Short Term Storage: Godsend or Black Hole?

The self-storage industry is currently a $39 billion-dollar industry with positive projected growth over the next five years. This industry has figured out how to play our emotions like a fiddle.

Let’s take a look at what has helped to fuel the growth of this industry:

  • USA Today reports that 40 million Americans move each year
  • The U.S. Census Bureau states that the average American in the U.S. moves more than 11.7 times throughout their lifetime. And,
  • According to the LA Times, most American homes contain 300,000 items

There are many reasons we choose to rent a short-term storage unit and for some it makes solid financial sense:

  • Those of us that choose a more urban footprint and knowingly store larger everyday items we need frequent access to; winter clothes and sports equipment, outdoor furniture, bikes, lawnmowers etc. These folks have figured the monthly cost of short-term storage into the monthly budget and justify the rental cost.
  • The commercial use of self-storage as a way to house additional inventory they need access to.

And the rest of us? We are fueling the growth of this industry. Why?

We allow our emotions to affect the financial decisions we make. It’s that simple.

We’ve all done it. We are moving, again. We carefully pack away the heirlooms we will absolutely never use or display but cannot bear to give away, or the pricey furniture mistakes we have made, the items we are saving because “you never know, the kids may want them”. Trust me, the “kids” won’t want them.

Yet, we store them. We are using self-storage as a way to defer making difficult emotional decisions and its costing some of us dearly, month after month, year after year.

Let’s look at the current US Self-Storage Industry data:

Annual industry revenue                                                     $39 billion

Number of storage facilities (range)                                    45,000-60,000

Total rentable self-storage space.                                         1.7 billion square feet

Self-storage space per person                                               5.4 square feet

Percentage of households that rent a self-storage unit.   9.4 percent

Average monthly cost for a self-storage unit.                    $87.89

*Source: SpareFoot Storage Beat 3/20

What are 9.4% of US consumers storing in 5.4 square feet that they are willing to pay $87.89 per month for? Only they know.

What I know is why they are storing it and how it has led to the growth of a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Our emotional indecision. Yup, our inability to let go of our stuff.

It’s that simple. Our knee-jerk reaction to getting rid of anything we are emotionally attached to-so we don’t get rid of it-we store it.

Here is a typical scenario:

We are moving-upsizing, downsizing, rightsizing and need to make quick decisions. Many of these decisions are easy to make and will fall into 3 categories:

Pack to move



The closer we get to the move date, the more stressed out, anxious and emotionally exhausted we become. Our ability to think clearly and make good quality decisions degrades over time. So, what do we do when we are running out of energy, time and can no longer make decisions?

Put it in storage!


We look locally for the best deal-one month free, two months free and happily choose to hand over a credit card for easy monthly pay and walk away knowing that our “treasures” are safe and secure. We breathe a sigh of relief and check this item of the move off our list. We mentally move on.

What we do not realize is that when renting our storage space and signing at the end of a multipage contract with teeny tiny legalese-we have agreed to a timed rental unit cost increase that has already been laid out in the contract. The built-in increase has already been agreed to by YOU.

While we may see the monthly invoices and the thought is always in the back of our minds to “deal with storage” the weeks become months then years before many of us actually begin to pay closer attention to the increases and decide to address these emotionally deferred decisions once and for all. Others look back years later not even remembering what they put in storage originally.

Black hole.

So, how do you avoid being a casualty of the self-storage industry?

  1. Take the time to truly think through the COST of storing each item over time.
  2. Set a time frame in which you agree to rent the space-6 months or 1 year
  3. Ask to see the fine print in the contract regarding automatic monthly increases
  4. Ask to be informed before a monthly increase will occur
  5. Create a visual and physical inventory of stored items-include measurements

Short term storage is a Godsend for many of us who need to utilize this readily available local option and have firm grip on exactly what is being stored, why it’s being stored and for how long.

It’s a black hole when used as a way to delay difficult decisions about the disposition of household goods, heirlooms and mementoes that we cannot let go of, put out of our conscious minds and not consider the rising cost of this option.

So, if you are one of the families using a short-term unit, ask yourself if you are ready to make decisions to dispose of the “treasures” you have stored in the 5.4 square feet once and for all and take a trip with the $1,000.00 yearly savings instead.

The Emotionality of Moving and Moving On…Why It’s so Hard for Most Sellers

Selling a home and moving is hard

The overall impression you have created is a positive one that highUnique assets of your house

The Sound of Time… What to Expect When Your House is Finally on the Market

The goal was to design the house to appeal to the largest number of potential buyers. You’ve done that. The emotional roller coaster is back at the station and you are ready to unbuckle and jump off the ride. Oh, and by the way, you’re exhausted, both physically and emotionally and not sure what comes next.

The good news is the hardest part of the process is over, hopefully you have sorted (keep, store, donate or dump) your things and deep cleaned your house, inside and out. The overall impression you have created is a positive one that highlights the unique assets of your house.

For most sellers, this is their most valuable personal asset and they are looking to maximize its value, while the buyer is looking to make the best deal they can.

The house is 100 percent clean and the rooms are well-designed and without clutter. The challenge now is to actually “live” day-to-day while maintaining this artificial environment. The perfection you will maintain is for good reason, which is to sell the house quickly and for top dollar. It will be worth it, but it may not happen immediately.

Realize that during this time, the routine you established and relied upon each day will be non-existent. Your Realtor® or agent will schedule your house on their office’s weekly tour of new listings. After this tour, the agent may ask their colleagues to suggest a list price or price range based on the tour. The agent will share this information with you, even though YOU will decide on the price, not them. In addition, your agent might host a morning coffee, buffet lunch or cocktail preview where agents can bring qualified buyers to view the listing before it hits the MLS. Other agents use the Friday before the weekend open house to schedule showings by appointment only.

Many homes do sell this way, which is why it is done and will reduce the days on the market to zero. If you prepared your asset to sell and you are lucky, this could mean no disruptive showings. It obviously does not happen with regularity for most listings, which is why you will most likely proceed to Plan B. You wait…

No one can predict how long the sales process will take. It’s based on many factors – location, presentation, price point, current market, time of year and number of qualified buyers that show interest. Your job is to wait for the offer – so stay calm and work closely with your agent as they expertly market your house and hopefully find the right buyer. It will get harder the longer you do it and I know you will start to hear it, ticking, ticking, ticking… the sound of time.

You’re in a virtual no mans land of uncertainty as you wonder what each day will bring. You must keep your emotions in check as your Realtor shares negative feedback from agents and buyers… or no information at all. Remember it’s all individual perspective and the next buyer may tell you it’s exactly what they have been hoping to find. You can’t take any of it personally. TRULY remain calm. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. This is all part of the process.

Living in limbo without our normal creature comforts is an incredibly difficult situation for most people, so treat yourself to a little TLC and know this emotional roller coaster will hopefully be over soon.

Read more about The Sound of Time in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!

“Houston We Have a Problem…”

When selling or buying a home beware of the disconnect!  In a seller’s mind their objective is simple: I want to sell my house as quickly as possible for the highest possible price, spend the least amount of money and do the least amount of work.