clutter

A simples guide

I can't believe it's all clutter

Can’t bear to throw it away? Join the club. The UK stores more clutter than the rest of Europe. We take a look at the expensive world of storage.

The battered old teddy bear. The crayoned drawings from childhood. Your badminton trophy.

Yes – stuff. We can’t live without it, and increasingly we can’t live with it, either.

But if you can’t bear to part with your past, you’re not alone.

Recent research from comparethemarket.com reveals that five in ten women and four in ten men say they hold on to stuff for sentimental reasons.

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Britain

Is bijou beautiful?

The past is another country where the houses were bigger, because the truth is our homes are shrinking. According to the Royal Institute of British Architects the average three bedroom new build is actually 43 square feet too small for our needs. We’ve lost roughly 100 square feet from our houses since 2003. Still want to cling on to Bert the Bear? No way. Some houses being built now don’t come with enough storage for your vacuum cleaner. And those glorified cupboards, the attic and the garage?  History. Little wonder we’re increasingly shifting our stuff to join 37.6 million square foot of self-storage units on the outskirts of towns and cities. 

bijou

A nation of horders

Remember Mary Poppins’ bag? The nation has got as much stuff and more tucked away in our houses. According to a recent survey by comparethemarket.com, 40% of us are still holding onto things from our childhood. What’s more, we can claim to be bigger hoarders than the whole of Europe combined:  according to a recent report, you’ll find that the UK has on average 0.58 square foot of storage space per person, whereas Europe (excluding the UK) has only 0.10 square feet per person. That’s more than five times the storage per head than our European neighbours. And who’s the most cluttered in all the land? Londoners. They account for more than three times the UK average storage floor space, followed closely by the South East with almost double the UK average.

Dunroamin

Dunroamin?

But it’s not all nostalgia. We’re a nation of movers and shakers, with 2.9 million of us upping sticks in 2014 according to government statistics. And whether we’re down-sizing, trading up, pairing up or breaking up, it all requires moving around vast quantities of stuff - from white goods to old school spelling certificates. No wonder we need to put large chunks of it in storage. 

Home alone

Imagine a world where you could have the remote control entirely to yourself. An increasing number of us can, thanks to an extra 10% of people living alone in the last ten years, according to census statistics.

But while you may be king or queen of all that you survey, it’s still more likely you’ll live in a flat than a castle. And people in flats still need to wash, eat and sleep, so they need room for washing machines, fridges and double beds. But your old ski suits, grandma’s soup spoons and that exercise bike/indoor washing line? That’s right. Stick it in storage.

Stash that cash

Oops! You moved house, put some of the overspill into storage and three years later it’s still there. It’s a common and expensive story. Storage isn’t cheap. As a nation we spent £440 million on storage last year.  Suddenly holding onto that Ikea chest of drawers (and spare/unidentifiable screws) ‘just in case’ doesn’t seem like such a great money-saving option.

stash the cash

Lock-up-and-leave

This all goes some way to explain the increase in self-storage, but surely we stored stuff before these out-of-town units existed? We did! Until recently storage was part of the removals business, and most removal firms still own their own warehouses. Your possessions are put in containers (usually wooden boxes the size of a garden shed), and fork-lifted on top of each other to sit, quietly, until you need them again. Not all storage is equal though. Opt for ‘deep storage’ and you’ll need to pre-book - and pay - if you want to view your things.

The other way is self-storage. This more flexible option was imported from the US about 20 years ago and transformed storage as we know it. Here the customer – that’s you - does the heavy lifting, arranging their possessions in individual units in purpose-built warehouses, usually close to where they live. Units vary in size (from 25 sq ft) and price (from about £30 a month). You’re also given a key (or code) to the door, so you can be reunited with your stuff whenever you wish. 

safe place

Find your safe place

Wherever you decide to store your stuff, it’s a good idea to think about how to protect it. Insurance is critical. If you choose to use self-storage, many firms insist you take out their insurance (which is often expensive). Check your existing home contents policy as you may already have suitable cover for your items away from the home. But not all policies will offer this as standard.

Compare home insurance

If you keep your clutter at home, then it will be covered by your home contents insurance, but make sure it’s up to date and includes any new, high value possessions. Remember to use the comparethemarket.com home insurance comparison service when it’s time to renew, to make sure you have enough cover  for your clutter at the right price.