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I was driving to meet a friend for lunch this week, and within a 10-mile stretch, I saw three new self-storage facilities. I was shocked and amused that Americans have become so attached to their stuff they’re paying rent to store it. A few years ago it was hard to find a place to store household belongings while in transition or over a college summer break. Now it seems there’s a self-storage building on almost every corner.

I did some research and found there are five times more self-storage units than there are Starbucks!

Ten years ago 15 percent of self-storage customers said they were storing items they no longer need or want. Today one out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage, and 50 percent say it’s for things that won’t fit in their homes or garages. They’re paying over $87/month to store “stuff!”

According to Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, there is 7.3 square feet of self-storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation, making it possible for every American to stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self-storage roofing.

I’ve been inspired by Donna O’Klock and her quest to pare down her belongings as she prepared for life in an RV. I can imagine the freedom it brings to keep only the essentials and give the rest away to someone who needs it more. So… I tackled my own closet. Last week I filled four boxes of home décor items I took to a local thrift shop. It never crossed my mind to get a storage unit. I just wanted to feel the lightness de-cluttering brings. This winter, when it is cooler, I will tackle the attic. One of my daughters has requested I clean it out before I die.

When I look at the excess in my home, I think of those who have far less than I do, and it gives me joy to “pare down with purpose.”

As I take items of clothing from my closet, I say prayers for the women who will wear them. As I pack up unused household goods, I ask God to bless those whose homes have been washed away in a flood or ravaged by a hurricane.

Think of all the people in this country who are homeless or living in poverty. Instead of storing stuff, why don’t we give it away? Just think of what $87/month–multiplied by the millions of Americans paying for storage–could do to support at-risk women or abused children.

Today I vow to lighten up, and hope my hubby will join me as I unload what’s not been used in a year. That will take a miracle.




  • Judy October 14, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Thank you for this lovely post, Susan. I couldn’t agree with you more. Since my husband and I retired 10 months ago, we’ve been tackling a cabinet, drawer or closet – one at a time so as not to become too overwhelmed — and decluttering and reorganizing, and giving away everything that no longer has a purpose with us. It is a wonderful feeling to lighten up and to share with others. We travel a good deal and are always inspired (and a little embarrassed by Americans’ consumption of everything) by how simply, minimal, and happy other countries live. We’re trying to follow suit.

  • Susan Tolles October 20, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Judy, I love your approach, one cabinet or drawer at a time. Some of our decluttering projects are quite large, and it’s hard to even get started! I think I’ll start with my own desk, one drawer at a time, then move to the kitchen. Just this week, I spent an hour cleaning a file drawer in my office, and tossed documents that were 10 years old! I made a commitment to myself to do a better job at purging more often.

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