What’s the Deal With All These Self-Storage Centers?

Self-Storage Centers. It’s almost like the Starbucks and Discount Chain Drug Stores scourge. These facilities are popping up quicker than zits on a teenaged face. Five years ago, I vaguely recall seeing one in the Bronx and a few in NYC, but now they’re everywhere. The Yellow Pages devotes almost as many pages to storage centers as it does to slip-and-fall lawyers and Chinese take-outs.

It appears the growth in the self-storage industry isn’t a solely American phenomenon. It’s even catching on in Australia and The United Kingdom.

I’m not really complaining, I’m just perplexed.

We’re supposedly a disposable society, Damnit! Doesn’t anyone throw anything out anymore?
Are there really that many Hester Mofets out there that need a place to keep their mannequins, antique Packards and severed heads?

I’ll concede the point that some people need self-storage:[ul][li]Maybe someone with a small urban apartment and no other place to keep their stuff, or[/li][li]A mail-order / e-bay entrepreneur who needs a place to store their wares, or[/li][li]A family who’s temporarily ‘between places’ - maybe waiting for that custom home to be built.[/ul]But that’s about it.[/li]
Perhaps one of my theories has a ring of truth to it[ul][li]Society has spawned a generation of disposophics.[/li][li]The story of the Collyer Brothers is incomplete. They somehow managed to sire a million children.[/li][li]In a heartless conspiracy. Local politicians secretly pay the proprietors of these storage centers rent to house the homeless and then itemize the expense as welfare hotel payments on budget reports. [/li][li]It’s PBS’s fault. The values quoted on The Antique Roadshow has people scared to death they might be throwing out something that might make their great-grandchildren rich someday. [/li][li]All these self-storage facilities are really owned by a consortium of Columbian drug lords and the Mafia. They simply use these facilities as a front to hide their labs and greenhouses.[/li][li]Hussein LLC, came up with a devious plot to hide their WMDs in storage centers throughout America [/li][li]As local taxes continue to rise, people convert their garages, basements & attics into illegal apartments. Unless they have plenty of closets, they’re forced to rent space outside the home. [/li][/ul]To paraphrase Tolkien, If more of us valued food, cheer and song instead of hoarding useless crap, it would be a merrier world with more landfills.

As I said before, I’m perplexed. I’m not making fun of anyone, I’m just curious.

I have a few questions for those of you who rent space at a self-storage center:[ol][]What do you keep there? Valuables? Junk?[]How much does it cost? Do you consider the (I assume) $1-2[/] monthly charge a bargain when comparing it to what you’re storing?Does your place have an attic, garage, shed or basement ? If so, isn’t that enough room for all your ‘stuff’?[/ol]Thanks

I helped a friend move here from Kansas last summer and he currently lives with me. He plans to get an apartment or house of his own someday, but until then he’s living with me. He keeps most of his non-essentials in a storage facility about a mile from where we live and has his essentials and other frequently-used items in his bedroom.

To answer the OP’s questions:

  1. Large furniture, stereo and TV equipment, extra clothes, things he doesn’t need right away but will go get when he wants them.

  2. The cost is $56 a month. I don’t remember what the dimensions are, but it’s big enough to hold the contents of a full 17’ U-Haul truck.

  3. I live in a townhouse and I don’t have much extra space (no attic, garage, basement and only a small storage closet outside the back door). I barely have enough room for my own belongings, some of which are also stored in my friend’s bedroom.

When I lived in an apartment and had a motorcycle, I stored it in one of those places. Along with like a little fan and a empty coke bottle to pee in when I was working on it.

I noticed in my comings and goings that most of them were stacked floor to ceiling with crap. Usually with someone in a Sanford and Son truck.

I kept my stuff there while the house was being built. I paid $80 per month for a 20 x 15 space.

As someone who works in local government land use planning, and who has helped several people develop these sites, I can tell you a few things:

Lots of the homes being built today don’t have alot of useable storage space. Garages (even two car garages) get filled up quickly with other stuff, and storage space in an attic is practically non-existent anymore. Not many houses have basements anymore.

The development costs for this use is relatively small (there is no infrastructure cost - no water or sewer, only minimal amounts of electric service). Get some land (and it doesn’t take much), grade it flat, run some power lines, throw up some pre-fab buildings, put a fence around it. You’re now in business.

In short, the demand is high and the costs are small.

I’ve had a storage facility for severl years. I store comic books, electronics and general bric-a-brac that I have no immediate need for. I don’t recall the dimensions but the door is about the same height as my waist. I got it because where I had been living (an efficiency apartment) did not have enough storage (I did store some things at the apartment as well and some of it was stolen). I pay $35 a month for it, when I remember to pay it which is infrequently. I probably have room where I am now to store everything but since I’m past due on my rent I have no access and I’m fairly indifferent to the idea of hauling everything out of there, especially in cold weather.

When I moved once years ago without having an immediately accessible new place to live (or for that matter, any place indoors to live) a friend who was moving into a new house split the cost of a storeroom with me. I don’t remember how much that cost, and I didn’t end up paying for it. Apparently trying to car exhaust yourself to death in the facility allows you to keep your stuff there free for a month. In the long run, the free month of rental wasn’t worth it.

Although I have a 2 car garage, I keep my 66 GTO at a storage facility. It costs me only $32 a month and I have full use of my garage. On the plus side the building is heated too. I couldn’t fit any vehicles in my garage right now if I wanted to.

Not having rented storage space can be hazardous to your health:

NY Post 12/30/03: Bookworm Squished (And the story’s not even on the Weird But True Page)

You just can’t make this shit up.

Due to a drop in income I have moved in with my mom until I can find a place I can afford, so almost all my belongings are in storage, plus my daughter’s stuff when she was between apartments. Basically the accumulation of a family of four over the last twenty-three years, and believe me, we threw tons of stuff away. So here are your answers:

  1. All my furniture…living room (threw couch away), my bedroom, my son’s bedroom, dining room, sewing room. Washer and dryer. Christmas decorations. Books, cookbooks, craft supplies, fabric (I’m a quilter), toys, camping equipment, baking pans, pots and pans, small appliances. Dishes are here in the basement. Books. Lamps. Chairs. Everything. It’s my home away from home.

  2. I pay $125 a month (used to be $116, but now the state charges tax on storage) and I think I have the biggest space…I think it is 10x20x15 high, and believe me, I have stuff all the way up to the ceiling.

  3. I used to have an attic, a full, unfinished basement and a garage (and two bedrooms, all for $750 a month plus outrageous utilities) and that was enough space. But here, my mom has all our family’s stuff in her storage space, so I have nothing.
    My girlfriend just moved into a huge, huge place…I could live in the basement and not be found. But the basement is completely finished: Kid’s playroom, music room, home theater, small bedroom, bathroom, family room with fireplace and no storage except a small closet. Huge closets in all the bedrooms, but no attic that I saw. Didn’t check out the garage, so maybe they have storage there, but probably only for outdoor stuff and Christmas.

When I go to my storage unit, I see that other units are used by companys for document storage (across from me is a unit filled with blueprints) landscaping supplies, building supplies, woodworking, and even retail stores keep some stock and supplies in off-site locations if their mall doesn’t have adequate storage. One day I even saw my Overnite shipping driver there…he says sometimes if they can’t make a delivery they have a storage unit to use so they don’t have to haul it back to a warehouse…but I’m not sure I believe him! Oh, and lots of vehicles…vintage cars, ATV’s…anything they don’t want to store outdoors at the camper/boat/truck storage lot down the street. And since my unit is only a mile from my home, I get to visit my stuff regularly…sometimes I just sit there, surrounded by my furniture, and get wistful.

The proliferation baffles me, too. As for uses, though, when I worked at a college bookstore, there was a professor who self-published a book for class which he then stored several semesters worth in one. I suspect ebay sellers use them also, especially since many locations also have pack and mail stores.

Every year, I go to Pennsic, the ultimate medieval camping trip. Lots of people leave most of their camping equipment in self-storage all year, since they only use it there and there doesn’t seem much point in having it cluttering up the basement or the garage.

When I moved into an apartment that still contained the previous occupant’s crap, I moved it to self-storage, gave the landlord the bill and the key. If she ever wants her furniture (pretty nice stuff, too), she can get it.

I could use one. I and most other apartment dwellers are in a situation where their place is filled with furniture. Buying something new means throwing the old one out. Then at some point when you buy a house, you need to fill a lot more rooms with furniture. So renting one to store that extra bulky stuff seems worthwhile.

But I don’t.

I use a self storage unit for the sole purpose of keeping my stuff in it while I am deployed. I do not have to pay for it, the great Army does it for me, but it is a great tool for my situation.

My family has kept storage units when family members die, and their stuff needs a place to stay while the family deals with everything else.

I used to wonder about this myself. Apartment dwellers I could understand, living in a one bedroom myself I can vouch that there isn’t room for diddly in many apartments. It was the people who owned homes who perplexed me since they had an entire home, garage, and backyard after all. Then I watched Clean Sweep and realised that our disposible nation disposes only so far as the corners of the room.

In my storage unit I kept holiday decorations.

Some people have even found that the bigger spaces are good to run a small business out of. Rent 2 or 3 of the bigger ones next to each other, and you’re paying $300 - $400 a month, and you don’t have a lease, and you can’t ruin the carpet.

Is it legal to live in one of these self-storage centers?

I don’t know about anybody else, but whenever I see these self-storage centers I think of that scene in The Silence of the Lambs where Lecter is giving Clarice Starling these clues.

“Look inside yourself, Clarice…”, which is a clue to look inside Your Self Storage. :smiley:

As kittenblue said, storage centers are often useful to small businesses. E.g., if you have a giant stuffed Santa that you put in the front of your store every December, you could put it in a storage unit for the rest of the year, instead of throwing it in the back of the store and sacrificing space that could be used for production or inventory.

Wasn’t there a story in the news a few months ago about a lady who kept her kids in one, or something like that? I don’t remember what they did to her, though.

No, they don’t have any plumbing and often don’t have heat. Most jurisdictions also require a residence to have a working stove and refridgerator to be considered habitable.

Slightly OT: an excerpt from a zoning code I wrote for a small town.

306.32 Mini-storage facility

306.32.2 Definition
Mini-storage facility – facility where secured areas in a structure are rented to individuals only for short-term storage of household items (excluding vehicles) and other non-hazardous, non-perishable durable goods.

306.32.3 Permitted locations
Mini-storage facilities are permitted by right in the I-G district.

306.32.4 Conditions
 Uses not related to the short-term storage of household items and non-hazardous, non-perishable durable goods are prohibited at mini-storage warehouses. This includes automobile, boat, vehicle and heavy equipment storage; storage of hazardous items, perishable goods or animals; and use as a residence, office, workshop, studio or band rehearsal area.
 A dwelling occupied by the owner or on-site manager is permitted as an accessory use to a mini-storage warehouse.

412.4 Mini-storage facilities

Mini-storage facilities are permitted in the I-G district only. Although they are considered a commercial use for design purposes, they are prohibited in commercial zoning districts.

412.4.1 Architectural theme
 Building design must conform to Town design standards. Architectural details must relate to an overall architectural theme. Facilities placed in or near a shopping center or other retail uses must be designed to be consistent with the dominant theme or design of surrounding buildings.
 Bright primary colors are prohibited on buildings, regardless of corporate standards or preferences.
 All buildings, including storage units, must be surfaced in high quality materials. Smooth-faced concrete block, painted masonry, tilt-up concrete panels and prefabricated metal panels are prohibited.

412.4.2 General architectural requirements
 Buildings must include design elements such as columns, ribs or pilasters, piers, quoins, and fenestration patterns to prevent a utilitarian, industrial, warehouse-like appearance.
 Buildings ≥30’ (9m) long must include a change in wall plane, recess or reveal every 20’ (6 m).
 Maximum building length on the site perimeter is 60’ (18 m).
 Unit doors must be screened or sited so they are not visible from the street. Unit doors must not directly face the street.
 Unit doors must be integrated into the overall design theme of the site through color and texture.

412.4.3 Roof design
 Buildings must include a roof pitch of ≥6:12, with roofs incorporating a high quality surface such as architectural shingles, seam metal or red tile. Flat roofs are prohibited.
 Roofs must include four or more planes, and have overhanging eaves extending ≥1.5’ (.5 m) past the building wall.

412.4.4 Landscaping
 Landscaping must conform to Land Development Code landscaping requirements
 Landscaping and berming must screen storage buildings from the public right-of-way and adjacent residential zoning districts
 Landscaping outside a perimeter fence must conform to Land Development Code requirements. Inside a perimeter fence, ≥10% of the surface area must be a groomed permeable surface (xeriscape ground cover such as jasmine, landscaping, turf block), with ≥50% of that surface adjacent to the perimeter fence.
 One or more canopy trees for every ten units must be provided inside the perimeter fence, with trees placed inside the perimeter fence and at the ends of buildings runs. Shrubbery forming a dense cluster is required at the base of building walls ≥10’ (3 m) long without doors.

412.4.5 Hardscaping
Vehicle/pedestrian conflict points outside a perimeter fence or wall, and a ≥400’2 (37 m2) surface area at the entry gate, must be clearly defined with concrete paver blocks, brick, or textured and raised pavement.

412.4.6 Circulation and stacking
 Parking for one or more full sized moving trucks must be provided.
 ≥20% of the units must be accessible to a full sized moving truck.
 Drive aisles must be ≥24’ (7.3m) wide.
 Units and drive aisles must be sited so a truck or car parked at a unit cannot trap another vehicle and prevent it from leaving the facility.

412.4.7 Signs
 Signs must conform to all Land Development Code sign requirements
 Attached signs are permitted only on the main office/security building. Signs are prohibited on storage unit buildings.

412.4.8 Fencing and screening
 Fencing must conform to Land Development Code fence and wall requirements.
 Perimeter fencing, security fencing, and entry gates must be constructed of attractive materials that are compatible with the design and materials used throughout the site. Acceptable fencing types include masonry, decorative metal and wrought iron, with regular recesses and centers to break up long stretches, are encouraged. Barbed wire, stockade fencing, and chain link fencing are prohibited.

412.4.9 Outdoor lighting
 Lighting must conform to Development Code lighting requirements.
 Night lighting and security lighting must be sensitively designed to ensure no off-site glare is directed to neighboring parcels and that the overall intensity of the site lighting is not excessive.
 Excessive night security lighting is discouraged, and other security measures should be considered.
 Building mounted sconces must be used instead of freestanding light poles wherever possible.
 When a mini-storage facility is adjacent to a residential zone, pole mounted lights must be turned off between 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM.