Christopher Lancette, Orion's Attic
September 21, 2020If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the steamrollers almost certainly go through storage units. There is no more costly or easier mistake for a homeowner or estate executor to make than falling for the trap of renting a storage unit.
Storage units are like credit card debt.
We see it all the time in our work with Orion’s Attic: People with the very best of intentions choose to put heaps of stuff in storage units instead of dealing with the problem beforehand. Our advice to you? Don’t let yourself become a storage unit sucker. If you’re already stuck in a unit, or two or three, contact us today to help get you out of the ever-increasing monthly fees for storage unit rent. You can also read more about all of our services.
We have seen people rack up many thousands of dollars in storage fees before they even know what hit them. Putting stuff in storage units is like going into credit card debt: It’s incredibly easy to get in and monstrously difficult to get out. The comparison between storage units and credit cards is apt in many ways. Both offer wonderful deals to get you to try one for the first time. Many storage unit companies even offer a first month for “free.”
There is no such thing as “free.”
Storage unit companies know that you may start a rental agreement intending to get out before the first month is over but that almost all people get hooked and end up paying for storage for many months and, sadly, often years. By the time you’re done, assuming you get out before you decide to default and let the storage unit company auction off your belongings, you have spent thousands more dollars in storage than the value of the stuff you’re saving.
Let’s share some examples of the storage unit nightmares we’ve seen and show you the math. Hopefully this will inspire you to use Orion’s Attic for your storage unit buyout and/or storage unit clean-out needs:
Half-empty storage units are worse than packed units: You’re paying for twice what you need.
- We helped a Northern Virginia client who called us a few years ago hoping to make a mint on the sale of his mother’s antique furniture he had kept in storage. By the time he called us, he had spent $250 a month for four years — a total of $12,000. The second-hand, antique shop value of all of it? About $3,000 after the expenses of us taking it to an antiques store for him. The man had been blinded by the emotional attachment he had with his mom. As we have to tell people all the time, sentimental value does not equal real-world financial value.
- We got a call from a Washington D.C. client who had a pair of storage units costing him about $500 a month. They were packed floor-to-ceiling with furniture, art, home decor and collectibles long out of style and that aren’t coming back any time soon. He had already paid $22,000 in storage. He told us that he was ready to let the stuff go and stop paying storage fees. When we showed up to take it all away and sell it for him, he changed his mind. We asked him why he couldn’t go through with it, how he could live with that kind of expense. He told us that he got anxious each month as the due date approached, then chose to pay the bill and not think about it again for several more weeks. We suspect he’s still there now and that he has now made more than $40,000 in payments … money he has zero chance to recover.
- One of the most painful cases we experienced came with a dear, sweet woman in Maryland who over time became a friend of ours. We first met her years ago when she was grieving for her husband, a man who happened to have a storage unit full of a certain kind of collectibles for which demand and value had fallen to the floor over the past 20 years. They were hot once but not now. We made her a generous offer to buy it all or take it on consignment just to get her out of paying $300 a month. The dear, sweet woman told us that she thought the items had more value so she just couldn’t let them go for that. Naturally, our friend called us years later and we emptied the unit, the collection now worth even less than it was years ago. She ended up getting back a fraction of what she had paid in storage.
The best way to avoid becoming a storage unit sucker is to confront the problem head-on when it occurs. Deal with the financial, psychological and emotional issues and items BEFORE you even think about moving them into storage.
If you’re thinking you’re going to play the junk stock market and put furniture in storage because “the value will come back” and that you’ll make a profit in the end, the odds of that working out for you are slim to none. The value of most items is not going to go back up in our lifetimes. The only furniture people go nuts for today is Mid-Century Modern furniture. Signed limited edition prints by most artists draw maybe $5 to 10 at auction — and sit forever in retail stores. No one cares about them anymore. (We’ve got stacks of such prints in our eBay store right now and can’t sell them for even $2 each.)
The key to avoiding storage units? Make tough decisions not driven by emotion.
People are just as often driven to storage units by bad, emotion-based decisions. Estate executors put their parents’ stuff in storage after they die because they think their parents would be horrified if they knew they didn’t keep it. We can’t imagine any parent wanting their kids to ring up thousands of dollars in charges holding onto Singer sewing machines with cast iron bases, Hummel figurines, china cabinets and upholstered couches.
Many storage unit companies, by the way, charge you a lower monthly rate for the first several months and then begin jacking up the fees by as much as 33 percent by the fourth or fifth month.
If you’re currently considering renting a storage unit, don’t do it. Whether your sell or donate the items, you’re still going to come out better financially than paying for storage indefinitely.
If you’re already in a storage unit facility, get out of it today. Orion’s Attic can help. If you have the kinds of hot items that would be profitable for us to re-sell directly, we can buy-out the unit and haul it all away. If it’s filled with a combination of things including not-as-hot items, trash and charitable donations that don’t make financial sense for us to buy, we can provide a storage unit clean-out service that sells your antiques, collectibles, jewelry and more through direct cash offers, auction houses and other means, transports your charitable donations and clears the trash.
- We recently helped a husband-and-wife that was paying $400 a month in storage fees for a large unit stuffed from floor to ceiling with many objects of great sentimental value and but a few of actual financial value. The couple hired us to provide a combination of services. We pulled down and opened every box so that they could review the contents and decide what they wanted to take home. We made an offer to buy a collection of sterling silver flatware, some rare books, and a other items. We delivered two truckloads of furniture and household items to charity (we love A Wider Circle in Silver Spring, Habitat for Humanity Restore and others) and provided them with tax receipts, and we hauled a truckload of broken items and other trash to a Montgomery County transfer station. The initial labor charge for two days of hard work with a crew of four and our truck was not cheap — but — after we purchased some items — the final bill fell to about $500. They closed out the unit and saved the $400 rent payment for the next month, not to mention who knows how many more after that.
Even if you end up paying to clean out a storage unit, the rent savings pays for the work quickly.
The only thing worse than becoming a storage unit sucker in the first place is remaining one when you’ve already paid way more in storage fees than you will ever get back from liquidating the unit’s contents. STOP throwing your money away in storage unit fees. Contact Orion’s Attic today to find out more about our storage unit buyout and storage unit cleanout services.
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Christopher Lancette, Orion's Attic