As a landlord, my partner and I tend to accumulate lots of little fix-it paraphernalia. We have traditional tools, of course, like drills and battery chargers, hammers and nails, drywall anchors, circular saws and an assortment of bolts of various sizes. We have half-used gallons of paint and deck stain. We have paintbrushes and trays and rollers, and large scraps of new, unused carpeting that could be used in some small room. We have a spare dishwasher (and, until recently, a spare refrigerator) that work perfectly fine, and look decent, but probably wouldn’t fetch much money on the open market. We have excess tile and planks of pine and several bottles of cleaning products.
Even though we hire contractors to do most major work, my partner and I have accumulated this junk from doing small little jobs ourselves. (We do less of that now that we’ve scaled up to six units, but we did quite a bit more when we were first starting out). And now we have a problem that we never anticipated when we entered the landlording business:
Where on earth are we supposed to store all this junk?
If we had a garage or a toolshed, we’d have a bit more space. But we live in an urban setting. We don’t have space to keep tools and tile and excess 2×4’s. And we never imagined that this dilemma would be a by-product of owning rental properties (although in hindsight I guess we should have anticipated it).
We don’t have a perfect solution yet. (Your suggestions and solutions are welcome!) But here are a few things that have helped us control this monster:
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#1: Make a Mental Shift
Part of the reason that I don’t like getting rid of something that’s useful is because I know that I’ll just need to buy it again.
Let’s take my spare dishwasher, for example. I got it for free from a friend who was renovating his home. It looked great and performed well.
For several months, my spare dishwasher sat outdoors on my back porch. I didn’t want to sell it, because I knew that the second that I did so, I would need to buy a dishwasher for one of the units. I also knew that, invariably, I’d pay a higher price than what I would earn while selling the old one. It’s Murphy’s Law. If I sold a dishwasher for $100, I’d inevitably end up buying an identical one for $150 (plus $40 delivery) within a few weeks.
“Why would I waste $90 of my hard-earned dollars when instead I could use this one?,” I’d think.
But then I grew sick of having so much junk around me. And so I made a mental shift: Would I be willing to pay an extra $90 for the benefit of NOT storing a dishwasher on my back porch for several months? The answer is yes, of course.
So my first tip: If you can sell something, rather than keep it, then do so … even if you’ll ultimately pay a little more. It’s worth the peace-of-mind.
#2: Prioritize Things That Might Get Discontinued
On the flip side of the coin, there are certain items — such as tile — that are unique and that might get discontinued. If you have to limit the amount of junk you have around, prioritize the items that are non-homogenous and that can’t be easily replaced by an off-the-shelf alternative.
For example: Let’s imagine that I had to ask a contractor to remove and replace an old bathtub. The tub surround is made of tile, and the bathtub-removal process will cause the tiles closest to the tub to break.
I don’t want to replace the ENTIRE wall of tile, so ideally I would provide the contractor with an exact-match of the existing ones. But if matching tile isn’t available, I have a problem. (At that point, I need to get creative: either find a compatible alternate tile, or decide it’s time to upgrade the entire tub surround.)
There’s plenty of peace-of-mind in knowing that if a few tiles shatter, I won’t waste hours trying to find an exact-match replacement. So if I do have to limit myself to storing only a few items, I’d rather store something unique, like tile, rather than something that’s easily-exchangeable or easily-replaceable.
Do you have any suggestions for minimizing and managing all the fix-it material that’s around your home? Share your suggestions below!
Photo: Gabriel Herrera