We’re able to quickly sort thro’ boxes and we’re able to list & sell furniture items without searching for all the “bits”.
How Did We Do? We did good on this one. Apart from a few mysterious disappearances, we’ve found most of the stuff we’ve needed within easy reach and have been able to sell items without searching hours for all their “bits”.
6/ Take Pics of Your Stuff Before You Put It Into Storage
Here’s another gem that most folks don’t think of. Before you move out of your house, take pics of everything you’re storing especially the larger (e.g. furniture) and more valuable items. Not only does this help assess what you have, but it is critical for insurance claims (should you ever need it), and (here’s the extra hidden benefit) it can help you downsize or sell stuff if/when you are ready to get rid of it.
You see when you list stuff online, or contact consignment agents they always want pics of what you’re selling. If your stuff is crammed into a storage unit, it can be really difficult to access it. Plus getting good pics of stuff in storage is really hard -> the lighting is bad, you’ve got to clear lots of heavy boxes to get a decent shot, you might have to re-assemble pieces to shoot them etc. it’s a royal pain in the backside!
How Did We Do? This is another place we totally lucked out. A few years before we went RVing I took pics of everything in our house to show my parents what our place looked like. Those pics were like gold when we started to sell furniture 2 weeks ago. I can’t tell you how much hassle they’ve saved us!
7/ Don’t Wait Forever To Address Your Storage
So here’s one thing we didn’t do well. We waited 6 years to attack our storage despite knowing by our 2nd year that we weren’t going to get off the road anytime soon.
Why 6 years??!! Well it just seemed like such a big, daunting, exhausting job that every time we thought about it we just couldn’t wrap our heads around it.
Why now??? We can’t see a specific end to our travels & we finally, fully acknowledge that.
This year we’re going East, next year we’re likely coming back West. That means we’ve got at least another 2 years on the road and at least another 2 years before we’re anywhere close to our storage unit again. Plus we have no idea if we’re going to settle down after that, so we’re probably looking at a minimum of 3-4 years before we even think about a regular house again. That’s a lot of storage $$ and a lot of unknowns. Taking a hard look and making that realization was finally enough to prompt us to attack the job.
How Did We Do? We took waaaay too long to address this. I’m very happy we’re downsizing now, but I still really wish we’d done it sooner. Don’t be like us.
That’s it folks! For those of you looking into storage hopefully this helps you in your choices and gives you some tips that’ll make life easier down the line. Feel free to share any tips in the comments that I’ve missed. May the downsizing force be with you!SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
The storage locker was an easy & quick answer to what am I going to do with “this”? There was stuff we were not ready to take to the goodwill & it didn’t fit in the RV… Storage!
This was mostly an emotional answer to a real tough decision but it was an answer.
Yup, sometimes storage is the answer even if it’s just a temporary one.
Making a paper list of what you have in each numbered boxes also helps ….also if people are not sure os what they wan to keep putting those items in a separate labeled box helps for when they may decide on the road they really don’t want it or need it…they can just go and get the box and give it away….
Great tips Jil!
Another thing to ask in your search for storage is if they have auctions and how often. If they do I would steer clear. I don’t ever expect to not pay my bills but sometimes things happen; lack of income, health, urgent trip, family emergencies, TDY, deployment. If you are late three months your things can be auctioned off. I’m sure they try to contact you and will work with you to get caught up. You should ask about all these questions over the phone so they don’t associate late payments with you while signing the contract. Also the amount of time behind is probably different throughout the country. On the other hand… if your unit is auctioned, you’re done, pay your remaining debt and you have nothing to move. Maybe your stuff will be on TV.
Never thought to ask about that, but I like the tip. Thanks for sharing!
Good for you! We are going full-time in April…can’t wait! We’ll get the smallest storage unit possible for some boxes. FYI…We are headed to the northern California coast first and have discovered most of the state parks are not dog-friendly on the beaches or the trails, due to protection of the snowy plover habitat. I certainly understand that reasoning, but I do enjoy hiking with my pooch and will have to stick with ‘walks’ around the campground with him.
Good choice Cheryl. I wish you the best of luck with your downsizing project and fulltime RV plans!
And yeah, I know many (almost all) state beaches are not dog-friendly in CA. There are a few exceptions, but not many. It’s a big reason why we prefer OR -> 100% dog-friendly beaches. We’re going to do our best to hit as many doggie friendly spots as we can find this spring along the CA coast, but I know it’ll take some hunting.
J.R. Gloudemans says
Here’s a few dog friendly beaches in Cali:
– Ft Funston (near S.F.) – off leash
– Miramar (Half Moon Bay)
– Between Morro Bay and Cayucos – off leash
Excellent. Thanks. We’re finding a few more gems too which I’ll post about on the blog.
Timely post. I’ve been following your travels and blog a while now and decided to go mobile open ended as well. I’ve been a gypsy all my life, but I have been in and out of storage units for 30 years too, and I’m done. I’ve been selling off my book collection slowly, and will donate a large remainder soon. You’ve helped me let go of things too, so art is going up for sale next month. I hope to condense down to a 10×8 or so if possible from a 2bdrm house. Letting go is difficult, but not when you have to really put a price on what saving certain things in storage indefinitely is. I shudder to remember what I’ve paid to keep in the past (boxes of magazines! Kitchen plastics!!! Old bedding, old clothing (it was valuable, I told myself).
It helps too that I’m doing the KonMari thing (I think that’s her name) in decluttering and letting things go. It’ll make enjoying the road, people, and landscape more easy.
P.S. To others: if you arn’t tied to a city either, then choose a storage location in a cheaper more rural area where farmland is often converted to storage. But make sure its near major highways and away from high density areas or you’ll pay more for storage cost, moving trucks, moving help, and gas in the truck in traffic moving there and away again.
It’s funny what you put in storage isn’t it. Clearing out our unit we found a bunch of stuff that made no sense at all -> 2 cat trees, old piles of magazines, even a roll of toilet paper ?…!! And I really thought we’d done a thorough job of downsizing. Such a strange thing, keeping stuff and getting rid if it.
In your defense, those cat trees are expensive and cats adore them. If I thought I was going to be out a year, it makes sense to keep them.
Our cats really did love that tree! In the end we were able to sell it to a new cat owner for a very good price. So it went on to a new home and new kitty 🙂
Diana and Jim says
After already renting monthly for a year, Nina, we found out that our storage facility would knock off 10% if we paid yearly instead of monthly. We jumped on that offer! With the stock market going south for the winter, that 10% ended up being a sound investment. And paying it before January 1, it sidestepped the 2016 price increase for even more savings. I didn’t think to ask if they would have gone even lower for more years…but if your readers are in a similar situation, it doesn’t hurt to ask!
Nice tip!! I’ve asked a bunch of times for a discount on our unit but never thought to ask about pre-paying for a year. Great idea!
Debbie L says
It tooks us only two years! It’s hard to figure it out. Here’s our post when we finally realized what was irreplaceable (and we fit those few things in our motorhome) and what to donate or trash. My folks said get a climate controlled place. Wow out of site prices! They did but at their ages, 70 and 80, it worked for them. They only traveled a year while they figured out where to start their new lives. They were newly weds, after all!
Here’s our final storeage locker visit: http://thetumblelees.me/2015/10/27/update-on-our-minimalistic-lifestyle/
Good job! You guys clearly saw “the light” much faster than we did. I sure wish we would’ve addressed this after year 2, but like everything hindsight is 20-20.
We have two storage units packed and every summer I visit ‘my stuff’. We also grab things, sell, or give to the kids. I love having that access. I hate spending the money every month but am just not ready to let go especially since I do see us buying something down the road, even if it’s a pole barn on an acre of land. 2017 might be that year, if the market is any indicator 😉
We kept thinking we would buy something too, and it took until now to realize we’re a ways away from that decision. At least that’s what it looks like at the moment (our priorities could always change, of course). If you have confidence of settling down again soon(ish) keeping stuff can be totally worth it. Even more so if your stuff is special to you (for whatever reason).
Great info even if you are living with your “Stored Stuff” like me for years. I understand the feeling of having to deal with stuff. I am slowly picking away, so when we travel more there will be less to come home to.
It’s a process for sure. We just get rid of our last “big” piece yesterday. Now we’re getting down to the boxes and the harder (more emotional) stuff.
Alan S Koch says
Excellent tips! Here are a few more from some old pros at packing & moving.
1) You will *not* remember what is in each box! It may seem obvious when you pack, but will be a mystery when you look at those cardboard cubes!
1a) Make a list of everything you put in each box, and tape that list to the box.
2) If your locker is not in a climate-controlled building (ours never have been):
2a) Get a bunch of the ultra-cheap 2×4’s (the ones you’d never use to actually build anything or old scraps) and put them on the floor — NOTHING touching concrete!
2b) If you wonder about critters getting in (bugs, mice, snakes) throw some moth balls on the floor among those 2×4’s
3) You can hang stuff in a locker. Use C-clamps to clamp 1×3’s at the tops of those corrugated steel walls, then put in screws or hooks (clamp 2×4’s up there for heavy items)
4) If you’re springing for a large locker, leave a path down the center so you can get to stuff. That “wasted” space is golden!
5) Put light but bulky or odd-shaped furniture on top of boxes (sturdy boxes like books). I once used a piece of 3/4″ plywood and book boxes to make a platform — 4 ft high storage under it and more storage above it.
6) Put the things you’re least likely to want to retrieve at the back of the locker, and most likely at the front.
Outstanding recommendations! You’ve definitely got some serious experience in this. Thanks so much for sharing your tips!
Hi…what does concrete do to items that touch it? Thanks for you reply!
Hi Lindy! I don’t believe that Alan meant that the concrete caused any problems…but I have rented various storage units before and I can’t think of one of them that hasn’t had some sort of water seepage or leaking problem. By doing as Alan suggests, you are getting all of your items up off of the floor so that if there are any leak, your property won’t be sitting in water and end up moldy, musty and ruined. I’ve had that happen to me before.
Ah yes, that’s probably it Debbie. Makes sense.
Bob Hazlett says
I’m on the backside of the storage dilemma. In a new house in a new location. Still unpacking boxes and making trips to Good Will that should have been made five years ago. We had one U-Haul Ubox and four storage lockers for about four years.
Three thoughts (out of many)
1. The storage locker was the answer to the question “How much compromise on ‘stuff to keep’, are you willing to make to save your marriage?”
2. Trying to sell a house while you are not living in it, presents another problem. You need to get most of your stuff out, but you need to leave furniture and some decorations to stage the house while it is on the market.
3. Getting rid of everything is a simplistic solution that I favor because I am a minimalist. BUT … I cannot believe that most people will full-time it up to the moment of death. Thus there will be a stix and brix house sometime in the future. You cannot assume that both parties will die at the same time. You must consider where the survivor will live. If you are a responsible spouse, you cannot allow these issues to go unresolved.
All very good points and exactly why storage us such a personal decision. With a partner you BOTH have to agree to the plan, otherwise it’ll never work. Sounds like you reached the right compromise for you both.
For selling a house while you’re in it, another option is to stage it especially if you’re in a hot property market. We did this with all the houses we’ve had over the years. It allowed us to tackle our stuff (get it out) while keeping the house looking good. The money we’ve paid to stage has always been worth it.
Yet another article with a wealth of knowledge from experience and great research. You truly have a gift for that and a gift for sharing.
Great article as we will soon be downsizing and probably storing much less than in the past. I never thought about taking pictures and will get on that task right away. Thanks!
Some other things to think about:
If you opt for the insurance policy that the storage facility sells, read it carefully. A water main broke near my niece’s storage unit and ruined everything that was not up high, including furniture. The insurance policy excluded damage from flooding and she was out of luck.
We have stored all our things a few times while RV traveling for extended periods and always look for a unit where we are sure that water will run downhill from it. We live in a city where there can be flooding and also wildfires in certain areas and know to stay away from certain storage facilities.
Very true. The insurance policies offered at the storage spots tend to be pretty wishy washy. We didn’t do anything special on that and figured if we lost everything, that would just be that (which goes to show we weren’t really that attached to our stuff). But for anyone who cares about their storage, it’s most definitely worth reading the policy. Cheers for the tip!
Mark Seneker says
Awesome article. Enjoyed reading the comments also. I’ll add a few if it helps others.
Might think about labeling your boxes on the sides if you plan to stack them so they are easier to read. Use a number on the box rather than listing contents. Have a sheet that tells you what is in the box by number. Explain that later.
Liked the idea of having to go to the third floor to get your stuff out of storage. Assumption being it would take a braver person to steal it. As a cop over 30 years I’ve investigated dozens of storage locker thefts. I suggest the round locks where it’s harder to cut the lock. Photos of property is nice in case there is a theft. Also marking valuables with a unique mark such as your phone number in case the stolen property shows up in a drug house, the cop who finds it will call you. I often use my social security number. If you have to make a report, follow up with the police in a few weeks to see if they are working the case. These thieves are often caught weeks later, after they do more storage thefts, which is when the detectives might linked them back to your theft. Still does not get your property returned in every case, nor do the crooks have money to pay restitution. That is where the insurance comes in. Wish there was an easier answer to what type of storage facility to select in terms of security. Suppose ones with security cameras help catch thieves, but then again you still will most likely not get your property back. They cut through fencing even where there is a gate. They prefer storage facilities where they can approach a fence with less change of being seen, such as from a wood line or field. Security lighting sometimes helps, if the facility replaces bulbs. Suppose units facing the road might make a thief think twice because of natural surveillance. I’d number a box rather than having a label of what is inside. Makes it harder on the thieves. Although they know we put more valuable stuff in the rear of the unit, still do it because they have to drag everything out to get to the good stuff. Better chance they will get caught.
Very good info! We did get one of those round locks (it was recommended to us by the storage folks) and they’re definitely much higher quality than regular padlocks. I did feel that was a good buy. Also thanks for sharing your experience on storage theft. So many smaller things I wouldn’t have thought of.
The other advantage of the 3rd floor storage (for us) is that it was way cheaper! Apparently no-one wants that level, so we were able to get almost 50% off the price by choosing it. Don’t know if this is true across the board, but it seems to be common here in San Diego. The lifts were huge and super easy to use so we had no problem getting stuff up there.
Nina, can you tell us or write a blog about your best experience in ways to price, advertise and sell things. Craigs list? Ebay? Amazon? Facebook? Garage sale? Others?
So far i did a poor job.
Funny you should ask. That will probably be my next post 🙂 I’m not an expert on selling (not even close), but I think I have enough tips to at least write about it.
Here is an out of the box thinking for storage. While at the RV storage lot (which is fenced/gated/locked) I noticed several enclosed utility/cargo trailers and thought that might be a better way of storage. We have a 20 foot long X 6 feet wide X 5 feet tall that was used for our business and holds lots of stuff. If you don’t already have one they can be bought on craigslist etc. Many sizes from 6 foot small to extra large 40 footers. It is easier to load at the house and drive over to the storage lot. Only had to move things once. Then when the time comes to move again just drive to the new house and unload. Not only is that easier but the fee is only $20 a month, way cheaper than a comparable storage unit. When you are done with it as a “storage unit” you can sell it recouping the cost, if you needed to buy one. Used trailers hold their value, don’t buy a new one. Just make sure that it is weather tight. I will use car jacks ($25 a pair at Walmart) and remove the tires. Not only will that be an additional security measure it will save the tires from the UV/weather. Also a special hitch lock and the round locks on the door help secure it. Along with all the other great tips such as clear plastic tubs, moth balls etc should help keep things nice for when you return.
Thanks for all the great tips. Looking forward to full timing in a few years when we retire.
Great little idea! My main concern would be weather variations especially moisture (inside the trailer -> this could potentially mould everything) and huge temp variations (could be a problem for anything electronic or temp sensitive). As long as these concerns are able to be addressed, I think this sounds like an interesting option and certainly much cheaper than regular storage of any kind. Cheers for the idea!
Hi Brent! We own a utility trailer like the one you are talking about. My husband is in a band and uses it for those purposes, but I think your idea is a good one. I just wanted to say that if you do this, please keep in mind that with most of these utility trailers, maintenance is required, much like what is required on camper/RV rooftops. If you put it up for storage for a long period of time, the rooftop will need to be re-sealed once per year to keep it from leaking. I wouldn’t want you to come back and find your things ruined.
Linda Sand says
Being from Minnesota we also had to think abut climate when it came to storage. The unit we rented had two drive-in bays large enough to handle an RV. (They also had a Sprinter van we could borrow to move things if we preferred that.) A touch pad lock got us into those bays which then gave us access to the dollies and elevators and kept the stuff in the bay secure while we moved another load. Plus the unit itself is climate controlled–one floor is used by pharmacy reps to store medicines they are peddling which we took as a good sign that any soft goods we decided to store would not mildew. We also chose a unit on a higher floor and near a back corner to get a better price. For insurance we have USAA which, being for military families who often store things, covers all our household goods wherever they are.
Great tips! The climate control is even more important in areas of the country like yours, and it looks like you’ve found the perfect solution. Also great info on the insurance for military families.
These are all great tips but I really like the idea of taking photos before you store it. I envy your organization
LOL I’d like to say I was perfectly organized, but honestly those photos I took were complete flukes. I did it just to show my family our home and I had no idea they’d be GOLD all those years later. Once I realized how valuable they were, I realized that was one of the tips I had to give to others. I am so thankful we have those shots now.
Eddie Avance says
Great advice. My wife moved onto boat many yrs ago. She put all her household stuff into a storage unit with controled climate. Oops, 3yrs later she went to get stuff. Rodents had got into the unit despite monthly pest control fees. We are considering a version of Full Time RVing. We are purchasing a Villa or a Condo with at least one car garage & 2 bedrooms. We’ll move all stuff into the villa. This way we can hzve our cake & eat it to. We’re in our mis 70s and this allows us to keep possessions and travel as we please. At our age we can’t afford to get rid of everything and one day stop traveling and rebuild another home. Eddie
Sounds like the perfect solution for you both! Part-timing will be in our future (one-day) and for many folks it’s the ideal compromise between travel and nesting.
Steve Zoller says
Excellent article. When we sold our condo to move into an RV, we didn’t know how long we would stay on the road so we stored everything. We didn’t want to do the move ourselves, so we hired a moving company to move everything from our condo into storage. However, in order to get insurance, we had to store everything with the moving company. Their logic was because when we eventually move everything out of storage, there will be no way to know for sure if any damage that occurs happened during the move out of our condo, during storage, or during the move into the next place. Hence, by storing with the moving company, they will be responsible for all three phases and the insurance will cover whatever damage occurs. The problem is they have you locked in with no ability to get competitive insurance bids and the combination cost of storage plus insurance has been outrageous.
Ouch, that’s a tough one! Moving company storage is notoriously expensive. They’ll often cover 30 days (free), but then it’s $$ all the way. I do feel it’s possible to load up your stuff and get insurance at the storage place once you’re in, but it does tend to reduce what you can get insured for. We bought our insurance at the storage spot after-the-fact. It won’t pay for minor damages (e.g. dings and scratches) since we moved ourselves, but it will pay out if there’s a major loss (e.g. fire). For us, I felt that was enough.
David Michael says
Important and practical topic for all full-timers. Thanks!
My wife and I just completed seven years of RV full-timing last year and five years prior to that of teaching in the Middle East. Yes! 12 years without our lovely home on three gorgeous acres which we sold before following the vagabond lifestyle. We gave up stuff for freedom on the road, but did manage to make most summers back to Oregon to see family and long-time friends.
In our haste to make a deadline for a teaching assignment in Istanbul, we sold everything we could, gave lots away to Goodwill, and kept a storage locker full of stuff we thought at the time were sacred things. After the first five years, we sorted through the stuff again and found it wasn’t so sacred after all. Moved from a 10×15 storage area to a 5×10 one. After seven more years, we returned to Eugene and moved into a cozy apt. Yes! My wife had enough after 12 years exploring the world. As for me, I could have gone on until I dropped. To make a long story short, it cost us an average of $80 a month for those 12 years to keep stuff. Yeah! We were nuts! That’s nearly $12,000. If I had to do it all over again, I would have moved two or three boxes of photos, scrap books, etc to the kids for safe keeping, and got rid of everything else.
It cost us about $6000 to furnish a cozy apt on our return and we are currently paying $1000 a month rent. We made about $18,000 on our sale of house furniture and stuff originally, so ended nearly even. As for our decision to give up our rather elegant lifestyle with home in a gated community to live in a 200 square foot aluminum box driving down the highway of unknowns, I’d do it again in a minute. In fact, I am working on converting a van for our next travelling adventure. Maybe a few months at a time, rather than years out since we are approaching our 80’s next year. Everyday is an adventure on the road. It’s a grand lifestyle!
Ah yes, hindsight is 20-20 🙂 You did well downsizing (along the way) and sounds like you’ve got a GREAT situation now. It can be irksome to think of the $$ we put towards storage, but in the end it’s in the past and you’ve had some amazing adventures & memories that will last you a lifetime. I think getting a little van and part-timing sounds delicious! Good luck with everything!
We need a storage bin for some stuff we don’t want to haul around but cannot throw out (no furniture-that’s all gone) and this year, realizing that we’d be back here every year at some point, I realized that we can store some of the supplies that we like to buy in bulk in the bin and replenish our supplies each year. Having culled our stuff way down and having a little room to spare I feel better about filling it up. I bought those heavy duty shelves too that are stacked with plastic bins-every size and labeled as well as stored like with like so getting stuff is easy. There are a few things that we are unsure about needing so-because we are lucky that the bin is near family-I left three different size flat rate boxes with postage on them-which my niece or sister can then use to send us something if we need it. (That of course is only cost efficient if you already owned it, it doesn’t change the size of bin needed and would be less to ship than to buy a new one.)
Sounds like you’ve found a workable solution. Good stuff!
Great post and you brought up many things that most people do not think of. When I downsized from a mega-house to something much smaller (I have since downsized two more times) I got an air conditioned storage room to keep my ‘I just can’t get rid of it’ stuff.
In my case I had no antiques or family heirlooms.
It was in year five of paying a monthly storage fee (you are right, it continues to go up) that I realized that what I had in the storage room was worth less than what I had paid in rental!
I always thought I would use some of the furniture and home furnishings but I also realized then, if I did move to a place that I wanted to redo, more than likely, it would not be with the furniture that I had in storage anyways since tastes and decor change with time.
So off to Craigslist and Goodwill and I finally got rid of all my stuff! 🙂
That’s part of what we realized too. When we settle down (whenever that’ll be) our tastes will probably be different. We’ll likely get a tiny house and we probably won’t need huge furnishings anymore. Formal dining room set for 6 people? I honestly don’t think that’s going to be in our future. You never know of course but my guess is that it’ll be a totally different lifestyle. Good to hear you got there in there end.
Once again a post with a lot of great information. I’ve downsized a lot over the past couple of years and I can honestly say I am down to “stuff” that I don’t want to get rid of. Your description between the PODS or a building was perfect for me. I had been leaning toward the PODS option. Not now.
Excellent. So happy I could help you make the choice! Good luck with the move.
I fell into the storage unit trap while living in a house but not having enough room in our garage for all our stuff and cars… I had a 10×10 that I initially was paying $80/mo for. Mind you, the stuff I had in there had more of a sentimental value and was worth maybe $4k… Every year the rates went up $20 to $25 a month! At the beginning of the 4th year they wanted to charge us $175. I ended up biting the bullet ($3800) and getting a really nice 10’x14′ storage shed with vinyl siding and shingle roof. Wish I had done that to begin with.
In the future, when we do downsize and get our RV to full time, I think we will keep only a few keepsakes in 3 or 4 large plastic boxes with family and sell and give away everything else.
Well thought out advice on all fronts, Nina. I agree with all points. Now if only I’d have incorporated all these concepts into my own situation back in the day… 🙁
Jo Dutton says
The best moved I’ve ever made was in 2005. As I packed, I numbered the box. I then set up a system in a binder with a tab for each room. On a page, I would write the box number and then list everything (or the general idea) in that box. I kept the binder in a convenient place (like my car) until I began to unpack at my new house. When I needed the coffee pot, I looked in the binder under kitchen. Found the pot listed under box # 43 and then all I had to do was look for the box # 43. It was amazing how helpful this system worked. I could easily find anything I wanted and it prevented me from rummaging thru box after box until I would find what I needed. It’s my best hope in the future to have enough time to do the same thing again. This binder would also be a great place to store the pictures of your stuff as you suggested taking.
Very nicely done. That’s a great tip.
Jay Jorgenson says
I agree that it is key to go as small as you can when it comes to picking a storage unit. A lot of people don’t realize how much you can pack if it’s done correctly. Great tips!
One other option for storage is an on-site metal storage unit. While this won’t work for everyone (since you have to have a place to store it), it can be a convenient option for some. My aunt and uncle moved out of the country for five years but kept their property. They left a shipping container unit on their property, and rented out the house. When they returned, they were able to empty the storage container, and it was easy to return. If you are keeping property, or have a relative that can offer you space on theirs, this is an excellent option. They have small units too- as small as 10′. Here’s a blog titled Metal Storage Units at a Glance.
That’s another great idea! The weather (especially humidity) can have an impact on whether this makes sense for someone. We’ve known a few folks who stored like this on-site, but their stuff got infested with mold. Hot, humid climates really call for climate-controlled storage. On the other hand folks in dry climates have no issue at all, and this be make an excellent and inexpensive option to keep their stuff.
Thanks for adding the comment & option to the discussions.
Michael Pavacik says
Looking for advice. We sold our home, put our things in 3 storage units, bought a rv and are now on the full time rv road for 6 months to 2 years. How do we find insurance for the items in our storage unit since we no longer own our home and the storage unit does not offer it?
Ask your storage unit place. At least that’s where we got ours. Most of them should have a partner you can sign with.