How Long Have People Been Using Self-storage Units?

Self Storage

Ryan Moore
May 3rd, 2022

People all over the world need to store their items in a safe and convenient way. This need existed years before we modern humans accumulated so much stuff. Whether it’s assistance in moving houses, storing business materials, or simply organizing clutter, storage is critical in this era. In this article, we’ll go over the ways that storage originated and the history behind the successful industry it is today.

Back to the Beginning

It’s not common in recorded history to see people storing their personal possessions. While there is evidence from ancient China, Egypt, and Greece noting the storage systems they created for their personal possessions, it isn’t lengthy. In China, they stored items underground in clay pots for safekeeping, making them publicly available to access. In Greece on the other hand, there is evidence that in Delphi they stored and filed away written documents in a secure and private space. In Egypt, they used actual storage chests for personal items like clothing.

On the other side of the world, in England, the British aristocracy stored money and personal possession in banks due to the rise of travel among the wealthy. There was a demand to keep their belongings safe while they were away and be easily accessible upon return. Hence, the banking industry develops alongside the storage industry. Looking back at these advanced cultures we can gather that storage has always been a necessity and a way of life, ranging from the personal to financial to professional.

Self-Storage Hits America, Big Time

In the 1850s, an American by the name of Martin Bekin developed and innovated storage buildings in response to the lack of shelter for immigrants coming over from around the world. Because there wasn’t any space in domestic homes, storage became a matter of survival for these immigrants. Not until 1906, almost a century later, do we begin to see the inkling of what modern storage units look like today. If we look at the warehouses of Los Angeles, we’ll see the reinforced steel foundations of what we recognize as the current self-storage unit.

Looking at this modern unit that ranges back to 1958, we settle on Lauderdale Storage in Florida, the first storage business to open in America. The idea was a hit and massively popular among consumers. By the 1960s word went viral and A1 U-Store-It opened in Odessa, Texas on the other side of the country. Its founder, Russ Williams, originally needed a place away from home to store his fishing equipment. His house had become too cluttered and he recognized that other people could benefit from this alternative option to storage. The way he stored items for people was to purchase several apartments and then charge people rent to store their belongings.

During the 1980s the storage unit industry was booming and had reached the United Kingdom. Business storage also started to rise as companies found themselves needing a place to store their important files, surplus stock, and office equipment. Businesses saw renting storage as a way to save on costs without having to rent out proper office buildings or construct the space themselves.

A decade later in the 1990s, the concept of self-storage was gaining ground across the globe. The end of the 90s saw the industry take a boom in profits as demand began to be greater than supply. People rushed to create new units to meet the demand and strike it rich. Between 2000 and 2005, over 3000 new storage facilities were built yearly in the States. Average people, beyond business owners, saw storage as a cost-effective way to store extra clutter and their personal belongings.
Where Storage Sits Today

History has shown us that certain things change, but mostly they stay the same. This is the case for the self-storage industry. There’s always been a demand for a separate, safe, and cost-effective place to store one’s documents, belongings, and business items. While facilities may change form based on evolutions in lifestyle and societal preferences, the foundation stays the same. With the growing demand for space to store products and materials, self-storage is needed more than ever. It’s safe and accessible. To not have self-storage is to waste time, money, and effort better spent on more productive work. Decluttering is the first step toward productivity.

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