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Storage Units: The Exorbitant Cost of Holding On

At the February meeting of NAPO Houston, we watched a documentary called Store. It’s about self-storage units and how people use them. The filmmakers interviewed dozens of renters about their stuff and why they pay to keep it in storage. The interviewees offered all the common reasons: they moved to a smaller house, inherited stuff from a parent, or just accumulated too much to keep at home. But there were some less common reasons, too.

Storage units
Your rental payments, like the storage units that clutter our landscape, go on and on forever.

One retired man had been collecting items from garage and estate sales, and he believed that his children’s inheritance was somewhere in his “collection.” Some day they would open his unit, pull out the junk, and find the treasures they’d inherited. Burglars had broken into the unit once, only to walk away empty-handed because the unit was too stuffed full of junk to bother robbing.

Another interview subject, a divorced mother, was storing a huge collection of stuffed animals. She said that she couldn’t throw away “anything with eyes.”

The movie was a fascinating commentary on how tightly we cling to our stuff. Once we’ve claimed something as ours, we have a hard time surrendering it, even if it’s no longer useful. Our desire to maintain ownership is so strong that we’re even willing to pay for it—we’ll rent a truck, spend a Saturday afternoon loading and unloading, and sign a rental contract with a hefty monthly fee that goes on to infinity. Isn’t that an awful lot to invest just to keep “anything with eyes”—or whatever it is that you can’t let go?

Storage may seem like a convenient way to defer the decision to let go, but do you want to keep things so much that you’re willing to pay for them again? Would you go back to Macy’s and make monthly payments to keep a dress that you already bought? Of course not! So why pay for a storage unit? Why not spend your time, energy, and money on the finite task of letting go of some things?

You can watch a trailer for Store on the movie’s web site. We’ll keep you posted when the documentary shows up in general release or becomes available for download.


This article was featured in our February 2010 e-mail newsletter. To subscribe to our newsletter, please use the “Subscribe” form, above right.

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2 comments to Storage Units: The Exorbitant Cost of Holding On

  • Jessica

    I understand your point in why paying for things again, but for me personally, I use self storage to preserve childhood memories. For example, I really don’t have room in my place to safely put my old teddy bears and my first tricycle because when you have three kids, there’s always that “danger” if one of your children will break something. I would be absolutely heartbroken if anything happened to my old belongings!

    I wouldn’t store “junk items”, but self storage really helps when you have precious things that need to stay safe. Also, the storage unit that I’m renting out has climate and humidity control, so my things are able to stand the test of time much better than a cardboard box in my garage.

    I use Uncle Bob’s Self Storage in Houston and really can’t recommend them enough for those people that want to hold on to their old, cherished things. I’m not saying to hoard, but there are always those few things that ‘take you back’ — and those are the ones that need to be held on to.

    Anyways, I’ll definitely look up that documentary. It sounds interesting!

  • Hi Jessica – you are proving my point in a way actually! If all you are storing is memorabilia, then storage might make sense. If i was working with you, though, I’d want to look at what you’ve saved and see if storage is the only option for saving those memories. That tricycle will not be used again – grandkids will be begging you for the latest and greatest version. But what if you took a photo of the tricycle, and kept that instead? Then you could easily remember your favorite bike as a kid and still not have to keep it in storage.

    Having things in climate controlled storage does preserve things better than a box in the garage, and prevents them from kid damage, so you are accomplishing your goal of safeguarding the items. The flip side of that arrangement is if you have a space to store things, it’s so much easier to keep more without filtering those things very much. If keeping those childhood items are worth the cost to you, then you are making the right choice.

    Thanks for commenting! I appreciate your feedback.

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