Inside: Learn how to clean out a storage unit so that you can stop paying for it! These decluttering tips will help you eliminate the junk you’ve been storing.

Did you know that 9.4% of U.S. households rent a storage unit? Even with the average square footage of homes increasing, it appears we are still running out of storage space.

This begs the question of why we are accumulating so much stuff and clearly are also having trouble letting it go.

There are a variety of reasons that people rent a storage unit, but often the intended purpose of it being temporary becomes much longer than anticipated.

The fees continue to add up, but it’s easier to keep paying and avoid dealing with the stuff. No one should continue to be burdened by their stuff though.

In this post we will look at:

  • why clean out a storage unit
  • how to declutter a storage unit
  • how to get rid of storage unit stuff you no longer want
how to clean out a storage unit

Why Clean Out a Storage Unit?

So why would you want to clean out your storage unit in the first place? These reasons may seem obvious, but can also be great motivators to finally clear your stuff out.

Cost

Storage facilities often offer an initial introductory rate that doesn’t seem so bad. However, the monthly fees for keeping a storage unit often increase.

Storage facility owners profit from the fact that cleaning out a storage unit takes work that a lot of people don’t want to do. They know that once your stuff is moved in there, it becomes easier to just leave it.

Add up the cost of the unit you’ve been renting. You might be surprised to see what you’re spending.

Average storage unit costs

On average, the cost to rent a storage unit is around $190 per month, but prices vary depending on size and location. A smaller unit, on average, costs around $90 per month, while a larger unit could set you back close to $300 per month.

Assuming you rent a small basic unit, you will be paying $1080 per year.

Prices vary by region so prices will be higher in some cities and regions and lower in others. Some storage facilities offer specialty temperature control for a higher cost.

Is the stuff that you are storing in it worth that to you? Often the price of keeping the things is more than the value of the items themselves.

Burden

The owners of storage facilities end up making a lot of money off of other people’s procrastination and desire to not part with their things.

The stuff that you are holding onto, even if not in your own home, creates a burden. You know you SHOULD deal with the stuff, but you put it off.

And it weighs on you as you see the bill each month and know that you really should be dealing with the items languishing there.

Purpose

What was the reason that you rented the storage unit in the first place? Often the initial reason for getting it passes over time and the reason it’s kept is to avoid sorting through the stuff.

It ends up being a very costly way to hold onto extra clutter.

Do you have a good reason for continuing to rent the unit? There are some special case scenarios where this would make sense. However, those are by far the minority.

Be honest with yourself about why you’re hanging onto the storage unit and the stuff in it.

What happens if you leave stuff in a storage unit?

Have you ever considered just leaving all of your stuff and not paying for the storage unit anymore? Doing so could mean your unit gets auctioned off.

Make sure to read the fine print in the contract you signed when getting your storage unit. That will let you know what happens should you abandon your unit.

You could find your stuff on the next episode of Storage Wars.

how to clean out a storage unit

Where to Start Before Cleaning Out a Storage Unit

Before you begin cleaning out a storage unit, consider the following things.

Determine your purpose for decluttering your storage

Are you hoping to completely empty your storage unit or do you just want to declutter and organize your stuff so that you can find it more easily? Are you planning on downsizing your storage?

Before you get to thinking about how to clean out your storage unit, you need to know why you’re cleaning it out and what your end goal is. In most cases, it’s best to completely let go of the storage unit if you are able to.

However, you don’t want everything you’ve been storing to end up in your home either if it’s stuff you don’t truly love and need (and it usually isn’t which is how it ends up in storage in the first place).

Why do I have an emotional attachment to stuff?

Decluttering can be an emotional process. Letting go of items you’ve been holding onto from your past can be challenging at times.

Often the problem is attaching too much meaning to stuff. People think that letting go of the items equates to letting go of the memories or moments that they represent.

But you don’t have to keep all of the things to remember special times or people. Remind yourself that people are not their stuff, so letting go of things that belonged to them doesn’t make their life or the time you spent with them any less meaningful.

If your storage unit is full of belongings of a loved one who has passed away, be gracious with yourself as you process through the feelings that come along with decluttering. Give yourself permission to let go of their stuff.

Be in the right mood to start decluttering

There are a variety of reasons that people tend to hold onto their stuff. Understanding why you’ve been keeping those items will help you to begin the decluttering process.

When you’re in the right mindset to let go, you can declutter more quickly and efficiently.

A storage unit is a great place to do some extreme decluttering. Get motivated to be ruthless in deciding what’s got to go.

What Do I Need to Start Decluttering My Storage Unit?

Ready to get started? Here are some tips on how to clean out a storage unit.

Take a mental inventory of the things you want to KEEP

Is there anything you’ve been storing here that is actually important to you? If so, make sure to make a list of the items you know you want to keep.

It also could be that there isn’t anything you know you want to hang onto and that’s fine too! Many people forget what they were storing in the unit in the first place.

Create a reasonable plan for cleaning your storage unit 

Determine when you will start working on cleaning out the storage unit. Keep in mind that often these projects take longer than we initially think.

Make sure you bring a large enough vehicle for removing trash and unwanted belongings.

Here is a list of the supplies you will want to have on hand and ready to go…

What supplies do I need to declutter my storage unit?

Bring the following supplies with you as you declutter your storage unit.

Garbage bags

Bring more garbage bags than you think you might need. Don’t bring kitchen trash bags. Bring heavy duty bag. Perhaps even contractor bags if you know you have a lot that needs to get tossed.

Boxes

You will also want to have boxes with you as you sort through items. Boxes will help you to keep all of your things organized.

Tape

Bring packaging tape to close up the boxes for transport or storage.

Scissors

Have scissors or a box cutter on hand for opening up the boxes that were already being stored.

Markers

Bring poster markers so that you can accurately label your boxes.

Gloves

If your storage unit has been neglected for a while, you may also want to bring gloves as you sort through the items in your unit.

Mask

Dust and dirt collect over time. Consider bringing a mask so that you aren’t inhaling all of that as you move items in the unit.

Labeling boxes and bags for decluttering storage

As you sort through the items in your storage unit, you will want to have boxes or bags so you can sort things into one of the following categories.

  1. Keep
  2. Donate
  3. Trash
  4. Sell (optional)
  5. Second Chance (optional)

The keep, donate, and trash categories are self explanatory. If you want to set aside items that you hope to sell, you can do that too. I’ll talk more later about where to sell your unwanted items.

The second chance box is also optional. If you are someone who has a really hard time making decisions and you really aren’t sure about some items, put them in the second chance box to revisit at a later date.

Typically three to six months should give you enough time to decide if those items are things you want to keep or let go of. Write on the box what your self imposed deadline is.

If you opt to have a second chance box, use it sparingly so that you aren’t putting off making a lot of decisions.

how to clean out a storage unit

How to Get Rid of Storage Unit Stuff

Need some extra encouragement for getting rid of your storage unit stuff? Here are some ideas to help!

Create your own rules

Consider creating your own rules prior to decluttering. It could be something like if you haven’t used it in the past year, let it go. Or if you can’t think of where you could comfortably keep this in your home, declutter it.

You get to decide how to clean out your storage unit. Make sure to create rules that work for you and then be consistent with them.

If you want more help in making decluttering decisions, check out this post on questions to ask when you declutter.

How to get rid of things with sentimental value

If you’re having trouble letting go of items with sentimental value, instead of focusing on what you’re getting rid of, think about what you want to keep.

Some people like taking pictures of sentimental items before letting them go (for other people that would feel like it created more clutter). There isn’t a right or a wrong with that. Just do what works for you.

Immediately decide who can be blessed by your stuff

When you are letting go of something that was sentimental, it helps to be able to give that item to someone who you know wants it and will use it.

If you don’t have friends or family members who want it, try posting it in your local Buy Nothing group. It feels great to give a once loved piece to someone who will be able to enjoy it in their home.

How to Downsize Your Storage Unit and Make Money

Selling the items that you no longer want from your storage unit is completely optional. There are things you want to consider before selling your stuff and you might decide it isn’t worth it.

However, if you do decide to put in the effort to make some money, you can use these tips to sell your stuff.

1. Advertise your storage clutter on Facebook marketplace

Facebook marketplace is a great way to sell items to people in your area. Consider also listing them on local buy and sell groups on Facebook.

When arranging plans to meet up, make sure it’s a situation you feel comfortable with. Meet in public places and bring someone with you.

2. Is it worth it to sell my stuff on eBay?

It depends. Are your collectibles truly collectibles? Check to see what similar items are selling for on eBay. People can list them at whatever price they want, but you want to see what they are actually being sold for.

Also, consider the additional effort of packing up the item and the cost of shipping it as you consider selling on eBay.

3. Sell high-end clothes and accessories from your storage unit on Poshmark

If you have designer clothes, shoes, or purses, Poshmark is a great option for reselling your things.

4. Make money on your vintage clothing at a consignment shop

If you have a local consignment shop that specializes in vintage clothing, that can also be a great option for selling old clothing that you no longer wear.

5. Get rid of large appliances or furniture from your storage unit on CraigsList

Yes, people still do use Craigslist. If you don’t want to post on Facebook marketplace, Craigslist is another option for listing furniture or your large appliances.

You can have buyers meet you at the storage unit for easier pick up.

6. Plan a yard sale with your decluttered items

Hosting a garage sale is another option for getting rid of unwanted items for your storage unit. They can be a great way to unload a lot of items in a weekend. Make a plan for where you’ll donate items that don’t get purchased.

how to clean out a storage unit

What Are the Best Charities to Donate to?

There are various options for responsibly donating your unwanted items. See what resources you have available in your area by asking local friends where they donate.

You may even find a place that will pick up your donated items from your home. Find an organization that you feel good about supporting.

For extra special items, consider gifting via your local Buy Nothing group. I did this with a few treasured items and I felt better being able to give them to someone who I knew would use and love it.

Do I Need to Hire a Professional Help to Declutter my Storage Unit?

You likely don’t need to hire a professional to help you clean out your storage unit. However, you may find it helpful to have a friend or family member there to support and encourage you in the process.

If you’ll feel unable to make progress, you could consider hiring a decluttering professional to help. Keep in mind though that no one can make all the decisions for you. You still have to decide what stays and what goes.

Should I hire a junk removal service to clean out my storage?

If you have many large items in storage that are in poor condition, you could call local junk removal companies to get an estimate on their services.

Hopefully your storage unit isn’t just full of garbage, but if it is, this option is worth looking into.

Getting Rid of a Storage Unit May Not be Easy, but It Is Worth It

While cleaning out a storage unit does take time and effort, it’s worth it for the money you’ll save and for the feeling you’ll have of no longer being burdened by that stuff.

Hopefully these tips on how to clean out a storage unit will help you to let go and to decide what to do with what you no longer want.

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5 Comments

  1. The one and only time we used a storage unit was when we sold our house, moved into an apartment and then into a vacation size trailer while we were building a house. As soon as the garage was lockable, we moved our stuff into the garage until we could move it into the house once it was complete. We had the storage unit for less than a year.

  2. I had one storage unit (not a/c) for seven years and had to throw everything away. Now second time I am downsizing and just not ready to get rid of some items or saving for kids. However, now I will use your plan and this year get the things out and save money each month. Thank you so much for getting me started in the right direction. Jo Ann

  3. Thank you for writing this article. You gave it a lot of thought while doing so. The reasons we initially think having a storage unit seems the right thing to do at that moment. Over time it becomes a burden both financially and emotionally. Personally if it weren’t for the emotional attachment to things of the past I would have no problem just donating it all. I am feeling encouraged to give myself permission to now let them go. In the process I thank each item for the way in which in it served me or my love ones Now I feel empowered each time I can gift to new person, family or organization to repurpose them . Beginning is the hardest and the ideas presented in this article are appreciated for the encouraging ways I can keep going and keep my focus on the end goal.

  4. After having to leave the area for a year and all my things being in storage I returned to find all my sticky traps.full of baby mice. So please use caution while cleaning out your storage. Mask and gloves reccomended.

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