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Storing your Stuff

Most of us have, at one time or another, been faced with the problem of needing to deal with more stuff than we can conveniently store at home. There can be a number of reasons for this: a delayed house move, a downsizing, a divorce or an inheritance are some obvious situations. The decision about which dresser, which table – or even which book – should be kept and which disposed of is rarely certain, quick or easy. After all, how can we be sure we’re making the right decision? Everything might change in a few months. On the other hand, these things can’t stay where they are. You’re probably quite frazzled with the other aspects of the situation that’s created this problem and really don’t need this bulky dilemma to contend with as well. What’s best to do?

One option is to defer the matter until a calmer time arrives and store what isn’t immediately required. This recent article on the BBC website looked at what kind of facilities are now available, some of the reasons people use them and what their experiences were. One of the photos in the piece, of a storage unit half filled with piles of banknotes as a result of the drug deals from the TV series Breaking Bad, doesn’t represent a typical deposit. The reality, as the article shows, is far more prosaic, although this makes us no less attached to the items and so apprehensive about getting rid of them, particularly if we’re going through a change of circumstances which may result in our having both the need and the space for them in the future.

Reflecting on this, I decided to contact a local expert, George Spence, who runs Red Spot Storage which has self-store units in Newbury, Lambourn and Membury, to ask his view. “We’ve had a few odd requests over the years,” he admitted, “though no one has, to my knowledge, ever wanted us to keep a couple of pallets of bank notes. ‘Do the units have showers?’ was one question that really made me wonder what the person was planning to use the unit for. The answer was ‘no’, by the way.”

He pointed out that one way of considering how much it’s worth paying for self-storage is by looking at the cost of an extra room in your house devoted to archived items. “Taking Newbury as an example,” he explained, “renting an average four-bedroom house will cost about £360 a month more than a three-bedroom one. This may push you into a higher Council Tax bracket as well.” If you’re likely to be using the room for storage there are some advantages, such as immediate availability, but the room may not be configured for such uses, nor have easy or safe access if large items need to be added or removed. Also, the space can’t be increased (unless you move house again).

If you’re buying, the variations are even more dramatic, £115,000 being the average that you’ll pay for the extra bedroom. This works out at about £950 per month over ten years: however this calculation is obviously complicated by the fact that the property will almost certainly rise in value over that period. None the less, it’s clear that, whether renting or buying, using domestic space to store unwanted items may not be the cheapest or even the most convenient option.

Clearly, most people don’t rent an extra-large house just to store things: but if you’re finding that part of your home is dominated by items you don’t currently need this is one way the loss of utility can be expressed in money terms.

A storage facility is the obvious alternative. Most good storage companies offer flexible terms so, if the cost becomes a burden or the items are no longer required then any agreement can crease with just a few weeks’ notice, rather than months. Bear in mind also that the fees paid include security, power and business rates. If you were storing at home or in an industrial warehouse all these costs would need to be added to the basic rental.

Businesses also have need for such facilities, often for rather different reasons than do individuals. “We get a lot of corporate customers who might only use us for just a few weeks,” George explained. “This might be because of seasonal fluctuations or an overflow of stock which their permanent warehouse can’t can’t cope with. This kind of service lets them cope with variations in supply and demand of their products without needing to take on long-term storage options which might not always be required.”

So, for one reason or another, you need some space: does the maths stacks up? “Most of our customers only stay a couple of months when they are between houses and so the costs are really pretty minor,” George explained. “Some people may be storing things that they really don’t need but in a lot of cases the decision to store is a very wise one. For example, if you currently have one fridge too many you won’t get much, if anything, for it. If, however, you’re going to be moving to a fridge-less house in a few months it probably makes sense to hang onto it.”

Our need to retain our stuff is motivated by as many complex and varied reasons as why we acquire it in the first place. Having more things than we then need or can accommodate is often caused by some change in circumstances which usually brings its own stress and strains. “We often meet customers when they at some sort of crossroads in their lives,” George remarks. “Some are already stressed with dealing with a house move or are going through some personal troubles. Our job – and that of any reputable storage company – is to make storage easy for busy people. We are more than happy to not only help find the right sized space on the right kind of terms to match their needs but also to recommend other relevant services like removal and van-hire companies.”

So if your possessions and your living space are currently out of whack with each other, self-storage could be a cost-effective and convenient solution. One thing, though – don’t expect the units to be equipped with showers…

• George Spence based his property-price assumptions on information taken from the Property Data website in November 2018. Obviously these might vary over time as a result of changes in the property market.

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