Special Report: Costly Clutter

Special Report: Costly Clutter
(WFIE)

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Do you seem to have a lot of stuff you don't use or need piling up in your house? You're not alone.

According to a Self Storage Association survey a few years ago, there are more self storage units in this country than there are McDonald's and Starbucks combined.

So why are there so many? And why do we seem so attached to our stuff?

14 News Anchor Dan Katz looked into it, and has more in his special report: Costly Clutter.

Do a search for self storage units in the Tri-State and look what pops up, they seem to be everywhere. It's safe to say there are tens of thousands of units in this area alone. In fact, the latest stats reveal nearly 1 in 10 Americans spend about $90 a month on self storage, all part of a $38 billion a year industry.

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A glimpse in one unit at Lighthouse Storage in Evansville will look pretty typical, and so are the items inside. Everything from furniture, to seasonal items, toys, crates and carpeting.

And customers have various reasons for storing their stuff.

"People need storage places, you're moving into a new house move it into different locations a lot of them lotta people we are lotta customers they're going to assisted living in a place to store their belongings we can take them with them," explained David Bosma, owner of Lighthouse Storage.

Bosma runs the place and will be happy to store just about anything in this facility along North Green River Road. He says customers demand, safe, easy access 24/7, climate control and a good security system.

Just down the road on Morgan Avenue, Storage Keep Self Storage owner Jeff Willis has a similar, and expanding business started by his dad almost 25 years ago.

Willis says the self storage business turned into a good investment when the recession and housing crisis hit about 10-years ago and home owners were forced to downsize. And they're sensitive to every customers' situation.

"We always try to be polite and considerate of what people are going through, so moving is always stressful," Willis says. "So we're always nice to people wonder when they come in and there's ready-made reasons for moving job transfer getting married plus more pleasant ones."

"It's wonderful, it was so great to have a place to put her things, when we have fallen on hard times," recalled Henderson resident, Kassye Mae Evans.

Evans says self storage was a Godsend for their family when her mother in law lost her house during the 2008 recession.

"Once we had one, it was really nice and the closing nice to have this stuff someplace where we could go have access whenever we need to and it was very, very convenient for me and my brother and my mother," Evans explained.

But eventually they realized it was just stuff.

"As a long-term solution it was just a money pit for us it was just a place to store things we were never going to use again," says Evans.

Local school teacher Grover Towler has taken self storage to his own back yard. But at one time, after moving into a smaller house, he had stuff in three units and was paying about $230 a month.

So how did he finally clear the clutter?

"Well my wife and I have decided if we really wanted to downsize we're going to have to be pretty ruthless," Towler explains. "Cut the sentiment chords a little bit and we still held onto some things we feel like our important but we just didn't wanna hold onto things forever if there really are valuable why are we hiding them away from view?"

Easier said than done these days, and with storage units not going anywhere soon, there's plenty of options and spaces to keep your stuff out of site out of mind, and out of the unit anytime.

"You, as a month-to-month contract, so you went to this month move out by next month that's fine if you're here for him, customers are here for 10 to 12 years we love those customers, but yes on a month-to-month contract you're free to leave anytime," says Willis.

Here's an important note: If renters can't pay, belongings in their self storage may be sold at auction after a period of time depending on state laws. But the local business owners we spoke with say they do their best to return things like family photos and other personal items to the customer.

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