My Escape from Hell


They lure you in to what looks like a safe harbor. It is clean and dry. You can stay as long as you like but when you go, just leave it like you found it, they tell you.

They know you wouldn’t be standing in front of them if you didn’t need the space, so they make you an offer you are too weak to refuse: the first month is free, or maybe just $1.00. They do this because they know how vulnerable you really are. They spotted that when you walked in the door.

“It’s just for a month or two,” you tell yourself. “I can get out of this easily.” So you agree. You hand over some money and then you begin your descent into that special ring of Hell from which only the very strongest can escape.

You rented a storage locker.

You start small, maybe just a 4×6 foot locker. It’s someplace to hold the kayaks–or your things from college–or the baby furniture. Perhaps your marriage just ended and you need someplace to keep your things until you can figure our how to start over.

Or maybe, like me, you are closing up your parents’ home and, after you and a friend spend weeks hauling things to the curb for the trash collectors, you are still left with a moving van full of furniture and other “stuff” that you are not ready to part with.

However it got there, once you pull down that metal door and lock it, you can turn your back on the problem for a while and just walk away. That part is easy. What’s difficult is going back to empty the locker. According to The Economist magazine, 1 in 10 American families rent space from one of the 50,000 storage facilities in this country.

It seems we have a difficult time parting with anything. So what do we do? We pay more over time to rent the locker than the contents are worth. How dumb is that?

While I am far from a minimalist, I am managing to deal with all the “stuff” in my life. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Once something is out of your home, it’s out of your life.
    That’s why we tend to keep things in storage for so long. On the other hand, if your home is crowded with furniture, you really won’t miss it once it’s gone. Sell it or toss it. Just don’t store it. There are second-hand stores for clothes and furniture. Charities can put the baby furniture to good use. Or just have a yard sale.
  2. Closing the family home.
    Assuming you have siblings who won’t battle over things, go through and pick out a few things that have special meaning to you. Take nothing more than can fit in your car. Then call in an auctioneer to hold an estate sale. It is much easier to move a check than it is to move all that old furniture.
  3. Clothes.
    Follow the “6 month rule”: If you haven’t worn something for 6 months, you probably don’t need it. I put everything into bags and donate my clothes to a charity. If you keep a record of what you donate and get a signed receipt, you might be able to take a tax deduction. I’ve used software such as “It’s Deductible” and was surprised how much these donations are worth.
  4. Furniture.
    If you are keeping an end table because your mother gave it to you 20 years ago, don’t keep it if you don’t like it. After all, your mother managed to get rid of it, didn’t she?
  5. Books.
    Are you really going to read those old books from college? After a few years, the pages of paperbacks turn brown and brittle. I’ve donated hundreds of books to my local library. They hold used book sales on Election Days as a fund-raiser. (I’ve almost bought one of my own books back more than once.)
  6. Tax returns, canceled checks, etc.
    It is recommended that you keep your tax records for 10 years. After that, what to do with those boxes of paper? Check to see if there is a commercial shredding company near you. There is one in my town that will shred your papers for free. (“Shred for free from 7 to 3” the sign says.)
  7. Televisions, computers, electronic equipment.
    Again, check with your local community. I discovered that my town has a free once-a-month recycling program for “anything with a plug.” I just drive up and they unload my car. How easy it that?
  8. Enjoy!
    Once you have extra room in your home from clearing things out and money in your pocket from quitting the storage locker habit, you can go shopping again. Or better yet, buy your own storage facility. It seems to be a growth industry.

2 thoughts on “My Escape from Hell

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