The obsession with self-storage

It is much better to die of hunger unhindered by grief and fear than to live affluently beset with worry, dread, suspicion, and unchecked desire.
55 – 135 A.D.

I want to discuss a growing trend that’s been taking place around the country: the proliferation of self-storage businesses. It seems that these things just keep cropping up, and apparently, they do very well.

And if you study residential housing, the size of the single family home has also increased. The standard house now is described as 3, 2 and a den: that’s three bedrooms, two baths and a den. Fifty years ago, it was easy to find a two bedroom, one bath house. Now, you might find that in a condo, but rarely in a new house.

Clearly, we want more space in our homes, and when that space is full, we’ll rent a self-storage unit to keep things we’re not currently using. C. Northcoat Parkinston formulated a set of truisms that became known as Parkinston’s laws. The most popular law was something like, “the work will expand to fill the time available to do it.” Another one stated that we’ll accumulate things to fill the available space. If he were still adding laws, I’m sure he’d declare that if we run out of space, we’ll go rent some more.

You may be wondering what’s wrong with keeping some of our possessions at a self-storage facility. My concern is what it says about our culture. We’re a consumer-driven society; in truth, we’re obsessed with consuming. We’re using up our resources at an alarming rate. We cannot sustain the current level of consumption.

We wouldn’t need self-storage facilities if we only owned those things which we use each and every day. If we limited our possessions to those things that we truly need to maintain a reasonable standard of living, we’d immediately put the self-storage industry out of business.

Now, I’m not throwing stones at the self-storage industry; they’re only fulfilling a need. What I find troublesome is the way our society is obsessed with owning things. We like to call them assets, but in truth, most are liabilities: the value isn’t increasing and it costs money to store them. I’ve personally seen cases where a year’s storage cost easily exceeded the value of the goods stored in the unit.

Before you join the ranks of those fueling the self-storage boom, ask yourself if you’d be better off selling or giving away the possessions you’re planning to store. Consider how much better your life would be if you had fewer material goods to look after, insure and store. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people have far too many material possessions. Look for ways to get rid of some of the things you have. The fewer things you have to maintain, the less stress you’ll have in your life.

Instead of planning to get more things, consider ways to simplify your life. You’ll be able to increase your savings (or reduce your debt) in the process.

Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness.
John Ruskin
1819 – 1900

Copyright © 2013 by John Chancellor

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