A Place for Stuff?
In September my husband and I will be moving abroad and staying in China for a full year. We are having a problem of finding cheap storage for our belongings such as tools, a bicycle, dishes, instruments & art supplies, a TV and computer, etc. We have decided to donate the car and our larger furnishings. We feel the burden would be too much to ask family to hold so much for us, but the cost for a storage facility would add up. Does anyone have a suggestion for us?
For Cheap Storage Units, Look Outside of Town
Renting a storage unit is expensive! I'm sure other people will have creative suggestions on avoiding renting altogether, but if you end up having to rent, make sure you look at storage facilities as far away from town as possible. As you get further away from cities and busy suburbs, the prices drop dramatically. I live in a tiny apartment near my job, and rent a storage unit an hour away in a more rural location. The cost is less than half of what I would pay to one near my home. Another 40 or 50 miles away from the city might have dropped the cost another 25%. It may be a little inconvenient when you fill up the storage unit, but since you're going to be away for a year, you won't have to worry about convenience and accessing the unit on a regular basis.
The cheapest storage units are generally unheated, so you may want to think about storing sensitive computer equipment or other things that might be damaged by heat or cold. Be sure to store your photographs elsewhere. If you want climate-controlled storage, you'll have to pay quite a bit extra.
For anyone who needs to put his/her belongings into storage, I would recommend Public Storage. They have a crate storage service in which they drop off the needed crates and you pack it however you wish. Then you just call to have them pick it up again. If you ever need to get into the crate, just call and give them a couple hours to locate and set it out. Once you are ready to have your belongings again, just call and they will bring the crates to you. They do charge extra for delivery of the crates both times, but the rates are cheap per month. The crates I believe are 6' X 8' X 10', and when I was moving from my apartment to my condo I managed to get all of my boxes into one crate, and my bedroom and kitchen furniture into one crate.
Be a Blessing to Someone
You could offer to pay a trusted friend, family member or fellow church member for use of a storage area. You may end up saving significant dollars and blessing a family with much needed extra monthly income.
Just Get Rid of It
Get rid of all that stuff and store only vital records and pictures with a family member. The money you spend on storage, you could purchase the items you stored five times over. My daughter stored her belongings and spent hundreds of dollars, but when she finally got her things out of storage they were out dated and she bought new. But she was out the money that was wasted on storage.
A Backyard Shed
Most storage companies in my area are privately owned. The owners are either on site or just a phone call away. Many would most likely consider giving a discount if you prepaid for a whole year.
Also if a family member is willing and they have the room in their backyards, there are storage buildings for sale at places like Lowe's and Home Depot. The initial cost may seem like a lot but compared to a year's worth of payments to a storage facility, it may not be that much different. Also, if you do decide to buy one, it is worth the extra money to have them set it up for you. Trust me. It took my husband, my father, and myself three days to get one put up. I thought I was doing good by saving $50 to do it ourselves. It is worth it to pay someone else to do it that knows what he is doing.
Sort and Give Away Freely
We have faced the "affordable storage" issue several times in similar circumstances. Initially, the reader may have already done this, we have the three-way sort making three piles, if you will: Save for NOW, Save for LATER, and time to part with it. We found ourselves running numbers on many of the "Save for Later" items and felt better posting a list on our church bulletin board to give the items away to "Brothers and Sisters" who had use for them. Sentimental items meant a lot to us and we were able to keep most of that to a compact container.
Many large items, like a table saw, extension ladder, washer, dryer, etc. found their way to our friends as "semi-permanent loans". Our friends would use them as they wished, hopefully with the same care we would, and upon our return we would recollect these items for our use. If you have good friends this in fact can work out very well as a win-win situation. Frankly, if I got home and found the item no longer useful or available it wouldn't break my heart. These were non-emotional large items that can be replaced with money down the road, as opposed to the sentimental items beyond dollar value.
After several of these experiences, we were able to build our present home which has lots of ambient temperature dry storage space, now used to store sentimental items for ourselves and many other friends during their transcontinental journeys.
As an expat already living in Asia, my advice is BE RUTHLESS! Many of the things you are planning to put into storage will look downright shabby and awful when you get them back out. Many of the things you have mentioned can be bought new for a much cheaper price while you are over here. Check out some of the sites online relating to expat living. Talk via online boards to people resident where you are going. A great site is www.expatexchange.com, which features advisors that are actually living in the countries.
In regards to the storage problem, once you have winnowed out your belongings you may like to consider placing a small ad in your local paper asking for storage space in a business premise. Often a small business will have more room than they are actually using and may be glad to rent to you. Best wishes with your move to China. We love living as expats with all the challenges!