When I began this journey I anticipated having an intimate connection to people and places. Within a few weeks I added a third component to my up-close survey of the United States: stuff. It’s everywhere. Raw materials, manufactured components, assembled objects, wholesale, retail, resale, auction, trash recycling, landfill. We devote much of our lives to transforming one form of this planet into another. We define economic growth by making as much as we can, as opposed to producing only what we need. As a result we have more stuff than ever. American’s houses are twice the size they were fifty years ago, and we have fewer people in each house. Still, we don’t have enough room for our stuff. So we invented the self-storage park. Every town I’ve been through, no matter how small, has one. It let’s us keep the stuff that’s close to our heart, even when it’s not close at hand.
First, there are people who need temporary storage between permanent residences. They rent a unit, fill it, and don’t return until they empty it. They usually rent for two to three months between houses, although that can stretch to years for people deployed overseas.
Small business owners run their companies out of a unit. “We see them everyday, tradespeople and landscapers, who get their equipment in the morning and return it at night. Basing their business out of here is much cheaper than renting a storefront.”
Others rent units on an ongoing basis and swap out their seasonal belongings. “We have the snowblower and skis in the summer, the lawnmower and canoe in the winter. You can have a more organized life by decluttering your house. It’s a cost effective way to upsize.”
Then there are apartment dwellers that can’t put extra stuff in basements or garages. “It’s cheaper to rent a unit than buy a house with a yard.”
Just as some people upsize via a storage unit, “Downsizing is a lot of our business. People going into nursing homes or assisted living rent large units. Parents have the satisfaction that their possessions are still intact while the children can delay having to decide what to do with it.” If they sell it all when the parents die, no feelings are bruised.
The self-storage business began in the 1970’s and has maintained steady growth ever since. Self Storage Spokane is above average in their pricing structure as well as amenities. They offer climate-controlled units and twenty-four hour security with individual unit alarms. “We also have very good curb appeal, which factors into people’s choice.” Self Storage Spokane projects permanence and stability with its manicured lawns, iron rail fences, and stone reception building.
However, the items in self-storage are not insured by Self Storage Spokane. “This is just like any other rental space. Renters are responsible for insuring their contents.”
As I pedaled away I realized why self-storage is a win-win business model. Storage facility owners have fewer hassles than landlords of occupied buildings and get good return on their investment. Yet renters also benefit. Renting a storage building is cheaper than leasing habitable space.
How will we live tomorrow?