Walk-In Closets. Make that Live-In Closets
It is certainly one of the more curious aspects of American life as the world's über-consumers that we are both a throw-away society - producing mega-tons of wretched refuse that ends up in land-fills, in "floating islands" of ocean-going garbage, and being picked over by trash-gleaners working the slag heaps that dot the landscape in third-world slums - AND a nation of accumulators who can't seem to fill our homes up fast enough. And who, it appears, can't seem to build homes big enough to contain all of our "stuff".
To accommodate our need for more space, storage centers - where you can rent out space to keep the stuff that doesn't fit in your closets, attic, basement, or garage - are becoming a bigger and bigger business. As someone who lives in a modestly-sized urban condo, with limited closet space and no attic, basement, or garage, I've often thought about renting one of these spaces where I could store things like my Christmas decorations and other stuff I don't need or use all that often. But I've avoided the temptation, largely because I don't want to have to go fetch that stuff I don't need when I do need it. And also because I really don't want to accumulate any more stuff than I already have. With our premium on space, I have to think twice before buying anything, and getting something new means pitching out something old to make way for it. Thus, we didn't hang on to our trusty old TV when we got the new flat screen. We gave it to the guy who'd come to fix the condo washing machine.
Some folks, however, do have a lot of things they want to hang on to, and for them we have "storage condominiums," which - unlike the dank, drab, prison like self-storage outfits of yore - are becoming something that's more akin to a second home.
A recent article in The New York Times noted one such place, Garage Town USA in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where storage condos are:
...bought and sold like homes and come with cable television, high-speed Internet, individual thermostats and even clubhouses.
Many of the super-storage condos are near resort areas, and are used to shelter RV's, boats, sports equipment, etc. But they suit many other purposes.
One fellow quoted in the article has invested nearly $120K in his unit, which - at 1,152 square feet is almost equal in size to my condo - he's turned in part into a gym and batting cage. Another uses his condo for an art gallery. In general, the storage condos - some of which are duplexes, with lofts or mezzanine levels in them - have become:
...places where people want to linger for a televised football game or a poker game in the clubhouse or just hang out with other condo owners.
Those clubhouses, by the way, can be pretty swank. One was described as having leather sofas and couches, and a kitchen with granite counter tops - something that my pathetic little kitchen sorely lacks.
At Hollywood Storage Center, a rental facility in Newbury Park, Calif., there are movie posters on the walls, wine-tasting rooms, a kitchen and even a post office. For Christmas, there were free photos with Santa Claus with cocoa and chocolate chip cookies.
Remember, we're talking about storage units here.
But given how enamored Americans are with acquiring things, given our shop-til-you-drop consumer culture, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that our storage cathedrals are becoming social centers.
Reading The Times article made me feel almost monk-like in comparison to those with storage units the size of my home - and I'm hardly a non-consumer.
And the idea of someone paying $60,000, or $80,000, or $100,000 for a storage condo, well - I may not live in one them, but I'm quite certain that there are still places in the good old US of A where you can buy a house for that kind of money.
Obviously, there's nothing "wrong" with people wanting to store their stuff, or even to convert those storage places into a sort of home-away-from-home. They're by no stretch of the imagination Habitats for Inhumanity.
Still, there is ample reason to reflect on the care and feeding we lavish on our material possessions when we have so many homeless in our midst who would more than delighted with a 900 square foot storage unit (with or without loft), and access to the clubhouse kitchen (with or without the granite countertops).