Americans have a hard time letting go of their stuff. About one in 10 households rents a self-storage facility according to the latest survey by the Self Storage Association. In 1995, just one in 17 households rented a unit.

Stuffed inside many of those units are everything from used textbooks and clothes that no longer fit to couches and wall hangings that may one day be useful again. 

The problem, though, is that self-storage facilities can be costly. The average national monthly cost of a climate-controlled rental space is expected to reach $1.63 per square foot this year, according to Marcus & Millichap, an investment real estate company that tracks the self-storage industry. That means you could spend nearly $2,000 in one year for the most popular 10’ x 10’ unit. In higher cost areas a typical price for that space rises to $2,500 (in Los Angeles) to more than $3,700 (in New York City). 

So why do people pay the hefty fees? “It’s typically all about procrastination,” says Ann Gambrell, a founder of the National Association of Professional Organizers, who runs decluttering workshops and clutter support groups. “People end up spending money because they can’t make a decision.”

To be sure, there are some good reasons to use a self-storage facility. For example, storage could be necessary if you’re moving from one home to another but the new home isn’t yet vacant. While such temporary needs are easy to understand, more than half of self-storage renters keep a unit for a year or more, according to the Self Storage Association.

“The only time it makes sense to use self storage long-term is if you are using it to access stuff you actually use,” says Donna Smallin Kuper, author of How to Declutter and Make Money Now and blogger at For example, even at $300 or more a month, a New York City storage unit can be more cost-effective than paying for a bigger apartment.

Cutting the Cost

If you are committed to keeping a storage unit, there are ways to cut costs. One option: Skip paying more for extra insurance or protection offered by storage facilities. Insurance agent Paul Martin, at, which connects consumers with independent agents, says most homeowner and renter policies provide insurance for “Off Premises” property. The standard coverage is 10 percent of the personal property limit on your policy so if your policy offers you $100,000 in personal property coverage, your Off Premises limit would be $10,000.

“If you are storing valuables above that 10 percent limit, you really should talk to your agent about whether it makes sense to get a separate policy,” says Martin. And before you turn down any offers at the storage facility confirm your homeowner/renter policy coverage.

There are other ways to cut the costs. Global decluttering and organizing guru Marie Kondo says if an item doesn’t spark joy get rid of it. If that’s not enough motivation, step into your storage unit, overstuffed garage or attic, or groaning closets and challenge yourself with these questions:

Would you buy it today? If you’re no longer using clothes that are out of style, or furniture you swapped out when you remodeled your home, why save them?

Is it easily replaceable? Smallin Kuper has a 20/20 rule. “If you have a used possession that you could repurchase for $20 or less or borrow it from a neighbor in 20 minutes or less, toss it,” she says.

Will one suffice? Collectibles and family keepsakes have their place, but Gambrell challenges her clients to focus on one truly memorable item. “How many of your grandmother’s wooden spoons do you need to keep? One spoon will keep the connection to the times you watched her cook,” she says.

Make More by Keeping Less

One household’s purge is another’s great deal. Thanks to Craigslist and eBay (or just an old fashioned yard sale) that you can earn money when you declutter. When Smallin Kuper and her husband downsized from a 3,500-square-foot home a few years ago to a 300-square foot RV she made more than $25,000 selling what wouldn’t fit in the RV and was able to file a claim for $10,000 in charitable donations.

You can also turn to an app to get rid of stuff. Close5 and letgo for example connect buyers and sellers who are in close proximity. Website bills itself as the largest online clothing consignment and thrift shop store. 

If you’re still not convinced that it’s better to get rid of unnecessary things rather than store them, consider this. If you ditched the unit and put the money in a Roth IRA earning an annualized 5 percent, it would be worth more than $11,000 in five years, assuming you’re paying the national average of $163 a month for a 10 x 10 unit.  Even if you never invested a penny more from that point forward, you would have $30,000 saved up in 20 more years.