Last week the Kuzak’s Closet organizing team tackled a large storage project in Menlo Park. The action shots I shared on social media caused a sensation–likely a nervous sensation–as many readers recognized their own storage experience. Today I’m sharing the “dos and don’ts of storage” based on my years of experience as a professional organizer.
The client we worked with last week has been renting storage units for over a decade, spending on average $3,000 per month–over $350,000 to date. This seemingly nutty situation is far too common. Most clients go into storage with a temporary plan, but making time to tackle all of those “postponed decisions,” which is what I call items in storage, never happens. It becomes more convenient to just pay the monthly fee instead of dealing with the situation.
I’ve organized endless storage units, but I have a hard and fast rule with my clients before we start–the goal must be to consolidate or liquidate the units, not to have them look pretty. I believe that if items are in storage they are truly not wanted or needed. It is my goal as an organizer to train clients that they can save money by creating systems that create efficiency and structure in their life. These systems help with budgeting, regaining valuable space lost to piles of unwanted, unloved stuff, and eliminating the cost of storage.
This is the version of what clients feel like their items will look like in storage….
But in reality it looks like this…
There really is no such thing as “a pretty storage unit.” Well, if you Google the phrase, the only image of a perfectly organized storage unit is one from a Kuzak’s Closet project in Los Gatos (2nd from the left in the top row). For that client, storage made sense: it was a single dad who lived in a small condo without a garage. He rented a storage unit a mile away and we set up like a garage, including bins for camping gear, shelves for extra household supplies, and room for bikes and sporting goods. He used it daily, so the cost advantage over renting a larger home with a garage in pricey Los Gatos made sense.
When storage doesn’t make sense…
- When you are storing furniture: Unless you are remodeling and temporarily storing the furniture it is time to say good-bye. The Menlo Park storage project included 4 sofas and 6 upholstered chairs, which had been professionally wrapped for storage. After a decade in plastic wrap, in a controlled climate environment, the plastic stuck to the fabric and all 10 pieces had to be trashed. Adding insult to injury, it actually cost the client an additional $550 in dump fees. We tried valiantly to give them away but no one would take them due to the terrible condition.
- When you think you can sell it someday: Clients often ask me to come assess their storage unit to determine what is sellable. Once you’ve invested cash storing furniture there is no way that value can be recouped. If you are thinking about getting a storage unit to store items that might have resale value, just “don’t do it!” Note that second-hand buyers always want an item’s story–from their perspective stored items aren’t valuable enough to be kept in the home or used daily, and resale value declines.
- When you think your kids will want it someday: I recommend only storing irreplaceable items–in a climate controlled environment or private storage facility. Set a limit on how much you are willing to spend on storing these special items. Have realistic conversations with your children on what they might want someday and recognize that your 10-year-old daughter might not want your sterling silver now, but will in mature years. The smaller and more unique the items, the more I recommend keeping them for the next generation.
- When you have paperwork you think you’ll need someday: Our client in Menlo Park owned several Bay Area companies; one storage unit was devoted to paperwork. In this situation he actually needed to keep hundreds of boxes of paperwork just in case of lawsuits, taxes, etc when he put it in storage but in the current year it was okay to purge half of it. We coordinated shredding 127 boxes of outdated paperwork during the 2-day process at a cost of $889.00 ($7 per box) for the shredding service alone, not including the time spent organizing it. With all of the shredding we did the client was able to downsize the unit, saving him money down the road, so the expense was worth it.
I am happy to report that after our sessions with our client last week, let’s call him “Scout”, he was also motivated to tackle 2 garages, a POD. If you want to picture him just picture this…George W. Bush’s brother if he was cool. Anyway, when he pulled away from the storage facility he rolled down the window of his sporty Mercedes and said, “Thank you Amanda, your team was amazing and this was the best money I’ve ever spent!” I couldn’t help but correct him and yell, “saved Scout, saved!” Too bad as a professional organizer we can’t get a dividend back on the money we save our clients after we purge the unwanted and set up systems that save them time. I guess for now seeing Scout drive off into the sunset with a smile on his face will be just as good as that!
In summary, please take the time to make decision in the moment. I know that it can be tough to handle the contents of your house after a divorce or when your parents pass away but you’ll have to make decisions about the items someday so you might as well do it before you spend thousands of dollars storing items you may not want.