Have We Become a Nation Of Self Storage Fanatics?

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Why We Keep & Store So Many Personal Belongings

Just over 30 years ago we didn’t have the opportunity to store our belongings in a safe and secure place outside of our home while we moved house or went travelling. That’s because the self-storage industry simply didn’t exist on the scale it currently does in Britain. Today, however, it is the biggest in Europe.

Initially self storage could only be found in London, but today it is spread across the country, equating to approximately 29.6 million square feet and 1077 storage facilities, including multi-site operators such as Alligator Storage as well as smaller businesses.

Total industry revenue in 2015 was estimated at £440 million between approximately 490 self-storage operators. And, with occupancy rates growing by 4% last year and extra space continuing to be added, it isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

So, have we become a nation of self storage fanatics?

Danny Dorling, Professor of Geography at Oxford University says in this article

that we have six times more ‘stuff’ than the generation before us. This stuff – clothes, furniture, technology and knick-knacks – has to be crammed into some of the smallest dwellings in Europe. Add our age-old hoarding instincts and you have the perfect conditions for a storage boom.

The boom has been so significant that BBC Two documentary ‘Business Boomers: Real Self Storage Wars’ explored ‘the history and psychology of a phenomenon that in recent decades has swept Britain more than anywhere else in Europe: self-storage’ And we have all heard of ‘Storage Hunters,’ where bargain hunters, bid for abandoned containers, without actually knowing what is inside with the hope of getting their hands on some treasure!

Self storage isn’t just being used for domestic reasons though. Instead, storage unites are used by businesses, some of which operate out of them – attracted to the flexibility and low costs that come with it.

So, it looks like, yes: we are a nation of storage fanatics, but primarily because it is actually an incredibly handy and cost-effective place to store all the items that we can’t fit in our home or workplace.

But, why do we keep and store so many personal belongings?

Well, firstly we have the luxury of being able to afford to keep these items. But, we also keep them because many of them hold special meaning and memories for us. Perhaps some items are hoarded, when they should have been thrown away a long time ago. But, often it is about the relationship to the thing, rather than the object itself.

To explore this and “understand why we keep all these things” a theatre company put on a production from within a storage container – “that finds in the strip-lit corridors and corrugated units of self-storage a powerful metaphor for our emotional hinterland.” They explain that much of how we access our memories is sensory which is why we keep the likes of old perfume bottles.

“In one scene, Mickey asks her mum: why pay to keep this stuff somewhere you are not? It’s the paradox of self-storage. We can’t live with or without these things.”

Ultimately, the items we store hold sentimental or practical value to us, which is why we pay to ensure we get to keep hold of them – and probably always will do.

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