Hoarding in Self Storage? Here’s How to Avoid It

Jon Fesmire |

A self storage unit can be a major asset in life.

You may need one for off-season items like clothes or sports equipment, for business supplies and inventory, or simply for things that you don’t need at home all the time.

However, what sometimes ends up happening is a person overloads their storage unit with every little thing they don’t want to have at home without thinking about what they’re storing. What inevitably happens is they end up storing things that they should have thrown away or donated rather than store.

This might develop into a hoarding mentality for this type of person and their storage unit.

There’s the colloquial use of the word hoarding and there’s the mental disorder associated with hoarding, for this article we’re going to focus on the colloquial use.

People hoard things for several major reasons. They may think, “What if I need this in the future? What if it upsets the person who gave me this gift? What if this ends up being valuable?”

After all, we’ve all heard the stories of parents getting rid of a comic book collection that would have been worth millions. These worries cause anxiety and make getting rid of stuff even harder.

However, think about the money you’re spending to store stuff you don’t need.

Take a good look at your storage unit and identify what you really need. You might end up clearing so much space that you can transfer to a smaller, more affordable, storage space.

Decluttering Your Storage Unit

Set aside those what-ifs. They’re not serving you well, and they’re just excuses to hold onto things you don’t need.

What you’ll need to do is go through your storage unit, box by box, and declutter it. Decluttering means getting rid of the things you don’t need.

There are many decluttering methods.

Perhaps the most popular these days is the KonMari method, but there are several others that work well. We cover alternatives in this article, which you can read if you want some detailed ideas, but here are the basics.

Set aside the things you don’t need. Be honest with yourself.

There will be things with sentimental value that you don’t need, but that are important enough that you should keep. Your comic book or baseball card collection, which you’ve had most of your life, is something you should keep. Keep your baby books and especially nice items that you made or people made for you.

If the sentimental value is there, you’ll know it.

Some things you can and should get rid of are clothes you don’t often wear, toys your kids have grown out of, out-of-date magazines, and things you’re only keeping because you might need them at some unspecified time in the future.

Once you’ve gone through your entire unit, we recommend letting go of them in the following order: sell, donate, recycle, trash.

In other words, sell what you can. With sites like eBay and Craigslist, and apps like OfferUp, there are many opportunities these days to sell stuff you don’t need. You could also throw a yard sale.

Things that you’re unable to sell, but that are still in new to gently-used condition, you can likely donate. Consider giving them to thrift stores like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or St. Vincent de Paul.

Keep in mind that you can list the value of these donations as a line-item deduction on your taxes.

Then, there will be things you can’t sell or donate. Of those, figure out what you can recycle. Old newspapers and magazines, metal items, electronics, and more can all be recycled. Search for “recycling near me” and see what comes up.

Finally, there will be some things left that you’ll need to throw in the garbage, but at least you’ll have exhausted all other possibilities first.

Yes, this will take time, so we encourage you to set aside two or more weekends to handle this. Get your partner and family involved to make it go faster.

Downsizing

Once you’ve gone through this process and re-boxed everything you know you want to keep, you may discover that your storage unit is looking a lot emptier than when you started.

Most facilities make it easy to switch to another unit when you need a different size.

You may be able to do this through their website and make the move without ever going into the office, or you might have to visit their office to complete the process. Just call your location’s office to find out.

If you end up transferring to a smaller space, pat yourself on the back, you’re going to save money while still storing all of your essentials.

More Information About Hoarding

Hoarding disorder is a diagnosable mental illness in its own right, but it can also be associated with several others, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). These conditions are treatable with therapy and medication.

Some people who hoard simply need to learn better behaviors and don’t have a related mental illness. The mild anxiety many of us feel at the thought of getting rid of something is much more extreme for people who suffer from compulsive hoarding.

Their illness may cause feelings of embarrassment, shame, and guilt, and may negatively affect their relationships, especially with family members. Hoarding is different from collecting.

People who collect specific things take pride in their collections, proudly display them, and don’t let their collections overwhelm their lives. Hoarders tend to keep excessive amounts of whatever it is they decide on.

If hoarding has taken over your life, we encourage you to seek professional help. With help from a psychiatrist and a therapist, and perhaps with family support, you can begin to let go of your hoarding and follow instructions such as those we’ve covered here to simplify your life.