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The Storage Unit – Blessing and Curse

By Mary Holmes

As I have discussed on a number of occasions, downsizing is never easy. There are typically many decisions to be made at a very stressful time in a person’s life. For example, when a senior is transitioning from their life long home to a retirement community – they must decide the right time to move, the right place to move to, what to take with them, how to disperse of their remaining possessions, how to get packed up, and how to accomplish all of the above when they are feeling overwhelmed by the physical and emotional demands of their move.

As they work their way through this process, one of the solutions a senior may entertain is to rent a storage unit (or multiple units) so they can make some of those decisions later and alleviate some of the stress they are feeling. They will feel it is only for a short period of time, a couple of months, until they get settled into their new home and can think more clearly. On the surface, this makes complete sense; unfortunately, the reality is that most seniors end up having the storage units for a much longer period of time and this can become quite costly over time. For example, I am working with a senior right now that has three climate-controlled storage units in Portland, ME at a cost of $200/month each – making the cost for one year about $7,000. The hope, of course, is that they will be able to sell the contents of the storage units to cover this cost and still make a profit. Again, unfortunately, this is not the reality in most cases.

The new reality is that the market for most household items is extremely soft right now. There are several reasons for this phenomenon. First, the baby boomers are in full downsizing mode and there are a lot of them!! They are flooding the market with everything from art and collectibles, antiques, and other high quality, well made furniture. On the flip side, these types of items are not as sought after as they once were. Antiques, large dark wood furniture, china, crystal, and many other collectibles are all victims of a soft resale market. Here are two articles that explain this further: Article 1 and Article 2. This is causing a huge supply and low demand – which obviously will drive prices down. Additionally, many people choose to donate these items to a charity, e.g. Goodwill. In general, these organizations price there items quite low – which reduces market prices further.

It is very heartbreaking to explain to a senior that their beautiful, high quality cherished possessions are not as valuable as they had hoped. It is even more heartbreaking for me to see them spending thousands of dollars in storage fees that won’t be offset by the proceeds from any sales. It is definitely a difficult process to let go of so many memories and to accept the fact that most items have lost value since they were purchased. At some point after the move is complete, after the furnishings and collectibles have been offered to children and grandchildren (possibly unsuccessfully), after there has been an opportunity to determine what might actually be sought after in the current market – it may be time to put together a strategy to empty your storage unit and save the associate fees.

There are several ways to go about this depending on the situation. A few strategies we can

discuss with you are selling items on line, having a tag/estate sale if a venue is available, have an auctioneer/dealer buy the contents of the storage unit outright (depending on the content – they may only buy certain items), have an auctioneer bring the items to auction, or donate the majority of the items for a tax deduction. None of these is a perfect solution – but they all may “cut your losses” – which may be the best possible scenario. Please call us if you are in this situation and would like to discuss the options. Contact Us.

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