How I Finally Got Rid of Our Self Storage Unit

Self storage unit - get rid of it

Has a self storage unit become a pain for you to keep up? I rid us of ours for good. Learn how I took charge of this silly waste of money & freed myself.

Sentimental value. It’s the downfall of so many of our homes and absolutely fills our minds with clutter we just don’t need.

Sentimental value is what has me holding on to dolls, toys, books and projects from when I was a child. It had me holding on to my 13th and 21st birthday cards. It kept me holding on to previous movie tickets, theater tickets and programs, napkins, brochures and all kinds of paper clutter.

You never know when you may need that stuff, right? (Yeah … that’s how I talked myself into a self storage unit in the first place … more on that in a minute.)

OK, with a memory like mine, little reminders like that are great for remembering the good old days, but is that minute that you look at it every 15 years worth storing the stuff? Is it worth cluttering your home? Is it worth the price of a self storage unit?

The self storage unit business has boomed over the last several years to a $24 billion industry (2014 estimates from the Self-Storage Association). I ran across this statistic and thought a moment about how much of that annual income was from us? We had a self-storage unit for far too long.

In all fairness to us, we eliminated the need for our self storage unit about a year and half ago. It all started when a Realtor told us we had to get rid of any clutter if we wanted to sell our home. We immediately started packing things up and taking it to our new storage unit. It was a family event in that we all added stuff to the unit. We were very pleased with ourselves and only had to run over there 2 or 3 times over the next 2 years.

Well, long story short, we decided not to sell our home. We took it off the market, but what was the 1 thing we didn’t bother doing? Get our stuff back. Instead, our things sat collecting dust completely untouched for all that time, and why? Because, it was so nice having all of it gone out of our house! So we left it. Who needs an extra $75 a month anyway, right ($900+/year)?

We started down this simplifying road – just a little back then – and decided we would go through the storage unit and bring home all of our important belongings. The things we can’t live without. We got there, opened the door, looked at each other and thought “we’ve done without all of this for years. I don’t need any of it.” And, instead of shove those thoughts aside and pack up the car, I stood there, embraced that thought and said, “I think I can get rid of most of this.”

Before I started, I pictured how nice the house looked. I thought about the space that would be filled with stuff and the closets that would be packed. I pictured myself having to move all of these things just to reach something I use all of the time. It was motivation. I liked my house without these things in it. No matter how much I liked these items and felt they had sentimental value, they didn’t have a place in the house. (And, I no longer had a place for a self storage unit in my life!) I couldn’t visualize them in our home any more. Then I began.

We made 4 piles … right there at the self storage unit – 1 for people we know, 1 for donate, 1 for garbage/recycle and 1 for keep. As I sorted each box, I kept a critical eye and thought about the last time I used or even saw the item. Most of it I had just forgotten about. As things went along, it was easier and easier to donate the items. In fact, much of the original keep pile was moved over to donate. I had work clothes – and had become a stay at home mom 2 years prior. I had clothes from college and even high school and I think that was the last time I had worn them. There were 2 stereos we no longer needed (we went digital). I had movie and theater tickets from the 90s. Shelves that never worked right in our house. Lots of kitchenware … most were just not necessary for us. Books, books and more books. And so much more I thankfully can’t even remember it.

In the end, I think we took 3 boxes home and some loose items from the self storage unit. I easily found a place for everything we had brought home. I haven’t thought of any of the stuff we got rid of … not until writing this, and I really don’t miss any of it. I know my home is less stuffed and more calm without these things.

I know it’s hard to let things go, but here are some tips for eliminating “stuff” and decluttering your home … so you can finally get rid of that self storage unit.

  • Some people say don’t try to do it all at once, but I’m not that person. Do it all at once! Whatever you can’t decide on at the end of the day … get rid of it.
  • Ask yourself if this item has brought you joy in the last year. No? Get rid of it.
  • Picture where the item will go in your house – is there room for it without sacrificing space for something else that’s more important? No? Get rid of it.
  • Do you already have one? Or do you have something that replaces it? Yes? Get rid of it.
  • Are you worried someone might notice you don’t have it anymore? That’s no reason to keep it. The idea of the gift is something you may carry with you, but sometimes those pot holders are just not your style. Do you even remember who gave you the item? Let go of the guilt. Get rid of it.
  • Does it need fixing? Paint? Mend? I went ahead and got rid of these things, too, because if it’s broken and I haven’t used it in a year, then I really don’t need it. Get rid of it.
  • Picture the money you pay for your self-storage unit each month. Wouldn’t you rather have that than the item in your hand? Get rid of it.
  • When it doubt, let it go. You probably don’t need it if you can’t decide. Get rid of it.
  • Check your keep pile when you are through. Go through it one more time and see if you can’t get rid of a few more things.

If you can’t bear the thought of never seeing an item again, then take a picture. Store it on the computer and you can look at it anytime you want. I’ve done this with kids’ toys and clothes … but I promise you probably will never try to find that picture, but you’ll have it if you need it.

Another way you can motivate yourself is to picture something you really want like a vacation. Put a mental “price” on each item that you could sell to get you closer to your goal. Place items you don’t want in a garage sale or take to a consignment store or sale. Take any money you make and put it towards your goal. Suddenly your items aren’t sentimental objects, they are a ticket to what you really want. Don’t let them stand in your way!

Most importantly, stop buying stuff. Don’t let yourself go back to cluttering up your house so you need a self storage unit again. Only buy the essentials (and when I figure out how exactly to only do that … I will let you know).

Did you get rid of your self storage unit? If so, how’d you do it?

Photo credit: JeepersMedia / Foter / CC BY

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By Mark Hager
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Mark Hager is an aging in place thought leader and advocate. He is the founder of, CEO of Age in Place Networks, a leading authority in the aging in place niche and a trusted voice for both consumers and business owners serving older consumers. Over the years, Mark has provided help for thousands of consumers, organizations and small businesses.


  1. My self-storage unit costs me $214.00 per month. I can’t afford it yet can’t physically go thru all my boxes stored in one visit. This will be a project over months to complete. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

  2. But what if you don’t have any relatives or friends to help you go through the storage facility? Then what? I also don’t have a car anymore either & the trip is a far one. I can’t afford to keep shelling out carfare $ to these cab drivers either, going back & forth. I also don’t have the time for that because I don’t live near the storage facility anymore either. If anybody can give me some advice, I would appeciate it. Thank you.

    • Mark Hager Mark Hager says:

      Hi, Catherine,

      Here are a few ideas. Give a call to the local Area Agency on Aging, local government office or community board. They may be able to direct you to someone quickly that could lend a hand. You also could call a local church or synagogue to see if they have some folks that might volunteer to help you. Or, even a local senior center might either be able to get volunteers or know of an organization to help. Finally, you could find someone who provides organizational or downsizing services. They would be able to help you go through the storage unit and deal with the stuff.

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