let's talk about our stuff and where to keep it. i've briefly mentioned storage in a couple of other posts, but it definitely deserves it's own heading.
closets, storage lockers, sheds etc.
i managed to make it most of the year without paying a cent for storage, i'm lucky to have understanding friends and family to lend up some space. free storage is good storage, as long as you can trust whoever is storing it for you. if you can find a space where you are allowed to apply your own lock and key, even better.
if you have a friend with a garage, you may be able to keep some rubbermaid totes stored there, and possibly get a key to the garage for easy access. totes are tough, cheap, and tidy. even extra space in a friend's shed could hold your sleeping gear while you're working or wandering. some jobs may have lockers, or even sheds that you could use if you're boss is cool with it [and you're not trying to hide the fact that you're homeless]. ask friends and family if you can use a hall closet or extra space in their storage closet.. some apartments have access to storage units elsewhere in the building, you could offer someone to pitch on storage or pay/trade to use theirs.
finding a place to lock is rarely free, but storage can be found for cheap. depending on how much space you need, you can find small lockers that are only 3x5 feet, or large ones that can fit an entire house worth of things. assuming that you have as little stuff as i, the smaller lockers are sufficient. i like the smallish 5x7 lockers, you can fit the equivalent of a small couch, a bicycle, and totes of gear with enough room to access it.
the smallest lockers in my local u-haul are 5x7 for $50 a month, but i have found other non-chain self storage places with slightly smaller lockers for as cheap as $30 a month. the no-name monthly storage in my town has 24hour access included in the price, but for places like u-haul the smaller lockers have an additional fee per month for an extra key to get in the gate after hours. you will likely need an 'address' to get a storage locker, for how to have an address see my Jobs and Moneymaking post.
traveling and schools
most storage places are on weekly or monthly rates, but if you are on the move and have less stuff you can take advantage of public lockers. most bus and train stations have lockers with 24 hour access for a few bucks a day.
most colleges don't have assigned lockers. you choose one that's convenient for you, and you put your lock on it to claim it as yours. if you're young enough or at least look it, you could get away with using college lockers to keep backpack worthy loads in. of course you don't want to be seen carrying huge packs or loads of gear into a school, so this option is more for the streamline vagabonds that don't make it apparent that they live outside.
keeping stuff outside can be risky, but still possible. there's a chance that it will be found by people, or animals.. it's open to the elements of nature and any given weather.. and if you're not careful about where you store your stuff you could face a trespassing ticket.
one great idea that i borrowed from a friend is to bury a large cooler in the ground in the woods. this can be used to stash small gear, food and water for when you're camping out, if you have a somewhat permanent spot out there. dig a square hole big enough to set it in lid flush with the ground, cover with brush/leaves and a top with a rock to remember the spot and keep animals out.
some people in the city use things like shopping carts to carry around their stuff. i do have a small wheeled cart myself, but i couldn't imagine dragging it around everywhere. for the longest time i kept it stored in a friend's garage until i needed something from it.. the problem with using carts is where to keep them. there's a young man downtown that has two large overflowing shopping carts full. the police hassle him often, constantly making him move his carts. he was posted up behind a small church for a couple weeks, but i've lost track of him again.
speaking of stuff...
if you're about to be homeless for the first time, you may find it a good opportunity to go through all of your possessions and decide what of your things are 'needs'. it may be hard to let go of things, like your favourite love seat or a bookshelf you built in shop class, but once you try to find a place to keep it all, you will find your priorities change quickly.
in 2008, i had an apartment with my brother. i had all new furniture, a king-size pillow top water bed, a perfectly good couch that had been in my family for decades.. basically, a whole bunch of stuff. i made a decision that i was finished working hard long days just to pay for a place to keep all this stuff, so i sold it, gave it away, and took off on an epic backpacking journey across the country.
sometimes i miss some of that stuff, sometimes i think it's silly that i got rid of it all. but at the end of the day, it's just stuff. easy come, easy go. every time i settle i find what i need, usually for cheap or for free, and i pass it along when i'm finished with it.
i have just recently taken up residence with a friend for the winter. i pulled all of my things out of storage from a few different places so that i could go through it yet again.. to see what i have that i can make use of, and things i didn't miss that i could get rid of. i found clothes that haven't seen the light of day in a few years, good stuff i forgot i had. i kept the bulk of my things that didn't get everyday use in a storage closet that i could access weekly, and kept the most used gear in a different place closer by where it would be used, ex. tent and sleeping gear, a weeks worth of clothing, my laptop, a few books and and a couple changes of footwear.
often you will find that less is more. keep only what you need, and things you feel your heart cannot do without. as time passes, some things may become easier to let go of, and the value of others may grow significantly. things are just things.. keepsakes are nice to have, there's still a few that i carry. just remember, the essence of the person or place you are keeping it for live forever in your heart, no matter what things you carry.