March 8, 2007

"It’s very much a part of our house, even though it’s not in the house."

American's insane storage habit:
In the last two years, close to a million more households have joined the ranks of storage renters, and there is now more than two billion square feet of rental storage space in the United States, earning more than $22 billion in gross revenue in 2006.

Storage-space users have traditionally rented for short periods, Mr. Scanlon said, most commonly during life changes like divorce or relocation. But in recent years a new kind of renter has emerged, one who rents for longer periods, sometimes paying thousands of dollars a year, sometimes for units in faraway cities. These new renters seem compelled to keep trading up, from a cozy “personal closet,” say, to a garage-like room, and then to a second unit or even a third. They represent what Diane Piegza, a spokeswoman for Sovran Self Storage, which owns the Uncle Bob’s chain of storage facilities in 22 states, calls “a segment of the population that has truly embedded storage into its lifestyle.”
America's insane storage lifestyle.
Peter Balis, 42, fell into ... a love-hate relationship with storage. At the time he lived in a loft in Chicago and owned a weekend house on Lake Michigan. When he sold the country place, Mr. Balis moved its contents, including a pair of bent plywood Eames chairs and an 11-foot carved totem his grandparents bought at a temple in India, into storage nearby. “If you’re predisposed to squirreling you have no reason not to put it there,” he said.
Oh, once you realize it should be called squirreling, you've got to know it's insane.


joated said...

But it sure comes in handy when you're moving or if you're a student two thousand miles from home.

I just moved from NJ to PA. To prep our old house for sale we "de-cluttered" by moving furniture, books and hobby material into a storage unit one pick-up truckload at a time.

My son, is going to school in Idaho. And is a Marine reservist who has spent time in Iraq between his sophomore and junior year. Again, using a storage unit he was able to avoid having to haul his belongings across country. It was either that or sell and repurchase upon his return.

We, as a nation, are a great deal more mobile in our living habits than our ancestors. (Of course we are a great deal more material, too. It's what makes our economy--and the world's--go.)

George said...

Omit needless electrons.

Pogo said...

Joated, I thought the post was more a lamentation on folks who aren't using short-term storage as you describe, but for whom storage is a long-term lifestyle, as in "squirrels".

I myself have squirreling tendencies. Maybe it's genetic! Grandpa saved his paper cuffs and collars from high school, the original house plumbing pipes from when they were changed to copper (might need 'em someday ...but werren't they lead?), and millions of keys that no longer opened anything. He didn't have a 'garbage house' however. Neat. As. A. Pin.

Fortunately, I married someone who saves nothing (except, curiously, money; again my inverse). She even puts dishes away while I'm using them (not that we've ever argued about that; I'm just sayin' it.) Hence, I have avoided penury and the squirrelling of college notebooks, books I will never read, and old clothes I'll never wear.

But the ability to store massive amounts of music on hard drives may yet thwart her. Ha!

Tim said...

This a curious thing. I've heard that the storage business is very lucrative - inexpensive buildings on cheap land and a nearly endless supply of near post-consumer goods deemed to useful for E-Bay, garage sales or donation and to good for the landfill that folks are willing to spend money on storing. And it appears the back-end of the process, sales from forgotten or abandoned property, is as lucrative as the front-end rental fees. I think this says a lot about our compulsive consumerism, broadly distributed wealth as well as the flexibility and ingenuity of capitalism.

Paco Wové said...

We move. A lot. Every 3 or 4 years, if it doesn't fit in the moving van, it's gone.

Cuts way down on clutter. Also cuts down on some needed items, but that's the breaks.

Jennifer said...

I'm a reformed squirrel. Like Pogo, I married up in the squirrel hierarchy. Now I revel in space, glorious space!

MadisonMan said...

puts dishes away while I'm using them

I do this too. My wife doesn't like it.

Pogo said...

As part of our neighborhood group, I helped clean up a garbage house once. (There but for the grace of my wife go I.)

I recall finding a tipped over dry aquarium with a snake skin inside; a rather long snake skin. No snake. That made me a bit more attentive for the remainder of the clean-up. Never found it, though.

Fen said...

We move. A lot. Every 3 or 4 years, if it doesn't fit in the moving van, it's gone.

We're similar - if we haven't used it in the last 6 months, we obviously don't need it and it goes to goodwill.

BrianOfAtlanta said...

Thank God for the American Kidney Fund and Cure for Cancer. It seems that every time we've accumulated a load of no longer useful (for us) stuff, they give us a call and come pick it up. I think they have us on speed-dial, we've given them so much stuff over the years.

yetanotherjohn said...

I have seen the future of storage. One of our neighbors has what is basically a big steel box delivered to their home four times a year. A truck pulls up to their driveway and unloads the container. About a week later it shows up and hauls it off.

They do a seasonal swap in their house. They change artwork, nicknacks, clothes, furniture, etc. Christmas stuff comes and goes along with Fourth of July bunting. During the week, they pull the next seasons stuff out of the container and into the garage. They then move last seasons stuff into the container and move the next seasons stuff into the house. Sort of a super spring (summer, fall, winter) cleaning.

Thankfully, my wife has no desire to "keep up with the Jonses". Also keep in mind we live in central Texas, so the winters aren't that severe. Its not like we need a ton of snow blowing equipment or anything.

Susan said...

Just remember to pay your bills or don't store personal papers.

Here in the Orlando area, one of our biggest recent news stories (well maybe after the diaper-wearing astronaut stalker in the airport) was about political consultant and activist Doug Guetzloe. It seems Mr. Guetzloe didn't pay his storage unit bills and a local citizen bought his personal papers stored there for $10 and turned them over to a local news station. After several court battles during which Mr. Guetzloe tried to stop the station from airing what was in those papers, the station won and proceeded to air a goldmine of extremely revealing, embarassing and hurtful stories about Mr. Guetzloe and a long list of powerful local politicians. It was delicious!!

c327 said...

We rent a 5x10 climate-controlled storage unit year around. The apartment we rent, one-half of a shotgun house, about 800 square feet, is small, especially with a home office. There's only one closet, so we used to swap clothes out in the storage unit seasonally, until Katrina ripped off its roof and ruined all our winter clothes, along with the books, cds, albums, computer equipment, paintings, office supplies and other assorted crap we'd just as well ought to throw away. I went in a month after the storm and cleaned out the nasty stuff, left papers out to dry, and haven't been back since. Still paying for it. I intend to clean the CDs and DVDs that are stuck to their paper inserts, so that's my excuse for keeping it for now.

Beth said...

Goodness. Blogger has a personality disorder. It's citing me as C327. But I'm Elizabeth, sometimes known as Beth.

TMink said...

Tim wrote: "I think this says a lot about our compulsive consumerism, broadly distributed wealth as well as the flexibility and ingenuity of capitalism."

Thoughtful post, I enjoyed reading it. I agree about compulsive consumerism and ingenuity of capitalism, but probably disagree about the distribution of wealth. Would you care to expand that point?


Anthony said...

I had one for a year or two once. I'd moved from one apartment to another that didn't have any storage units. Oddly, I don't remember what I put in there.

Kinda irritates us walking around the neighborhood with cars parked out on the street or (pet peeve) in the drive way, but partly in the street and partly in the sidewalk. Turns out they've either converted the garage into living space or just have it chock full of junk. My neighbor is amazed that we park one car in the garage.

Dave F said...

There's a reason Frank Lloyd Wright inveighed against garages: Americans love their crap!

Me, I'm too clever for all that and live in an apartment. I throw out at least three large garbage bags of crap a week. And I don't recycle. Who the hell wants to live in a huge house and just accumulate stuff. So....pedestrian.

Cameron Robertson said...

I have personally rented a few storage units before, not concurrently though. It was through several phases in my life and they were moving to college, moving out from parents, moving to live with a friend and lastly, to home sweet home. I believe self storage is very useful for short-term storage solutions. However, making it part of your lifestyle is going a little overboard. I think when you have reached to that stage, you need to really sit down and go through all your beloved belongings and ask yourself if you really need them or are they just there for show. Also, if you rent a storage unit about a stone's throw away from home, then it is still fine as you treat it like a walk-in wardrobe. But if you rent a unit overseas, then I seriously think you have a storage issue that needs professional help to deal with.