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Saturday morning at storage unit
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jacob Davies

“The Self-Storage Self” is a classic NYT thumb-sucker about why we live the way we do–or, more specifically, why we store the stuff we store. The article is well worth reading, but I’ll hit some highlights:

  • According to the Self Storage Association, one out of every 10 households in the country rents a unit.
  • Even by the early ’90s, American families had, on average, twice as many possessions as they did 25 years earlier. By 2005, according to the Boston College sociologist Juliet B. Schor, the average consumer purchased one new piece of clothing every five and a half days.
  • A Self Storage Association study showed that, by 2007, the once-quintessential client — the family in the middle of a move, using storage to solve a short-term, logistical problem — had lost its majority. Fifty percent of renters were now simply storing what wouldn’t fit in their homes — even though the size of the average American house had almost doubled in the previous 50 years, to 2,300 square feet.
  • We’ve spent more on furniture even as prices have dropped, thereby amassing more of it. The amount entering the United States from overseas doubled between 1998 and 2005, reaching some 650 million pieces a year. Comparing Schor’s data with E.P.A. data on municipal solid waste shows that the rate at which we threw out old furniture rose about one-thirteenth as fast during roughly the same period.
  • By 2007, a full 15 percent of customers told the Self Storage Association they were storing items that they “no longer need or want.”

I think that last statistic probably understates the situation, since the very nature of storing stuff  indicates you don’t really need it or want it. Maybe it’s time to let go. Or at least check out YouTube for George Carlin’s extremely funny dissertation on “stuff.” (Warning to sensitive viewers: It gets a bit nasty at the end. Well, it’s CARLIN, for heaven’s sake.)

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2 Comments

1

My mother used to pay $60.00 per mo. for a 5×5 storage unit and when I looked at what she had in there!!!!!

1 broken sewing machine: I tossed it in trash
5 boxes of polyester clothing: 1 tossed it in trash
Misc CRAP which all fit in the bed of one truck: 1 took to my garage and stored it for 10 years until she passed away and then I donated all to 2nd hand store!!!!

She didn’t miss a thing nor need a thing in that storage she had paid $60. per month for over 6 years!!!!!!!!!!

2

Ouch. It can be especially hard for the Depression generation to part with stuff; Julie Hall’s book “Boomer Burden” is a great guide to anyone who’s left with “a parent’s lifetime accumulation of stuff.”