storage-00.jpgIt’s funny how you can come to associate different regions of the country with their own special and ubiquitous landmarks. When I’m in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, for example, I think Dunkin’ Donuts. In central New York, “Dollar” stores of various names. Southwest Ohio, Skyline Chili. And now, back in New Hampshire, I’m reminded of the local ubiquity: self-storage facilities.

Ugh. It seems like the whole concept of self-storage units could only be a concept of the US. I mean, good grief, even the smallest country roads around here boast a facility or two. For families who needed to start a business for financial reasons of their own, it used to be that guys who were half-way mechanically inclined could start up their own auto repair shop, and as families gradually went from one car to two cars to 3 or 4, these folks did pretty well. Then it was computers; if you could install your printer and a mouse to your old Windows 3.1 system, you qualified as a bona fide tech and could safely open your on PC service, repair, and dealer shop. Now it’s the EZ U-Store-It! rentable garages.

I used to wonder to myself why the heck these things were so common and popular. After flirting with the idea that people were willing to shell out 40 bucks a month (at least!) for garage space because they didn’t have a garage at all, the real reason dawned on me: Yeah. We, as a society, just have Too. Much. Crap.

We know, of course, that the US is by far the single biggest consumer of resources and manufactured products in the world. There are only two categories of things to consume: necessities (like food, clothing, and so forth) and luxuries. I think that, by definition, if you don’t need it at home, and you can afford to stash it away in a garage a couple miles away (if that!), it’s a luxury. The presence of so many self-storage facilities is testimony to our need to just accumulate and buy simply because we can.

Admittedly, I often wish that I had one of these things; in the winter, my family’s bicycles take up a ton of room in the apartment and we’re always tripping on the things. We have pieces of furniture that look nice, but are in the way and are hardly used, except to store other stuff that we don’t use often. We can’t use one of our closets because it’s full of things other than coats, because “we don’t know when we might need these for such and such again.”

But, in the interest of family and friendships, we’ve come up with a solution that works ok for us; we offer friends with garages or sheds the opportunity to earn 40 bucks every winter if they’re willing to store our bikes for us. Sometimes we run across people who need another chair more than we do. With kids who are growing older, and neices and nephews who are much younger, we’ve been able to put much of our old “stash” of toddler’s items to good use. Donations to charitable organizations happen often.

I don’t think the solution to having too much merchandise from Walmart, Dollar General, or Home Depot or anywhere else is to throw money into a long term offisite garage. I’d like to think that the solution is to simply try to, well, simplify. Buy less stuff, and what we buy, make sure it’s better. And, at the very least, make sure I have the space for it.