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  • Writer's pictureHeather Cocozza

Change Your Thinking on Downsizing & Storage Units

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

We all know the old expression “You can’t take it with you.” And yet, the downsizing process can be daunting and overwhelming, even for people who want to do it and make a change. Instead of looking at it as another tedious chore, remember that downsizing can be an incredibly liberating process! You get to lighten your load and your responsibilities, while concentrating on what actually matters most to you. Doesn’t everyone dream of simplifying their life? Remember why you’re doing this... When it gets hard to decide what to keep and what to toss, donate, or sell, remember why you started the downsizing process in the first place: 1. to save money 2. to have a smaller carbon footprint 3. because you just don’t need all this stuff anymore 4. because you just don’t need all this space anymore Be ruthless!

Face the fact that you’re downsizing and reducing the amount of space and the amount of stuff you have. The more things you keep to put in storage, the bigger the unit you’ll need. And that’s more money out of your pocket each month. But if you just can’t be totally ruthless yet—start with the size of storage unit you need, then keep sorting and purging after your move, gradually moving to smaller and cheaper storage units as the amount of stuff you have decreases over time. Getting Started... Many storage sites will offer discounts for people willing to sign up for many months or even a year in advance. If you plan on moving to a progressively smaller unit, make sure the discounts will still apply. Check out the storage location in person to know exactly what you’re getting. You want to get a general sense for cleanliness, lighting, security, etc. Everyone’s website will tell you that their storage site is clean and safe—but you want to verify that in person if you can. Consider factors such as climate control (may not be necessary depending on what you’re storing), and pest control (do they spray regularly). Measuring and Accessibility are two other important considerations:

Measuring Checklist

​Measure the NEW storage space FIRST. Draw a diagram of the space to see if the KEEP items will fit. This includes your free-standing shelves as well. (Most storage units do not provide shelving). Maximizing the space saves you money!

Measure all items that will remain in storage. This includes furniture, bikes, large instruments or coolers. How many boxes and how big are they?

Try to store items in similar sized boxes. Consider purchasing banker’s boxes with lids and handles for easy stacking and unpacking.

Accessibility Checklist

Identify all items you may need to access while in storage. Place these items up front and clearly labeled.

Label everything well (on the tops of the boxes and along the sides).

Use shelving to easily access items. If you don't have shelves and you stack 5 boxes on top of each other, you have to move 5 boxes to get to the bottom box. Shelving eliminates these extra steps, and you can find and open each box immediately.

When using free standing shelves, do not store heavy items up high, place them on lower shelves.

Having an aisle to walk to the back of the storage unit is important to access all items. Without an aisle, you may have to spend a full day digging out your storage unit and moving a large quantity of boxes just to get to one box of Christmas ornaments!

To create an aisle to the back of the unit, you can store the boxes around the wall. If it is a large space, you may even be able to create additional aisles using more shelving units, like an aisle of books in a library, so that everything is reasonably accessible. can take a lot of the guesswork out of the process because they’ve already done the research for you! This site is especially helpful if you are relocating to a new area and aren’t able to physically check out the storage sites.

Your ongoing relationship with your storage unit... Picture this scenario: You’ve successfully winnowed down all the stuff in your big suburban home and you are now nicely settled in a small yet fashionable downtown apartment. Congratulations! But wait—you still have a ton of stuff in a storage unit nearby that needs your attention! If your goal was to lock the storage unit up and throw away the key, never to deal with any of that stuff again, why are you paying those not-so-cheap monthly bills? Setting Goals and Making Progress... Storage units are great tools to edit and manage your inventory. Unfortunately, many storage units are a way for one to avoid making decisions. Consider visiting your storage unit, once a month (or more if possible) just to say hello and check in. Create a healthy relationship with it. Ask yourself: Why are we still together? Are you worth the cost? Do I feel like I’m getting in return what I’m giving? Why am I keeping this stuff? How long do I want to keep paying for it? Work out a clear purpose as to why you are storing your items and how long you would like or need to continue doing so. Write it down... Take inventory of all items in your storage unit; furniture, memorabilia, recreation equipment, etc. Being physically separated from our “stuff” for an extended period of time helps us to separate from these items emotionally. We often don’t remember why it was so important for us to save that old bookcase during the move or keep the antique chandelier that would have zero opportunity for a coveted spot in the new modern apartment. We’re living our new life now and it’s given us a new perspective!

Downsize Your Storage Unit Checklist

Create a written inventory of all items.

Decide which items you are able to part with. Ask those difficult questions; will I ever use this? Does it fit in our new space? Did I keep it out of fear? Was I worried we “might” need it? Have we needed it? – Maybe not.

Note which items on the inventory are for keep, trash, donate or sell.

Take photos of the items for SELL and reach out to buyers via Ebay, consignment, Craigslist, neighborhood listersv, etc.

Call DONATION pick up or drop off services to donate items.

Pull unnecessary TRASH out of the storage unit. Don’t forget, you are paying to store that trash!

For those items you are going to KEEP; write down where those items are moving to: The home or the new (smaller) storage unit

In addition to downsizing, these tips also come in handy in many other situations where extra storage space is needed, such as staging a home to sell, working on a temporary move, dealing with a death in the family (estate storage), or needing a place to store business records and supplies.

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