Storage Unit: Pros & Cons

Storage Unit: Pros & Cons

The storage unit industry shares some staggering statistics in this article, stating there are approximately 50,000 storage facilities in the United States, with an annual income of $38 billion, (yes, BILLION with a B!) with rentable storage space of 1.7 billion (again with a B!) square feet. Yowser! That’s a whole lotta stuff we’re storing, people, and a whole lotta money spent storing it. In my fourteen years as a professional organizer, it’s been my experience that most clients with storage units rented them because of postponed decision making rather than practical, logical necessity.

Don’t get me wrong; I think there are situations when renting a storage unit can be a perfect short-term solution, but the most important part of that sentence is, “short term.”

Here are some examples when renting a storage unit is a great idea:

  • House is sold, but timing for moving into new place isn’t syncing up; household contents go into storage until the new place is available.
  • Moving across country, need to temporarily store contents until you’re ready to receive items at the other end.
  • Household renovations: rather than live with chaos while your space is being remodeled, box up the contents you can live without and store until construction is done.
  • College dorm, annual leaving/returning event: rather than carting everything home at the end of the semester, some parents find it easier to store it for a couple months near the college.
  • Death of a parent, breaking up the family home, grown children out of state, lots of mementos and photos to cull through. A storage unit can be a great temporary solution until everyone has had a chance to review and make decisions.

Now let me share some situations we’ve dealt with in the past of how NOT to use a storage unit. (specific facts have been altered to protect the innocent, or rather, guilty parties)

  • Woman moves across the state to live with her sister for health reasons. Sister doesn’t have room for all the incoming stuff. Woman rents three storage rooms nearby, with the plan of sorting through it at some point in time. Time passes…six years, to be exact. Home Solutions is hired to help woman sort through the contents of these three rooms. 90% of it is nothing of value, nothing she wants to keep, nothing her nieces and nephews want. She spent $275/month for six years storing stuff she ultimately didn’t keep. That’s $19,800! Yes, some of the contents were sold via auction, but the funds received didn’t come close to the money spent.
  • Husband issues an ultimatum to wife to get rid of the many, many, many bins of teaching supplies/craft supplies/clothing piled up in their basement and throughout the home. Rather than disburse, wife rents a storage unit, but it’s so packed, she can’t access the contents in a functional way so the stuff just sits there. For years it sits, but she doesn’t deal with it until Home Solutions is called in.
  • Woman moves in with her aging mother, puts her own things in storage. Mother passes away, woman continues to live in the home with her mother’s contents, leaving her belongings in two storage units for many years. We worked in an unheated building in the dead of winter, sorting through those units. Thank goodness for space heaters and electrical outlets!

There’s a common theme in these examples, and it comes down to, “postponed decisions” time and time again. Nobody likes it when I calculate the money they’ve spent storing stuff they ultimately didn’t need or want, because invariably, the cost far exceeds the value of the items stored.

Do the math. Review your reason for storing. Don’t pay money to store stuff that can easily be purchased with the money you’ll save by letting it go now, and replacing it later when/if there’s a need.

If you decide to rent a storage unit, choose one big enough to store your stuff AND be able to see the contents if you will make periodic visits to review. A unit with inside access and climate control means weather is not a factor; it’s no fun loading, unloading, or sorting through contents with only outside access during a torrential rain storm.

We all know reality TV is rarely an accurate glimpse of, well, reality, but if you enjoy watching the show, Storage Wars, you might have fun checking out a local storage unit auction. But don’t be surprised if all you see is heaps and piles of worthless, postponed decisions.

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Top Ten Tips for Garage Sale Success

Top Ten Tips for Garage Sale Success

Garage Sale Success

Garage Sale Success

Garage sale season is upon us! Before you commit to clearing your clutter for cash, ask yourself this one important question, and be honest:

Do I have enough to sell to make it worth my time and effort, or should I just donate everything and be done with it?

If you answered, “Boy howdy, do I have enough!” go through the house gathering items to sell. Create an area for everything that’s “gotta go” and encourage family members to add things. The more, the merrier!

Here are my top ten tips for running a successful garage sale:

  1. Get other neighbors to join in. People are more likely to come if they can hit a handful of sales in a row.
  2. Advertise in your local paper, on Craigslist and facebook. Folks scan listings and plan their routes, so make sure they’ll find your sale. Photos are helpful, especially if you have big-ticket or unique items.
  3. Signs should be big, easy to read, and neatly written. Quality signs signal a quality sale – half the success is in your marketing and advertising. Most people read those signs from a moving vehicle!
  4. Price everything, and price it to sell. It doesn’t matter if you paid $10 and it’s practically new; if you’re not using it, the main goal is to get rid of it, not to recoup your cost. Use the computer to research prices.
  5. Display items on tables; hang clothing on a rack/clothesline. People don’t like to stoop to the ground or rummage through messy piles of stuff.
  6. Create “like with like” categories so people looking for tools will readily find them, books are together, holiday decorations are easy to see, and kitchen items have an area of their own.
  7. It pays to clean things. A damp microfiber cloth works miracles on dusty glassware, dishes, and decor.
  8. Be willing to haggle. If you know you want $25 for something, either mark it, “Price Firm” or mark it $29 so you can come down and still get what you want. BUT! It’s also ok to say “no” to a ridiculous offer. I’ve told people I will happily donate something rather than sell it for a foolish price.
  9. Make sure to have plenty of change on hand. I recommend $75 broken down like this: $28 in ones, $25 in fives, $20 in tens, plus $2 in quarters. People will give you a $20 bill for a $1 purchase.
  10. Have a check-out table and keep smaller, easy-to-steal items near you there.  Sadly, sometimes people help themselves to things that are easy to pocket or highly desirable, such as collectibles, jewelry or video games.

After the sale:

  • Schedule a charity pickup for leftovers the day after your sale. Promise yourself the stuff is NOT going back in the house. It’s time; let it go. However, sometimes it’s worth it to relist big-ticket items on Craigslist or other online venues if you want to take another shot at selling.

If possible, time your sale to coincide with another event in your neighborhood such as a festival, garden walk, or real estate open house. Anything that attracts people is great when you’re having a garage sale.

The more effort you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Make it a fun experience for people – offer treats, have some lively music playing, mix and mingle and even if it’s not true, act like you’re having fun!

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Top Ten Tips for a Successful Garage Sale

Top Ten Tips for a Successful Garage Sale

Clutter-clearing garage sale season is upon us! Before you commit, ask yourself this one important question, and be honest:

Garage Sale Success

Garage Sale Success

Do I have enough to sell to make it worth my time and effort, or should I just donate the stuff and be done with it?

If you decide to proceed, go through the house looking for items to sell. Pick an area where you can gather everything that’s “gotta go” and encourage other family members to add to the pile.

Here are my top ten tips for running a successful garage sale:

  1. Get  a few neighbors to join in. People are more likely to come if they can hit a handful of sales in a row.
  2. Advertise in your local paper, on Craigslist and facebook. People scan listings and plan their routes, so make sure they’ll find your sale. If you have big-ticket or unique items, include photos in your online ads. 
  3. Signs should be big, easy to read, and neatly written. Quality signs signal a quality sale – half the success is in your marketing and advertising. And remember, people need to be able to read your signs from a moving vehicle!
  4. Price everything, and price it to sell. It doesn’t matter if you paid $10 and it’s practically new; if you’re not using it, the main goal is to get rid of it, not to recoup your cost. Use the computer to research prices.
  5. Display items on tables; hang clothing on a rack/clothesline. People don’t like to stoop to the ground or rummage through messy piles of stuff.
  6. Put “like with like” so people looking for tools will readily find them, books are all together, holiday decorations are easy to see. Creating a pleasant shopping experience translates into more sales.
  7. It pays to clean things. A damp microfiber cloth works miracles on dusty glassware, dishes, and decor items.
  8. Be willing to haggle. If you know you want $25 for something, either mark it, “Price Firm” or mark it $29 so you can come down and still get what you want. BUT! It’s also ok to say “no” to a ridiculous offer. I’ve told people I’d rather donate something than sell it for what they’re offering.
  9. Make sure to have plenty of change on hand. I recommend $75 broken down like this: $27 in ones, $25 in fives, $20 in tens, plus $3 in quarters. That should be enough to get you started. People will offer you a $20 bill for a $1 purchase.
  10. Have a check-out table and keep small, easy-to-steal items near you on that table. I’m sorry to say, sometimes people help themselves to things that are easy to pocket or highly desirable, such as collectibles, jewelry or video games.

After the sale:

  • Schedule a charity pickup for leftovers the day after your sale. Promise yourself the stuff is NOT going back in the house. It’s time; let it go. However:
  • Relist leftover big-ticket items on Craigslist if you want to take another shot at selling.  Here’s a link to a post I wrote about the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Craigslist.

If you can, schedule your sale to coincide with another event in your neighborhood such as a festival, garden walk, or real estate open house. Anything that attracts people is a good thing when you’re having a garage sale.

The more effort you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Make it a fun experience for people – offer treats, have some lively music playing, mix and mingle and even if it’s not true, act like you’re having fun! People are more likely to buy from someone with a smile than from Grumpy McGrump.

Top Ten Tips for a Successful Garage Sale

Top Ten Tips for a Successful Garage Sale

Clutter-clearing garage sale season is upon us! Before you commit, ask yourself this one important question, and be honest:

Garage Sale Success

Garage Sale Success

Do I have enough to sell to make it worth my time and effort, or should I just donate everything and be done with it?

If you decide to proceed, go through the house looking for items to sell. Pick an area where you can gather everything that’s “gotta go” and encourage other family members to add to the pile.

Here are my top ten tips for having a successful garage sale:

  1. Get other neighbors to join in. People are more likely to come if they can hit a handful of sales in a row.
  2. Advertise in your local paper, on Craigslist and facebook. People scan listings and plan their routes, so make sure they’ll find your sale. If you have big-ticket or unique items, include photos in your online ads. 
  3. Signs should be big, easy to read, and neatly written. Quality signs signal a quality sale – half the success is in your marketing and advertising. And remember, people need to read signs from a moving vehicle!
  4. Price everything, and price it to sell. It doesn’t matter if you paid $10 and it’s practically new; if you’re not using it, the main goal is to get rid of it, not to recoup your cost. Use the computer to research prices.
  5. Display items on tables; hang clothing on a rack/clothesline. People don’t like to stoop to the ground or rummage through messy piles of stuff.
  6. Put “like with like” so people looking for tools will readily find them, books are all together, holiday decorations are easy to see.
  7. It pays to clean things. A damp microfiber cloth works miracles on dusty glassware, dishes, and decor items.
  8. Be willing to haggle. If you know you want $25 for something, either mark it, “Price Firm” or mark it $29 so you can come down and still get what you want. BUT! It’s also ok to say “no” to a ridiculous offer. I’ve told people I’d rather donate something than sell it for what they’re offering.
  9. Make sure to have plenty of change on hand. I recommend $75 broken down like this: $27 in ones, $25 in fives, $20 in tens, plus $3 in quarters. That should be enough to get you started. People will offer you a $20 bill for a $1 purchase.
  10. Have a check-out table and keep smaller, easy-to-steal items near you on that table. I’m sorry to say, sometimes people help themselves to things that are easy to pocket or highly desirable, such as collectibles, jewelry or video games.

After the sale:

  • Schedule a charity pickup for leftovers the day after your sale. Promise yourself the stuff is NOT going back in the house. It’s time; let it go. However:
  • Relist leftover big-ticket items on Craigslist if you want to take another shot at selling.

If you can, time your sale to coincide with another event in your neighborhood such as a festival, garden walk, or real estate open house. Anything that attracts people is a good thing when you’re having a garage sale.

The more effort you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Make it a fun experience for people – offer treats, have some lively music playing, mix and mingle and even if it’s not true, act like you’re having fun! People are more likely to buy from someone with a smile than from Grumpy McGrump.

Did You Save or Did You Spend?

Did You Save or Did You Spend?

When is a bargain not a bargain?

Do you ever get caught in the vicious clutter-creating cycle that goes something like this:

  • You buy something you really don’t need and probably won’t use
  • You tell yourself it was worth it because it was on sale
  • You have no idea where to put it when you get it home/it gets delivered…
  • …so it sits in a bag/box/corner where it’s joined by more “bargains”
  • And now you won’t get rid of it because you paid good money for it

Sound familiar? I see this regularly when working in clients’ homes, so you’re not alone.

How can you break the cycle?

  • Before making ANY purchase – especially an impulsive one, ask yourself:
    • Do I need it?
    • Will I use it?
    • Where will it live when I get it home?
  • If there are certain stores (brick and mortar OR online!) you can’t resist, proclaim a 30-day moratorium on visiting them. Break that habit of impulse buying!
  • Take things out of the shopping bags/open delivered packages. It’s too easy to ignore something you can’t see.
  • Create one designated area for pre-purchased gifts and “shop the house” when an occasion arises.
  • Donate new/unused items to non-profit organizations for their fund-raising gift basket raffles.

Trust me when I say that retail therapy rarely produces long-lasting, positive results.

 

Saying Goodbye To “Stuff”

Saying Goodbye To “Stuff”

When looking through piles of stuff to make keep-or-go decisions, I often ask my clients, “Is it relevant to your life anymore?”

Sometimes we hang on to things simply because we have the space. It’s easy to delay the decision-making process when keeping the stuff costs nothing more than the square footage to store it. But it’s important to realize that space doesn’t have to be filled; especially with stuff we don’t need, use, want, or love.

Old sports equipment is one example. If the hockey pads your son or daughter used six years ago are just gathering dust, I’ll bet there’s someone out there who would truly benefit from your gently used sports equipment donation.

Those college textbooks up in the attic? Unless the content is something you still use that hasn’t changed over time, they’re not too desirable. You can donate them.

If something doesn’t qualify for donation, maybe it can be recycled.

We had to make a tough decision here at home two years ago. We had a pool that came with the house. As close as we could calculate, it was at least 40 years old. When our boys were young that pool was a godsend. And in the heat of the summer, many a cold beverage was enjoyed during relaxing pool-float sessions. It had an attached deck, and for nearly 20 years we ate dinner up there from late spring through early autumn.

I nicknamed our pool, “The Albatross” because it really was a monstrosity – not much to look at – more function than form. As our boys grew into young men, The Albatross was used much less as a pool and more as an elevated eating area.

The time finally came when I was not looking forward to opening The Albatross. The idea of maintaining it for months on end wore me down. When I asked the question, “Is it relevant to our lives right now?” the honest answer was, “No.”  The cost to maintain in terms of time, effort, and money was no longer worth the return on that investment. And the truth of the matter was, our fond memories wouldn’t disappear with the pool, they would stay with us in our minds and hearts. Oh, and in our photographs, too.

And so it was with mixed emotions that we bid a fond farewell to The Albatross. It owed us nothing; it had served us well.

The Albatross as it once was

The tear-down process was something to behold. All recyclable materials were, indeed, recycled.

IMG_0731

Now we have a lovely patio we truly enjoy that fits our current lifestyle. We’re homebodies; we love to putter in the yard and gardens, we enjoy feeding and watching all the different birds our yard attracts. Oh, and wine. Our patio is the perfect place to enjoy a glass (or two) of wine at the end of the day. After the long hard winter of 2014-15, we’ll be especially happy for patio season to roll around.

New patio

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