Have you ever been driving down the street, passed a self-storage facility, and thought to yourself, “Hmm, I wonder what little-known fun facts about storage there are?”
No. Didn’t think so. But now that I’ve piqued your interest, aren’t you even the teeniest bit curious? Do you know how far back storage facilities date? Or the most common demographics of people who rent self-storage units?
Well, grab your mug o’ tea, snuggle up in your favourite armchair, and get ready to learn some little-known facts about storage.
When were the first self-storage units created?
The concept of self-storage came about 6,000 years ago in what is now Xi’an, China. People would place their belongings in clay pots and store them in underground pits. Belongings like to-do lists etched in turtle shell, bamboo reed flip-flops, collectible spearheads, and family heirloom jewellery made of jade and teeth. Guards would monitor these storage areas to ensure no one removed another person’s pot or its contents.
It is widely believed that a man named Xiang Lau who opened the first storage facility in China, realised his mud hut was overflowing with the prized bones of his enemies. He wanted to keep them in his man cave to gloat to all his friends, but his wife made him remove them after she kept tripping over them. And this my friends is how the idea for an off-site self-storage facility was born. Apparently, Lau was the first to offer deals, too, such as a free ox rental when renting a storage unit.
Sorry, no ox rentals at My Storage.
Okay, so maybe the story of Lau is undocumented. But, odds are a shortage of living space and a bickering couple led to the birth of ancient self-storage.
When did modern self-storage facilities emerge?
In the 1850s, self storage business came to America with the creation of Bekins, founded by Martin Bekins. Bekins was the first to build a facility for the storage of household goods and valuables. In 1906, Bekins built the first reinforced steel and concrete warehouse in Los Angeles, and the second in San Francisco. It is interesting to note that during the great earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco, this warehouse was one of the few structures that did not collapse.
Modern self-storage involves a tenant renting a space that no one else has access to. And this concept was unheard of until Lauderdale Storage opened in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1958. It also set a new precedent that remains the norm to this day.
The industry continued to grow in the 1960s with the first self-storage facility in Odessa, Texas, called “A-1 U-Store-It U-Lock-It U-Carry the Key.” Despite the wordy, forgettable name, the business was a fast success. It was built in an industrial area where fishermen could store their boats and oil field equipment for quick access — which is why they were 100 feet by 30 feet, the right dimensions for storing bass boat trailers.
Residential customers caught wind of the cool idea (not to mention the stink of fish) and joined the queue to store their possessions. Which really paved the way for the first hoarders. By 1972, the first Public Storage facility opened in El Cajon, California, and self-storage boomed into a more large-scale industry. Which leads us to…
Some more fun facts about self-storage?! Well, which country do you think stores the most stuff?
Americans are the biggest hoarders. Nearly 9 percent of all-American households (that’s 10.85 million people, people) currently rent a self-storage unit. This number has grown from 8 percent in 2019.
In total, Americans store 2.3 billion square feet of stuff. Which is more than 202 square kilometres. Which is about three times the size of Manhattan island. That’s a lot of square meters of self-storage space for every person in the United States. And yet, clearly that’s not enough space for many people.
Why did self-storage start to become so useful in the 1970’s?
Were people over accumulating? Was it because of the rise in divorce levels at the time? Aided by the emergence of “no-fault divorce” laws, which suddenly had more households in transition? Whatever the reasoning, self-storage facilities have continued to be built at a steady pace nationwide.
I’m not entirely sure on the number of storage facilities in New Zealand. BUT, I read that there are close to 50,000 self-storage facilities in the US. When you compare this to the relatively puny 3,000 storage units in Canada and just over 1,000 in Australia it’s pretty clear: Americans like storing stuff.
Who seeks out self-storage?
About 27 percent of self-storage renters live in apartments while 68 percent live in single-family homes. Which shows that expanding your family can lead to serious accumulation addictions. And although 65 percent of storage space renters have a garage, attic or basement, there’s still need for extra space! I guess when it’s a choice between your comic books or your mother-in-law…. 😉
Sixty-three percent of self-storage renters have an annual household income of less than $75,000 per year, making it clear that you don’t have to be rich to afford a storage unit. Either that or we all just love deals.
Self-storage renters end up renting for less than three months, for three to six months, or for seven months to a year. If not more. Which indicates that almost half rent for reasons of transition. Like moving, renovating the house, a holiday abroad, even a short stint in jail (you gotta stash your loot somewhere until you make bail, right?). The greatest number of renters, though – nearly 30 percent – keep their self-storage unit for more than two years. See it like a holiday home for their crap. I mean, worldly possessions.
How big is the self-storage industry?
Self-storage generates a lot of capital. And it’s a pretty good incentive to encourage people to buy more than they need. The industry has been the fastest growing segment in commercial real estate since about 1975 and is even considered recession resistant because of its continued success.
You might be able to rattle off five of the industry’s biggest players (Storage King, Storage World, Boxman, Richmond Storage and of course My Storage) but there are also 2000 mid- to large-sized firms that run multiple facilities.
In short, the self-storage industry is huge and isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Now aren’t you glad you took the time to learn a few facts about the storage industry?
Next time you’re at a party and need a handy conversation starter, why not fire off a few of these babies about fun facts about self-storage. And just watch your popularity grow. If that doesn’t work though, you know where you can store your wounded ego— at one of our sweet units at My Storage.
We look forward to hearing from you! Bye for now …
Sources about fun facts about self-storage:
1) History of Self Storage, http://ww2.txssa.org/Publications/Mayjune1.htm
2) History of the Self Storage Industry, http://www.flexispace.com/history-of-the-self-storage-industry
3) Self Storage Association, http://www.selfstorage.org/ssa/content/navigationmenu/aboutssa/factsheet/
4) Self Storage History, http://performanceselfstoragegroup.com/self-storage-history/