Don't Store Junk

by Mary E. Stephens
Feb. 2020

Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 

In 2010 things that were put into storage units stayed there on average for 15 months. If the owner was paying $200 a month on that storage, that's $3,000 dollars. [Source] I looked up recent costs for storage units (2019) and saw prices ranging from $40 to $300 per month, depending on the size and whether or not there was climate control. I suspect that in some areas the costs might be higher depending upon supply and demand.

This makes sense for people who are moving and have to leave one house before they move into the next one. It also might make sense for some high value items such as art, collectibles with known value (not guessed value), and furniture that would cost appreciably more to replace than the cost of storage. A person running a home business or who is self-employed and doesn't have room at their residence to store their merchandise or tools and materials may also find this type of storage cost-effective.


The idea of paying to store our extra junk because we're it's too "precious" to part with is, frankly, ridiculous! There are people who have fully furnished houses that are paying to store furniture they are unlikely to ever use again. There are people paying to store old papers that they have never bothered to sort through to discard the unnecessary ones. People are paying to store household items -- decor, toys, clothing, and more -- just because they can't stand to pass it on to someone who could use it, or to send it to the landfill or recycling if it's rubbish.

Some things may have sentimental value attached to them and so some people feel they can't let go of them. But here's the thing, your grandmother's worn out mattress and box springs is not a sensible memento to keep to "remember her by." Even if you don't have any other small mementos, it's much too large and space invading to keep for sentimental purposes. Outdated pieces of furniture that you'll never use and ugly decor that will only sit packed away in boxed are poor reminders of your departed loved ones. It's a waste of space, and paying money to store such things is wasteful.

If the people who were storing stuff for no good reason got rid of the worthless stuff and saved that money instead of paying a storage company, think of what they could do with the money in a couple years. They could take a trip that created new and good memories with their living family or friends. If we're talking about memento items that a loved one left behind, chances are, if their deceased relative knew about it, they would be glad they did that instead of paying to store silly stuff. But...even if those people would be offended at them unburdening their lives of the useless junk, it doesn't really matter, does it? Because they're dead and they won't know about it. Just sayin'...

Listen up: feeling "guilted" into paying to keep stuff by the lingering influence of deceased relatives is really a horrible way to live, and honestly that isn't a good memory. We should let it go. We also should remind ourselves that those items are not our memories. Our memories are in us. Some items might bring back memories, but not all memories are good, and there is a limit to the number of items we need to keep "to remember him/her by." That thing is not a part of that person. If you have to, take a photo, but don't feel like you need to pay out money to keep mementoes.

Even those of us who don't pay actual money out to store mementos or other possessions sometimes pay to store things with space, time and effort, usage, mental anguish, and wastefulness. What do I mean? Only this - If we have an attic, garage, basement or storage shed full of similar things, even though we may not be handing out our cash monthly to pay for it, we are still paying. 

We pay in space wasted that could be put to better use, or be empty and ready for more important things. We pay in giving space in our minds, lives, and living areas to things that are not important and don't matter. Yes, the junk you have to deal with does take up space inside your head. You have to think about it at some point or another, which is the same as taking space in your head.


We pay in time and effort if we have to move or if we need that space for something and, seeing that it's full of junk, we have to find another place for the really important thing. We pay in time and effort when moth and rust corrupt it and we have to throw it away or when we move it out from under the leaking roof. (Yup, been there, done that, threw away the "t-shirt.")

We pay in usage if our vehicle or lawn mower is parked outside where it is exposed to the weather instead of being inside a garage or shed.

We pay in mental anguish because all those things will at some point or another cause us annoyance or frustration. And, that rust and moth, mold and leaking roof business can be a real mental anguish as well!

We pay in wastefulness because sometimes we don't know that we already have something, or we don't know where to find it, so we simply buy another one. When we go buy a new item it's like we're storing "our" needed stuff at the store, so speak. If we're going to do that there is no point in storing duplicates in our garage, attic, basement, etc.! Sometimes we also get discouraged by the "lack of storage space" and end up buying another storage shed to hold the important things - because the other spaces are full of junk. Wasteful, I'm telling you. But, such an easy "solution" in some cases that it's not hard to fall into.

Wastefulness can happen with food supplies when we have more than we can use in a reasonable timeframe, or we're storing stuff in quantity that we only use minimally. This means that things will spoil, lose their taste, or lose their potency before we can use them. If you need to keep a stocked pantry for whatever reason, make sure you are moving through things in a timely manner and then replacing only what you have used with what is necessary. Only things that have been processed properly and carefully are truly good for long term storage. (I say this as a person who inherited various spices and canned goods when my parents downsized. Some of those things were so old that they were discolored and I'm convinced the taste was compromised - they certainly had unimpressive smells. Some of the home canned goods were actually 20+ years old and still sealed. Nothing is special enough to store that long. Eat it up while it's fresh! Enjoy!)

It seems to me that unless we actively resist the accumulation of excess stuff in our Western culture, it often finds its way into our lives whether we like it or not. So, it's important to be aware and to take action. Learn to say, "No!" or "No, thank you." Striving to buy less is obvious in some ways, to say "no" to gifts and items foisted on us by others is often harder. Free stuff is easier to justify in many ways. But, "free" doesn't automatically mean "worthy" or "good stuff." And, neither does "cheap," by the way. Just because it is an "amazing deal" does not mean we should buy it. Just because it looks useful for something doesn't mean we should buy or accept it. If we don't have a specific plan to put it to good use or someone to give it to immediately, we probably don't need it. I've been learning that. Yes, sometimes its ourselves we have to say "no" to.

We can also get stuck with other people's left-behinds, which can inundate us if we have "free storage" space like a garage or empty building on our property. My husband and I have a dysfunctional garage (broken door) full of stuff that needs to be sorted and much of it disposed of, but a lot of it isn't even our stuff. It belongs to family members, was left by my grandparents or didn't fit in my parents' smaller house. I know. It feels like a task that is hard to ever get done. I get it. But, sometimes you have to face the fact that you've been too accepting of other people's "need" for storage and deal with the situation. If they say they don't want it or refuse to make a decision and basically leave you to decide, don't hesitate to do what needs to be done to clear the stuff out. If you want to give options, send some photos and say, "What do you want from this pile? Come get it or send postage for us to mail it. Otherwise it's going away." Or you could notify them that you are going to start charging them a monthly rate to store in your space. <grin> I know that's a touchy issue with family or friends, but again, being "guilted" into storing other people's junk isn't a good use of our space - mental, emotional, or physical. I'm talking to myself here as much as anyone!

And another thing, just because something was a gift or heirloom does not mean you have to keep it. It is fine to pass it quickly on, sell it or to even toss it. I know it is hard in some situations. I get that. But, we really don't need to keep things just because it was an expensive gift or "Grandma Fussbudget might be offended if she doesn't see me using it." That may seem harsh, but from my middle age perspective it just isn't worth the struggle to feel "guilted" into keeping, wearing, and using things that we really don't want or like. If you must, wear it once when you're with the person sometime and then pass it on. If it's something they won't know if you used or not, pass it on to someone who will or donate it sooner rather than "later." I can think of one gift that I need to pass on even as I'm sitting here writing! It's so easy to fall prey to "guilty" possessions! Mental anguish, again.

So, whether we are paying in actual cash spent, or "just" in our valuable time, space, and mental capacity, let's not be paying to store junk - stuff we don't use, will never use, don't like, didn't want, don't care about, or that is actually useless. It isn't a burden we need to carry. Put it down.

Now I need to go get rid of some things!

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 


Graphics and photos by Mary Stephens.
Vintage artwork: Unknown.
2020-C.A., edited June 2020