How can I go through a storage locker remotely?
October 21, 2019 4:08 AM   Subscribe

Someone in my immediate family passed away in the US. I live in Europe and can’t travel now. I am the only “heir”. This individual has the storage units which are relatively expensive to keep. I have no idea what’s in them, likely furniture and junk, but you never know. Maybe there are some photo albums, jewelry or personal affects that are emotionally or financially valuable.

I fear that if I auction them off I’ll miss out on that stuff, or some auctioneer will just pocket something valuable.

Is there a solution to this puzzle, short of going down there myself? Can someone go through the locker while FaceTiming me? Or is that crazy?

It seems wasteful to keep the lockers rented until I come next year because the cost of renting them likely is greater than the value of what’s inside.
posted by mateuslee to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
> Is there a solution to this puzzle, short of going down there myself? Can someone go through the locker while FaceTiming me? Or is that crazy?

This isn't crazy. I'm in China and this is what I'd do. I'd ask the closest good friend to do this.
posted by wooh at 4:18 AM on October 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

Someone going through the locker while FaceTiming you sounds like a great solution, not a crazy one.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:19 AM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

I bet there's a service that does this.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:05 AM on October 21, 2019

Rather than FaceTiming, you might consider having someone do a photo inventory. You’d need to pay someone to do this, but then you wouldn’t have to make decisions on the fly using low-resolution live video.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:17 AM on October 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

You should call a reputable real estate agent in the area. They won’t be the right person to tell you your options, but they will know someone who has experience in this.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:18 AM on October 21, 2019

The Wrong Kind of Cheese is the mefite to confirm this, but I suspect a professional organizer would be another good option for your situation.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:28 AM on October 21, 2019 [9 favorites]

Or, post it to mefi jobs!
posted by mightshould at 6:12 AM on October 21, 2019 [9 favorites]

seconding a professional organizer
posted by wowenthusiast at 6:33 AM on October 21, 2019

Sorry if this is a dumb question, but are you the executor of the estate? Someone has to go through whatever procedure exists in the decedent's state (which may be very abbreviated if they were poor) before you can start disposing of belongings. The estate should be paying for the lockers in the meantime. You may not even be able to get access to the lockers without going through this, although if you have access to the key, the level of vigilance varies.
posted by praemunire at 8:01 AM on October 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

As a professional organizer, I know many of my colleagues who do this and would provide you with detailed guidance to accomplish your various related goals with confidence. (Hey, ocherdraco, thanks for the heads up!)

You can hire a professional organizer to inventory (and, if applicable, organize) the contents of the storage units, provide you with suggestions regarding what to donate, what to keep, where to get items appraised (if applicable) and more. Yes, you could do the whole process while Facetiming or Skyping, but it may be to your advantage to have an online meeting, have the organizer (and/or her team) work for a set number of hours and then meet with you by video conferencing again. (Lather, rinse, repeat.)

Your professional organizer will likely give you an inventory rundown and then tell you what items require particular action (appraisal, cleaning, etc.). Your organizer may, for example, give you an inventory and say:

"These things in storage unit #1 (see spreadsheet #1, with photos) were stored previously without protection or temperature control and have mold, or infestation (or whatever), and I advise destruction/trash/recycling."

"X in storage unit #2 are itemized as 1, 2, 3, yadda, and would have negligible value for collectors, consignment, or typical buyers. I encourage you to donate them." (They might arrange pickup or do the dropoff for you; they should arrange transfer of the donation receipt to you.)

"Y items in storage unit #3 should be appraised. I recommend Appraiser A or C. Q items in storage unit #3 can probably be cleaned and then taken to consignment. I recommend venues like such-and-such."

In each case, an experienced professional organizer should be able to guide you through the process, help you responsibly reduce the number of kept items, point you in the right direction for other professional guidance, and allow you to have fewer storage units, or even one smaller one.

If I knew more about the location of these storage units, I could help you narrow your options among NAPO colleagues in the appropriate location(s). Feel free to MeMail me.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 4:59 PM on October 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

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