Reader question: Should I sell my stuff in storage?

Reader Tonie wrote in with this question:

I’m living overseas and I have items in storage such as china plates, crystal glasses, and Charles Babb paintings (about 12 of them). Everything else I sold — all my furniture, my car — but I’m having a hard time getting rid of these items. It has been a year and a half and I’ll be here another year and a half. Should I just sell everything?

This is a great question Tonie. Our family had to make similar decisions when we moved from Canada to England for three years. It’s not always easy to decide what to keep and what to let go. Here are some things that helped us make our decisions.

The first step is to determine what is not worth keeping. (You obviously did that and decided to sell your furniture and car.) In our situation, our appliances were about six years old. After three years of storage, that meant nine-year-old appliances — almost at the age we would want to replace them anyway. At six years old, they could still fetch a pretty good price in the used appliance market so we let them go.

We decided to part with many children’s items as well. After three years abroad, we knew our children would be too old for many of their toys and games and definitely too big for their heavy winter clothes (essential for Canadian winters but not at all needed in England). Many items went to charity, others were sold.

Once you have eliminated the non-essentials, take a look at the items you’ve decided to keep and determine their value. Check auction website such as eBay to determine how much the item is worth used, — how much you could sell your items for right now. For antiques or artwork, you may wish to contact a dealer and get a quote. You should also determine replacement value — the amount it would cost to buy the item (or one very similar to it) brand-new if you needed it.

Next, calculate the cost of storage for the period of time you’re abroad. Remember to include insurance costs and any other incidental fees relating to storage.

If the cost of storage is more than the replacement value of your items, you may decide it is a better option to sell all of the goods. This means it would be less expensive to sell your goods now and buy new later, than to put them into storage.

It is very difficult to put a dollar amount on the sentimental value of an item but that too must be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, we at Unclutterer cannot do that for you. You’ll have to make that determination yourself.

So, back to your issue Tonie — you have about 18 months left before you return to your items in storage. Here are my suggestions:

  • If you honestly do not want the items, and you are coming back to visit family and friends anyway, then go ahead and sell the items during your visit home.
  • If you do not want the items and have not planned on coming back, but a trip back will cost less than the storage fees, then consider returning to sell the items.
  • If you are unsure but can afford the storage fees until your return, wait until you get back to liquidate the items you do not want.
  • If you are not coming back for a visit and cannot afford the storage fees, find a reputable liquidator, or friend/family member you can trust, to sell the items on your behalf.

The above suggestions are based on a financial perspective. Please take a few moments to listen to your heart and take the sentimental value into consideration when you are making your final decision.

Thanks for your great question Tonie. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.


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3 Comments for “Reader question: Should I sell my stuff in storage?”

  1. posted by laura ann on

    Storage (self storage) fees have gone up and keep going up recently, more self storage units being built. I ended up selling items as family members didn’t want them incl crystal bowls, old milk glass, other older stuff. Downsizing after retirement took much time. Much was donated or sold, including items passed down from late inlaws. I would not (like some I know) keep things in storage and keep paying to store. See if family members want them first.

  2. posted by angie on

    I would sell china and glasses. It is very easy to buy new pretty ones. But regarding the paintings, I would keep them or at least the most valuable/favorite ones. Each original painting is unique and hard to replace. I would either take them with me or give them as a loaner to friends or family or keep in a smaller storage unit. BTW, I did not find Charles Babb paintings online, but I did find Joel Babb.

  3. posted by magnoliachica on

    I would also ask what items she thinks about often that are currently in storage. Those are the items I would keep. If there are a lot of things that are in there but don’t come to mind frequently, perhaps it would be better to get rid of them.

    In the past, I’ve had things in storage, and it’s the things I think about the most – those dishes I had before we were married that are way better than the ones we got from our registry, the stuffed animals that I cherished that I think my kids would like – are the ones I was happy to rescue from storage and keep. I was willing to make room for them in my life, or I had a purpose for them.

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