The lessons I learned putting my stuff in storage with a full-service storage company - Clutter (Costs & Review)

One of the things that often plagues tech startups that are "first-movers" is all the unknowns: the difference between what the business/leadership expects, what the customer expects, what the tech team builds (and how well it's working that day)... and the actual experience.

An image of a bunch of items in my closet, including clothes and boxes. To the right is the Clutter logo.

Updated MARCH 2023

Putting my stuff in storage with a full-service storage company is officially behind me and I learned a lot of lessons from the experience. Some lessons, I learned the hard way...

I have to start off by saying that the main thing that's been on my mind while writing this article, which is coming about 24-hours after the experience, is:

Damn, I didn't like giving away that much money just to store my possessions.

I have bigger plans for my money... and now I have to be more frugal because of the costs of storing my items for the next eight months.

How much does full-service storage cost?

As I write this, I still haven't entered the initial costs into my budget spreadsheet. I think I've been ignoring that task because I don't want to fully process it yet...

Let's process that numbers together?

  • Labor: $313.95 - 8.05 hours / 3 crew members
  • Appointment Charge: $395.60 - Discounted $49.40
  • Insurance: $15.00
  • Monthly Storage Cost: $368.00 - 10x20 Storage unit

Total: $1092.55 💔😭


My original budget for June was $500 less. I blame that totally incorrect number on my optimism, and the onboarding survey from the company I worked with: Clutter.

A note of transparency: The above link to Clutter's website is an affiliate link they have provided me. If you click that link and sign up for their service, Clutter will give you a discount of up to $100 and they will give me a referral bonus. It's intended to be a win-win-win situation for everybody. The affiliate link was added after this article was published and did not impact this review.

How does a tech-first storage company like Clutter work?

This post is not sponsored by Clutter, but here's how I would describe their service:

A tech-inspired (for good and bad) moving and storage company that has vertically aligned all the logistics of self storage, plus added "bonus" features, in order make storage and item retrieval "easier" (the jury is still out on that one).

The company is attempting to provide an "easy" new style of storage, by creating a new storage technology-meets-service business.

I put the word easy in quotes because it's not entirely easy. Different? Sure. Easy? Eh.

Clutter is in the same vein as other tech-first service companies: In the same way Netflix reimagined DVD delivery using the internet... Clutter is reimagining storage by vertically aligning all of the pieces that make up self-storage (the moving truck, the movers, the packing, and the warehousing).

The high costs of the service are most-likely related to the costs of the tech required for all of that alignment... which can't be cheap...

As a software engineer myself, it sounds like a fun exercise to outline a system diagram of Clutter's infrastructure... but I'll spare you all from that... for now ;)

Suffice to say, the complexity of the problems Clutter is solving dictates the costs. That complexity also creates tech-based issues... of which there definitely were.

The struggles and lessons of my storage appointment day

Patience was required on appointment day. There was a misalignment between my optimistic expectations, the company's optimistic sales funnel messaging, and the actual start-to-finish experience.

Here are some of the good and bad pieces of the whole experience:

BAD: The Cost

I originally ordered at 10x15 storage unit, but (after answering a digital form survey) Clutter suggested I downsize to a 10x10 unit instead. In the end... I'm actually paying for a 10x20. This is the piece of the experience that's the most frustrating because I might have made different decisions had I known the actual cost up front.

GOOD: The Moving Team

The moving team was made up of three great guys: friendly, communicative, helpful. I spent most of the day communicating with them, even working alongside them at the beginning.

As the type of person who's used to getting my hands a bit dirty, I decided to help out to save time... and (by extension) money. Since the workers had to follow certain processes, and abide by other compliance consideration, the team lead made it clear what I could and couldn't do. The crew was made up of unique personalities and I enjoyed chatting with each of them throughout the day.

BAD: The Technology

The tech slowed things down. First, it sent the workers to the alley behind my building instead of to the front door. Then, when they started taking pictures of the apartment in its initial state, they couldn't save the pictures because of a technical issue. There was also an issue where the tech wouldn't let them take more than one picture for a new item listing. All of the tech issues left me feeling a bit frustrated and I'm still not entirely sure if the issues they experienced ended up costing me extra money.

GOOD: The Technology

The tech did a great job of keeping me updated. There's clearly a lot of logistics that go into making a vertically-aligned service work, so the communication was nice... albeit a lot. First, they communicated clearly what I needed to do in advance. Then, on the day-of my appointment, they provided me with real-time text message updates (which is kind of a curse and a blessing of our modern world). Here is some of the things their text messages communicated:

  • I knew what time my storage truck left its starting destination
  • I knew what time the workers took their meal breaks
  • I knew the the logged cubic feet of each item/box that was being stored (most of which I agreed with, but some that were questionable)
  • I could see a photo of each item/box as it got packed and moved onto the truck
  • I knew what percentage of the 10x10 plan I was at... as well as when my items required me to pay for a larger unit
  • I knew when my items left my apartment
  • I knew when my items arrived at the storage facility

BAD: Lost Items

March 2023 Update - When I got back from my road trip, it had only been five months. I pulled all of my stuff out of storage early and had to pay out the rest of my agreement because I bought 8 months.

Moving my stuff out of storage was a really great experience...

...but not the unpacking.

I had driven all of my stuff in a moving van and unpacked over the next two weeks. One of the last things I unpacked was all of my kitchen stuff. I had enough of the basics already unpacked.

Eventually, when I got down to some of the last boxes, I noticed some items were missing.

GOOD: Having Insurance

March 2023 Update - Even though the company lost a collection of my items, I had taken pictures of my items a few months before and had paid for the lower-tier Clutter insurance plan.

Their online insurance tool and their service were great. They refunded me quickly for the lost items, which was under $200.

I have noticed a few more missing items over the last few months, but my insurance time has more than lapsed (they only give you around a week or so last I checked).

In summary...

One of the things that often plagues tech startups that are "first-movers" is all the unknowns: the difference between what the business/leadership expects, what the customer expects, what the tech team builds (and how well it's working that day)... and the actual experience.

Clutter is pricy and there were a few blips along the way, but their service definitely took out a lot of the stress, logistics and the guess work of self-storage:

  • I didn't have to enlist my friends to help me move my items...
  • I didn't have to find a moving truck and do all of the heavy lifting to fill it up...
  • I didn't have to find ways to pack all of my items and buy the supplies to do so properly in order to prevent damage...
  • I didn't have to rent a storage unit... or potentially find out that I got one that was too small for the number of things I own...

The service is definitely a luxury, and not the wisest money-conscious decision I've made recently. I am happy with the service they are providing me and will continue to pay their fees until my contract term expires. It will be a nice thing to remove from my monthly budget when I get the chance.

A photo of me lying in the grass wearing a black hat and sunglasses - Zion National Park
Zion National Park

Hi, I'm Tim Winfred. I'm a digital nomad on a six-month trip across the United States. I paid off $60,000 worth of debt in two years and am working towards financial independence. I am constantly working to optimize how I use my time and energy in order to afford a better lifestyle and spend time doing the things I love most. Thanks for joining me on this journey!

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