Rebecca Armstrong: Self-storage saga leaves me feeling a bit spaced out

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The Independent Online

Until recently, like an increasing number of Britons, I was convinced that self-storage was the answer to my prayers.

With a vague plan to move in the next couple of years from a flat where the natural daylight is being obscured by the dangerous levels of clutter, the idea of boxing up the evidence of a thousand impulse purchases until there's more room to house them sounded divine.

With Britain now boasting more than 1,200 storage facilities (more than the rest of Europe combined), an idea that started in America and migrated here in the 1990s has become an established part of modern life in this country. We've taken to paying to outsource our stuff with an almost religious zeal, with 90 per cent of us unable to part with treasured possessions we no longer strictly have a use for, according to a recent survey by Access Self Storage. And with 40 million sq ft of self-storage space to play with, it's not only dusty golf clubs, abandoned coffee machines and life-size cut outs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (OK, perhaps that's just me) that are being stowed away – tales of small businesses being run from inside faceless units, bands rehearsing in them and people turning them into walk-in wardrobes abound. The popularity of storage on both sides of the Atlantic (the US has a mind-blowing 2.3 billion sq ft of space set aside to stash the nation's out-of-favour belongings) has seen it become a plot device – an episode of high-gloss crime show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation saw a unit transformed into an illegal operating theatre, while Radio 4 ran two series of a sitcom called 'Self-Storage', which revolved around a man living in a storage unit after breaking up with his missus (while the rules section on Big Yellow Storage's website says "you are welcome to stay for a week, month, year – or for as long as you need", I'm not sure this is quite what the company has in mind). But while storage is one way to cope with the fact that, as the Royal Institute of British Architecture's Case for Space study revealed last week, the average new home in England is only 92 per cent of the recommended minimum size, you need to actually use it. Not pay for a storage unit, not get round to filling it up for two months, then load up a van last week with boxes of bits and bobs then turn up only to find out that you didn't check the Big Yellow opening hours (OK, perhaps that's just me too).

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