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Life 101: Why are you storing all that stuff?

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By Linda Arnold EBS CONTRIBUTOR

If you’ve been bitten by the organizing bug during COVID-19, you may want to take things a step further. Consider these sobering statistics:

  • One in four homeowners can’t park in his or her garage. 
  • The United States has more storage facilities than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.
  • And 90 percent of ours are full!

When I heard those statistics from the Self Storage Association, I was floored. Are you one of those who can’t park in your garage?

Storage units

What are we holding onto, anyway? It turns out 30 percent of storage units are rented by businesses to store records, equipment, etc. That means 70 percent are rented by consumers, paying an average of $100 per month.

The self-storage business started a few decades ago, with some mini-warehouses located around military bases; now it’s a $22 billion industry.

The rationale for storing items generally falls into several categories:

  1. I might need this someday.
  2. I don’t feel right throwing it out since it was Mom’s, Dad’s, etc.
  3. I don’t know what to do with it.
  4. I have an emotional attachment to it.
  5. The kids may want it.

There are obviously valid reasons to store things. Many times, though, storage units are the result of indecision – or “kicking the can down the road” and rarely are the contents of the units examined.  

Then you have to ask yourself–after a five-year period—whether this procrastination was worth $6,000.

Committing purgery

I’ll admit these statistics struck a nerve with me because I’m in the midst of a major organizational project with two upstairs rooms. 

My project is titled “Committing Purgery.” Note the spelling, it’s not the legal type, instead it describes my resolve to purge things that are no longer useful and taking up too much space.

The task is easier said than done, though. Like you, I’ve probably read every organizational article that comes across my radar, not to mention drooling over those beautiful organizational systems–in all those bright colors!

I’m actually an organized person overall. I’m proactive and driven, sometimes to a fault. I’ve just let a couple of rooms in my house become catchalls for books, papers and files.

Surface mining

Like most people, you probably have at least a few piles lying around–especially if you’re now working from home. Piles can form anywhere and they tend to multiply. Before you know it, the surface becomes crowded again.

That’s when it’s time to do some “surface mining.” It’s amazing how much a clean surface contributes to peace of mind. This is an exercise that needs to be repeated frequently, though, lest that dastardly “pile creep” beast rear its ugly head again.

Then there are the decisions of what to do with the items in the pile. Of course, we all know those systems of dealing with paper once–act on it, file it or discard it. Sometimes, however, you don’t have the time at the moment to file something.    

Indecision can also be a factor. You find yourself wanting to keep that program or souvenir and then it becomes a decision for later. Not to mention that precious “refrigerator art” from the kids and grandkids. Where do you file these, anyway?

My sister recently purged a lot of miscellaneous items she’s moved from house to house over the years and one of the boxes contains decades of Playbill programs from Broadway plays. They’ve moved from Washington, DC to Utah to Montana!

Looking at the calendar

Now that we’re entering the second half of the year, it may be a good time to visit those storage units. If other family members are involved, invite them to come along. Take a look at the five earlier reasons cited for holding onto things as enough time may have passed that you can deal with the contents more rationally.

You have five months before the year-end holidays. This could be the perfect gift to give one another!

Linda Arnold is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org  or visit www.lindaarnold.org for more information on her books.

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