Treasure Hunter or Pack Rat?

There is a fine line between treasure hunter and packrat.  And what trade is out there that grinds at this line more so than ours?  Probably not many.  “Compulsiverats hoarding” is defined as “a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that would seemingly qualify as useless or without value.”

Such a transformation can take place unbeknownst to the avid storage auction goer, so we are here to help keep you on track.  Any major enterprise, from running a Burger King to producing a film, takes a lot of premeditation, organization, and careful scrutiny along the way to account for unforeseen factors.  This is the key to survival, and storage auction hunting is not at all different.

The main message here is to avoid “putting off today what you can do tomorrow.” After a few of the following scenarios, your house will soon be a shrine of junk, you will not be making any income, and you will wonder what all the talk about doing this as a full time profession was all about….


Enter The Pack-Rat

You pull into the auction parking lot in a friend’s jeep, which is already cluttered with their McDonald’s bags and clothing.  You have a pocket full of cash that you have set aside from your office job and stride confidently to the pack huddled around the auctioneer.

Within a few hours of being outbid by the cold hearted veterans, you decide, arbitrarily, that you are going to take the next unit at all costs.  Luckily, when the metal door creaks up, you do see a record player in one corner and a few little boxes in another, hinting at the possibility of jewelry or some kind of small, rare collectable.  Nevermind the mattress that is blocking the rest of the contents, for now.

You bid.  Just like all throughout the day, someone goes over the top of you.  You bid again.  Someone outbids you.  You grow tired, and bid eighty percent of the cash you have in your pocket.  The crowd is silenced, just as you wanted, although some of them have odd smirks on their faces.  But it’s yours and that’s all that matters right now.

Since the auction is nearing a close, and you have what you want, why not just let the mob move on to the next unit and call it a day?  You throw the door back up and move the mattress.  A mixture of interesting goodies and a shroud of garbage are behind. You know you have twenty four hours to clean this beast out, so why not just gather it all up and sort it at home?  Entering inside, you begin scooping and dropping clothes, boxes, electronics, and garbage into the Jeep, paying very little attention to what relics you are stashing away with no sense of order into the space.

You pull away, destined for your garage to unload the stuff before going out to a Justin Beiber concert, proud of your first effortless score in an industry you know a monkey can be successful at.  You'll look into the E-Bay thing tomorrow when you wake up at noon...


In a video entitled “The Storage Unit Culture,” Glendon Cameron, a most notable storage auction advisor on, talks about a certain motley crew looking family crew of auction- goers whom he calls “The Clampits,” who had “houses” full of useless winnings, how they allowed the dark side in and let storage auction hunting change from a side business to the fuel for their own personal narrative of amazing scores, with the evidence to prove it.

If you are not conducting your sorting at the unit itself, you run the enormous risk of letting your own business overrun you and your personal sanctuary.  You don’t have to be a definitive hoarder to live like one, or slowly contract the disease.  The takeaway of this is not so much about external appearance as it is a philosophy of committing to organizations at all costs, because sorting trash from treasure with great prejudice is the backbone of this business.

Tips to Tighten Up Your Sorting

Your sorting process in a won unit should take a few hours.  Clean the Jeep out if you don’t feel like renting or buying a truck for every outing,  You’re going to need every square inch you can get, because you never know if you’ll be bidding on a 10x10 or some larger unit.  Also, you will probably end up carting out your own garbage.  Here’s a list of things to do and bring that will cut down on precious time which  you will need for the resale process.


Bring Garbage Bags and Boxes: Many facility owners do not allow auction winners to use their dumpster facilities to discard what they do not want.  Use garbage bags for the mountain of trash: papers, Tupperware, dirty rags, clothes that are not in mint condition, broken CD’s, and the like.

Fill boxes with things you are going to donate to Goodwill for a tax write off and out of the goodness of your heart.  There isn't only an altruistic angle to this.  Sorting with prejudice at the unit itself the things that will be more trouble and too little profit than their worth is a sign of a disciplined pro.  For example, books that are dated, not worth reading, or in bad condition should go to Goodwill.  Used bookstores will only take popular titles in good condition, and not for very much unfortunately.


Separately sort into the vehicle electronics and battery powered things that look usable but need to be tested.  These could be anything from a Playstation II to a power drill.  In your garage at home, you should have a testing center set up: a clean table with spare batteries, an extension cord, and maybe even a welding iron.  Guitar amps, for example, are often in fine condition but are not working because the input jack needs to be soldered There is no need to hang onto electronics, handheld games, or amps if they will not work.  At home, have a large bin to sort junk electronics into, destined for the dump.  Before lifting another finger, it is wise to trash everything that no longer has a place in your space.  Out of sight, out of mind.


Organize the Goods: In your garage, sort into categories the things you know are market worthy in the same way that E-Bay breaks things down: clothing/shoes/accessories, DVD’s and players, sporting goods, or if you’re lucky, maybe even “entertainment memorabilia” (signed records, etc).  Place them in labeled sealed bins or cover larger items tightly with a tarp.


At this point, you will be clutter free, question free as to working condition of things, and have kept only the elite contents of any given storage bin.  Now you can power them through the resale market, be it Craig’sList or a swap meet.  Also, now that you’ve spent some quality time with your belongings, you can even decide if you want to keep a few things.  As they say, “keep the best and trade the rest.”

Hoarding is an official medical disorder that can creep into an auction pickers life simply out of laziness, not because they were born with it like some unfortunate souls.  Of all of the purer reasons to go into this trade (being your own boss, having a hobby etc.) filling your kitchen and bathroom with uncontrollable amounts of junk is not one of them.  One has to keep a safe distance from the lore that they collect from the life of another because it can very easily begin to take on a life of its own.


David Gross, SUAL Content Writer










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