We walk through row upon row of orange corrugated metal doors.  The motion sensors finally detect our presence and the fluorescent tube lighting kicks in, casting eery shadows everywhere around the concrete structure.  The person guiding us opens one of the doors and shows us a 5’x5′ space, maybe 8 feet high.  “This unit is $65 a month.  We keep the temperature between 60 and 80 degrees year round.  The security cameras, access codes, and on site manager ensure your items are secure.”  As we enter the elevator to leave, we joke that the flashing lights make it feel like there is a radiation leak and we are descending into a bomb shelter.  I think this is where stuff goes to die

Where Stuff Goes to Die

5′ x 5′ is the smallest unit available, and this is the cheapest unit I’ve been able to find in a 50 mile radius.  The first months rent is “Only $1” but after administrative fees and required lock purchase, it still comes out to about $65.  They aren’t really going to give you a free month of storage, but it makes for good advertising

At $65 a month, a year worth of storage will cost $780.  We don’t know how long we would need this space…  2 years would be $1,560.  3 years is $2,340.  It very quickly becomes a ridiculous amount of money.  And while your stuff sits there it depreciates, becoming less “valuable” by the day, increasing the costs further

According to the Self Storage Association, 1 in 10 households in the US use self storage.  The SSA also proudly states the following facts:

  • Total self storage rentable space in the US … covers an area well more than 3 times the size of Manhattan Island (NY)
  • It is physically possible that every American could stand – all at the same time – under the total canopy of self storage roofing
  • Primary U.S. self storage facility gross revenues for 2011 were approximately $22.45 billion

Clearly its a big business, both in terms of revenue and total space.  3x the size of Manhattan, seriously?!  How many hospitals can be built for $22.45 billion?  Over 1500.  Every year.

So what do people store in these self storage units?  I’ve already shown that it is possible to get furniture for free, so clearly storing furniture makes no sense.  Now that it’s possible to scan documents and store them online, there is no need to store physical copies of tax records or insurance paperwork (or anything else.)  Anything that depreciates quickly is out…  how much is that DVD player you got 3 years ago worth today?

At $780 a year, is there anything that makes financial sense to store?  Except for a period of transition, such as a move and storage use is limited to a month, I think the answer is definitely no.  Everything is replaceable, and anything can be sold quickly at a good discount and still come out better than storing it at these prices.  Even if something is “worth” $2000, it would be better to sell it for $1000 than to store it for a year.  The $1000 you get can be invested, and meanwhile the item is being used, you aren’t paying for storage, and you aren’t losing value to depreciation

Houses have grown in size from 1200 sq. ft. in the 1950’s to 2400 sq. ft. in 2010.  If you have filled up 2 1950’s houses full of obviously very important material possessions, and still need room to store some stuff, perhaps a friend has an extra closet you could use.  That’s where our last few possessions will end up