April to September generally is the busiest time of the year for moving. An added stressor for many is getting rid of a lifetime of collectibles when downsizing to a smaller home.
Despite the proliferation of services offering help with decluttering, many homeowners can’t bring themselves to sort through everything and part with their treasures.
If that’s the case for you, shifting items to a storage facility may be the answer.
Here’s what you need to know:
Self-storage units, available for rent in facilities around the Washington area, come in a range of sizes and rental terms, often month-to-month. Options include climate-controlled units on different floor levels, such as drive-up units and interior units accessible by elevator.
Alternative storage systems feature different benefits. Some moving companies offer storage services. Such storage is not as accessible as self-storage, but everything is delivered back to the homeowner when requested.
“The items being moved are pad-wrapped and shrink-wrapped inside the home and loaded on-site into storage vaults,” says Josh Johnson, senior move consultant for JK Moving Services.
“This allows the household goods to be handled just one time during storage-in and one time during storage-out,” he adds. “When storing with a moving company, the liability stays with the moving company.”
Metropolitan Moving & Storage has a similar system, loading items into crates that store furniture for a typical size room.
MakeSpace, which serves many neighborhoods in the Washington area, offers another option. CEO Rahul Gandhi says that a crew drops off free packing bins for homeowners to use and transports items to a “low-cost warehouse outside expensive urban cores.”
Storage rates reflect the lower warehousing costs and customers pay for the exact space they use rather than modules of various sizes. MakeSpace takes overhead photos at the warehouse so customers can view their stored items via the company app or website; they can request re-delivery of belongings on the app or website, too.
Lend a Box, a company with locations in the Virginia suburbs, provides reusable plastic boxes that homeowners can fill and store at the company’s warehouse. Once it redelivers the boxes and the homeowners empty them, Lend a Box sanitizes the containers and makes them available to other customers.
Companies such as PODS bring weather-resistant storage containers to homes. Homeowners fill them and either keep the containers on site or have them taken to the company’s storage center. JK Valet is a similar, do-it-yourself option provided by JK Moving Services.
It’s easy to let rental of a storage unit last longer than anticipated. Jeff Norman, spokesman for Extra Space Storage, an operator of self-storage facilities here and around the country, says company surveys show that, “people rent a storage unit for approximately twice as long as they believe they will.” Some move into and out of a unit right away, but others take much longer.
“We view our business as one that is helping people through life transitions,” however long it takes, Norman adds.
“Many of our tenants come in with an idea of how long they will rent a storage unit,” says Joshua John Cook, property manager of Security Public Storage in Bethesda. About half keep it within a month of that time frame. The other half typically stay longer, perhaps yielding to the “set it and forget it” approach, says Cook.
“Professional movers, stagers and organizers can be a tremendous benefit as they help our tenants consolidate the needed [storage] space and create a road map [for disposition of belongings] that fits their needs.”
Some people may keep a storage unit for years before deciding that they no longer want the contents and hiring someone to take it to the dump. (MakeSpace customers who reach this juncture can fill a bag with giveaways, and the company will donate it for them to Goodwill.)
For others, a storage unit is a welcome resource. Ken and Beth Isen moved to a smaller home in Bethesda four years ago but already had a self-storage unit nearby. They use it for snow tires, ladders, shovels, lawn furniture, ski equipment, out-of-season clothes, boxes of home movies, photos, files and more, says Ken.
“We get in at least a couple of times a year” to bring things from the house and pull out items for donation, says Beth. The money they have spent in storage rental would “pay the mortgage on a $120,000 piece of real estate,” Ken says, laughing. But for the Isens it’s worth it. “I hate clutter,” Ken says. Renting the storage unit “makes it possible for us to have a house without clutter.”
Annapolis resident Carol Richards views it differently. She gave away a lot of furniture and other things when her summer house was being replaced with a year-round home. She still had to rent a large storage unit for a bed, porch furniture, linens, pots and pans, artwork and other belongings.
“We thought we would empty out the unit as soon as the new house was built, but we didn’t,” she says. Instead, she kept it another year.
But she began to see that “the stuff I’m storing here is not worth what I’m paying to store it.” She shifted to smaller storage units twice by getting rid of things that would not really be useful or look good in the new house.
Finally she was “down to a unit the size of a closet,” she says. “The reason you store your stuff is that you care about it. At some point the love affair ends.”