Lifestyle & Human Interest

Teen Buys Abandoned Storage Units So He Can Return Contents to Original Owners


The thrill of the hunt is one of the things that energizes those who search for bargains. Yard sales, estate sales, auctions and bulk trash days are potential treasure troves.

But one young man who got into buying storage units experienced a paradigm shift upon gazing at the contents of his first purchase, and as a result he has made a hobby of returning items to their rightful owners.

Shane Jones, 16, from South Kingstown, Rhode Island, enjoys a variety of pursuits relating to antiques and forgotten items, including frequenting garage sales and metal detecting. He was first intrigued by the prospect of buying storage units after watching others do something similar online.

“I watched different people who were buying them off YouTube,” Jones told WJAR-TV. “I had some money saved from a job I worked last summer, so I bought one for about $100.”

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After placing the winning bid on a unit in Providence, Jones felt something tugging at his heartstrings as he gazed at the random collection, the odds and ends from someone else’s life.

“I started off hoping to keep some of it and then throw out the rest, but then I realized this isn’t something like yard sales where they gave it to me and sold it to me,” he explained.

“This is where their stuff was taken because they couldn’t pay it. There was mail and a lot of personal documents in a pile. That’s the time I realized this is not just junk. This is someone’s personal belongings that they lost.”

So he tracked down the nearest relative of the man who had owned the items, and offered the contents of the unit to his mother, who was living in a nursing home.

“It was a nice thing to do,” Jones said. “It felt good.”

So he started to chase that feeling.

His next win was a unit in Narragansett that ended up containing family heirlooms.

“It was actually a guy’s brother I connected with who had no idea his brother had a storage unit, and it actually had family heirlooms in it,” Jones said. “They were all very happy, especially the guy whose brother’s it was. Tried to offer me money to repay it, and I didn’t accept it just because it was something to do, and it was nice.”

The next storage unit in Johnston was full to the brim with baby items, and when he connected with the owner of those items, she had a heartbreaking tale to share.

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“It was a woman from Connecticut,” Jones said. “She fell on hard times, couldn’t get the stuff back, and most of the stuff was baby stuff. Her baby passed away.”

The news had been such a relief to the woman that she broke down in tears expressing her gratitude to the young man who’d sought her out.

“No thank you I truly appreciate you and everything you’ve done for me you don’t even know what’s in the belongings that you have and how much it means to me to actually be able to get it and not have lost it,” the woman wrote, according to screen shot obtained by WJAR. “[M]y daughter passed away three years ago from SIDS And everything I’ve heard that I have left is in there.”

Jones has enjoyed the process of buying and returning the items to their unsuspecting owners, and plans to continue as he is able. Some people have even commented on shares of the story to offer funds so that he can continue his acts of kindness.

“I don’t mind doing this when I have the funds,” he said. “Well, it’s not mine. They didn’t purposely give it to me, so why let other people suffer as I succeed?”

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