If you live in a majorly cramped city, you know that space is definitely at a premium. Dreams of moving into a bigger, more airy space might pop into your head when all the crap you’ve shoved into your only closet falls out for the millionth time. But if more space is what you’re looking for, there is actually a stupidly simple way to solve this problem on the cheap: Rent a storage unit.
Though you might think a storage unit is a waste of money, hear us out: When you look at the cost of renting a storage space, it’s almost always less expensive per square foot than upgrading to a larger living space. Take New York City, for example, where residential space averages out to $4.98 per square foot. Storage space in that area, on the other hand, is only $1.58 per square foot.
So if you’re looking for more cabinet space for your slow cooker (which you only use in the colder months, anyways), or a bigger closet to store your winter clothes and luggage, or just want to declutter without having to actually say goodbye to all of your tchotchkes, it might make more sense to strip down what you keep in your home and keep everything else at a nearby storage unit. There might even be one within walking distance you can dip into when you need it.
“If you have a futon mattress, a desk chair, and 10 boxes to store because these items aren’t needed in your apartment, you can look at it this way: To rent a larger living space with a den to house these things, you’d be spending upwards of an additional $4,700 rent a year in New York City,” says Amory Wooden, vice president of brand at MakeSpace, an in-demand storage company. Wooden notes that traditional self-storage would be about $2,900 a year, while on-demand storage like her company offers would be about $1,300 a year.
While paying extra to store things doesn’t always make sense in areas where residential space isn’t as expensive—sometimes maintaining the storage unit costs more than the items it holds—the equation definitely favors renting additional space in cities where your expensive, small apartment doesn’t even have enough space for your essentials year-round.
“If you look at the cost of storage as part of your housing payment, then you really don’t need to worry about how long you are storing,” says Christine Walsh, marketing coordinator at SpareFoot, an online resource for finding and reserving storage. It’s very likely that you’ll save a lot of money by renting a storage unit, paring down what you store in your apartment, and staying put, compared to what you would spend to upgrade to a bigger space in terms of monthly net rent and moving costs. In some extreme cases, too, if money is tight and you’re looking save on rent, it might make sense to move into a smaller apartment and supplement with a storage unit, says Al Harris, an editor with SpareFoot.
However, of course, if you’re going to fill the storage unit with things you haven’t used in five years, it’s not worth the money or hassle—take the time and sell or donate the items instead. Need help getting started? Here are 20 things in your kitchen you can purge right now.