Everyone In America Lives Out of Containers

In the wake of the housing crisis, self-storage spaces hold a lurid fascination. Some contain all that remains of people's formerly middle-class lives. Others are mountains of neurotic garbage. The NYT magazine has an amazing story about self-storage culture.

Writer Jon Mooallem visited self-storage container minicities where blank, featureless boxes stretch as far as the eye can see. Apparently, there are now 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space in the United States, mostly full of things that people never see or use or even think about for years on end. They're full of the garbage we can't part with.

And now that so many people can no longer afford homes that fit all their furniture, they represent a hope that someday we'll all be able to have more space to live in. Rather than cheap containers to store our crap in.

But what's truly intriguing in this article is Mooallem's colorful history of the self-storage boom. Who are the barons of this anti-real estate form of real estate?

Mooallem writes:

By the end of the '90s, there seemed to be almost limitless, pent-up demand for storage around the country, more than life events readily explained. Storage was seen as an invincible investment and became the go-to solution for developers with awkward, leftover scraps of land. After an industry report found that Hawaii ranked among the states with the least amount of storage space in the nation, storage barons rushed in, almost doubling the available square footage there between 2004 and 2007. One man converted a network of caves on Oahu, used to house munitions during World War II, into a storage facility. (The caves are naturally climate-controlled, perfect for wine.) Around the United States, newcomers to the industry were building even against the advice of their expert consultants. "We were cranking these things out at exponential rates," an industry veteran named Tom Litton told me. "It was just nuts."

He also talks to compulsive storage-users, whose tales are as weird and sad and mundane as you might imagine. If you want to understand the future of built space, you must check out this article.

via NYT Magazine

Photo by Tim Davis for the NYT.