The role of self storage

Lesson 11: Free online downsizing course

Traditionally, the advice has been to avoid using self storage during decluttering, as it doesn’t solve the root cause of the clutter (true) and can be an inconvenient expense (also true). 

However, in certain situations, I fully endorse self storage as a valuable tool that offers flexibility and helps to achieve downsizing goals. 

In this lesson, we’ll explore some smart ways of using self storage, if needed, during the decluttering and downsizing process.

Redefining the traditional advice

While the conventional wisdom advises against using storage units during decluttering, there are situations where self storage can be beneficial:

  1. Rush Moves: When time is limited, storage units allow you to retain agency and make decisions at your own pace. This approach prevents hasty choices that may lead to regret later on. Consider having a friend, relative, or downsizing professional bring a box or two a week for you to sort through, turning a rush move into a more manageable and organised downsizing process.
  2. Separating Sales Items: If you’re aiming to sell individual items rather than going through an auction house or similar options, self storage can be a useful tool. It provides a designated space to store items for potential buyers, to get items out of the home and buy you time to go through the sales process, without being an obstacle to you achieving your overall decluttering and downsizing goals.
  3. Resetting Overwhelm: For individuals dealing with hoarding behaviors or homes that have gotten out of control, self storage can provide a fresh start. By temporarily relocating items to a storage unit, the home becomes a clutter-free environment, allowing for its inhabitants to have more mental capacity to subsequently sort through items, box by box.

Alternatives to self storage

While self storage facilities are a popular choice, it may be worthwhile to consider alternative options that may better suit your needs:

  1. Storage by Moving Companies: Many moving companies offer storage services, allowing you to combine the moving and storage processes. While these options may be cost-effective on a monthly basis, keep in mind that accessing your items can be more expensive.
  2. On-Site Shipping Containers: Opting for a shipping container placed on your property is a cost-effective alternative. However, be mindful of potential environmental factors such as moisture, temperature, and security when considering this option.

Sorting through stored items

When the time comes to tackle your stored items, it’s helpful to approach the process with a fresh perspective and to give yourself grace:

  1. Allow Settling-In Time: Take a few months or more to settle into your new space before sorting through the stored items. This breathing room allows you to adjust to your new surroundings and approach the storage unit with a renewed mindset and impartiality.
  2. Get Help with Sorting: Consider enlisting the help of downsizing professionals or recruiting one or two trusted helpers with trestle tables at the storage unit. I find that it’s helpful to have two team members working together with clients at storage units, due to the manual handling involved with unboxing and laying items out on tables for sorting.
  3. Consider Someone Taking Boxes To You: If you have caring responsibilities or are running low on physical capacity, it can be helpful to ask someone to bring a few boxes to you once a week, so you can make decisions about what to do with the items.

Banish the guilt

The downsizing process need not carry any guilt or shame, regardless of whether you use self storage as part of the process. 

If needed, paid storage options can offer peace of mind and may reduce the stress associated with having to make decisions within a tight timeframe.

Downsizing is a personal and time consuming project, and using self storage facilities where needed can provide the freedom to make deliberate decisions about how you wish to deal with a lifetime of accumulated possessions.

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