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One in four homeowners can’t park in his or her garage.

The United States has more storage facilities than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined, and 90% of ours are full!

When I heard those statistics from the Self Storage Association, I was floored. I’ll admit I’ve noticed that I now pass as many storage unit businesses on driving trips as auto parts stores, so that should have provided a clue.

Are you one of those who can’t park in your garage? What’s wrong with this picture?

Storage units

As a society, what are we holding onto? It turns out 30% of storage units are rented by businesses to store records, equipment, etc. That means 70% are rented by consumers, paying an average of $100 per month.

The self-storage business started a few decades ago, with some mini-warehouses located around military bases. Now it’s a $22 billion industry.

The content of consumer storage units generally falls into several categories, according to comments cited by the trade association above:

  • I might need this someday.
  • I don’t feel right throwing it out since it was Mom’s, Dad’s, etc.
  • I don’t know what to do with it.
  • I just can’t let it go. I’m emotionally attached to it.
  • The kids may want it.

There are obviously valid reasons to store things. Many times, though, storage units are the result of indecision — or “kicking the can down the road.” Rarely are the contents of the units examined.

Then you have to ask, after a five-year period, whether this procrastination was worth $6,000.

Garages and attics and spare bedrooms, oh my!

Fortunately, I don’t have a basement now. I’ve lived in other houses with basements, and they tend to become giant storage units.

So, I’m faced with confining my storage to boxes and bins that can fit into our upstairs storage closet. That’s actually a good thing, because there’s a finite amount of square footage for accumulation. My husband and I evaluate the space every couple of years or so. My nemesis lies with two spare bedrooms.

Creating purgery

I’ll admit these statistics struck a nerve with me because I’m in the midst of a major organizational project with those upstairs rooms. It’s been going on for a while.

My project is titled “Creating Purgery.” Note the spelling — it’s not the legal type. It describes my resolve to purge things that are taking up too much space and not being useful.

It’s easier said than done, though. Like you, I’ve probably read every organizational article that comes across my radar, not to mention drooling over those beautiful pictures of organizational systems in all those bright colors!

I’m actually an organized person overall. I’m proactive and driven — sometimes to a fault. I’ve just let a couple of rooms in my house become catchalls for books, papers and files that have been hard for me to let go.

Surface mining

Like most people, you probably have at least a few piles lying around — on your home or office desk, the kitchen counter or the dining room table. A few may be manageable, although I find they tend to multiply. Before you know it, the surface becomes crowded again.

That’s when it’s time to do some “surface mining.” It’s amazing how much a clean surface contributes to peace of mind. This is an exercise that needs to be repeated frequently, though, lest that dastardly “pile creep” beast rear its ugly head again.

Then there are the decisions of what to do with the items in the pile. Of course, we all know those systems of dealing with paper once — act on it, file it or discard it. Sometimes, however, you don’t have the time at the moment to file something. Or, you’re holding onto that invitation to check out schedules before you RSVP.

Indecision can also be a factor. You find yourself wanting to keep that program or souvenir from the recent play or concert, and then it becomes a decision for later. Not to mention that precious “refrigerator art” from the kids and grandkids. Where do you file something like that, anyway?

My sister recently purged a lot of miscellaneous items she’s moved from house to house over the years. One of the boxes contained decades of Playbill programs from Broadway plays. They’ve moved from Washington, D.C., to Utah to Montana!

Looking at the calendar

Now that we’re entering the second half of the year, it may be a good time to bite the bullet and make a date to visit those storage units. If other family members are involved, invite them to come along. Take a look at the five earlier reasons cited for holding onto things — enough time may have passed that you can deal with the contents more rationally.

You have five months before the year-end holidays. This could be the perfect gift to give one another.

©2020 Linda Arnold Live Life Fully, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at linda@indaarnold.org For information on her books, go to www.lindaaarnold.org or Amazon.com.