I’ve had an ongoing war with storage for the last decade. Though the battle isn’t over yet, I feel like I have the upper hand. I actually never thought that I would ever even have storage. I was completely against it and felt it was a waste of money. But circumstances be what they may, I got sucked into the vortex. I actually don’t want to total up all the money I’ve spent to have my belongings stored in a 5×10 unit that is kept safe by a simple padlock. I’d likely have a heart attack!
What is it about modern day culture’s obsession and reliance on storage units? In days gone by people kept special belongings in an attic or basement. Christmas decorations are taken down, boxed up and put away until they are used the following year. Or certain keepsakes might be kept in storage bins and put on a shelf in the garage.
But what if you don’t have an attic, basement or garage? You pay a facility that has rows and rows of little rooms of different sizes. Somehow, once your things are tucked inside and the door is closed and locked it is easy to forget the importance of what’s inside. A black hole! When your bills are paid automatically on your credit card like mine, you hardly think of it. Until one day when you go to clear it out. And a day takes a week. A purge. Memories come flooding back.
I’ve shared on here before that I have an issue with hoarding. In the olden days, they used to call it “collecting” which didn’t sound as bad. I don’t hoard clothes, shoes, nail polish, auto parts or beanie babies. All items might I add that some in my family have issues with. However, they have space in their homes for these personal acquisitions. I hoard keepsakes. As I said in the post about my hoarding, the impetus came from a fire at our home when I was young. Because of the fire I have practically no photos or keepsakes from my childhood. So from the time I first had my own children I have saved every photo, piece of art work, and every card they have ever given me. That was fine when I had a home with an attic, basement AND garage. But when I sold my home in 2007 and went to Ireland for the Ballymaloe Cookery School three month course I put everything in storage. When I returned I took out some items for the home my husband and I shared after our wedding. It didn’t have places to tuck away the momentos. So they stayed at “E-Z Storage”. See even the name makes it sound so simple. Yet it is more complex then you would imagine!
When we moved to Ireland in 2008 I became even more disconnected to these belongings, only visiting once or twice a year when I was in L.A. I would make a bit of time to pop by and reminisce. My hubby would tease me because while I told him I was going to clear out the storage, I’d be there for several hours gorging on the memories and in reality only throw out one small piece of paper.
When my aunt, the frugal banker, would lecture me about how I was throwing my money down the drain, I felt ashamed. Like I was doing something bad. But I think momentos define us and help us make sense of our memories. My son told me a while back to take a digital photo of the cards he and my daughter gave me. But I like the feeling of holding the card in my hands and touching the handwriting. I guess it is a way to touch my loved ones when many times I can’t. I actually found a card from my aunt and uncle thanking me for treating them to dinner and birthday gifts. And it reminded me of my generosity being recognized. It made me feel good. I even showed it to them as if to defend my case for collecting.
But there is a weird tug of war that society has with storage. It is looked at as a dirty secret. Well, literally, it is dirty. I get filthy when I am in there rifling through boxes. Oh and by the way it’s hot as blazes in there too.
But this time was gonna be it, where I purged everything. I promised my aunt I’d clear it out! I called 1800gotjunk and they came and collected boxes of meaningful books (ones I had already read), cds (I have iTunes now), even an ironing board. The ironing board wasn’t mine it actually belonged to my son. In one of his moves he asked me to store it for him. I doubt he’ll mind I got rid of that. And my daughter had some things she asked me to store too. I was the go to for “got stuff, Mom will take it”!
I had boxes upon boxes of old financial records in that dark and dingy walk in chamber of shame. My accountant recommended keeping at least seven years of records in case I was ever audited by the IRS, which by the way I never was. Well inside that storage unit there were records from 1997 until 2007. I don’t think I need to keep files of paid electric bills or tax return from 10- 20 years ago! So I packed up the boxes in my rental car and went to Staples office supply store. They have a service to shred documents at 1.00 per pound. I had 120 pounds of shredding! It is a conspiracy because those records were kept in manila folders, envelopes, and plastic storage bins all purchased at said Staples store!
Because I spent so many days in the storage unit during the week I saw quite a few of my “neighbors”. We were all quite friendly and neighborly to each other. One was a buffed out man who wore a protective face mask when he was working in his unit. I am allergic to dust and that mask might have come in handy for me too. I offered him my empty plastic storage bins. I thought he might like a more sanitary way to keep his belongings . I helped an African American lady who was consolidating her storage units move some of her furniture around. I met another older woman who was trying to find a set of Irish Coffee Cups in her storage unit as she was having a St. Paddy’s Day party. We chatted about my favorite topic, my soul home Ireland. She never did find her cups, so she said she was gonna have to buy some more cups. And I also met a Latino man who appeared to be homeless. He visited his unit every day. It was a small sized one, called a locker. He kept his clothes and other necessities there. We chatted in “Spanglish“.
Everyone has a story as I have said on here many times. And if we don’t tell our story others will make judgments and try to tell our story to serve their own narrative. Not everyone who pays for storage units are hoarders, shopaholics or irresponsible with their money. There are always different circumstances, whether practical or emotional ones, that led to someone getting a storage unit. And with the recent success of a book like the KonMari method of decluttering juxtaposed with our culture of consumerism it seems to be a push and pull. But one thing I do know, shaming people for having storage, in fact shaming people for anything, isn’t the answer. What we might do is ask the question. Why? Because people will have many reasons for their actions.
The facts are sobering. Storage is big business and getting bigger. This article from The Minimalist puts in perspective how much stuff we actually own! I’m not a shopper (except gifts I buy for others) so I don’t fit in with all 21 points listed. But this data was collected for a reason folks! One point I feel was left out is the rising cost of housing. People are often forced to downsize and consequently rely on storage to subsidize the lack of square footage in their homes. I wonder, where does joy fit into this equation.
The KonMari method I mentioned earlier encourages people to release any belongings that don’t bring a sense of joy when you hold them. So I go back to my hoarding of choice, keepsakes. And I think you’ll know the answer to the question of whether they bring me joy. However, it is the ongoing cost of housing those things that isn’t as joyful, especially when thinking of where that money could be spent. So I have some solutions, which I’ll reveal in due time. Until then, we hoarders have some new books on the horizon to assuage our guilt. One that looks most interesting is called Messy: How to be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy Minded-World.
I’d love to hear from you folks. What are your feelings about hoarding? Do you have a hoard of choice? Do you think storage units are a waste of money? Have you ever been shamed for hoarding or storing? Leave a comment below and if you feel embarrassed about posting a public comment, send me a direct email. Talking about it can often take the shame out of the storage game!