Over the past 40 years, the average size of the U.S. home has grown while the average size of the U.S. family has shrunk. At the same time, the self-storage industry has been among the fastest-growing commercial real estate sectors. Americans are paying $22 billion a year to store items that are rarely worth it. A simple self-storage cost estimator can help you evaluate whether or not you want to join the crowd.

We developed this self storage cost estimator because we see this storage issue become compounded as more baby boomers clear out their parents’ houses. They are understandably reluctant to let go of family heirlooms, so they rent a storage locker to hold on to their memories. We also see plenty of families who don’t have the energy to sort through a loved one’s belongings right away, so they store the items until they can cope.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

While there are plenty of good reasons to rent a unit, storage has become an industry of avoidance. Even when you tell yourself it’s only going to be for a month or two, the average rental time for a storage unit is around 15 months. Among our clients who have storage units, the average rental time is closer to 5 years. At around $100 a month, that adds up to $6,000 in storage fees. One family we worked with paid rent on a storage unit for more than 20 years. Over that time they spent about $30,000 to store possessions that were worth $3,000 at the most. So before you roll up the door on your own locker, answer these key questions for our self-storage cost estimator.

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What’s the monthly fee compared to the value of the items that you plan to store?

If you have a car or valuable antiques that could take a while to sell, renting a unit may be worth it. If it’s just furniture and boxes of clothes, pictures or household items, you’re probably better off donating it or selling it right away. 

How long do you intend to keep the unit?

 Storage units can be great short-term solutions, but you want to limit a rental to no more than three months. To ensure that you don’t go over that limit, pay for three months in advance and schedule a move-out day before you move anything in. If you need to store something for longer than that, you may want to rethink what you’re holding on to and why.

Would a portable storage unit suit your needs? 

Portable units, or pods, cost more on a monthly basis, but when it’s sitting in your driveway, you get a daily reminder that you need to make some decisions about what’s inside. You’ll probably end up cleaning it out sooner, which could save you money in the long run.

If you already have a storage unit, when was the last time you were there?

 If you haven’t thought about the stuff sitting in storage for months, or you only get out there once or twice a year, it’s time to clean it out. Sell or donate whatever is usable and move on.

You can see why some storage companies offer the first month for a dollar – enticing deals mask what's likely to be an astronomical amount. Honest answers to a few key questions can serve as a realistic self-storage cost estimator and a reminder that your house should hold only what you have space for. If you’ve run out of room, the problem isn’t the house. It’s that you have too much stuff.  

At Wayforth we work with families in transition. We can empty an entire house within days, sorting what items to keep, sell, donate, and discard. Our employees pack and move everything, then prepare the house for sale. Call us for a free consultation.

Our advice is based on our experience cleaning out and settling estates for our clients. Each project is different, and each state's laws are different. We always recommend that you consult personally with experts about your particular situation before making any important decisions.