Why Paying For A Storage Unit Is A Waste of Money

The average home size in 1950 was less than 1,000 square feet. Fast forward to now, the average home size has increased to around 2,600 square feet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Despite that, according to SpareFoot, nearly 10% of households also rent a self-storage unit. That is a lot of storage units! Just…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: December 28, 2023

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The average storage unit cost can destroy a person's budget. Due to that, as well as clutter, I believe paying for a storage unit is a waste of money!The average home size in 1950 was less than 1,000 square feet. Fast forward to now, the average home size has increased to around 2,600 square feet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Despite that, according to SpareFoot, nearly 10% of households also rent a self-storage unit.

That is a lot of storage units!

Just over a year ago, in July 2016, we cleared out our storage unit. We were paying $185 a month for a small storage unit, mainly for photo albums and childhood items.

We only had the storage unit for around 6 months, but in that small amount of time we had already spent $1,110 in storage unit costs.

That’s just an unbelievable amount of money to spend on things that we knew we weren’t going to need or use for at least several years.

The storage unit wasn’t completely horrible, but there were some negatives:

  • It seemed wasteful to spend $185 a month to store things that we don’t use.
  • When we got the storage unit, I had to sign a paper that said we wouldn’t store photo albums in there. In fact, I found out that this was normal. This felt like I was jinxing myself, and I was afraid that something would happen to the hundreds of photos albums that my dad left for me after he passed away.
  • The storage unit was in an odd location. We put everything from our last house into storage. However, that was in a town where we knew nobody, and we knew that we wouldn’t be going back too often.

So, we rented a moving truck and had everything moved to Wes’s parents’ attic. Don’t worry, they lucked out as well. We gave them all of the expensive, new furniture that we had stupidly bought right before we fell in love with RV life, haha. So, all we really have stored there are photo albums and childhood mementos.

Sure, there are legitimately good reasons to have a storage unit, such as if you are in-between homes, but for the most part, the average person is wasting money by having a storage unit.

Before you decide to get a storage unit, I recommend reading my blog post Downsizing Your Home? Here’s How I Went From A 2,000 Square Foot House To An RV.

Yes, it is possible to downsize, and I know this because I currently live in an RV with much less storage room than a “normal” house.

You don’t need all of that stuff.

According to professional organizer Regina Lark, the average U.S. household has 300,000 things.

Yes, 300,000!

Sounds crazy, but it really adds up quickly. Think about all of the plates, silverware, clothing, and everything else you own.

Also, according to Lark, U.S. children make up less than 4% of the children on the planet but have 47% of all toys and children’s books.

That is just crazy.

Given that the average home size has nearly tripled over the past few decades to 2,600 square feet, I really don’t know how people still have more stuff to store than what alreadys fits in their home.

You really do not need all of that stuff in your house.

You’ll probably never use the things you’re storing.

When many people put their belongings into a storage unit, most of the time they don’t even step foot in there again until they get rid of the unit.

This may be years and years down the line.

I’ve heard of people who forget about paying for their storage units, and after decades of not returning, the storage unit facility then auctions off their belongings. You stored it for decades, never stepped foot into it, and then forgot about all of your stuff?

That is a huge waste of money.

If you’re storing your belongings, there is a big chance that you’ll never use those items. After all, they are out of sight and out of reach, so how often will you actually use them?

Many people store things that they don’t even want.

Surprisingly, many people store things they know they don’t need or want.

So, why are you storing these things and paying for them!?

A storage unit costs anywhere from around $50 to $200 a month, and this is for a non-climate controlled unit. If you want it to be climate controlled, you’ll pay significantly more to store your items.

It’s probably not worth it to store whatever you’re storing.

If you’re spending $100 a month storing things you don’t even want, you should think about how much it’s costing you in the long run.

Even if $100 doesn’t seem like much, that’s $6,000 over a 5 year period.

Is your stuff worth $6,000?

Even if you’re just storing it for one year, is your stuff worth $1,200?

Related: 30+ Ways To Save Thousands Each Year

By storing stuff, you’re likely to buy even more.

Instead of just making due with the items and space that you already have, a storage unit can actually cause you to spend more money. This is because you will be hoarding more and more things, and then you’ll just continue to put things in your storage unit because you have that extra space.

Well, that’s a huge waste of money.

Instead, you should make due with the space that you already have, and really think about every purchase you are considering.

You have time to donate or sell your stuff.

Some people have a storage unit because they think they don’t have enough time to donate, sell, or otherwise get rid of the stuff that they want to store.

Well, with the amount of time it will take to bring your items to storage, you could probably just get rid of them.

Plus, someone else may find a great deal of value in your stuff and/or you may help someone in need!

Do you have a storage unit? Why or why not? How much does your storage unit cost?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. As George Carlin says, “a house is just a place to keep all of your stuff”. We got rid of the house and all of our stuff, and we’re much better off because of that decision!

  2. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor

    I’ve heard these stats before on home size, and percent of children’s toys, and they’re just astounding. Yet completely believable. Sorry if I missed this, but what did you do with your photo albums? We are printing a lot less photos and just leaving them digital. Whenever we get our hands on a good family photo from the past we digitize it.

    1. Thankfully, my in-laws have stored all of the photo albums in their guest bedroom 🙂

  3. Marguerite

    Your article made me think – I live in a city where real estate is through the roof – both for buyers and renters.-I call my 2nd bedroom my “basement” because it’s essentially a storage – which is costing me a lot – i.e. the difference between paying for a one vs a 2 bedroom house -so I am in the process of clearing it so that when I move I don’t have to pay for “in house storage”. Not easy – my main hobby is painting -canvases and other painting stuff takes space.

    1. Yes, a lot of people do something similar 🙂

  4. Emily

    There are definitely legit reasons for having a storage unit. For example, my family has one, because we live in a very tiny 1 bedroom apartment in NYC, and need a place to keep all of our big baby items/baby clothes for our next child in a year or two. We found that it would be cheaper to store the stuff (we got a great deal and only pay $39/month) than buy it all again (they were all gifts) or rent a new, bigger apartment with more storage. We know exactly what is in the storage unit, and that we won’t use it in at least 1.5 years, we didn’t get a bigger unit than we needed, and it was the right financial decision for us.

    1. Yes, there are reasons to have a storage unit. The average person, though, is wasting money by having one.

  5. Ree Klein

    I almost didn’t click on this post because when I was blogging on Escaping Dodge, I was ADAMANT about how stupid it was to pay for a storage unit. And, I still believe that to be true for the most part.

    But I recently caved and got one for my private label business. It’s a business expense and where I store all of my inventory. It’s cheaper that renting an office space since I can work from home or even in our RV when we travel. But the inventory was starting to take over our 1,123 square foot house so I bit the bullet and did the thing I raged against all the previous years.

    Once I find the balance between buying larger quantities of inventory for the price break vs the cost to store the excess, I may say goodbye to renting that space. For now it’s making life at home easier!

    1. Agree! We also rent storage space to house my husband’s inventory and demo equipment for his business. A complete write-off. Since we downsized from a large house with a shop to a smaller house and storage rental for business. 🙂

      But also agree that paying for storage for personal items you don’t need or use is a waste too.

      1. Yes, there are legitimate reasons to have storage, of course 🙂

    2. Yes, there are definitely reasons to have one, but the average person doesn’t need one.

  6. David @ Thinking Thrifty

    An average of 2,600 square foot? WOW! I bet your RV is bigger than my apartment lol. However, I can definitely understand how easy it is to hoard stuff you’re never going to need again. I’m moving next week and have just been going through all the stuff I never use. I’m finally ready to part with my CDS, DVDs and books. I was shocked to see there is £150 worth of stuff there a website is willing to buy so that’s my moving costs sorted!

  7. Amanda

    Though I’ve never paid for a storage unit, I have had a ton of stuff (that I’ve since purged)! I think many times, people are just overwhelmed by the “stuff” and find it easier to put it into storage than to deal with it. But that’s expensive, plus I think it contributes to mental clutter (knowing you have that stuff sitting there has to weigh on the mind). Like anything else, breaking it down into do-able chunks to get rid of the excess makes it less overwhelming.

    1. Yes, it’s definitely easier just to put it into storage. That’s a big reason for why we did that last time.

  8. ChooseBetterLife

    Get rid of All The Things! Or at least the ones you can make do without. It’s true that storing seems like the easy option, but then you forget what’s there and buy new stuff anyway. And for the heirlooms you don’t want in your house, you can give your family the option to take them before you donate them.
    A storage shed is just another monthly payment with emotional baggage.

  9. For years I had just thought those were places that people rented space when they were between moves. It floored me when I found out that people had these as an ongoing thing! If I can’t fit all my stuff in my house, then it means I have too much stuff. Period.

  10. We pay $65 a month for a 5 x 10 storage unit. We rented it when staging our home. The funny thing is, our house has now sold and we are moving into an apartment until we find the right house to buy and selling everything we had put into storage! I guess the stuff wasn’t so important after all!

    1. Haha! Yes, that’s usually what ends up happening.

  11. 100% agreed. I think in most cases, no matter how low priced the storage unit is, it would be better to sell the items and then buy them back a few years later or whenever you need them (if you even need them). I have a friend who is saving books related to her profession in storage. It’s been 4 years since she left them in that city. She’s been back once. She’s paying $100 a month. There’s no way those books are worth that much! She actually has two units in two different cities and she’s

    1. Yes, exactly! Selling the items and just buying what you need later on is most likely a better idea.

  12. Josh

    We recently had all our stuff in storage as we lived in a studio apartment for a year while a built our 2700 sq. foot house. We got rid of a lot before storage and got rid of more after storage and realizing a home is essentially a place to sleep and eat. The difficulty with getting rid of things is that you know you will only use something once or twice a year and it’s easier to keep it than borrow it. Truly a 1st-world problem.

    To parlay the housing stats. I grew up in 1950s era housing. My brother & I shared a room and life was cozy. Than we moved into a small McMansion as a high schooler. Now we had separate rooms for everything and my parents found ways to fill up the house. Now that we have moved away, they no longer need most the house except for when we all visit. We both have houses full of stuff so we have no need for much they want to giveaway.

    1. Yes, when we had our storage unit, we kept thinking about the rare chance that we would need it.

  13. Probably a good reminder for many readers… We just recently de-cluttered our house big time and it felt great to purge a lot. At the same time we’re facing the possibility of moving to London for 3-5 years and living in an apartment which means we wouldn’t bring everything we own. We’ve been discussing a storage unit mainly to store items that we would want when returning to the states. We just have to be smart with what we keep and how much storage space we’ll need.

  14. Sylvia @Professional Girl on the Go

    We had so much stuff when we moved in together. We decided that if we couldn’t find a “home” for the item in our apartment it had to go. I honestly don’t think I would be able to justify paying for storage here.

  15. Michael

    I have a nomadic mindset. If I am not using something, I like to give it away if it is in a good condition or trash it if it ain’t good. About 2.5 years back, work took us from Texas (big home) to New Jersey (small home) – at that time, we spent so much time giving things away or trashing things.

    I had some big furniture that wasn’t going to fit in our NJ rental home. I did a quick cost analysis of storage. It made no sense for me to put anything in storage. The cost of storage was going to be higher than the value of goods over a 2 year period. Luckily for me, Sarah’s sister just purchased a home and we moved all the big furniture to her sisters for their family to use.

    We were about to buy a home and settle down in NJ when our workplace transferred us back to Texas and we got our furniture back. I am glad we didn’t spend a penny on storage.

    I am truly amazed at the fact that despite the growth in home size, the storage business has been growing like crazy!

  16. Even if people don’t pay for a storage unit, it’s easy to shop for a house that fits your stuff. So just excess stuff has it’s hidden cost. People don’t really need a lot of space, stuff does. Right now we have 2 adults and 5 kids in our family plus a dog. With our 1650sq ft house we all fit just fine, and that is with NO garage or storage shed! We even have a whole empty room. =) A bigger house would run us an extra $700 a month. I can think of a 100 more enjoyable ways to spend that money.

  17. Lindsay @ The Notorious D.E.B.T.

    We just got rid of our storage unit a few months ago!

    My husband is a carpenter and we used to live in a house, so you can imagine all of the tools he had.
    Now we’re in a one-bedroom apartment. We had put all the tools in a storage unit for two years, but decided there were better uses for that $90 monthly payment, so we took it all out and brought it into the apartment.

    It is SUPER crowded, but my husband spent thousands of dollars on the tools and so doesn’t want to get rid of him. Sometimes you just gotta make concessions when you’re married. Plus, having the tools still gives him hope that one day he’ll be able to build his OWN house from scratch. It’s what keeps him going when he gets depressed about our financial situation – at least he’s got the tools to build the house. So, our apartment is just really crowded for now, but I think it’s worth it if it keeps him motivated. 🙂

    1. Yes, motivation is always great to have 🙂

  18. While we do not have a storage unit, we did have to buy a 12×12 double loft barn style shed to put out back. It literally just holds all of our holiday decorations. If we had not done that, we would have rented a unit. Our house despite being 2700 sqft has NO usable attic space due to the way they design houses now!

    1. Yeah, it seems like many houses these days don’t have great layouts, especially for storage!

  19. Charlie @ Mr. Get Rich

    I remember paying $150 dollars per month on a storage unit a few years ago and it was mostly my ex’s stuff. I’ve carried minimal stuff for lots of years, and I couldn’t believe that I had to pay for the storage. It hurt my pocket because it could have gone to other things.

    I remember my mom was paying for storage in Miami while she was living in New York. I’ve told her that it’s a waste of money. It was better for her to hire a moving company to move her stuff to New York instead of spending about $130 per month.

    I could never understand why people keep unwanted stuff in a public storage!

  20. We put some things in a storage unit (tools and such) when we moved abroad for a business assignment and what a total waste of money! It cost us about $76-95 per month (they kept raising it and there was nothing me could do since we were thousands of miles away) for 4 years and ended up for sure paying more in total than what the stuff was actually worth. You live and learn…I’m learning to get rid of junk :).

  21. Erin @ View From Our Terrace

    We do not have a storage unit. I never knew that so many people used them for small things or items that they did not really care about! I definitely think that the expense is not worth it. If I was going to use one I would set a time limit – maybe if I was doing a home renovation or something. Great topic!

  22. John

    Great article Michelle! It’s amazing how much “stuff” we can accumulate. A society’s norms play a huge role in setting expectations. The ironic thing is that people who have a 2600 square foot house filled with stuff now probably don’t feel any better about it that someone who had a 1000 square foot house back in 1950.

  23. Jodie

    If I can find 300,000 items in my home, and then sell each one for $1.00; WOW! I could quit my job, and concentrate 100% on my business. Thanks for the AHA moment.

  24. Lindsey Mozgai

    My Fiance and I still have some things lingering at our parent’s house, but even in our one bedroom apartment we have still managed to never need a storage unit! We try to be really efficient with our space, but there was a point when we completed covered every square inch of our apartment.

  25. Amazing read. I am so glad I stumbled on this post. So many Americans are in debt, and yet we continue to hinder our finances by making decisions that fit our “right now” needs and problems. Instead we should be looking at the long term numbers and consequences. I was in debt before, and it really is hard to break the cycle. Once you are debt free – there is no other feeling in the world like it. You would never believe how much better you feel after all your debt is down to zero. In the short term you have to make tough decisions that don’t feel too awesome, but in return; in the long term you can spend most of your life feeling accomplished and a lot happier. Best Wishes to everyone in this situation!

  26. Very informative blog post! The most important thing that you need to know about this entire process is this: The storage facility does not want to auction off your stuff. Storage auctions are not profitable. In fact, they cost the facility a lot in wasted time that could be better spent maintaining the property and serving tenants.

  27. Joel K.

    We had a storage locker for about a year and spent about $1000 to store a bunch of crap that was worth $300 on a good day and which we ended up giving away the “good” stuff. Storage lockers and bottled water are the 2 biggest wastes of money on Earth.

  28. Ashley I.

    I have come to realize just recently after years of having a storage unit and deciding to move out, that it can be an absolute waste of money. I have had this storage unit for several years. Every year the amount has increased and is now at a whopping $200 a month. I no longer reside in the state where the storage unit currently sits. I moved everything in because I couldn’t afford to take it with me and I had no time to sell anything. I was planning to get the items sooner rather than later but something always came up that prevented me from doing it. Now, I am faced with the dilemma of whether it’s worth keeping the items in storage or should I part ways and donate everything. The costs alone to transport all belongings in the storage come to at least $2000 – $2800, whether I rent a truck and drive or have them transported in a container(s) the price comes out to be the same no matter what. There is no cheaper option. It wouldn’t be too much of an issue if the price at $1500, but I honestly feel like the expenses to retrieve items exceeds the value and that I might as well buy everything all over again. Especially considering I don’t care to keep the furniture. The only things I wanted and could use are the kitchenware & appliances, Baby gear left behind (currently pregnant), and television. A lot of the items are close to brand new and never barely used. The only pro to spending that amount of money is the fact that I won’t have to pay this $200 monthly storage rate that keeps increasing every year. This has been an overwhelming decision to make because I need to make a decision very soon, seeing that I am pregnant and I am now moved into a new place and paying more in living expenses. I have honestly thought about letting it go and the storage facility auction everything, but I don’t know if this will have a negative effect on my credit. My second idea was to plan a date to travel and arrange for Salvation Army to take what they want, arrange for a junk pickup to take the rest and maybe fly back with what I can in checked luggage. This has been the decision I am mostly leaning towards. At the end of the day, I try to look at these items as only material possessions that can always be replaced. My advice to anyone is try not to keep the storage unit longer than six months to a year if possible. If you’re planning to relocate long distance, try to move everything at once or sell/donate everything instead of storing it out of state.

    Any insight, advice or personal experiences would be greatly appreciated.