The Cost of Storage

There was a really interesting show on BBC 2 last week.

Business Boomers – Real Storage Wars

The second documentary in the Business Boomers series discovers why Britain came to have the biggest self-storage industry in Europe, when just three decades ago the industry didn’t even exist in this country.”  (source:

(digressing slightly, the first episode in this 4-part series was fascinating also, and it looks as though the rest of the series is going to be good)

But, despite the title, this post isn’t about the monetary cost of self storage.

Storing stuff can cost us in so many more ways than just £ or $ (or whatever currency you use).

There can be a physical and psychological cost to storage – when what is being stored is clutter.

Storing clutter costs us time, effort and energy. It costs both physical and mental energy.

How do we define clutter? This is what I mean by clutter.

In simplistic terms clutter is anything that is not “useful, beautiful or seriously sentimental” (to quote The Perfect Housewife once again).

So, if storage costs us – why do we do it?

There are many reasons, but I’d suggest my top 3 reasons would be:

1. Sentimentality

2. Aspirational

3. Frugality

Let’s talk sentimentality first…

Personally I struggle with sentimental attachment to inanimate objects. In particular paper items.

I’m aware of this and have made major progress in not only decluttering items that would fall into this category, but also (and very importantly) not acquiring them in the first place.

Take for example these two items purchased on my honeymoon in 2002.


One is useful (keeps wine cool), in my eyes beautiful, and truly sentimental.

One is not useful, quite unattractive and not really sentimental. In fact the jury is out on where, on honeymoon, it was actually purchased.

Can you guess which is being decluttered? I’m wondering how it took up shelf space for 12 years. So, it was purchased on our honeymoon, but does that really justify it staying in our home when, in all seriousness, I don’t like it.

The unattractive (reminiscent of extra-terrestrial) kissing couple costs space in our home. It costs time and effort to keep it dust-free. It costs mental energy – every time I look at it, I wonder why it hasn’t yet been donated to the local charity shop.

Aspirational – keeping things because of someday

There’s always the temptation to keep things for future use. For me, aspirational (what I will do one-day) clutter tends to be project clutter.

There are so many potential creations to be made. I easily become cluttered with items and bits and pieces that I will never, realistically, upcycle.

When it comes to the Kids, there are accessible toys that were bought and not played with. Nagging at the back of my mind is the possibility, that remote chance, that they will play with them someday.

This wooden castle took 4 hours to construct one Christmas Eve, and has been played with the grand sum of 2 hours in total in 3 years.


Not an easy toy to store. Re-assembling the castle, as and when, isn’t really an option.

This castle makes me feel disappointed. Disappointed that the play opportunities have been missed. Disappointed that I thought I knew what my children would play with, and evidentally got it wrong. I have declutters indecision. Or rather I had declutters indecision.

(This is what declutters indecision is to me)

It is no more. It has gone to another home where, just maybe, it will be played with as it should be.

And this is where we return to the subject of cost.

The castle is a substantial toy. It cost a substantial amount of money, in relation to how much it was used. I’d estimate £40 per hour of play.

But, the cost of storing it is even more substantial. It takes up space that could be used more productively. It takes effort to keep the dust from collecting on the turrets.

Most significantly, it costs mental energy just looking at it. I’m reminded, daily, that it shouldn’t have been purchased.

It could stay where it is, costing space, effort and mental energy – because it’s hard to admit it was a bad decision. But that won’t solve anything.

Moving onto frugality…

Things cost money. Is it not prudent to keep items that have cost us hard-earned cash?

No. Not always.

Storing everything, for future use, can be exhausting. To cut your losses can be the sensible option.

If the item isn’t going to be used within 6 months (or in seasonal circumstances – such as Christmas – 12 months) then maybe it should be moved on elsewhere?

Hand on heart, so far this year I have had one incidence when I have ‘decluttered ‘something, only to find I could have recycled/upcycled it successfully.


How much in monetary terms did it cost me?

£2.50 for 30 paper bags.

That won’t be costing me any sleepless nights.

It was one of many items that I decluttered in one purge. All the other items, of which there were many, cannot even be recalled. I can’t remember what they were. They no longer cost physical or mental space.

What I do remember is that I got the feel good factor. Without a doubt the feel good factor from decluttering is worth £2.50.

Do you agree? Disagree? Do you store or declutter? What’s the true cost of storage to you?


  1. That programme was interesting, and made me realise that we actually own quite little compared to lots of families. I’ve been doing quite a bit of decluttering over the school holidays. I got rid of a Polly Pocket storage bench that was taking up a lot of room in the girls’ bedroom, and the dolls that were in it have gone in a box under the bed instead. We got it free from freecycle in the first place, and it has now been donated to another delighted parent whose daughter is into Polly Pocket. That’s its third home, I wonder if it will have any more?!

  2. Yet another brilliant post, Jo!

    You know a lot more about marketing than I do. But as far as I know, marketing sells us an image of what we want to become by having a the product. Getting rid of stuff would be a whole lot easier if we did’t have to also get rid of all our aspirations and idealistic hopes. Admitting that having a tennis racket will never make me play tennis or keping clothes from my 20s will never make me young and size 6 again, can be hard.

  3. When I got back from France last September I put a lot of items in storage as part of my big clear out / declutter. I confidently told the guy at the storage place I’d only need the unit until Christmas. I still have it. I’ve made an effort this past month or so and have sold on a lot of items on Ebay and Gumtree and I’m hoping to have it all cleared before I go back to France in June. One big tip for decluttering has to be: out of sight, out of mind doesn’t help you to get rid of your old junk! I think the monetary value of the items I’ve been storing is less than the unit has ended up costing me – I might have been financially better off just throwing my junk out (although the thought of it ending up in land fill isn’t appealing to me).

  4. This was a very timely post for me. Clutter is something I have been thinking about lately, and I need to sit down and tackle several areas of my home in the next few months. I’ve never given much thought to the fact that clutter costs ‘mental energy’ but it does. I am putting some decluttering time on my calendar right now!

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