What’s in store for all that extra stuff?

#547 in a series of true experiences in real estate
February 2008, Hills Newspapers

Do you know that the Oakland phone book contains 31 pages of storage facility ads? That’s a lot. I’ve been calling some of them for my daughter Annie, looking for a place nearby so she can do a storage-to-storage transfer.

Annie moved to the Sacramento area a year ago for a job and rented an apartment, but after a few months she found it too expensive to live alone. She moved in with a friend to share rent and put her furnishings into a storage facility. She can drive up to her locker, she can go anytime of the day or night; it’s secure and well lighted.

The size is about 7 feet x 10 feet, plenty big enough with her couch stood on end, and the cost is $66 per month, about the same as a cell phone. A cell phone, of course, is mandatory equipment these days. I’ve been giving some thought to whether a storage box for possessions is too.

My son Nick also rents a storage space for his household belongings. Both kids still store childhood books and other keepsakes at my house but I’m storing so many of my own things in my large basement that I can’t also keep furniture they’ve acquired for their own places.

Nick’s storage is more expensive – $105 a month. It’s in Oakland, is the same size as Annie’s but is not as conveniently accessible. Through a gate, down a path, up a freight elevator to the third floor.

A job transfer to Mill Valley has brought Annie back to this area but she hasn’t found where she’ll live long term. It seemed like a good idea to move stored items closer but phone calls to some of the many facilities available were discouraging. Storage is expensive, most spaces cannot be driven up to, and many are located in outlying areas.

Nick is in the process of moving in with friends in Walnut Creek and hopefully, will be vacating his storage space, but he says, there is already a couch where he’s going so maybe he’ll sell his, he won’t need his microwave, etc.

Is this storage facility thing fairly new? It seems like I’ve seen storage-only buildings along freeway access roads for only a few years now, and I wonder what people did for storage before that? Maybe, rented a garage. Which I think used to go for about $50 a month, but I guess those days are over.

Once we had a client, a seller, whose house was very full. Not much furniture, not even a couch, but she and her husband, who had gone ahead to take a new job out of state, owned books and papers. Huge amounts of both. The wife wanted to follow her husband, wanted to get her house on the market, but she felt she must go through the papers and save the relevant and prized. Ditto, the books.

She hired a young neighbor with young legs to gather up boxes from among the upstairs stacks and bring them downstairs. She began to look at individual papers but she could not decide which were worth keeping and which were not, and so, she rented a storage space and moved, mostly loose, papers into it. When it was full, she rented another, and another, and another. This went on over about a year’s time.

I think she ended up with 6 or 7 storage units, probably each 7 by 10 feet. We sold the house and then, during the escrow period, she told us it was her plan to bring everything back to the house where there was now so much empty space to do her sorting there. We said not enough time, house all clean now, need to leave it that way.

That was a bunch of years ago. I wonder how many of her storage units are still full? Has she ever visited them? Had a need for anything they contain? What amount of money has it cost her to store these things? What could their value be, to her or to someone else?

On the other hand, our most favorite estate sale person, ever cheerful and competent, Sharon Hoyle, rushes to say to families clearing out closets, basements and attics, “Don’t throw away anything before I get there!” This is because Sharon knows from experience that one man’s discard is another man’s treasure, and if she’s going to be holding a sale, it’s astonishing what she’ll be able to sell.

But Sharon’s clients aren’t renting storage spaces, the cost of which adds up in a big hurry. Just 6 months cost for my kids meager belongings is $1000. What are they storing that might be worth that?

Maybe I should get rid of whatever I’m storing in my own house to make room for whatever they are storing for another day. Of course I’d have to go through it all, and make decisions, and throw or give it away, or list it on craigslist and answer phone calls and show it to prospective buyers, and, you know, I can’t stand the thought of it.

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