Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Stuff That Resides in Self Storage Units

woman earing octopus costume
Photo from a costume house located in Turkey

Just before seven a.m. on Sunday, an octopus walks into the station. Well, it is actually a woman dressed like an octopus. ... This is Mrs. Zenga, whose house was gutted by a kitchen fire a few days ago.

She plucks at her tentacles. "This is the only clothing I have left. A Halloween costume. Ursula. It's been rotting in a U-Store-It locker in Taunton with my Peter Paul and Mary album collection."

-- Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper

Losing all your possessions in a fire is no laughing matter - and too many people in my part of the world had that happen just recently. (If you want to donate to help these folks, San Bruno's web site tells you how.) Still, I love this quote for what it says about the stuff so many people keep in self-storage facilities.

Yes, self-storage units sometimes serve a good purpose. But then there are stories like this one from Malusinka:
I stuck stuff in self-storage 15 years ago and moved abroad. Luckily, my husband's company picked up the tab as a moving expense. We were just recently graduated and saved the hand-me-down sofa, IKEA treasures and sidewalk finds we might need some day. Now, we're in a completely different income class and have probably paid (and been reimbursed for) at least ten thousand dollars of storage fees for furniture we'll throw out when we finally retrieve it.
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, "almost one in 10 U.S. families rents a storage unit, according to the Self Storage Association, a trade group, up from one in 17 in 1995. ... All told, last year there were more than 50,000 public storage facilities across the U.S."

And it's not just the U.S. where self-storage is booming. An article in the Mail Online from July says: "In 1995 there were a mere 60 self-storage sites in Britain. By 2000, that number had risen to 187 and today there are no fewer than 800."

For a beautifully written piece on what sometimes goes into those self storage units, and why, I recommend reading the article by Boris Johnson in the Telegraph. Here's just a snippet:
We can’t quite summon up the necessary ruthlessness to send those snot-smeared children’s books to be pulped; and as for that distressing oil painting of a naked woman, done in a fit of adolescent depression, the humane thing would be to burn it. But we can’t.

Each of these items may be junk, in the eyes of an impartial observer. But to us they are symbolic of our history, and our family’s history. They are an affirmation of our existence on earth, a semi-Shinto connection with our ancestors. So they go into storage.

Related Posts:
Self Storage - A Growing Business
Storage Units: Ads and Anecdote
Self-Storage Units: Sometimes a Great Notion (But Often Not)
Renting Self Storage Units Can Be a Big Mistake


Anonymous said...

Congratulations and happy anniversary, Jeri!

Storitz said...

But where would Octopus woman have been if not for her storage unit?!

Congrats on 4 years!

JustGail said...

Congratulations on 4 years of blogging and useful information.

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Slightly belated congratulations on four years of blogging and another well-deserved nomination!

I was amused by the clever description that the stuff we store is "an affirmation of our existence on earth, a semi-Shinto connection with our ancestors." That's a great way of explaining why it's so difficult for many people to let go of it! We'd be better served, I think, if we could adopt something else from Japan, i.e., the Japanese aesthetic with its appreciation of simplicity of design and empty space. Somehow, people who have a lot of stuff in storage still don't often have empty space in their homes!

Jeri Dansky said...

Thank you all for the congratulatory comments!