Save, toss or store?

When moving, storage is a tempting alternative to throwing away precious possessions; just don’t get carried away

No wonder moving is ranked as one of life’s most stressful events. It puts one of life’s most complicated relationships to the test: the bond between people and their “stuff.”

Moving forces a “take it or leave it” decision on every item in the home. It’s a choice that proves impossible for some possessions, so people opt for a compromise, putting the stuff in storage.

The U.S. self-storage business has grown eight-fold in the past decade, with total revenue of $6 billion, according to a recent report by Dublin Research.

Moving is the top reason people may pay$100ormoremonthlyfora5footby 10 foot storage unit, which is the most popular size, according to a recent survey from, a website that allows users to compare storage facilities’ prices and amenities.

It’s nice not to say goodbye. But since the average length of time people rent storage is 11.5 months, according to, “the price of deferred decisions” could be relatively steep, notes Boston-area certified professional organizer Lynne Johnson.

Try to avoid paying for storage simply because you can’t decide whether to keep an item or not, advises Denise Lee, a St. Louis-based certified professional organizer. “Usually, my recommendation to rent storage is based on a short-term need,” Lee says. “I worked with a family that was moving overseas for a couple of years. Although they downsized their possessions, there were still a fair number of well-loved items they wanted to keep but not move.”

People may love items enough to pay for storage, notes Washington D.C.-based certified professional organizer Scott Roewer, but he’s seen people forget to retrieve their stuff. “I tell clients to not put [storage fees] on auto-pay so they have to write a check monthly. It’s a physical reminder of the items they have in storage and what they’re paying for it.”

— Marilyn Kennedy Melia

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