Self storage facilities are eerie places. Some owners try to make them more cheerful by painting the doors bright colours or playing piped music through the corridors, but there’s no getting away from the lifeless energy of tons of stagnant stuff.
Mostly what’s stored is innocuous, but sometimes it’s not. The manager of a storage unit in the US told me about a man who kept his wife’s dead body in a barrel in a storage locker until the smell gave him away.There was another story I read about in Australia of a dead body discovered in a self-storage unit, hidden there by a woman who’d topped her husband. They found out because she forgot to pay the rent, so they broke open the door to repossess.
Thankfully these instances are rare, but if you google “dead body found in storage unit”, you’ll find quite a few more cases.
So apart from occasionally storing dark secrets, what else are these places good for?
I’ve used a storage unit three times in my life.
The first time was when I was living six months a year in the UK and six months in Bali. I had a locker in the UK and what can best be described as a fairly secure cupboard in Bali. Because my life in each culture was so different, I really didn’t miss anything I had in one country when I was in the other. But I must say everything got a lot easier when I moved permanently to Bali and let go of my things in the UK. This was in 1995. I wrote my first bestselling book that year, and another the year after. A whole new era of my life began.
The next time wasn’t so clear-cut. After 20 years in Bali, I sold up everything I owned and moved back to the West. First stop was California, where my husband and I thought we wanted to live. So we left our suitcases in a storage unit there while we flew to Europe for a couple of weeks to sort some things out. Not the best decision, as it turned out, because we soon realized that we really wanted to live in the UK. So there we were, living on one continent with our most useful stuff stranded on another, and no need to visit the US for any other reason for six months. Hmmm…
The problem with being in one place while your stuff is in another
The problem with being in one place while your stuff is in another is that you’re neither here nor there. You’re energetically stretched between the two locations. You can’t fully land or get on with your life where you are because part of your consciousness is resting somewhere else. It can be very destabilizing.
Many times we wanted to just get on a plane and bring our bags over to the UK. But we were moving from one short-term holiday home to another so didn’t have any permanent place to put it. In the end it was several months before we found a home to rent long-term and were reunited with our stuff. If you’re ever in this situation, resolve it as quickly as you can. Your life will be on hold until you do.
The next time we rented a storage unit was when we moved to a rented house in the UK for a year until we found a place to buy. The house was too small for all our furniture so we put half of it in storage. We could have saved ourselves some money and put it in our attic or garage, but I’ve written blogs about why that’s never a good idea so we didn’t want to do it ourselves.
So do I recommend using storage units?
Well, yes, but only as a temporary solution. If you know exactly what you’re storing and use the stuff sometimes, or will have a use for it in the not-too-distant future, it’s fine for a while. The problems start when you leave things in storage for too long a period, or worse still, indefinitely. You’re connected energetically to everything you own, so this is like leaving part of yourself in limbo. If a whole year goes by, alarm bells should ring. Quite apart from the financial cost, there’s the toll it takes on your well-being.
The bottom line is, can you truly get on with life when you have stuff in storage? And the answer, I’m sorry to say, is no. Some part of you will be disconnected, neglected, unconscious or just plain waiting until you and your stuff are united in one place. This puts an interesting new slant on that well-known phrase “getting yourself together”.
Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2011, updated 2017
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This makes me laugh of torment. My parents bought our current apartment when I was a teenager 10 years ago, and every apartment in the building had its own storage in the basement, so it’s almost like having a basement in the house. That basement was filled with things of previous owners and not touched for 30 years! And it still is! My father passed away soon after we moved in, and nothing changed, we still own the basement filled with other peoples’ stuff, my mother is refusing to pay someone to clean it up, it’s so dirty and unhealthy down there… Lol, and I ask myself why can’t I move on with my life, move out, find my own money…..
Help Karen please! I desperately need to clear my stuff out but am blocked because I have so much of it. Including one very large wooden table that is going to be very difficult to remove from one room (might be blocked now because of an inbuilt cupboard!) I was hoping to maybe hire a storage unit to at least be able to remove my stuff so that I can look at selling it – don’t want to try to sell the table if I then find I can’t get it out of the room when the person arrives to collect it! I feel like I’m drowning in stuff – including paperwork from businesses I do accounting work for. If I could just clear something but I only live in an extremely small home unit and feel over-whelmed with it all! Desperate Sue
Hi Sue, this sounds like something I could easily help you with in a personal clutter clearing consultation in your home, but since you are on the other side of the world from where I live, that’s not practical. However I now work with people from all over the world via my online Fast Track Clutter Clearing courses.
Unfortunately, we are in this limbo situation. After reading this I feel like if we don’t eliminate the storage we will be stuck in this uncertainty forever–how horrible!
Out of curiosity, do you see the same thing happening with people who have several different email accounts?
I know it’s possible to filter one account into another, and many people have all of their emails eventually funneling into one account. I am trying to get my multiple gmail accounts cleaned out into one or two, and wondering if this will help me with focusing and not being so scattered because my emails are now in several places.
In a word – yes! But don’t just take my word for it. Try it and see for yourself 🙂
Great article. With this in mind…what are the implications/consequences of children and teenagers who live in two different homes (in the same or different towns) during the week due to the legalities of joint custody? And then later in life when the belongings from those two homes have to be merged when the child grows up into college and post-grad apartment living? Thanks!
Thanks for the reply Karen! Immediately after reading your comment I went into a distraction cycle. Facing why, this morning, I realize that I don’t want to deal with the nerve-racking ordeal of dealing with the childhood memorabilia. I have no issue with loving/using or letting go of my own items. Rather it is items from family members whom I know would take it as a personal and deep offense if I got rid of something they made for/gave me. They do not want the item, they just want me to have it. And, as close relatives, it’s not like I can remove them from my life.
Something must be done . . . I’m not sure what.
Again, thanks for this blog, and your books.
Hi Liss, here’s my reply to your comment. Hope this helps.
Dare to be yourself
This is exact what I have felt for the last few years. I live in a student’s room (12 square meters) and left my comic books and books with my mother. Now I am planning to move to another city and am thinking about the size of room that I will need… enough for everything I own (I have already given a lot of stuff to the recycling store).
I use a storage unit a few blocks from our apartment for two reasons: our apartment is small and we are missing a small corner in the overall apartment. This corner is situated on the same angle as the storage unit is from us. It is a small storage unit. Neatly maintained that we use to keep bedding for guests, childhood mementos, Christmas decorations.
So, is a storage unit really that different than a closet if used in this manner?
As you say, this type of stage unit usage is more like having an extra closet. Stored neatly and used at least once a year, it’s a good way to store items such as guest bedding and Christmas decorations if space in your home is limited.
Childhood mementos are a different matter, since you’re just storing them and never using them. I wrote a blog about this that may be helpful to you: How to let go of childhood memorabelia