Give Me the Simple Life: So Long, Storage

Years ago, my husband was transferred to Hong Kong for a two-year assignment (which turned into four years). We knew we’d be living in a high-rise apartment–very small quarters. No garage, no storage, no family room. We decided to take only the essentials–basic furniture, clothing, kitchen needs.

Before we left, we gave away everything we could think to part with. In between the essential things and the get-rid of things was still a lot of stuff. We went through everything one more time, culling and weeding, and finally ended up with nearly-essential stuff. All of that stuff went into a storage unit.

Four years later, I couldn’t tell you what was in that unit. Not a thing! When we moved back and unpacked the storage unit, over 90% of it was given immediately away. That life lesson has stayed with me. 1

According to the Self Storage Association, one out of every 10 households in the country rents a storage unit. The average 10 x 10 unit costs about $100-200 a month. Furniture is supposed to be the most common item in a storage unit. Fifteen percent of storage unit renters say they are storing things they no longer need or want.

That, my friends, is kind of sad! At least $1200-$2400 a year spent on storing something that nobody wants. Think about how that money could be used–a sweet vacation, a bathroom remodel, a donation to a charity.

I don’t mean to bash a booming industry. But if you’re one of the fifteen percent, like I was, it might be time to make some hard decisions about the stuff you’re paying to store. Don’t spend your hard-earned money on them unless it’s absolutely, positively necessary.

I’m curious. What makes it hard for you to give something away that you’re not using? Sentiment? Indecision? Please share! I know this isn’t a high self-esteem topic–but it’s helpful to all of us to figure this clutter issue out. One lucky comment-er will receive a free signed book! 

Source: New York Times, Self Storage Association

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About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.

Comments

  1. Julie Smith says:

    I struggle with tossing items that are still in great condition and very useable. For instance, my mother gave me her meat convection/roaster thingy. It’s very large and clunky, yet the ONE time I used it, it worked great! Now, it’s taking up valuable kitchen storage space, but because of its size, I never bother to use it. I struggle with getting rid of it because the ONE time I used it, I was so pleased. It’s still in fabulous condition, but one of these days, who knows. It may just make the trip to Salvation Army along with some other friends.

  2. Elisabeth in France says:

    For me it’s this (mostly false) idea that I might need it some day!

  3. Natalie J Vandenberghe says:

    If I knew the answer…maybe I’d make some progress! Not only do I have a problem parting with my stuff, I’ve been putting off going through my Mother’s belongings–which have been in my possession for almost two years!

  4. Wen Dee says:

    I keep things that have a special meaning to me. I also keep things, thinking I may need it in the future.

  5. Sandi A. says:

    I go through phases–like I collected dolls for a while and now I have these rather useless, however beautiful, babies looking at me and taking up room. However, I do plan to get rid (donate) them if I can find a worthy cause. I think I was worse when I was younger–now that I’m heading towards “old age” I find it easier to part with things. I went to a garage sale one day and there on a table was my entire childhood (dishes, clocks etc.) selling for mere pennies. It made me realize that those “treasures” I hold so dear…are going to be junk to my kids. 🙂 So…. .

  6. Cassandra S says:

    For me it’s hard to get rid of things due to sentimental reasons. Plus I also think I might always need it again in the future and that if I have it now why should I get rid of it and then have to buy it again.

  7. Judy Smith says:

    We have determined to never rent a storage unit. As we continue to sort through our belongings, we try to use it up (i.e. my fabric stash being made into quilts for CPC) or pass it on (to someone who needs it or the local thrift store~SERF. There is still much we don’t use and need to sort out….for us, an ongoing project.

  8. Amy Bateman says:

    A lot of why I hang on to things is the “but we might need it some day” excuse. Of course, in the midst of my messy piles I can’t actually find whatever it was I know I kept when I do need it, so I end up buying another anyway. We have an unfinished basement and while a lot of what is stored down there is important stuff that gets used semi-regularly, a lot of it is just excess stuff that we’re hanging on to. I’m slowly working on learning to let go but sentiment gets me every time! However, I’ve found that preserving the memory with a photo or something brings back the memories just as well as the item, so I can pass the item on to someone that can use it. Goodwill has become my friend and it feels so liberating to pack up the back of my van and see all the empty space in my bedroom or closet that was holding my “to donate” pile. I’m determined to break the cycle of generations of “keepers” and not leave clutter as my legacy to my children.

  9. Connie R. says:

    For me, it’s all about nostalgia first, the memories tied to the item. Then it’s the old “I’ll use it someday for something” trap. Thanks for the thoughtful blog today, and for the chance to win a book.

  10. Patricia says:

    When we down-sized from our house to a 55+ apt. , I got rid of lots and lots of things sometimes with much sentimental angst and sometimes with a sense of relief,,,somehow managed to clear out High School yearbooks (not sure how they slipped past) and have received much grief from my husband ever since for “throwing away all those good memories” Of course. at the point in time that we moved, he moved into the apartment with the bed, the computer, and the TV and left me to move everything else one carload at a time…so if he had been around to supervise instead of enjoying the pool at the new complex, his memories might not have been misplaced,,,:)

  11. Linda Knott says:

    Not long ago I moved from a 2,000 sq ft house to a 875 sq ft apartment. I did get rid of a lot of things; but in the back of my mind was….”you won’t always be in an apartment and you’ll need to keep these or end up buying new when you move again”. Well 7 years later, I did move and into a home with 1400 sq ft. I will say though, that I did know what was in my storage unit. There were no surprises when I unloaded that stuff. I did, however, find some of it was not needed now that I was alone, so it went. I’m always going through things and “weeding out” what isn’t being used. My mother thinks I should get a dumpster and load it up. Much of my “stuff” is collections and I am finding that some of those collections aren’t as important to me as they were, so they are slowly going. I’ve learned alot from reading about the Amish life style.

  12. Linda Landreth says:

    I have many family heirlooms and I’m not ready to pass them on mostly because of sentimental reasons. I have passed on a crocheted bedspread my Italian grandmother made to a daughter who has shown admiration of it. My other children don’t express appreciation of family heirlooms and I don’t want anything thrown away that has family history. I can get rid of clothes, old dishes etc.

  13. Connie Saunders says:

    Part sentiment, partly the thought that perhaps the item might be needed again. I do not rent storage but I do need to purge!

  14. Sentiment makes it hard for me to let go of some things!

  15. mary ellen ashenfeder says:

    Sentiment is my usual reason for holding on to things. I find it easy to get rid myself of articles that have no meaning and that I don’t use. But, if something is of sentimental value, that is a different story.

  16. Carol Edwards says:

    I know mine is that small chance I will use it again and as long as I have room for it, I hold onto it.

  17. Sandie W says:

    Some of the stuff that I keep has a sentimental value, but mostly it’s a thought in my head that I might need it again one day. I’m desperately trying to be better about getting rid of things. (then I need to NOT bring in more stuff)

  18. Connie Roberts says:

    In the past I would keep things thinking, “I might need that one day.” Some things people would give me & I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them. I have learned to get rid of the non-essential stuff, things my kids & grandkids give me I keep. My husband was always complaining that I didn’t get rid of anything! I’m better now, lol.

  19. Jennifer Clark says:

    I’m not a big saver. My daughter (7) tries to get me to have garage sells, but I know that means keeping stuff around longer that we may end up keeping. My husband and daughter are packrats. They seem to do it for sentimental reasons.

  20. KayM says:

    Last fall I boxed up many things that I’d collected over the years that I no longer wanted. It was so good to get rid of all that stuff! The only thing that I still collect is books and I generally pass those on, as soon as I read them. Mostly I hang on to things because I might use them at a later time. Alot of what I was keeping for sentimental reasons, I’ve been able to pass on to my daughters–Yea!

  21. Sharon says:

    I’m much less indecisive or sentimental than my husband… without him, I could live very simplistically… lol

  22. cynthia fernstaedt says:

    I am getting better at this, as I pass items on to others I know need them more than we do. But admittedly have work in this area. My hesitation is usually sentimental, but am working on this and remind myself to build treasures with God, rather than on earth where they collect dust.

  23. Chris Meyer says:

    My biggest obstacle is my HUSBAND! He cannot part with things. 🙂
    Makes me crazy.

  24. Suzanne Dawson says:

    I can’t seem to throw anything away because I had nothing growing up because we were so poor and I have worked hard to get what I have and I treasure every little thing. I even have clothes from 50 years ago and I remember what that cost me to get or sew. It’s just been recently that I can part with some things because I am getting older and will die and don’t want my children to have to get rid of things. When my parents divorced photos got thrown away and that is what I treasure the most and wish I had.

    about a minute ago · Like

  25. Heather F says:

    I’ve always been a pack rat. For me it is two things. One is a sentimental attachment/memories associated with some objects. The other is not wanting to “waste”. I have things that I’m sure I can find a use for, I just never get time for the projects I imagine.

  26. Chris F says:

    I try to stay on top of it, but it’s hard.
    I know it goes back to being a child and being up-rooted regularly, sometimes leaving everything behind, and wanting stuff to make it seem more stable. But knowing that and changing it are not the same thing.
    Having kids in my tiny space makes it necessary to live with less, but I still have too much. I’m reading now from an expert on why we do this and some tips to make little changes. Hopefully it will be more than reading.

  27. Peggy says:

    I think I am always afraid I might need it sometime. LOL, And it does seem that about a week or two after I get rid of something, I do need it. 🙂