Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, February 20, 1998

Packing the keepers

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Storage is handy for clearing out the stuff you can't bear to
part with but don't want to look at every day. A typical storage
locker at E-Z Access, above, is filled with typical "stuff."

What’s in store for those
who can’t toss out a thing?

By Burl Burlingame

YOUR first visit to a storage facility can be daunting. The Storage Room, for example, a typical large storage facility, has more than 4,000 lockers, ranging in size from a few cubic feet to 40 feet long, the size of a Matson storage container.

Lockers are stacked three and four levels high, and the higher you go, the harder it is do get things in and out. But the higher ones are cheaper for the same reason.

There's a bewildering number of sizes and options available for the consumer, and it's difficult to make generalizations. But all consumers should know a few things before walking in:

Shop around. There are nearly 40 self-service storage companies listed in the yellow pages, and many have more than one location. While the base rents are similar, every company has promotional packages that can save you 25 to 50 percent on your rent. No storage place we talked to was full-up, although A-American is right up there with more than 90 percent occupancy. This means there's some competition for customers.

Prices per cubic foot are roughly the same -- averaging about 33 to 45 cents a "cube" in Hawaii, much the same as and the rest of the country.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Jonas, with wife Diane, reshuffle
equipment out of a storage locker.

We asked seven of the larger storage facilities for an average rate for a locker about 200 to 220 cubic feet in size, floor level, with current discounts in place. The Storage Room was $76.60 a month, A-American was $47.50, Hy-Pac was $60, E-Z Access was $75, Mini-Pac was $48, Public Storage was $89, and Space Place was $69, for an average of $66 a month -- exactly 33 cents a cubic foot for renting 200 cubic feet.

All are not created equal. Public Storage's was the highest rate above, but all Public Storage lockers are climate-controlled and have individual alarms. Others may be simple plywood boxes.

There are multiple discount deals and promotions to consider. Some places offer free pick-up and delivery, or can rent U-Haul vehicles on the spot. Others offer package discounts for long-term contracts (at least three months); others are simply helpful.

"One of the things people like about A-American is that we help them lift and carry stuff," said Jack Peterson, customer service representative for A-American Self Storage. "It's as simple as that."

The three deciding factors will generally be location, operating hours, and ease of access.

"Location is a major factor," said Jon Grondolski, manager of The Storage Room in Kakaako. "Is it convenient? Can you go there during work hours? Can you park your vehicle there? These things matter."

Are they secure? Most storage places feature lockers made of plywood or steel, and they're grouped beneath emergency fire sprinklers. They're regularly gassed for insects, and are guarded 24 hours a day, but otherwise, your goods are on their own. The lockers can get hot; they can get dusty, they can get musty. It's just like your garage.

Most places ask you to provide your own lock, and preset combinations can be forgotten and keys can be lost. Locks that can be set to an easily remembered combination are available at any hardware store.

Some storage places offer a helpful service: "People forget their combinations or lose their keys, so we cut a lot of locks," said Steven Ito, operations manager at E-Z Access Storage Systems in Kakaako.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Shannon Koyanagi, Jonah Bishaw, and Justin Cravalho
unload their companies' decorating props. at The Storage Room.

Some places also have insurance available. Many homeowners insurance policies can cover items left in storage. But if it's really a valuable item, it might be better to store it in a safe-deposit box or home safe. While it's rare, storage warehouses can be destroyed like any other building in fire, flood or storm.

Other options. You can always add a wing to your house, or enclose the garage if you're a homeowner, but apartment dwellers don't have that option. If you need a lot of space, it might be cheaper to rent an empty office site, the way political campaign headquarters do every couple of years. "It can be as cheap at $1 a square foot, gross," said business Realtor Andy Friedlander. "But there are other issues that may be overwhelming. Security. Electri-city. Parking. Access."

Share. It might be cheaper to share a large locker with other renters, particularly family members. Just remember that the name on the rental agreement is the one legally responsible.

Organize. Once you've got it, organize your space. Think modularly. It's easier to get stuff in and out of lockers if it's broken down into smaller units. RubberMaid Action Packers and similar inexpensive plastic footlockers work well for subdividing your stuff.

Don't use garbage bags: They have traces of insecticide in the plastic and they're also designed to deteriorate. They'll fall apart on you after only a few months.

It's unlikely, but lockers on the ground floor might flood, so raise items off the floor an inch or so. Very likely, if your locker is on the top level, it's covered only by a screen mesh, so you might want to cover things with a tarp or sheet.

Be realistic. Is this temporary storage while your lifestyle is in flux, do you need to store things that you don't need very often, or do you simply have too much stuff? In the long run, the cost of storing basic household goods for years can cost more than replacing these goods.

Do It Electric!

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