Storage units have been used for a multitude of things including being shelter for some who may not have many residential options.
Alexander Ruggie, from 911 Restoration, tells us about the experience of living in a storage unit for a few months.
“I did it for three months while I got financially ready to go back to film school. I did it mostly for the experience of living out of the storage unit, my car, at campsites, and the occasional friends house too,” says Ruggie.
It’s important to clarify that no one can really live “in” storage units as there are policies about habitation that prohibit such uses, but Ruggie says you can live “out” of a storage unit– in a different way than how you live in a house.
He shares his story with us.
“I made the decision to live out of a storage unit because it was economical and at the time my life allowed for it…Technically I didn’t need to live out of a storage unit… but I just wanted to see what it was like. I would spend large sections of the day there, occasionally tapping into the on-site electricity with a huge extension cord, and it allowed me to really focus at times– until someone else would come an enter their unit to get things and disturb me,” says Ruggie.
We wanted to find out more about the policies for using a storage unit this way so we reached out to Mark Beck, Vice President of Operations at StorCal Self Storage, to see what his experience has been on the topic.
Living In Storage Is Not Ok! However…
“Most lease language states that the units are meant for self storage only and when doing a lease presentation for a new rental we typically don’t single out that living in a unit is prohibited,” says Beck.
And the basics for renting a storage unit and being in good standing are really pretty straight-forward.
“We ask that customers keep their unit clean, locked and secure, don’t store food items or things that may be highly flammable, and that the unit is meant for self storage purposes only,” explains Beck.
Ruggie says that in his experience, there were some definite benefits of having his storage unit but he also talks about some drawbacks that come when living in a storage unit.
“The unit life gives people a chance to put a nest egg together for those that are employed but still homeless. It allows for a massive reduction in materialism since one’s life must shrink in order to fit in a 5′ x 5′ space,” says Ruggie.
He adds that the experience can teach a person how to drastically organize things and try to only purchase things that have multiple uses to save on space and money.
“The major [drawbacks] ones are the times that your belongings will be accessible…most units have time limits on when you can come and go. This means that occasionally you will be without things that you have forgotten until the business opens for the day,” says Ruggie.
The Real Secrets to Living Like Ruggie
For those who may be in need of doing this, Ruggie recommends having ‘stashes of things’ that you might need after hours in places where you can get to them after the unit is locked up for the night.
“This might mean keeping things at friend’s houses, at hidden stashes in areas where you spend the night, or in your car if you have one while doing this crazed experience. This will cut down on the amount of headache that you face from things like leaving your phone charger in the unit and not having an alarm to wake up for work because you’re phone (and thus most of your life these days) has run out of battery,” says Ruggie.
One thing that Beck says is important to remember is that all units are highly monitored by the company for the security of the customers as well as their own.
“Our facilities do daily lock checks, talk with customers on site, and monitor our access logs to see if someone has come in the evening before closing and tries to exit the next morning… It’s not uncommon that our customers may be in their units for an extended period of time going through boxes or rearranging items in their unit,” says Beck.
Beck says that some people who have had a storage unit for years come and go a lot. This is mostly because, in a sense, the unit can become an extension of the customer’s own home.
On the financial side of things, Ruggie says that he was able to manage payments because he limited his use to the minimum he could. For him, making payments on the storage unit was just like anyone else, on time and with the same payment methods. He says that his 5′ x 5′ unit cost him about $40 a month.
Life In A Honda
As we mentioned above, people are not allowed to sleep in storage units so for Ruggie, it was off to find a comfortable campsite in Arizona or use his car.
“I would also spend time sleeping in my car on the street which was difficult since I also had a 110 lb wolf/dog living in it with me and it was a Honda Civic with the front seat removed and turned into a bed frame… would also sleep at friends houses, too whenever I needed to take a shower,” he shares.
Overall, Ruggie says the experience was a great one for him.
“I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much, and if I were at any other time in my life then it would have been a burden instead of an experience, but at the time it was really fun, affordable and overall a positive experience,” says Ruggie.
Living in or out of a storage unit is not the typical thing Beck sees, but he mentions that it is something that can help people in need.
“I’ve supported stores in states such as Hawaii, California, and Indiana. It’s the areas with the warmer year-round climates where I’ve experienced customers trying to stay in units overnight… It’s not as common as you might think [but] for our tenants that may be homeless, self storage units tend to be used to keep items secure and that are valuable to those individuals while they live in a shelter or on the streets,” says Beck.
Whatever your need is when renting a storage unit, be sure to discuss any questions with company employees as well as read any documents or contracts thoroughly so that you’re aware of the policies and what you should or shouldn’t do – and how secure your belongings are.
*Photos were provided by Alexander Ruggie and are from the time when he lived “in” a storage unit.