Late Night Off Topic: Storage Rats

Completely off topic, but I've come to conclude that as you get older, downsizing is a fact of life. I've been doing it for several years now. And, with more of us taking charge of our elderly parents' downsizing, we often have to decide what to do with their lifetime accumulation of belongings.

The New York Times this week had a feature article on how we have become a society "hooked on storage."

Many of us pay thousands of dollars a year to store our kids' first drawings, the artifacts we brought back from other countries on vacations, the furniture that will not fit in our downsized homes or apartments.

Is it worth it?


A few moves ago, I decided "no." My parents had two storage lockers and I had one. Between us, we spent $400 a month on the units. Between 1991 and 2005, I had never been to mine. My parents had never been to their's. Every time once of us moved, we just designated certain boxes and furniture "storage" and had the moving company deliver those items to the unit instead of to our respective new homes.

After my father died and then later when my mother moved from an apartment at an assisted living facility to a nursing home, it was time to sell their stuff. Yes, it took days and days to go through their 50 years of accumulated possessions and decide what to keep. But, how many serving dishes and deck chairs does one need? I found an auction house willing to come to the storage unit, take what they thought they could sell, and agree to dispose of the rest. I retained just two boxes of things I thought my sister or I would want.

After that, the next time I moved, it was easy. I called the auction company and they took everything in my house that wouldn't fit in my downsized condo. I saved one box of things I thought my son might want -- his report cards, drawings and photographs. All those stuffed animals, quilts and baby clothes would never mean to him what they had meant to me.

Instead of thinking I might need excess furniture, rugs and art if I bought a bigger or second home, I decided I'd buy new things if that happened.

Are there things I sometimes wish I kept? Yes, but they are insignificant in the big picture. Nothing I can't replace.

My suggestion: Take a digital photo of the things you love but don't have space for. Look at the pictures when you want to reminisce. Life is too short to be chained down by possessions. As Don Henley sang in Gimme What You Got, "You don't see no hearses with luggage racks."

You spend your whole life Just pilin' it up there
You got stack and stacks and stacks
Then, Gabriel comes and taps you on the shoulder
But you don't see no hearses with luggage racks
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    Good for you, Jeralyn! (none / 0) (#1)
    by RSA on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 07:55:34 AM EST
    I don't have anything in storage, but my wife and I do have a couple of closets and a garage that are a bit overflowing.  We have an informal rule that we're trying to follow: If we haven't "used" something within the past couple of years (or if we can't remember the last time we looked at it), we'll try to get rid of it.  (Books are the main exception.)  We've accumulated a lot of experiences and memories; that's enough.

    Big Brothers Big Sisters..... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 08:24:39 AM EST
    I should thank Big Brothers Big Sisters for helping me to avoid being a pack-rat.  They call me every few months to arrange a pick-up of clothes, books, toys, housewares...you name it.

    It's my quarterly reminder to lighten the load.

    Nice (none / 0) (#10)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 03:28:15 PM EST
    more stuff (none / 0) (#3)
    by eric on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 09:21:10 AM EST
    I'd always heard that whoever dies with the most stuff, wins...

    eric, i think that only counts for (none / 0) (#4)
    by cpinva on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 09:55:51 AM EST
    real property, not stuffed animals. i could be wrong.

    we've been trying, and i have taken carload after carload away. strangely enough, what's left seems to be reproducing. how four people are able to accumulate this much stuff remains one of life's most baffling mysteries for me.

    Must be Inherited (none / 0) (#5)
    by Beck on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 10:49:48 AM EST
    My in-laws' three-car garage is filled top to bottom with "stuff", so they have built a new garage onto the front of the old garage. Of course the new one is full too, although in the winter they rearrange enough of the stuff to be able to get one car in there.

    My wife must have inherited the gene. She develops some sort of emotional attachment to everything she owns and is never able to part with anything, leading to a basement and garage full of "stuff".

    Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

    OK.OK! (none / 0) (#6)
    by Che's Lounge on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 12:13:57 PM EST
    I'll clean the d**n thing!

    OY (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 12:38:21 PM EST
    I can not even walk in parts of my loft, and the basement....oy.

    Thanks for the reminder, I have reached critical mass and need to empty out the junk.

    In the service (none / 0) (#8)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 01:28:29 PM EST

    I used to get move every two or three years in the Navy.  My beautiful bride and I finally adopted a rule that any box that was moved twice without being opened went to the dumpster rather than a third move.  The hard part was getting yout mind set not to peek.

    desertwind (none / 0) (#9)
    by desertwind on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 02:44:49 PM EST
    Amazing how different my husband and I are in this respect.

    I grew up an Army brat, moving every few years. I'm used to weeding out and letting go. He grew up in one house. Oy!

    That said: I do sort of envy some of his cache of stuff. You should see the great Fat Fink drawing he made in fifth grade! His teeny cheesy trophy for best artist in the 7th grade! Etc.