The self-storage revolution … and the value of all that’s ‘you’

When we moved here there wasn’t a proper house and we’ve been converting a barn to live in ever since.

So now there’s a container full of memories in this unit on the yard, toys and clothes our growing kids once loved, old birthday cards to married and grown up kids from people who were close to them when they were two years old … and furniture that was cherished in my parents, grandparents’ and great grandparents’ homes.This stuff has got people, situations and big memories inscribed on it … people dearly loved and now long gone.

I completely understand the PASSION for self-storage!

According to a recent Tom de Castella & Kate Dailey BBC Magazine article, the mania for storage centres began in the US in the 1960s and the country now has over 50,000 such facilities. Apparently they arrived in London in the 1990s but didn’t take off across the UK until 2000 and certainly I didn’t become aware of them until we were preparing to move house in 2004, when we decided against a storage facility and opted for a shipping container on the farm yard … which had no temperature or environmental control, and the consequences of that are what I’m now having to sort out.

The self storage industry is a growing business … so important that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) now includes a measure of  self storage prices in both its Retail Price Index (RPI) and Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

Apparently this is a particularly American and British phenomenon … it’s the fastest growing real-estate sector in the U.S. and Britain has 800 major self-storage units, the same as the rest of Europe put together.

The UK is now home to as many self storage facilities as it is McDonald’s restaurants, according to research undertaken by comparison website Storage.co.ukIt’s the ideal stopgap while you get organised and there are knockdown three-month offers to entice you in.

But out of sight is out of mind.

Recent statistics show that people are leaving their junk in storage units for longer and longer.Storage and the retail prices index – exclusive news from storage.co.uk

Data from the UK Self Storage Association suggests that the average length of stay has risen from 22 weeks in 2007 to 38 weeks in 2010.

And newspapers have found horror stories where people have forked out thousands of pounds to keep their possessions in storage for years on end, despite never visiting the warehouse to take them out.

Not just a testament to an acquisitive society.

In a survey of UK households by Access Self Storage, 90% of respondents reported
an inability to part with treasured possessions.

But this is only part of the story, says Brian Knutson, an associate professor of psychology at Stanford University. The “endowment effect” is just as important.

This is the economic theory in which – by the mere fact of owning something
we endow a possession with more value than its market price.

It might explain why people spend a huge sum putting an old sofa in storage for a year rather than using that money to buy a new one.

The Endowment Effect

“Almost everyone wants more for something once they own it, than they will
pay to get it,” says Knutson.

Confusing who we are with what we’ve got

Oliver James, psychologist and author of Affluenza, says that the
self-storage phenomenon can be explained by consumerism’s effect on how we view
ourselves.

Our identity has increasingly become associated with products, he argues, and
not just the mortgage and the car, but smaller items.

“We’ve confused who we are with what we have,” he says.

Now, Jesus had a really clear line on the things that make us worth something.

He had no time for all this impact consumerism’s had on the way we view ourselves, and he even had a story about ‘self-storage’ to make His point!

” … He said to them,

Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

16And he told them this parable:

The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.

17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.

19And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’

20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.”

(Luke chapter 12)

The painful part – making the decisions …

When it comes to a closet full of clutter, “people don’t want to make the decisions,” so put it off for another day, says Cory Cooke, a professional organiser based in London.

“It’s taxing, and a lot of people find it easier to box it up and deal with it later.”

Hmm.

That sounds true.

Mebbe it’s time I got some of my junk to the tip, and gave thanks to God for the memories this kicks up and the people whose love has made my life this rich

… and give some more thought to how I can be rich towards God?

About welshrev

Simon is a church planting pastor and Rural Chaplain based at Grace Church Llandeilo and serving the Heart of Wales. He has a Facebook page as Rev Simon Bowkett and the Grace Church website has lots of information and resources at http://www.grace-llandeilo.org.uk Facebook page is ‘Grace Christian Community  Llandeilo’ … you would be welcome to drop by there for a chat!

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