2013 Spring StorageMart ScholarSmarts Winners!!!

Congratulations to the five recipients of this award! Each of you will receive $1,000 in cash to apply to your education.


We are not accepting applications for the ScholarSmarts program at this time.

Read the Winning Essays.

Recipients were chosen on the basis of essays written answering the question “What link is there between a clutter-free workspace and increased productivity” or “How has self storage improved your lifestyle”.  The winning essays were chosen from a pool of nearly 400 submissions.

Self-Storage: A Sensible Solution for Students

by Tanya Riz Tan of Ryerson University (Toronto, Ontario)

As a full-time university student, self-storage has improved my lifestyle immensely by providing a convenient and economical alternative to storing some my belongings, creating a larger living space and maximizing my cost of living. Renting a self-storage unit monthly is a cost-effective alternative for students like myself who want to lower their cost of living by renting a smaller living space while also having the option of storing their belongings in a secure area.

Originally from British Columbia, I moved to Toronto, Ontario to pursue my undergraduate studies at Ryerson University. I wanted to find a living space downtown so that I could be in close proximity to my school. Since living in downtown Toronto is often costly (especially for a student!), I decided to share a small apartment with several roommates to lower my cost of living. However, with the amount of belongings I brought with me during my move, I quickly realized that I did not have enough storage space in my bedroom to accommodate everything that I had brought with me. As a solution to this, I decided to rent a small storage unit in Toronto to store my belongings that were less frequently used. For example, items such as luggage and unused appliances were kept in my storage unit. As well, seasonal items such as winter coats and sweaters were kept on hangers in wardrobe boxes, allowing me to easily switch these items during the spring and summer period for season-appropriate clothing and accessories. Instead of having to sell my seasonal clothes and shoes after the season was over, I could now leave them in my storage unit.

As a result, my lifestyle improved significantly since I no longer had to store unnecessary items in my bedroom and live in a cluttered environment. Instead of having a chaotic bedroom filled with items that I did not use on a daily basis, my bedroom now felt larger and more spacious. Self-storage has improved my lifestyle by lowering my cost of living, since instead of moving into a larger apartment with more storage space and a higher price tag; I was able to keep renting a single room that fit my student budget. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars more per month to rent a larger unit, I could continue renting a single bedroom plus a self-storage unit for a fraction of the cost. Self-storage proved not only to be convenient, but extremely economical and cost-efficient, especially on a tight student budget.

Also, during the summer months when I returned home to British Columbia for several months, the self-storage unit that I rented proved to be extremely convenient as I was able to store some of my personal belongings that I would not be bringing back with me. I was at ease knowing that my belongings would be kept safe and secure in a controlled environment. As a result, my bedroom could be used as a spare bedroom or a study for my roommates while I was away. In this way, self-storage has improved not only my own personal lifestyle, but has also proved beneficial in utilizing space for an entire household. In these ways, self-storage has proved to be immensely beneficial in improving the quality of my lifestyle as a student living away from home.

Renting a small self-storage unit is an extremely economical approach to supplement a small student living space. For any student looking for extra space for storing less frequently used items without having to increase their rent, self-storage is definitely a more cost-efficient approach to accommodating a student’s storage needs.

Storage Saves Lives

by Stephanie Fell of Okanagan College (West Kelowna, British Columbia)

ScholarSmarts winner Spring 2013 ScholarSmarts winner Spring 2013


How to keep a marriage and a storage unit at the same time

by Denis Bento of Athabasca University (Calgary, Alberta) 

Two weeks after getting married everything sounded perfect. We moved to a nice condo apartment in Calgary, nice neighborhood, close access to amenities, long story short story a nice place to start our lives together. As far as I can remember our home used to look gigantic until my wife remind herself that she had a few things in a storage unit. I didn’t care too much as a few furniture items would fit nicely in our home.

When we arrived to the storage unit place I felt like I would need acrobat lessons in order to jump over the boxes to grab her glasses and silverware left from her mom. Even though those glasses were very well wrapped in bubble wrap I felt that if I drop it I would be in serious trouble. After stretching myself around the boxes due to tightness I was able to reach the silverware. A feeling of relief came upon me as I was an elastic man.

Due to the excess of things we had to come back the next day to finish the job. I really didn’t think that a few things could mean many things. For some reason I didn’t remember that for girls “few things might mean 151 by 300 square feet.” My mother used to say: “when you marry someone you marry the family as well” I think she forgot to mention that we marry the things that come with them too!

The next day we brought both vehicles to try to get as many things as possible and I confess that I was impressed with the boxes provided by the storage place. The boxes had different formats making it easier for the storage of electronics and picture frames. The creativity and design of the boxes fit those products very well that I felt joy moving those boxes. And most importantly my wife was happy with my work. It seems like the storage unit had a connection with her, those things being protected all those years inside of a unit, made her feel happy and brought many memories. I could see her moving the boxes and her eyes being far away. It was like the storage unit was a time machine that could take her to good memories in the past. And listening to her stories about the things she was moving made me see a side from her that I haven’t seen before.

Even though there was a little bit of dust in the unit we were working as if we were in the cleanest place on earth. We didn’t care if we were getting our clothes dirty all we wanted was to keep the conversation flowing. I was so happy about the self-storage idea that I forgot to tell my wife that I had hit our new brand jeep. Off course I was going to tell her about it, as it was just a little scratch on the left door. Don’t take me wrong I was a hero that day and I was confident that she would forgive me.

I was also able to be a self-storage student for one day, as my wife gave me a little education about it. She was able to explain the benefits of having a self-storage. I never thought that having my things inside of big box would be so easy and handy. Most importantly we have peace of mind when it comes to the security provided by the unit administrator.

However, this student (me) was getting tired and after a few hours moving boxes I was exhausted. I was curious about the things in the boxes, my mind was hunting for answers and the only thing I could do was ask. I was afraid that I would wake-up the crank personality inside of her because nobody likes to be questioned about where their things come from. But I had to give a shot. So I asked: “Why did you store those things for all those years?” She stopped, and her face turned into radiant brightness and her lips moved slowly with a whisper of an angel as she replied: “When I was in college I had many things that I didn’t need with me in a shared house with roommates and the amount I pay monthly for this unit is very small.”

The little brat (me) didn’t care too much about her college experience but about the unit price, I couldn’t believe that it was a decent price to store items. I came up with two ideas that definitely changed my life. I thought to myself we are only half way through the things we need to put in the cars and our place is not that big. I said: “Honey, I love this unit and I think we should keep it so why don’t we move what we need to the house and leave the rest here?” “The amount we pay is so low that it will be worth it to keep our things here”. Blond head (that’s what I call her as she has dark blond hair) stopped and looked at me with a deep look and a tear came up from her eye. She said: “Honey I thought that you would never like the idea of having our own storage place and I am so proud of for you having an open mind”. Wow an open mind that’s what I needed to hear. You see marriage and self-storage come along very well as they both contain things that always surprise us.

In short, self-storage has helped me to keep my marriage sane with my wife and she gets to keep her “treasures”.

My Walk in Walden’s Woods

by Lee Anne Zajicek of Cerro Coso Community College (Ridgecrest, California)

A few years ago, we put our home on the market on a bit of a whim, having found out that our dream home was suddenly going on the market. Our home was small, just under 1,500 square feet, and with four children and a home office, we were literally busting at the seams. We decided to weed out anything that we were not actively using. Being a bit rushed to get ready for an open house, we decided to rent a unit at a self-storage facility. We packed up and stored anything that we could do without for long periods of time or things we just wanted out of the way. This included a few pieces of antiques that were much loved but cumbersome. The self-storage facility was temperature controlled, secure, very reasonably priced, clean and easy to access. All of these features reinforced my decision to use a storage unit.

The immediate affect of de-cluttering was profound. My home looked more spacious by the end of the day. The quality of life for my family was instantly improved. I felt so unburdened from the moment I walked into my house that I could almost sense a lift in my spirits. My energy level and productivity soared. It was easier to vacuum the house and to keep it picked up. I could readily find things and I did not find myself as easily distracted. I noticed the same positive response in my kids. We whittled down their toys and seasonal clothing considerably once we started renting the storage unit. My children seemed more focused and balanced. They were much more willing to put their toys and clothes away. The only difference in environment that could possibly explain such an improvement in attitude and productivity is the fact that I had started to use a self-storage facility. I started to consider that perhaps there was some real merit to Henry David Thoreau’s advice to “simplify, simplify” (Walden, Thoreau, 1854).

When we moved into our new home, I almost reluctantly pulled some of our belongings out of storage. The truth was, the new home was larger much of the furniture fit better and the new home could accommodate more things. But I found that I liked keeping my house clutter-free. More was no longer better in my mind. Again, I started to think in terms of Thoreau’s writings. “let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million, count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.” As I did not have the luxury of living like Thoreau, as a hermit in the wilderness, I decided to take a more modern approach to simplicity, the Flylady ( The Flylady suggests that if an item is no longer a blessing, give it away so it can bless someone else. I started to sort through my belongings and found things I did not even remember owning prior to the move. It took me a surprising amount of time to thoroughly sort through my self-storage unit. I even started wonder if my stuff was reproducing in the darkness between visits. Suffice it to say, I blessed a lot of people with a lot of blessed stuff!

To this day, I maintain a self-storage unit separate from my home. My only rule of thumb is that I must sort through the unit on a regular basis. I certainly do not want to have my grown children visit it one day and find it looking like the storage unit in Silence of the Lambs. I find I am able to take an afternoon at my leisure to visit the storage unit and make unpressured decisions about the disposition of my excess belongings. I am not distracted by the activity in the house and I have actually come to view these sessions as strangely therapeutic. I return home with a Walden-esque sense of peace and accomplishment, refocused in my efforts to stay organized.

How has self-storage improved your lifestyle?

by Michael Didyk of Columbia University (New York, New York)

My life turned upside-down in March of 2012, and I had quite a mess to clean up… I was living in Vancouver, Canada. Life was great, good job, friends, and time to enjoy the outdoors. Then I was hit by a train (not literally, although I know someone who was and lived. His nickname now is “Train-wreck”). Out of the blue, I was told the company I was working for was getting bought out, and that I was being laid off. I didn’t know what I would do. That evening I figured out a short-term solution. I recruited a couple of buddies and we went to Vegas the next day. Three nights at the Venetian, why not?! Just before boarding the plane, I won BIG! Yes, BEFORE getting on the plane to Vegas I got an email on my phone that I had been accepted to my dream Masters program at Columbia University! Boom! Within two days, my life had changed in an incredible way. Viva Las Vegas! When we landed and checked in each of us pooled $500 on black and hit it. Boom Boom. So, I won both before and after arriving to Vegas! If only I hadn’t doubled down on the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup! It was an epic weekend.

Arriving home, it was time to make some plans. I had less than 4 months before having to move New York, which is really a lot less time than it sounds like when you are moving your entire life to another country. For the past 5 years, I had been living in a large 1000 square foot condo, and I had accumulated more things than I realized. I definitely was going to have to downsize in New York. What to do?!

I spent a week sorting my stuff into categories: sell, bring, give away, and store. “Sell” went quick, thanks to craigslist and a garage sale my parents happened to be having. “Give away” was also easy. My fitness trainer ex-roommate had an unhealthy-healthy obsession for my vegetable steamer, and was weirdly excited when I gave it to him. “Bring” was my bike, hockey equipment, and 4 additional suitcases. “Store” was my big problem. I looked at all the best options to store my stuff that I didn’t need to bring, but just couldn’t part with:

1. Burying it all in a time capsule in Stanley Park. Unfortunately, the squirrels in the park are evil, and might discover it as they bury their nuts for winter.

2. Using thousands of helium balloons to float everything above the city. This was a viable option; I saw it work in the movie “Up”. But then I found out there are airspace restrictions for aircraft traffic. I didn’t see any fines being issued in the movie. I didn’t realize it was such an unrealistic storyline!

3. Encasing everything in a concrete block and dropping it in the ocean. This was also a possibility, but in a couple of years the block would help form a reef that would support all sorts of local marine animals, and I would feel bad having to destroy the sea life so I can recover my fishing gear from storage.

4. Self Storage. At first I didn’t believe it. It just seemed to good to be true. Cost effective storage close by, with size options to meet my needs, and the ability to book the rental online in minutes? Who is the genius that came up with this? Thank you Mike and Cris Burnam!

I am now in New York, with a hugely improved lifestyle, living my dream. Actually, I pretty much sleep, eat, and study… but, because of self storage, I’m able to focus on my studies with the assurance my stuff is safely waiting for me when I graduate with my Masters degree, at which point my lifestyle will be drastically improved! Come to think of it, my apartment here is smaller and more expensive than my storage space back home… Maybe I can book a “self storage” space in New York to store myself in, in order to cut rent costs! I guess I’m the true genius!


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