This may not seem like an article about “gear”, but I really think it is an important part of this type of journey. I have written a lot about the emotional aspects of getting rid of my belongings, selling my house and all of that. This post is about the practical side of storing my items. In a way, my storage unit is part of my gear, as it is a necessary component of my ability to leave.
First, it is important to me to keep many of my possessions. While I have sold or given away over half of that which I used to own, I still have those items that give me the most joy or that I dread having to buy again or which I cannot replace due to their history or how they were created. The comfort of knowing I have what I need to set up shop, move into a home again, gives me solace and peace of mind. Don’t get me wrong, this has been gut wrenching and hard and painful and all, but this has been necessary. I just wish I would have given it more thought, or someone would have told me some things first.
You see, I have never in my life rented a storage unit. I have never culled the herd of my belongings. Hell, I never owned enough to do so! The last time anything close to this happened I was ending a 16 year relationship and it was more an exercise in splitting up the items, not paring them down. This whole process has been new.
Here we go…
First, I did not get the size unit I wanted. I had to settle and I did sort of guess at the size. I was not sure what I needed and I was not sure what I wanted to keep or how it would fit into the unit. I really cannot say if pairing down my stuff before renting the unit would have made a difference or not.
Tip #1 – Decide on the size if your unit. You can get the unit first and fill it as you prepare, or you can whittle down your belongings first and then get a unit based on what you have left. Side note – depending on where you live, and what time of year, you may not get much choice of units. College towns, tourist towns, places with transient populations or seasonal demands may leave you with little option. Plan accordingly so you DO get to choose.
Second, I arranged it wrong. I put away the things I needed the least first. That was my way to slowly and more methodically pack, sort, sell or donate my stuff. I did no want to be rushed and I did not want to bust my ass moving all at one time.
I should have put away the things I wanted most to keep first. That way, when got to the end, like now, I would not have to get rid of items out of necessity or impatience or exhaustion. I mean, I am letting go of my televisions, vacuums, waste baskets, all this stuff because I literally am out of room in my unit. These things are being donated out of necessity and I am out of time to sell them. I really do not have a choice now.
Tip #2 – Decide what you think you will really need. Need as in what is cheapest to replace, what is really worth the storage space. What items are truly irreplaceable? Then, pair it down again. I mean, a bathroom waste basket? Really?? When you have a television to store? Expensive items to replace, or harder items to replace, may be worth keeping, while easy to find or inexpensive items may be easier to let go. Side Note – be sure and leave room for the things you will use all the way until the end, like vacuum, broom and mop, cleaning supplies, toilet bowl brushes. No matter where you live, you will have to clean it before you actually go.
Next, make contact with a donation site. Do they pick up? Will you need to schedule a time? Can you just drop off what is left? Will they turn away certain items? Whatever is left in my house that I will not use to clean is being donated. It does not matter if I want to keep it or not, as I am out of room. Seriously, out of room!
Tip #3 – Make contact with your charity of choice so that you know how and when and what you can donate.
Next, leave room for the items you want to access. Perhaps that is extra clothes you can trade out during your time away, maybe a suitcase for later travel. Whatever you think you are going to need must be in front and easy to get to. I could not get to some of my extra clothes if I wanted to. I have some on hand, but the rest are packed so far back in my unit I will have no idea they are there. I had planned NOT to take all of my street or camp clothes. I have extra of nearly everything. I figured during my time on the road, some items may wear or break or I may get tired of, and I can trade them out and not buy new. Like shopping in at my own store. However, this may not be possible due to space.
Tip #4 – Really think about what you need to take and if you really need to store any extra. I mean, even folks on the road land somewhere for a while or visit a city big enough to have stores. Are these items, wether they be clothes or gear or supplies, really worth storing? Perhaps buying them as you go or as needed may be a better approach.
I also packed in a way that used my soft items as packing material. I used my clothes, towels, blankets, bedding and such as cushion for things like pictures, vase, bakeware, more breakable items are nestled along with these items. That seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I have no idea where all my clothes are! Reference back to Tip #3 and I cannot get access to my clothes to even make decisions about my clothes because they are spread all over with other things. Well, that and I am sure they are packed so far back in the unit that the light of day shall not shine for months.
I packed my unit thinking I would unpack it in a reverse process. So, what I used the most went in last so that what I will need the most will be first to be unloaded. Nope, not really. Because I got caught with my pants down, so to speak, I ran out of room and kept finding random items I did not think about. You know, things I was still using or needed like the vacuum cleaner or broom, toilet bowl brush, rug or tea pot. That really is not the first thing I will need when I set up house again. But, that is the first thing in my unit as that is what I put in last. Poor planning on my part.
Tip #5 – Keep those things you will want access to at the front. Leave yourself room in the unit to do so! You will not need a vacuum cleaner while on the road, so that item can go in back. You may need your jacket or coat or sweater, so that item should be in front and accessible.
Tip #6 – I suggest keeping all clothes together and keeping them easily accessible. The clothes can be used, traded out from your current supply, or even donated if you find that they are not worth storing. They key part of this suggestion is that you will have options.
Please know that these are tips solely based on my experience. I have not read any other articles that even talk about the practical aspects of managing your belongings or supplies. Hell, I have never had a storage unit before! This is my first in a lot of ways. However, it is articles like this that I wanted, nay needed, to learn from as I embarked on this journey.
In the end, there is nothing I have done that cannot be undone. No item I have let go that cannot be replaced. Even my heirlooms are just things, though the memory and symbolism cannot be replicated. I know from experience that when I am on the road, none of this will matter. The rake that is sticking out of the garbage can that is carefully stuffed full of yard tools that is shoved into the last available space in my unit will be a distant memory. The items I have packed away will be long forgotten as I move about the country, meeting new people, sharing new experiences, growing as a person.
My last and final tip – always keep a perspective. Always. What matters in the end is not what I have shoved in my storage unit. What matters in the end are the folks who helped me put it there.