FAQ: 10 Myths About Self Storage

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Photo Credit: luvi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: luvi via Compfight cc

The Loch Ness Monster…plucking your eyebrows makes them grow in thicker…’irregardless’ is a real word…unicorns fart rainbows…. Many myths have been circulating for years, and most of us believe them—or at least some of them. And let’s face it, who hasn’t secretly wished that Mr. Smith in Nigeria really did need to deposit $50 million into your bank account for safe keeping?

Myths about storage facilities are no exception. So let’s flush some of these folk tales about self storage right down the toilet for good (like that lady who got sucked down the airplane toilet).

Aren’t self-storage units really expensive?

Well, that all depends on what you’re storing. Some storage facilities charge as little as $5-$15 a month for small, plain, closet-like spaces. And maybe that’s all you require if you just need to stash your Quidditch broom and ball for the winter. If you have a lot of stuff to store while you’re away on a cozy island resort just off the coast of San Francisco, you’ll pay more for a larger space. And if you have to stow certain items like your midlife crisis-friendly Porsche Boxster convertible, your Aunt Elizabeth’s art and jewelry inheritance (would be nice if that were Queen Elizabeth, but no, it’s just Aunt E from Austin), wine or other valuable items, you’ll want to pay more for extras like climate control and additional security. Many self storage facilities offer all kinds of discounts, so shop around until you find a good deal.

My friends say self storage facilities aren’t secure—what’s your take?

Crime happens everywhere—cars, homes, purses, hospitals, manholes, Waffle Houses…everywhere. But MiniCo Insurance Agency LLC—an insurance agency specializing in insuring goods in storage facilities—recently conducted a study published in the Self-Storage Almanac that showed security at self storage facilities is making significant improvements in the right direction. In 2010, the reported break-in/theft rate was 18.2%, but by 2012, the rate had fallen to 7%.

But don’t take the manager’s word for it when he says he’ll “keep yer crap safe.” Before you rent, always investigate the surveillance cameras, alarm systems, gates, locking mechanisms, and – perhaps most importantly – reviews from other customers.

Aren’t all self storage units dirty?

Only when they’re storing topsoil. Put it this way: self storage facilities want your business, so they’re going to make sure that their units are swept and cleaned out. In fact, it’s in the contract of the vast majority of self storage facilities that renters have to thoroughly clean out their unit upon vacating it—and if it’s not spotless, they will send you to your room without dinner. Or charge you a fee. (Check the fine print. It’s definitely either a fee or the dinner thing.) But you will never know for sure unless you take a look for yourself and see if it meets your cleanliness standards. Nevertheless, storing your possessions in secure boxes is always a good idea.

But do I really need a storage unit? Maybe if I just declutter more effectively…?

That’s a good one! So how long have you been saying you were going to clean out the spare room/garage/kitchen/basement/? Exactly. Sometimes you just need more storage space no matter how well you organize because you never know when your mother-in-law will show up on your doorstep. Too bad self storage facilities don’t allow you to store people in them….

Can I get away without insuring my stuff in storage?

Sure, if you’re a gambler whose addiction is so strong you can’t even fathom the dire consequences of your behavior and don’t mind being homeless and penniless. But that’s just us. The vast majority of storage facilities do not insure anything stored on the premises unless you purchase supplemental insurance, and we suggest that you do. Because even if you made sure that you didn’t store any fireworks in your unit, the guy renting the one next to yours might not have been quite so thoughtful. And then…KABOOM!

While many storage facilities do offer supplemental insurance that you can purchase on top of the rent, do not buy this until you first check with your own homeowners’ insurance agent. Your agent may be able to add this into your existing policy—quite possibly for a much lower price than what the local storage facility wants to charge you.

Must I really read the small print on the contract with the self storage facility?

Yes. Unless it’s A-OK with you when the storage facility raises your rent after the first month because the owner needs a new set of porcelain veneers, you’d better make sure you know exactly what your contract states before you sign it.

So… do you think I can squeeze my car into self storage?

Hey, if the storage unit fits, why not? Just keep in mind two things. One, you’ll need to rent a specific vehicle storage unit because facility managers aren’t usually too obliging when you’re trying to drive your souped up Civic up the stairs into a regular storage unit. And two, there may be rules and preparations you need to make before you put your ride in storage, such as topping up all the fluids to prevent rusting. Check with dmv.org and your facility manager for details.

I’ve heard that you can’t negotiate the price with a lot of self storage facilities—rumor or reality?

To quote that classic Timex Social Club song: “Stop, stop, stop spreading those rumors around.” The reality is that most self storage facilities offer a multitude of deals, such as military discounts, discounts for long-term storage, first month free deals, refer a friend discounts, etc. Let potential storage facility managers know that you’re shopping around for the best deal, and they will woo you like a college boy looking for love. And if they don’t offer any deals, ask. The worst that could happen is that they say no. The best that could happen is that you win a free trip to Hawaii with a team of supermodels. Though I probably wouldn’t get your hopes up for the Hawaii-supermodel thing.

Are there really self storage units that go for $1.00 a month?

Absolutely. And we have some prime beachfront property in Kansas you may be interested in, too. Those $1.00 deals are often saddled (remember the  fine print…always read the fine print) with hidden fees, insurance riders, locks, sudden rental increases, etc.

So, I can just slap any old lock on my storage unit, right?

Only if you’re not emotionally attached to anything in it. Most regular padlocks are as easy for a thief to figure out as the  password: “password.” Your best bet is a disc locks especially made for storage units.

Now that we’ve debunked all those myths about self storage units, we’re off to Scotland to find ol’ Nessie….

Sources:

http://www.dmv.org/how-to-guides/storage.php

http://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=decluttering%20ideas&term_meta[]=decluttering|typed&term_meta[]=ideas|typed&remove_refine=packing+for+storage|typed

http://www.homedepot.com/b/Storage-Organization-Storage-Bins-Cubes-Totes/N-5yc1vZc89j

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nXIRXlT_20

http://www.minico.com/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/around-the-watercooler/201110/urban-legends-strange-funny-horrible-moral

http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/humor/tp/top_10_funniest_urban_legends.htm

http://blog.sparefoot.com/3621-self-storage-theft/

 

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FAQ: What Happens If My Storage Unit Is Destroyed?

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Photo Credit: Deathexit12 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Deathexit12 via Compfight cc

Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth come to mind. If you have dental implants, then maybe a little stomping, screaming and tearing your hair out instead. No hair? Dash a stack of plates on the floor. Whatever method you choose, don’t hold back your frustration; experts agree that expressing your emotions helps you heal faster. Of course, they don’t say anything about expressing these feelings with someone else’s wedding china….

Once the initial waves of shock and anger have passed, take a few deep breaths, come up with a payment plan for your friend’s china, and read this FAQ about what happens if your storage unit is destroyed.

Is there a time machine I can use to save my stuff from that self storage facility?

No. It was one unit over from yours. Next question.

My fireworks collection blew up. Can I get reimbursed?

There were several things you could have done to make sure that your prized possessions were stored safely. Number one: don’t be a moron. And number two: don’t store live fireworks in your storage unit. Stashing flammable items in a storage unit is strictly forbidden. So not only will you not get reimbursed, but the facility owner will likely make you reimburse them for damages.

My unit was flooded and everything was destroyed. What should I have done to protect it?

It’s too bad your stuff got damaged by the water, but the firemen had to put the fireworks-incited fire out somehow. Often the damage has nothing to do with what or how you packed your storage unit and everything to do with a natural disaster you couldn’t have prevented or the sheer idiocy of the guy renting the unit next to yours.To ensure the safety of your belongings next time, you should pack things in water-tight bins and stack them on shelves or at least on pallets to keep them off the floor. Keep in mind, however, that there isn’t much you can do about wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, tornadoes, the wrath of God, or your neighbor’s unscrupulously-stored dynamite. Except one thing: have your stuff insured. Which leads us to…

How could I have prevented this disaster with my storage unit?

To paraphrase an age-old saying: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of insurance compensation. The best way to handle any kind of damage to the contents of your storage unit is prevention. Before you sign a rental agreement, personally check their security and surveillance measures. Find out if there’s a history of flooding in that area, or whether it’s in a high-crime neighborhood. Verify references.

And according to Jay MacDonald of Bankrate.com, check with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance agent about coverage for your stuff in storage. Some self storage facilities will be happy to add insurance coverage to your contract—for a fee, of course. But many storage facilities do not offer this and those that do usually provide only limited coverage. Be sure to read the fine print because not all policies will cover every disaster. So you’re on your own with the marriage to Phil Spector.

Someone broke into my storage unit, trashed it and stole stuff. What should I do first?

The first thing you should do is call the police. Then take pictures. No, not selfies of you doing your “spontaneous” surprised look. Pictures of the damage. Ensuring that everything in the storage unit was organized, photographed, and itemized makes determining what was taken so much easier. Let the storage facility manager know that a break-in occurred, and review their surveillance camera tapes, if they are available. If not, no, filming a reenactment won’t suffice. What is this, America’s Most Wanted? If your stuff was insured (and why wouldn’t it be, if you’ve been reading our informative yet entertaining blog posts?), you’ll need to call your insurance company to make a claim. Again, most insurance policies purchased through the storage facility itself are extremely limited in what they will cover, so your complete collection of Hello Kitty paraphernalia may not be protected.

What’s usually covered in a storage facility’s insurance policy?

Their asses. Seriously, what’s covered under a storage facility’s policy can vary as wildly as Lindsay Lohan’s sobriety. Some storage places cover damages–but only those that occur to the storage building itself, not to your personal belongings (huh?). Other facilities cover theft, fire, and water damage–and flood damage, but as a separate policy. Goods that are generally not covered are: money, jewelry, furs, vehicles, and debt/bills, so there goes your brilliant plan to become solvent. The bottom line is that you are responsible for insuring the items that you store in a self-storage unit.

My stuff got soaked! What on earth is the difference between water damage and flood damage?

Holy confounding insurance policies, Batman! It’s true, when it comes to insuring your stuff, how it got wet matters a great deal because “water damage” and “flood damage” are considered two different things. According to property management firm Sentry Management, flood damage is when normally dry property has been submerged by an overflowing river, stream, heavy rain, or other type of naturally-occurring rising water situation. Crying fits do not qualify as a naturally-occurring rising water situation. Water damage is when your water heater explodes, frozen pipes burst, rainstorm causes leaks, etc. Crying fits may qualify here. Either way, it behooves you to get all the details from your insurance agent.

Is there any chance of reimbursement on the stuff I lost?

We can’t stress this enough, so take notes: prevention and preparation are the key to lessening the sting of seeing the ashen remains of your wedding dress. Besides the fact that this may be an omen that you shouldn’t go for that fifth marriage, remember: always get insurance for your storage unit belongings. Otherwise, your only hope is to marry into wealth, seek a divorce, and refurnish your place with your alimony money.

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. If disaster hasn’t struck yet, do your homework on the security of potential storage facilities, pack smartly, take pictures, and get insurance. If you’re reading this after the disaster, all we can say is: it’s too bad about the time machine.

Sources:

[1] http://www.bankrate.com/finance/insurance/insurance-stuff-placed-in-storage.aspx

[2] http://www.extraspace.com/storage-tips/insuring-your-stored-items.aspx

[3] http://www.sentrymgt.com/newsletters/flood-vs-water-damage-what-type-coverage-do-you-have

[4] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-fitness/201311/dont-bury-your-feelings

[5] http://www.tenantone.com/self_storage_coverage.html

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The Earliest Self Storage Facility

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Photo Credit: ancama_99(toni) via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ancama_99(toni) via Compfight cc

Prehistoric man had no need for self-storage, as everything he brought into his cave was either eaten or worn. In fact, their under-furnished caves gave rise to first home improvement project known as cave painting. It wasn’t until the rise of the Roman Empire that people began to feel a bit cramped. All those statues needed to be dusted regularly, and if you didn’t like your in-laws, you got a nasty shock every time you walked into the bath and saw your father-in-law lurking in the shadows. Scrolls of papyrus covered the tabletops, wine barrels took up valuable floor space, and soiled tunics were carelessly strewn about.

“I don’t care what you do with that stuff. I just want it out of here!”

With those immortal words, an industry was born.

The Storage Needs of a Growing Empire

Everywhere you looked, affluent Romans were busy remodeling, building aqueducts and baths, sporting arenas and sewers, tenements and villas. Walk around the Forum on any given day and you could hear people complaining about how hard it was to find a good contractor to install your pool: “All we wanted was a slave who could design an atrium without screaming every time we whipped him.” [1]

Finding a place to put your business-casual togas and stash of designer Corinthian columns was important while this work was going on. When you sold your second daughter into slavery, you had to find a place to put her papyrus diary scrolls and mosaics of her favorite popular musical ensembles so you could convert her bedroom into a steam room. And you definitely wanted a place to stash the jewelry you bought for those cuties at the bath house. [2]

In the heyday of the Empire, chariots were constantly bringing back junk that no one wanted from the territories–scarabs and papyrus rolls, poorly-wrought columns pilfered from some island north of Gaul, crude funeral pyres, ugly statues of birds and dogs. They wound up putting it in storage because “you never know when that might come in handy.”

And of course, while you were between military campaigns, there was a critical need for the self-storage of weaponry and torture devices that would otherwise be a nuisance in the home. Not every Roman had a villa, after all. You try living in a starter tenement with a bunch of crucifixes in the corner of the living room. Enhanced interrogation does not fold easily. Self storage units increasingly were the answer.

But between the soldiers being called away to battle, typical youthful pranks, and the generally shoddy construction of low-end buildings in the ancient city, self storage units were beset by numerous challenges. Fire was definitely a risk (ever carried an oil lamp after you’ve downed an entire urn of wine?) and theft was also a problem.

The Romans certainly could have used security cameras, not to mention climate control. People were dumping their crap in the streets, literally, and furniture stored in those ground floor units didn’t come out smelling so good.

The World’s Largest Self-Storage Facility

It wasn’t just the ordinary citizens of Rome who needed to find a solution for all their clutter. The Roman Empire as a whole was feeling the strain. A conquering people collect all sorts of riff raff: Christians, Greeks, Visigoths, Phoenicians, Maccabees, Egyptians, and too many tribes of Celts to keep track of. Suppressing, pretending to negotiate with, and enslaving so many different cultures is a headache. [3]

It took a couple centuries of trial and error, but finally the ancient Romans found a way to contain their growing hoards of loot (disruptive colonists, prisoners of war, slaves that couldn’t be trusted, rowdy women, lions, etc.). The Romans kept them out of everybody’s hair by storing them in a grand storage facility, that we moderns mistakenly know as the Colosseum of Rome, and local residents came out periodically to watch the lucky “contestants” battle to the death. Trust the Romans to find this inventive solution to decluttering.[4]

Locked up in storage facilities located throughout the Empire, forgotten by their families and entire civilizations, gladiators waited with trembling legs for the moment when they would emerge from hidden chambers below the amphitheatre floor to do battle. Though they never knew if they would be ripped to shreds by wild animals, burnt on a pyre, or run through by a trident, it sure as heck beat living in a crowded bachelor tenement with five other guys who just couldn’t remember to pick up their sandals. [5] On the whole, though, being a gladiator was a pretty short career. And the pension was terrible.

A Word of Advice

Roman civilization, as everyone knows, is a cautionary tale. While citizens were punishing slaves for not being able to find a mosaic that matched the color of a peacock feather, and emperors found ever-more entertaining ways to dispose of infidels, the Germanic people were kicking back in front of the fire and waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

The moral of the story is this: self-storage is a tremendous resource with many uses, but beware of making your storage unit the repository for the things you don’t know what else to do with. Those renegade possessions will come back to haunt you, like the story of Aurelius Fulvius who finally opened his self-storage unit years later and found himself face-to-face with the not-so-dead-as-it-turned-out lion he’d done battle with and kept as a souvenir.

Know your stuff, and know your storage needs. That’s the proper way to keep your empire running smoothly.

Sources

[1] http://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/empire/slaves_freemen.html

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-399017/The-steamy-truth-Roman-Bath.html

[3] http://www.worldology.com/Europe/roman_dominance.htm

[4] http://www.pinterest.com/michaelorr96/latin-project-colosseum/

[5] http://www.ancient.eu/gladiator/

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Are You A Hoarder? Top 10 Clues To Watch For

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Photo Credit: spacekendet via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: spacekendet via Compfight cc

According to an article on NBC News, between 2.5 and 6 percent of Americans are hoarders. Hoarding goes beyond just stocking up on an extra 4-pack of toilet paper or “accidentally” sweeping a handful of Sweet‘N Low packets into your bag at the local café. Psychologist Dr. Annette Perot explains that while we can all have the tendency to accumulate more stuff than we need, it’s when we take it to the extreme that we have a problem.

So what’s the difference between an “avid collector” and a hoarder? A collector displays his vintage baseball cards, including the classic 1984 Fleer Roger Clemens RC #27, in pristine and organized albums. A hoarder has floor-to-ceiling stacks of old newspapers so dense he can’t walk through his living room. Hoarding is a psychological disorder and not just about being messy, so hiring a professional organizer is like using a Band-Aid on open-heart surgery.

Take a close look at these ten signs, and if you find yourself printing out this article and stashing it in your purse alongside the four novels, two notebooks, dozen pens, hairbrush, floss, sweater, shoes, three phones, couple of toy cars, and a Rubik’s Cube, you may just be a hoarder.

1. It is sentimental?

Sure, you want to keep a few drawings that your children made in Kindergarten—everyone saves some things for sentimental reasons. But if you still have the Chiclet that Bobby Gomez gave you in high school (“It’s red! You know, for love!”), then you are a hoarder. With a sugar addiction.

If you are afraid of losing precious memories, then take a digital photo of the item and store the photo with a free online photo service. Of course, if you have exceeded your storage limit, you have a whole new leg of this battle to face.

2. It is important or valuable?

To a hoarder everything is important, including the broken off soda can tab that you got for free at a supermarket sampling, every junk mail advertisement, and the single sock with the hole in the toe. Just the simple fact that it belongs to you makes it important and therefore impossible to let go of. Dr. Christina Villarreal, a cognitive-behavioral therapist, says many hoarders can’t pay for basic expenses like rent or groceries because they are compelled to buy something “important” to make them feel good.

3. Will you need it someday?

If the thought of getting rid of something sends you into a panic attack, you are a hoarder. Hoarders “know” that they will need the fifteen scraps of old felt or the thirty cans of kidney beans despite a legume allergy one vague day in the future. It’s hard to tell a hoarder that they don’t, in fact, need the three broken paper clips or the discarded spark plugs from their first car, but an intervention may be necessary. Unless, of course, you enjoy beans.

4. Will you actually get around to fixing it?

If it only needs cleaning, like a bicycle (singular) sitting in the shed, you’re probably okay. If it has missing pieces and you’re not even sure what it is, you may have a hoarding problem. Has your ’69 Mustang been perched on wood blocks on the front lawn since the year it came out? It may be time to seek help. (A psychologist, that is, not a mechanic.)

5. Are you ever going to read it?

Do you have every issue of Horse Illustrated that was printed in the last 20 years? Never mind that haven’t read them yet and are not even an equestrian—you’re certain that there is a vital piece of information in one of them that will change your life. And all those articles on how to get your child ready for first grade you’ve been saving? Your kid graduated college two years ago.

And your extensive “collection” of funny or informative emails you’re saving? Just because it doesn’t take up actual space in your home doesn’t mean that it doesn’t count as hoarding. How can you possibly find that list of jokes about President Reagan in the 9,256 emails you’ve saved in your inbox anyway?

6. Do you have 10 years of food stored?

Ok, we get that if you grew up in the Depression, or otherwise in poverty, you still tend to stock up on extra tins of food. Having extra food on hand for an emergency is one thing. But having 100 cans of tomato soup that expired five years ago is a problem.

7. Are you prepared for every possible emergency?

Being prepared for an emergency that may realistically occur in your area is great—like earthquake preparedness kits in Los Angeles. But being prepared for every single potential emergency, no matter how unlikely, is hoarding. If you live in Florida, you can probably get rid of the snow shovel and 20 bags of salt.

If you have two storage units stacked to the ceiling with bandages, batteries, tents, a dozen 5-gallon jugs of water, a Noah-inspired Ark for the great flood (which may happen sooner than you think if those jugs of water leak), boxes of garlic wreaths to ward off vampires, and fifty bows and arrows to shoot zombies in the inevitable apocalypse, you may have gone a tad too far. Which leads us to…

8. Are you on your third self storage unit?

With the amount of things that people collect over the years, having one storage unit is common. In fact, having extra storage available can help some recovering hoarders realize their problem and begin to sort through what they no longer need.

If you have filled three units equal to the size of a small department store, you have too much stuff. If your storage rentals cost more than your mortgage, utilities and food for a month, it’s time to check out some hoarding support groups and hold a yard sale (just don’t invite other support group members).

9. One junk drawer or 10?

Everyone has a junk drawer for those items that you don’t know what to do with. A drawer. Maybe two because you have a large family and an even larger house. But any more than that and you cross the line into hoarding.

If you have 20 rubber bands that no longer have elasticity, you have a problem. If you’re saving that half a can opener, you have a problem. If you’ve collected five bundles of twist ties and you don’t even use plastic garbage bags, you have a problem. If you’ve saved every old flip phone, cell phone or smart phone after each upgrade, you have a problem. Or the perfect setup for a call center.

10. When’s the last time you had visitors?

Last, but certainly not least, when was the last time you had guests in your home? If you never invite anyone over, not even the plumber, because you are embarrassed about the clutter, you have a hoarding problem. If you won’t let anyone in because you are afraid they will steal your valuables and these valuables turn out to be your five giant baskets of seashells you pick up every time you’re at the beach, you are definitely a hoarder.

While most of us have been spoon-fed the idea that more is better and media ads hypnotize us with promises of a better life if we would just accumulate more material goods, “stuffitis” can quickly grow out of hand. Moving your stuff around doesn’t count as organizing, and burrowing a tunnel through your piles of junk doesn’t mean you are creative. If you recognize yourself in more than a few of the clues listed here, put back the pile of Sweet’N Low packets (and the thermos of half and half, while you’re at it), and seek help.

Sources:

http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/08/15757938-not-crazy-cat-ladies-hoarding-gets-new-diagnosis?lite

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/hoarder-signs_n_3867423.html

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/117726977730227594/

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/117726977731870102/

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/97671885643938292/

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/28358672627387682/

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5 Little-Known Facts About Storage

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Photo Credit: Dances With Light via Compfight cc

Have you ever been driving down the street, passed a self storage facility, and thought to yourself, “Hm, I wonder what little-known facts there are about storage?” Didn’t think so. But now that we’ve piqued your interest, aren’t you even the teeniest bit curious? Do you know how far back storage facilities date? Or the most common demographics of people who rent self storage units? Grab your mug o’ tea, cozy up in your favorite armchair, and get ready to learn five little-known facts about storage.

When were the first self-storage units created? [1]

The concept of self storage came about 6,000 years ago in what is now Xi’an, China. People would place their belongings—to-do lists etched in turtle shell, bamboo reed flip-flops, collectible spearheads, and family heirloom jewelry made of jade and teeth—in clay pots and store them in underground pits. Guards monitored these storage areas to ensure no one removed another person’s pot or its contents.

It is widely believed that it was a man named Xiang Lau who opened the first storage facility when he realized his mud hut was overflowing with the prized bones of his enemies. He wanted to keep them in his man cave to gloat to all his friends, but his wife made him remove them after she kept tripping over them. Thus the idea for an off-site self storage facility was born. Apparently Lau was the first to offer deals, too, such as a free ox rental when renting a storage unit.

Okay, maybe the story of Lau is undocumented. But odds are a shortage of living space and a bickering couple led to the birth of ancient self storage.

When did modern self storage facilities emerge?

Modern self storage involves a tenant renting a space that no one else has access to. This concept was unheard of until Lauderdale Storage opened in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1958. It set a new precedent that remains the norm to this day. [2]

The industry continued to grow in the 1960s with the first self storage facility in Odessa, Texas called “A-1 U-Store-It U-Lock-It U-Carry the Key.” Despite the wordy, forgettable name, the business was a fast success. It was built in an industrial area where fishermen could store their boats and oil field equipment for quick access—which is why they were 100 feet by 30 feet, the right dimensions for storing bass boat trailers. [1]

Residential customers caught wind of the cool idea (not to mention the stink of fish) and joined the queue to store their possessions, paving the way for the first hoarders. By 1972, the first Public Storage facility opened in El Cajon, California, and self storage boomed into a more large-scale industry. Which leads us to… [1]

Which country stores the most stuff? [3]

Americans are the biggest hoarders. Nearly 9 percent of all American households (that’s 10.85 million people) currently rent a self storage unit. This number has grown from 6 percent in 1995.

In total, Americans store 2.3 billion square feet of stuff, which is more than 78 square miles–three times the size of Manhattan. That’s an average of 7.3 square feet of self storage space for every person in the United States. And yet, clearly that’s not enough space for many people, as seven seasons of the A&E reality show Hoarders illustrates.

Consider that there are about 48,500 “primary” self storage facilities in the US (“primary” meaning the facility is the main source of business revenue for the owner) and another 4,000 “secondary” units. Compare this to the relatively puny 3,000 storage units in Canada and just over 1,000 in Australia and it’s clear: Americans like storing stuff.

Who seeks out self storage? [3]

About 27 percent of self storage renters live in apartments or condos while 68 percent live in single-family homes. Which shows that expanding your family can lead to serious accumulation addictions. (Where’s the FDA ruling on that one?) And though 65 percent of storage space renters have a garage, 47 percent have an attic, and 33 percent have a basement, they still need extra storage space. I guess when it’s a choice between your comic books or your mother-in-law….

Sixty-three percent of self storage renters have an annual household income of less than $75,000 per year, making it clear that you don’t have to be rich to afford a storage unit. Either that or Americans just love deals. And 6 percent of all units are rented to military personnel.

Thirteen percent of all self storage renters end up renting for less than three months, 18 percent rent for three to six months, and another 18 percent rent for seven months to a year. Which indicates that almost half rent for reasons of transition, such as moving, repainting the house, or a short stint in jail (you gotta stash your loot somewhere until you make bail, right?). The greatest number of renters, though – nearly 30 percent – keep their self storage unit for more than two years. Like a vacation home for their crap.

How big is the self storage industry? [3]

In 2013, self storage in the US generated more than $24 billion which, at a local and state tax rate of $3.25 billion each year, is pretty good incentive to encourage people to buy more than they need. The industry has been the fastest growing segment in commercial real estate since about 1975 and is even considered recession resistant because of its continued success through the recession of 2008.

You might be able to rattle off five of the industry’s biggest players–Public Storage, CubeSmart, Sovran Self Storage, Extra Space Storage, and U-Haul–but there are also 4,500 mid- to large-sized firms that run multiple facilities.

The average size of a primary self storage facility is 46,500 square feet. There are enough of these storage facilities that every American household could rent 21 square feet of storage space. In short, the self storage industry is huge and isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Now aren’t you glad you took the time to learn a few facts about the storage industry? Next time you’re at a party and need a handy conversation starter, fire off a few of these babies and watch your popularity grow. And if that doesn’t work, you know where you can store your wounded ego—in one of 52,500 storage units around the country.

Sources:

1) History of Self Storage, http://ww2.txssa.org/Publications/Mayjune1.htm

2) History of the Self Storage Industry, http://www.flexispace.com/history-of-the-self-storage-industry

3) Self Storage Association, http://www.selfstorage.org/ssa/content/navigationmenu/aboutssa/factsheet/

4) Self Storage History, http://performanceselfstoragegroup.com/self-storage-history/

 

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How to Declutter Your Space

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Photo Credit: girard312 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: girard312 via Compfight cc

It was 1:30 in the morning. You were vulnerable, lying on the couch with a belly full of cheese curls, chocolate chip cookies and a keg of soda. And that’s when you saw the infomercial for a new, convenient exercise machine: the Ab Rocket. That’s the thing that will finally change your life.

It did change your life, but not by giving you six-pack abs. In the eight months that it’s been sitting in the corner of your room, it has attracted a mountain of clutter around it and it’s growing steadily. Before it takes over your entire home and eats you alive like a couch potato downing cheese curls and cookies, you’d better do something about this problem of yours.

But if the very idea of tackling this overwhelming mess scares you into paralysis, don’t worry. Start by reading this article on how to declutter your space with some great advice from decluttering experts:

  1. Out with the old… The first thing decluttering experts recommend is changing the way you see the stuff you have been holding on to. Feng Shui maven Karen Kingston, author of Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, says that holding on to old things that you no longer use prevents you from making space for new things in your life. Realize that letting go of old things also means less to clean, less to trip over, less to hide from your nosy mother-in-law, less to stash if the cops ever find out about your side business. Reducing your clutter energetically invites new opportunities into your life. And no, that doesn’t include more As Seen On TV items.
  2. Start with baby steps. Leading minimalist blogger Leo Babauta knows that facing the whole task—the landslides of papers, clothing, books, kitchen utensils and miscellaneous trinkets—can feel seriously overwhelming to the point of immobility. So he recommends taking a mere five minutes each day to start on one of his 18 quick decluttering tips. Set a timer and pick something on the list to start with, like clearing off one counter. To heck with the closet that’s bursting at the hinges, or the bathroom whose floor you can no longer see, or the garage that hasn’t housed a car since the ‘70s. Just focus on one, tiny little task for now.
  3. The Cardboard Box Test. Oprah’s decluttering guy, Peter Walsh, suggested this idea for the kitchen, but we can’t see why it wouldn’t work in the bathroom, bedroom or hall closet as well. First, grab a cardboard box. Now dump all your kitchen utensils into the box, like the can opener, blender, and toaster. The lasagna-encrusted spatula you can leave in the sink for now. Over the course of the next month, every time you use one of these utensils, put it back in its designated place. After the month is over, donate whatever you haven’t used…like the Potato Express, Slushy Magic, and Spinning Candy Dispenser. And stop watching TV at one in the morning.
  4. Establish Three “Outbox” boxes: Garbage, Recycle, Donate. The folks at Apartment Therapy recommend setting up this area in an out-of-the way place in your home. Once a box is full, take it to its designated location (the garbage bin, recycling station, or local Goodwill store). Putting the “Outbox” area in a remote spot helps you emotionally detach from the stuff in it. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” may be disheartening in a relationship context, but in this scenario it means there will be less temptation to hang on to stuff you don’t really need. Come to think of it, this phrase works well for all your exes, too. Especially the one who gave you the Potato Express for your birthday.
  5. So-called Paperless Society. While you’ve been waiting for the paperless society touted by techies for years, your countertops, dining room table, desk and floor have become clogged with the carcasses of dead trees. Unless you’re a bona fide novelist working on the sequel to War and Games, follow this four-step system suggested by HGTV:
    1. First, sort all of that stuff into categories like school, financial, medical, personal, receipts, etc. Then ask yourself, “Why am I keeping all this crap?” Do you really need it? The answer is probably yes to some stuff (like tax forms or that “prescription” for “medical” marijuana). But consider opting for online bill payments and cancelling your subscriptions to Injured Mimes Quarterly and DENSA & Proud of It!.
    2. Next, sort the stuff into two piles: keep or recycle/shred. Note: shredding all those love letters from your ex is very therapeutic–especially the ones he wrote to your best friend.
    3. Then classify the papers you’re keeping (bank statements, business receipts, restraining orders–you know, the usual), put them into file folders, and label them.
    4. Stay on top of it. As in remain diligent, not as in lie on. When new mail or papers invade your home, act immediately. Recycle the junk and establish an inbox on your home desk for bills to pay or correspondence to return.
  6. Use furniture that doubles as storage. There are so many cool pieces of furniture that double as storage containers, like benches and ottomans, or multi-use hanging shoe racks. Or consider a TV embedded into the mirror to keep your counter space free.
  7. Rent a nearby self-storage unit if necessary. This is especially helpful for seasonal items you really do use and want to keep—like Christmas decorations, portable but bulky air conditioners, kayaks, snowboards, camping gear, and your clown outfit (for Halloween, of course…).
  8. Troll Pinterest for more decluttering and organizational ideas. There are a gazillion creative ideas to store those items that you simply must keep, like drawer dividers, using a shower curtain rod to hang your spray bottles, and clever ways to put extra binder clips to work for you.

And one last thing—whatever you do, never go on a late-night infomercial shopping spree on a stomach full of soda and cheese curls again.

Sources:

http://www.spaceclearing.com/html/home

http://www.hgtv.com/organizing/four-steps-to-less-paper-clutter/index.html

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-declutter-your-home-129659

http://www.oprah.com/home/Conquering-Clutter

http://zenhabits.net/18-five-minute-decluttering-tips-to-start-conquering-your-mess/

http://www.pinterest.com/search/boards/?q=creative+decluttering+ideas&term_meta[]=creative|autocomplete|1&term_meta[]=decluttering|autocomplete|1&term_meta[]=ideas|autocomplete|1

 

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Deals To Look For When Choosing A Storage Unit

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Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

You’ve just read a great article on decluttering your home and have decided to put your entire warehouse-sized wardrobe you’ve kept since the ‘80s into storage. Those Laura Ashley dresses, Jordache jeans, tie-dyed t-shirts, parachute pants, and leg warmers are no longer outdated; they’re vintage and may be worth something someday. But until you make your fortune on this so-called retro clothing, you’ll need to look for a great deal on storage units to house your collection.

Consider some of these popular deals that may be available on an ongoing or periodic basis:

First Month Free – This is the most common storage unit special. Many storage rental facilities will offer the first month free–though they usually require you to stay for at least three months–to entice customers with the idea that if you’re impressed by the service you’ll keep renting. So just in case neon-colored spandex jumpsuits never become trendy again, you can rest assured that you’re getting a good deal on storage. Continue reading

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Seasonal Storing: When To Start Storing The Summer Gear and Preparing For Fall

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You yank down your surgical mask, pull on your industrial strength rubber nitrile gloves, say a quick Hail Mary, and reach into your kid’s backpack. You can actually hear the Jaws theme in your head. Inside the dumpster-scented bag you find the homework assignment from last spring he swore he completed and a lunch bag that now qualifies for a science experiment.

“There has to be a better way to store stuff at the end of a season,” you mutter. And you’re right. Why wait until October 30th to scurry around trying to find your Halloween decorations while at the same time trying to get the scuba equipment and banana hammocks out of the way? Of course, if your husband wears a banana hammock, you probably have much bigger issues to deal with….

Just because you were always the kid who began his 2,500-word essay the night before, doesn’t mean that you can’t get a head start on storing the summer gear and preparing for fall.

1. What’s coming out of storage for the winter?

That’s right, go to your storage unit and assess what goodies are coming out of hibernation before you try to cram all your summer gear into it. Believe us, we’ve seen people load up their storage units first and then try to remove the stuff they want second. Don’t be that guy. Organization and planning are your allies when it comes to seasonal storage.

2. Make a list of summer items in August.

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FAQ: How To Safely Store Your Valuables

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Photo Credit: ♔ Georgie R via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ♔ Georgie R via Compfight cc

Your great uncle Hubert just bequeathed a long-lost Picasso masterpiece to you. Sure, you’d love to hang it on the wall of your bachelor apartment–it goes so well with the IKEA sofabed, after all–but Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and private collectors from Shanghai have been calling you non-stop since the reading of the will. It was the text message from the Russian Mafia, however, that really got you worried. You know this painting isn’t the sort of thing you can just stash in the hall closet behind the snowboard, but hiding it in an ordinary self storage unit seems so inadequate. So how do you store your valuables safely?

What options do I have for storing my valuables?

It depends on what your valuables are. For example, some antiques and works of art not only require security, but stringent climate and contamination controls as well, or you may suddenly find yourself with a big pile of abstract art. So no, you shouldn’t throw them into your garage or even in a regular self storage unit. Not only are these locations subject to wide-ranging temperature and humidity fluctuations (not to mention rodents that treat your Ming Dynasty vase like their own private Porta-Potty), but if word got out that you put anything valuable in a standard storage facility, the Mafia would be there faster than you could say “Buongiorno.” This leaves you with four options:

  • A high-security, climate-controlled storage facility
  • A fire- and water-proof safe in climate-controlled location in your home
  • A safe-deposit box (for small items only)
  • Other sneaky hiding spots and containers that thieves would never suspect (and no, not your sock drawer)

So where should I store valuable art, photography, books, china, etc.?

An art vault or high-security, strictly climate-controlled storage facility is probably your best bet. The National Archives outlines some very specific guidelines for storing these kinds of items to prevent them from deteriorating:

  • 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit (or a bit cooler)
  • Humidity should hover between 35-50%
  • Acid- and lignin-free paper enclosures, book covers, polyester film encasement or a Solander or other kind of archival box
  • Glass, china and breakables should be wrapped carefully in paper, cushioned with bubble wrap, and stored in boxes

Rather than setting these items directly on the floor, lay them on top of pallets to enable air circulation and prevent moisture from getting trapped.

If you’d prefer to store your original Shakespeare manuscripts at home because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to hear you read aloud at your so-called parties, then at least avoid stashing them in the basement. Not only do basements tend to be damp, but one hard rainstorm or an overtaxed plumbing system and you can flush your valuables down the toilet. Opt for an upstairs room with a water- and fireproof safe that stays at the same cool temperature all year long.

Where should I store important documents that I might need in case of a zombie apocalypse?

Documents are probably the last thing you’re going to be worried about when the undead are screaming “Braaaaaaaains!!!!” at your front door. But since you asked, Ray Martin of CBS MoneyWatch recommends that you not store important documents that you need fast access to in a bank safe deposit box. These boxes are not insured by the FDIC, can be vulnerable to “inside jobs,” might be subject to government confiscation, and you can only get to them during banking hours. (And everyone knows that zombie apocalypses never happen during banking hours.) Martin recommends getting a water- and fireproof safe to keep things like passports, deeds, insurance policies, titles, legal documents, birth certificates, hard drives with family photos, emergency cash, valuable jewelry, etc. safe and handy in an emergency.

What kind of safe should I get for my stuff?

You have several options, and again, it depends on what you want to store and where you think you can viably hide the safe. Home Depot has a collection of safe options, some of which can be bolted to the floor or installed in a wall. Others look like everyday objects, such as dictionaries, wall lights or—and we’re not even making this up—an incredibly realistic-looking head of lettuce.

But where should I store my safe? Isn’t that burglar bait?

It can be. But according to the folks at Apartment Therapy, thieves only spend an average of 8-12 minutes ransacking your pad. Ah, so many houses to burgle, so little time…. So if you can hide the safe or receptacle containing your valuables in an unlikely spot, you can force them to waste enough time searching that they’ll leave empty-handed. The master bedroom, living room and home office are going to be the first places they look, so cross those off the list as suitable hiding spots. Hallways, the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry rooms are better. Fake air vents, safes hidden behind bathroom mirrors, and even stashing cash and small items in used food tins or dental floss boxes are just a few of the clever ideas you’ll find on Pinterest.

Let’s face it. Your great grandmother’s black pearl necklace deserves a little more security than a shoebox under the bed, and your photos are worthy of more than an envelope in an unlocked drawer (except maybe your awkward Sears Family Portraits–those you can “accidentally” leave out). And let’s just hope the Russian Mafia never finds out where you stashed the Picasso….

Sources:

http://lifehacker.com/5960300/the-best-places-to-hide-valuables-in-your-house

http://www.bluevaultsecure.com/safest-place-for-valuables-vault-storage.php

http://www.selfstorage.com/tips/5-tips-for-storing-antiques-and-collectibles/

http://www.thesafesupermarket.com/faqs/a-guide-to-storing-valuables

http://www.bimbambanana.com/index.php?p=iceberg&side=visProd&prod_id=328

http://www.amazon.com/Archival-Methods-Museum-Buckram-Lining/dp/B0030NXO0C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407032038&sr=8-1&keywords=Solander+box

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/8-secret-spots-to-hide-valuables-at-home-190982

http://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=creative%20hide%20valuables

http://www.homedepot.com/b/Tools-Hardware-Safety-Security-Safes/N-5yc1vZc2b1

http://www.archives.gov/preservation/family-archives/storing-photos.html

http://www.customsurvivalsolutions.com/rules-for-storing-valuables-in-safe-deposit-boxes-with-banks/

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390444025204577544822463145302

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/12-things-to-keep-in-a-safe-at-home-not-at-a-bank/

 

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How Do I Store My Vehicle?

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You finally booked that year-long world tour as a dishwasher on a cargo ship, but as you toss mosquito netting and a voltage converter into your backpack, you suddenly realize, “What am I gonna do with my sweet ride for that whole year?!” No way are your parents going to let you park it in their garage after that science experiment mishap in high school. And as much as you love your best friend, she got her license revoked for a reason. So now what do you do?

Your wheels need to go into self storage, and storing it properly will save you possibly thousands of dollars in repairs when you finally get back to civilization. Here are some common questions about how to store your vehicle:

Where can I store my rad ‘77 Pinto while I’m away for several months or a year?

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