My Journey Through Storage

October 21, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Nanook and Sage on their first day on the road. In September 2015, I hit the road full time—just me with my two huskies and two cats. To do that, I needed to downsize my possessions, my things, my stuff. That included selling my home and a lot of stuff I had as a result of Aeric's (my partner of 15 years) and my Dad's unexpected deaths in 2012 and 2013, respectively. But it was tough for a variety of reasons to downsize those items. So I focused on what I could — sofas, plants, the overabundance of sheets and towels I had, the lawnmower I wouldn't need while in an RV. The memories and emotions were still pretty raw, even three years later, to delve into the other items in the basement that were boxed up in the months following their deaths. 

So I neatly packed away all of those memories and the items I thought I would need once I came off the road, whenever that would be. I put them into storage with the intention of buying a house in Fort Collins, Colo., after my travels where I would need sofas, tv stands, and the sheets I kept. I thought I had downsized a lot but looking back I realized I didn't. A lot also happened in those 15 months on the road: My RV and Jeep at the first destination of the RV journey, the Mt. Evans Scenic Highway.
- the cost of the median home along Colorado's Front Range increased by about 73% since I bought my last house in 2013, and my income dropped by about 40% when I came off the road in 2016 (compared to my salary before Aeric and my Dad died)
- I unexpectedly met someone on the road
- I still wasn't ready to go through those boxes of memories
- I fell in love with seeing the U.S.

My first storage unit on the day I moved everything into storage in 2015. I came off the road in December 2016, and moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Loveland, Colo. since I could no longer afford a home in Fort Collins. Thankfully the apartment included a garage so I could start pulling some of those items out of storage. But it didn't even make a dent.

By 2017, Richard, whom I met on the road, and I were living together in that one-bedroom apartment. We now had his things in Colorado too. We wanted to figure out where we wanted to settle down (Fort Collins wasn't an option for him) so we kept the storage unit. 

Richard and I with our RV. By the summer of 2018, I was ready to start looking for a place to buy. That increase in housing costs, however, kept me to looking at much smaller homes than I previously owned. When I moved to Colorado in 2002, I easily bought a three-bedroom house with a two-car garage and a yard. By 2019, I could afford a one, maybe two-bedroom condo or townhome. It was pretty sad but in reality I didn't want to own a large home requiring a lot of maintenance and upkeep. I was happy to keep things simple because Richard and I still wanted to travel. The loss of Aeric and my Dad also reinforced the fact that you don't take your things with you; they just wind up being left behind.

But I still had all of that stuff to deal with, and when we moved out of the apartment to live in the RV so we could save up some money for the down payment, we needed more space. Yup, we got a second storage unit. 

In November 2018, I bought a one-bedroom condo—no garage, only one closet and less square footage than any home I had previously owned—in Estes Park, Colo. It is a wonderful town to live in with Rocky Mountain National Park and herds of elk right at our doorstep.
Looks like I sorted through a few more things and made a few more piles of what went where: some to Goodwill, some set aside for the yard sale and some to the other storage unit.
This past summer I set
a goal for myself to be out of one of those storage units by October 1, 2019.  Although I didn't quite make that date, I did accomplish the goal with one minute to spare on the last day of the date I gave the storage complex before their gate was locked for the evening. Richard was a huge help in pushing me along but in reality I had to tackle on my own a lot of demons, relive a lot of memories—good and bad— and determine what to do with a lot of the items. 

Those items included plastic cups from spring breaks and frat parties collected during my college years. I found a lot of toys from my childhood: the only Barbie doll I kept, plastic horse figures, a Rubix cube, a Slinky, an Einstein electronic memory game. And then there were the family heirlooms: an antique secretary, a steamer trunk, a spinning wheel that was missing a leg, my Uncle's leather jacket (the same one he died in a few years before I was born), and my Dad's collection of military items. And Aeric's things: his yearbooks, artwork from when he was a child, his collection of Simpsons figures and games, and the scooter helmet I bought him for his last Christmas. And an unbelievable abundance of boxes and bins full of ideas for articles, places to photograph, and media outlets for submitting my photography. Aeric on his last hike.

I am not a hoarder. I actually hate clutter. That was one of the reasons the storage units worked. You put your possessions in boxes, stuff them in a drafty storage unit and forget about them, except for the monthly rent reminder. The storage units also allowed me to avoid dealing with the memories. 

So for the last three months I have been spending several days every week going through every single box, looking at every single paper, and reminiscing about lots of great memories. And I came to the conclusion that I will always have those memories, at least as long as my brain is willing to store them. There really is no need to pay rent to keep items that were boxed up in 2012 and have not seen the light of day since then. Aeric and I didn't have children so there is no one for passing down our memories. But the memories continue to be there. Lots of great memories with my Dad and Aeric. Lots of places we explored. New places I experienced. Wonderful memories from holidays.  The storage unit in 2019 as I started sorting through things.

So if you are in a similar situation with storage units, remember that the money really can be put to much better use. If you are contemplating putting items in storage because of downsizing, traveling full time in an RV or because you lost a loved one and want to keep their possessions, think twice. More than likely you will find you don't need the items and will have the difficult task of finding a way to dispose of, sell or distribute the items later down the road. I gave away my china; no one wants china dishes anymore because we no longer entertain like we used to. I sold a couple of antique items for probably way less than they were worth. And I held a yard sale in a family member's yard because I am now in a condo with no yard. It wasn't easy and a lot of it could have been prevented by not hanging onto the past. The past makes us who we are but we don't need the things to have the memories. My Dad reading a book to my sister and I around Christmas time (probably 1979).

This is not meant to be a whiny post about how tough life is. I feel very relieved to be free of some of these things. And although I was exhausted at the end of each day after going through all of the memories, it felt comforting to know I had people in my life with whom I created wonderful memories. I hope my journey through storage, can help others in the future as they contemplate what they should keep, what they should buy, and how they should handle keeping the memories alive of lost loved ones while moving forward on the path of making new memories with the living.

Now for the next big project: to finish the book about the RV adventure. 


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