We say we've sold everything to move aboard, but the reality is that we've kept some sentimental items or things that we might use on land trips. Where should we store it?

Where To Store Our Non-Boat Stuff?

Ever since we decided to sell the house and live on the boat full-time, we’ve been kicking around what seems like a pretty simple question: where should we store the stuff that we’re keeping, but not putting on the boat?

There’s all our scrapbooks and travel memorabilia, a few sentimental items that have been handed down in our families but wouldn’t do well on the boat, our camping gear and some cold weather clothing. Most of our “stuff” we’ve either gotten rid of or given to kids or family . . . much when we went cruising in 2002, and still more as we moved out of our house two weeks ago.

When we went cruising before, we left our stuff in a self-storage unit in the central Illinois town where we’d been living. It was a nice storage facility, they were willing to bill our credit card monthly (and send an email if the card expired to ask us for the new card info) and the rates were certainly good.

The problem, we discovered, is that the storage unit wasn’t near where we typically came when we returned to the US and wanted things in it. While we thought of the area as “home,” the reality was that we visited family on trips back to the US. And they were all 700 to 1,000 miles away.

So this time around, we decided to think about the issue of where.

Here’s our basic situation:

  • Our boat is in Florida and we’re planning to base ourselves there, possibly with trips to the Bahamas. We still have our SUV.
  • We are definitely thinking about doing some month-long camping trips in the heart of hurricane season. We love being on the boat, but we also love visiting National Parks and so on.
  • And we have no idea where we might end up if/when we ever stop cruising. We don’t like to think about it, but medical issues can arise at any age, but particularly as we get older . . . and we’re 55 and 77.

We temporarily stored stuff in a facility near our former house while we were readying the house for sale. But do we want to leave it all there? Based on our past experience, we said no.

Our initial thought was that we’d pile everything we were keeping into a trailer and take it to Florida and store it there.

But then we started looking into storage in Florida. Reading various online articles and blogs plus talking to friends there convinced us that if we store anything in Florida, we need to put it in climate-controlled storage so that our “stuff” isn’t ruined by humidity, mold and mildew. Climate-controlled (air conditioned to about 80 degrees in Florida) storage costs considerably more than non-climate-controlled.

We also learned that if we aren’t storing a huge quantity, getting an inside unit (off a hallway, not with a rollup door fronting the driveway) is best so that there is less chance of water intrusion in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane.

Storage in Florida in general is more expensive than in a small farm town in central Illinois (no surprise there!). And in Illinois, climate controlled storage wouldn’t be necessary: all we’d have to do is put pallets on the floor to avoid any dampness from condensation on the concrete floor.

Then I looked at the cost of renting a trailer to take everything to Florida and got a rude surprise. Our small SUV wouldn’t tow anything but the smallest trailer. And the smallest trailer just wasn’t large enough. To take everything, we’d have to rent a truck and tow the SUV (or drive separately) — at about $1600 vs. $300 for a trailer.

So we re-thought our plan. Our camping gear and some winter clothes would easily fit into a small (5×5) climate-controlled storage unit in Florida . . . along with some things that we use only when the boat is hauled out, such as a pressure washer. This stuff, together with our suitcases, tools and other stuff we took off the boat with us when we expected to be gone for the whole summer, would also easily fit into a small trailer that we could tow.

We could leave all the stuff that we’d only want when we might move back ashorein a small storage unit in Illinois. Since we have no idea where we might ever settle on land again (if we ever do), it really doesn’t matter where we store it. Making one trip to Illinois from wherever in order to get it wouldn’t be that hard.

And the combined cost of a 5×10 (non-climate-controlled) unit in Illinois plus a 5×5 climate-controlled unit in Florida was less than a 5×10 climate-controlled unit in Florida. Add in the savings from the rental truck and the stress of driving a truck and towing the SUV over mountains and through Atlanta, and it was a no-brainer.

So, the stuff that we are likely to want to use while we are living aboard and cruising will be in southern Florida, and everything else will stay in Illinois. We think this will be much better than leaving everything in Illinois!

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  • Dawn Turek
    Posted at 27 June 2015 Reply

    Leave it where it is. It’s just an albatross around your neck anyway. The day you find yourself living on the boat with no house, no car and no storage unit, will be the most freeing day of your life.

    Leave it where it is. The first time you want your camping gear make the trip, go camping and store that group where your planted.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 27 June 2015 Reply

      To each their own. To me, our scrapbooks and travel momentos will never be an albatross. Nor will our camping gear, which gives us freedom to travel by land when we want to.

  • ChrisW
    Posted at 27 June 2015 Reply

    We ended up storing stuff in two places. The after cruising stuff stayed close to our departure point (Annapolis) and in three years we visited it once before recovering it for the move to Florida. The while cruising stuff, including the car, we moved wherever we spent hurricane season.

    Keep in mind climate controlled storage is not climate controlled when the power grid goes. Very, very few storage areas have back-up power. Restoration of power can take weeks and even months, especially in Florida. Everything we stored in Georgia or Florida was put in anti-humidity containers. Anything fibrous was stored with drying packets in the container.

    The one thing many people forget or ignore is insurance. The storage areas either have zero or charge ludicrous amounts for next to no coverage. Boat insurance will usually only cover personal stuff stored aboard or on a proximate dock, Car insurance will insure some stuff stored in the car. But basically, one needs a renters insurance policy to cover stuff in a storage unit. Insure over the replacement cost and pay for the mold rider if you can get one.

  • Cari
    Posted at 27 June 2015 Reply

    I was fortunate to have a generous sister and bro-in-law. They bought a used semi-trailer and added an air conditioner to it and parked it on their ranch in Florida. All my furniture, etc took half the trailer and they use the other half. Their ranch hand checks on it often to make sure air is on, no water leaks, whatever… I put a carport on the property that we store our vehicles in. It is theirs if we don’t need it. We also store a small boat on the property. No charge. The trailer is a good idea if you have somewhere to put it…not that much $ and can sell when/if no longer needed.

  • Mystic Knotwork
    Posted at 28 June 2015 Reply

    if it is important to you, is it important to others? family? friends? class mates? even museums? I actually have a museum lined up to take some of my sentimental pieces to display when we shove off…

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 28 June 2015 Reply

      Good idea, but I don’t think for this stuff. We’ve given a LOT to family and friends . . . this is the last bit that we don’t want to part with!

  • Candy Ann Williams
    Posted at 28 June 2015 Reply

    Hmmmmm! I hadn’t thought about museums…

  • Relinda Ted Broom
    Posted at 28 June 2015 Reply

    The other item is where are you going to keep your important papers? You could also look at the portable units that they truck across the country. But you are right about here in Florida.. It needs to be climate controlled. Try to get away from the coastline to get better deals. Make sure you check each one. We just found the same company 3.5 miles from each other at more than $40.difference. We are starting our reduce items to move aboard.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 28 June 2015 Reply

      Papers we’ve pretty much scanned and keep a copy on the computer, with an online backup (I use Microsoft OneDrive). But yes, we still have a small file cabinet in storage.

  • Lavinia Maggs
    Posted at 28 June 2015 Reply

    A word of caution before loading your “stuff” into a storage closet: it can become expensive! We had a all storage unit for 4 years and when we finally went to empty it, we could have bought all new “stuff” for what all those years cost us! I learned my lesson! We don’t have any storage unit and that is also freeing – one less cost for us. We are now cruising indefinitely – with no concerns about how soon we can get back to the “stuff”!!! Sentimentality and memories are in your head – not in your storage unit!

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 28 June 2015 Reply

      I worked in the storage industry and definitely saw that. We aren’t saving anything that we could buy again, with the exception of our camping gear that we expect to be using periodically.

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