Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Too Much Stuff! Our New Love Affair With Self-Storage

with 7 comments


I have changed the headline. Alternet is all about America – but this is a cultural issue that affects all human beings – we like to accumulate stuff. We are all “pack rats”. And when we go through “life events” it was takes longer to get things sorted out than we originally hoped. And at a time of emotional upheaval, security becomes important. Stuff seems to offer continuity. It appeals also to the instinct that if we have already bought something, we should not need to buy another of the same as long as the first one still works. Though books, records and CDs are another matter. And in my case colour slides.

And who has the time to sort through 40 years of slide trays and boxes, selecting and then scanning images to be burned to a disc? Yes it would save a lot of space and if I indexed the discs (another non trivial task) I might even be able to retrieve an image to be used – somewhere.

And how many “lifestyle” shows are there now that take people through the emotional traumas of finally sorting out all that clutter? In general, American homes have been getting bigger. But I am amazed at the number of closets in my “new” townhouse. Which is 35 years old. And the amount of stuff that the previous owner simply abandoned, and which I now have to deal with before I get my stuff out of self storage and into the new place.

And I have already mislaid my steel tape measure that I took there on my first recce, put away safely somewhere and now cannot find. But I need before I go to IKEA and get some more stuff.

And in the blogroll there is a web site about nothing but stuff

Written by Stephen Rees

June 4, 2008 at 8:38 am

Posted in Environment

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7 Responses

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  1. Make sure to check for valuables in the stuff left behind – you know, jewellery hidden in the potted silk plant and the like!!

    Ron C.

    June 4, 2008 at 12:03 pm

  2. I own at three tape measures. I have in the past given up trying to find the one that I know I already own, so out of necessity I buy another one. Then I find the original one later. This has happened twice. I now keep all three in the same toolbox, which I have not misplaced yet.


    June 4, 2008 at 1:19 pm

  3. I am a notorious packrat, and a Taurus so materiality is supposedly in my nature, but my greatest packrattishness afflication is actually in saving stuff that probably shouldn’t be kept: twist-ties, ribbons, old pens, bits of paper; and in the past, styrofoam cups, strawberry baskets, assorted glass bottles and jars (for painting), and chocolate box/candy packaging… all in the hopes that it will be used someday for something, unless it has some nostalgic or emotional significance (CD purchase receipts or the stickers stuck on them, for instance). Don’t get me started on cassette tapes 😉 Today I’m burdened with not wanting to throw anything out but I *did* manage to “freecycle” three styrofoam crates!

    I’d like to think we’re like fish or plants: less space means we are (our amount of stuff is) smaller.

    Erika Rathje

    June 4, 2008 at 9:25 pm

  4. I cannot remember where I read this – it was years ago – but someone had a parent who kept everything. But it was all carefully stowed and labelled. Including a box with the label “pieces of string too small for further use”.

    Stephen Rees

    June 5, 2008 at 8:10 am

  5. Haha, oh my goodness! I am almost guilty of that. You bring up a good point, though: what happens when us packrats leave this world and don’t take our tremendous amount of stuff with us? Or even, what happens when packrats leave their parents’ house but don’t completely vacate the closet? (Ahem.) At least this person’s was stowed and labelled!

    Erika Rathje

    June 7, 2008 at 1:54 am

  6. And this morning from the Observer news of self storage for other purposes

    Stephen Rees

    June 8, 2008 at 8:10 am

  7. Last year, when I moved my office downstairs to make a room for my child, I sorted stuff in three categories:

    – stuff to throw in the recycle bin or garbage can;

    – stuff to scan and then recycle;

    – stuff to keep.

    The third got very little. The first and second got about half each.

    I use a scanner with a document feeder, so it is pretty efficient. It takes a lot of boxes of paper to fill a 4 GB DVD!


    June 25, 2008 at 8:00 pm

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