The History of the Storage Unit

Thousands of people use self-storage, whether it’s for keeping your clutter away from the house, storing business items, or simply to assist when it comes to moving house. A question that is often asked is “how did the idea of a storage unit come about?” In this article, we are going to look at just that, with an interesting trip through the history of the storage unit – from its early beginnings to its modern day success.


Early Origins


Since the prehistoric era people have found ingenious ways to store their meat and vegetables, including the use of organised jars and units carved into the walls. However, the idea of storing your personal possessions is not as commonly seen in recorded history. There is evidence from ancient China and Greece that elaborate storage systems were created for personal possessions. In China, clay pots were filled with items and then stored underground in units. What makes China so interesting and unique is the strong evidence for this being a publically available storage system for personal items.

In the case of Greece, the best evidence can be seen in Delphi where it would appear that written files/documents and, potentially, possessions from across Greece were stored – although it is not certain that possessions were stored it is still interesting to see such a vast filing system in such an early culture, advanced as they were. So we can see from these ancient cultures that storage has always been an issue in need of resolution, it’s just that (as far as we know) not a great deal was done about it until later on.


Ancient self storage


Even the ancient Egyptians would use chests for the storage of personal items, such as clothing, both in their daily lives and also in death. Their communal storage was laid out in a manner that is not dissimilar to today, although it was used for food and wine instead of old televisions, tables, and antique furniture.

In fact, the British aristocracy created something similar several centuries ago. With travel becoming ever more popular among the rich, they needed a place to store their personal and more valuable possessions (especially with the threat of highway robbery) and so they started to make use of banks to store their personal possessions as well as their money. The banks would hire units on behalf of the client for the safe storage of their items.


The Beginning of Modern Self-Storage


It all began in the 1850’s in America, when a man by the name of Martin Bekin created buildings for storage to meet the needs of the immigrants that were coming over. With little to no space in homes – if they had them – storage was a necessity for these people and he provided. However, it was not until 1906 that we began to see the beginning of our modern storage units. Warehouses were created with reinforced steel in Los Angeles, showing the foundations of what we now know as the self-storage unit.

The storage unit we know today dates back to 1958 in America, when Lauderdale Storage in Florida opened up for business. The idea was massive, and incredibly popular. So much so that by the 1960’s word had spread and A1 U-Store-It opened up in Odessa, Texas. Russ Williams, its founder, needed a place to store his fishing equipment, and figured that others would also benefit from having somewhere to keep it that was easy to access but also not at home where things can get cluttered. His form of storage unit, interestingly, was purchasing several apartments and then charging people rent to store their items in it.


modern self storage


By the 1980’s the idea was widespread and had crossed the ocean to the United Kingdom. This is also the era where we begin to see the rise of business storage. With self-storage becoming increasingly popular, expanding businesses found themselves needing somewhere to store their documents, surplus stock, and unused office equipment. Many businesses figured that renting storage unit was not only cost effective, but ensured that their items stayed safe and secure, as well as meaning that they no longer took up room in office buildings that could be used for more practical features.

Through the 1990’s, the storage unit and the concept of self-storage made a slow but steady increase in popularity across the world. Towards the end of the decade demand began to outweigh supply and there was a shortage of storage units. Due to this, there was a rush for new units to be built in order to meet the demands of customers. Between the year 2000 and 2005, over 3000 new storage facilities were built every year in America – which demonstrates in itself the surge in popularity. People who were moving home, or just needed a place to store some extra clutter were realising that storage units were a cost effective, and secure, way of doing just that.


The Storage Unit of Today


By the end of 2009 over 58,000 storage facilities had been built so that people could store their items in a safe and secure environment. In the UK, it is estimated that there are some 800 such facilities in existence – which when you think about the size of our country, is pretty massive. For the UK, it is estimated that 35% of those renting units are business owners. After all, with online businesses on the rise it makes sense to keep stock and other such items in storage units so that you know they are in a safe and secure location. In this era, it is not uncommon for those who run their businesses solely online to do this, and with 24 hour access offered at most units it makes it incredibly easy to do.

In America, one in ten households have a self-storage unit, and with some 40 million people moving house each year it’s really no surprise. Recent surveys in the US and UK show a positive trend for demand and occupancy rate, which is great news. In 2015, demand was shown to be steady, and so it’s good to see that the storage unit shortage of the late 1990’s doesn’t look to be repeated any time soon. Across the globe, popularity is rising, with particular increases in countries such as France, Germany, and Australia. Self-storage facilities in all these countries are excellent in their versatility as individual units within a facility come in such a wide range of sizes, from those that will fit a small number of possessions to the ones that can store cars and helicopters. So whatever your storage need there is always something for you.


Storage Unit


Self-storage has so much to offer in the modern world. Many storage units offer 24/7 access, making it easier for traders and business owners, as well as the late night and early morning movers. Many also offer office facilities for those who run their own businesses so that they can work close to their stock, and these offices are often rented at very reasonable rates. In addition to this, they often offer a post box services. There are many businesses that use PO Box addresses, and while these can be good there are a lot of downsides to them, especially because they do not offer a street address which can make applying for services difficult. The post box services offered at many storage units will actually provide you with a street address, making it so that you can sign up for all services and even have your office put on Google maps as your business address. The security offered by storage units is also incredibly good for individuals and business owners alike as you can rest easier knowing that your valuables are being taken care of and are safe in their care.

In recent years, self-storage units have featured in media with great success. Generally, they will feature storage units that have not been paid for (for several months) and so repossessed by the storage company. When these things happen, the units go up for auction to the public and so TV series based around them were created. They have received great popularity from the public, and as a result interest in storage facilities rose somewhat.

While the way that people store their possessions has changed over the last few thousand years, there has always been a need for some form of self-storage, the facilities just change based on changes in lifestyle, and society, as well as what the people of that age need. In an era of growing consumerism and with surges in online and start-up businesses, self-storage is needed now more than ever. It’s cost effective, secure, accessible, and safe – everything you need when looking for somewhere to put your items.

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