My Story: The Many Costs of Storage

contributed by Shelly Burke

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About 14 years ago, my husband and I moved into the house in which his grandparents lived, and he had inherited after his grandparents died. The house was full of furniture, antiques, lamps, and knick-knacks that were neither my nor my husband's style. My father-in-law was adamant about not selling or giving away anything that was in the house. (He had had a very poor relationship with his parents and was convinced some of the things were "worth a fortune.") We did not want our relationship with him to further deteriorate, so to keep peace in the family, we chose not to sell or give away any of the items. My father-in-law did not want them in his house, and my husband and I wanted our own things in our home, so we ended up renting a storage unit for the unwanted items.

In December of 2005, my father-in-law fell, sustained a head injury, and is now incapacitated. We were finally able to have a sale of the items that had been in his parents' house, as well as other things he'd bought and collected over the years, without his interference, and we needed some extra cash to deal with the bills he incurred.

As we gathered the items for the sale, I reflected on the ease of obtaining storage (there are countless storage units in large towns, and even in our tiny town there are several!) and what this meant for our family.

  1. Renting a storage unit for unwanted items was a convenient solution for us at the time, but allowed us to put unresolved issues aside and avoid dealing with them (these issues, and others, grew through the years; perhaps if we'd resolved the issues related to the items from the house, it would have prevented other problems).
  2. Throughout the years, there were many times we added things to storage. Most of the time, putting things in storage was just an excuse to avoid making a decision about selling, throwing or giving away the item.
  3. Emotional cost. As long as we had the "stuff," even if it was out of sight, it was part of our lives, and part of the bad memories associated with that house and different personal relationships. I cannot describe how much lighter we feel now that those "items from the past" are truly is out of our lives!
  4. During the sale, I watched the people who were buying our "stuff." As I watched people smile in joy at discovering something that was a treasure to them, I realized that by holding on to these items, we had kept others from enjoying them! Everyone has different tastes and what was junk to us was someone else's treasure. I stood next to a friend as she purchased several items to put in her husband's office, which she was re-doing. Another good friend had been wondering how to hang keepsake towels on which her mother had embroidered; she found the perfect rack and it was well within her limited budget. Seeing people make a great discovery and get a bargain was so fun that I wished we'd had the sale years ago.
  5. After the costs of advertising, renting the hall, and the auctioneer's charges (not to mention two days of work I had missed to help set up) were taken from the net total of the sale, we were surprised at the small size of the check we received from a whole city hall full of furniture, books, lamps, bottles, pictures, non-working appliances, and knick-knacks. After factoring in the cost of storage over the years ($45/month - Ouch!) and the time and effort in collecting the items from three different houses and two storage units, the net income was very little.

I realize that sometimes storage is a convenient option for items that aren't needed "right now" or for unwanted items. However, before putting items in storage, I encourage people to think about the hidden costs of storage.

Shelly Burke, RN, is the author of What Should I Say? and Home is Where the Mom Is. Home is Where the Mom Is is the most comprehensive resource for all moms, especially at-home moms. The above article is an excerpt from Home is Where the Mom Is. Shelly believes moms need to care for themselves, first, so they can better care for those around them.

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