What do people keep in storage? It’s all a big mystery. Nobody seems to know. If you’ve ever seen the hit US TV show ‘Storage Hunters’, you’ll know it can be anything from live hand grenades to circus equipment and speedboats to DJ decks. Many commercial companies use this kind of storage to keep archives and files, seasonal and excess stock, trade supplies and equipment, exhibition and event equipment, and office furniture, freeing up precious space in the office.
Your Store Exeter have conducted online research to find out what people keep in self-storage and do not open customers lock-ups to check what’s inside.
In terms of non-commercial use, it’s difficult to pinpoint what people are using their space for. In the UK, you can store most items. However, UK self-storage facilities operate under British law and it’s illegal to store firearms, drugs, explosives, dangerous weapons or anything else that could be harmful to public health.
So what are we storing? Here are the top items people are putting in self-storage:
Self-storage did not arrive in the United Kingdom until the early 1980s, initially in the London area, but today there are more than 815 facilities found across the country and this equates to approximately 29.6 million square feet of storage space. The industry continues to grow steadily in the UK. For the last five years, fuelled by the growth of multi-site operators as well as smaller businesses looking to diversify into the sector, self-storage has proven to be resilient to the economic downturn.
There are a number of factors that are leading consumers and businesses towards using self-storage, but the primary reasons remain lifestyle scenarios such as marriage, moving home, divorce, and retirement.
The mystery of self-storage is usually not as glamorous as Walter White’s lock-up full of cold hard cash, as seen in Breaking Bad. Access Self Storage found in a survey that 90% of respondents found difficulty in parting with possessions. Many of these possessions were schoolbooks and school reports, birthday cards and photographs.
Brian Knutson, an associate professor of psychology at Stanford University believes the hoarding of belongings from the past is only a small part of the problem. He describes the “endowment effect” as just as important. This is the economic theory in which by the very owning of something, we gain a possession with seemingly more value than its market price. This idea goes some way to explaining why folks store their old furniture for a year instead of using the money to buy equipment.
“Almost everyone wants more for something once they own it, than they will pay to get it,” says Knutson.
Oliver James, a psychologist, writes that the self-storage phenomenon can be explained best in the context of consumerism and its effect on personal and cultural identity.
“Our identity has increasingly become associated with products,” he argues. This doesn’t refer to necessary commodities such as a house and car. James believes we have become obsessed with collecting fragments of ourselves, in smaller, insignificant items. “We’ve confused who we are with what we have,” he says.
This explains why people are becoming increasingly reluctant to discard useless items from years gone by. “We feel it might come in handy one day. It feels like it’s a little part of yourself even though it’s just tat. You wouldn’t want to throw yourself away would you?”
What all of these statistics show, is that it has become a craze that goes beyond the stop-gap need for a house move or a temporary place to reorganise belongings. In many cases, self-storage serves as a site for people to preserve their childhood and lifelong memories, and as a means by which to immortalise themselves. This obsession with holding onto fragments of the past seems to relate somewhat too, and become a physical extension of, the cultural impact of social media, with online storage of photographs, videos, and memoirs consuming our day-to-day lives.
That being said, self-storage is a fantastic option even if you’re not just hanging on to the past, and is great for offices that need more space as well as people trying to declutter their lives or keep things safe while they’re moving house.