Aside from the fact that the average size of an American home has grown 53 percent in the last 30 years—from 1,500 square feet to 2,300 square feet—the self-storage business is booming. Houses aren’t big enough for all the stuff, so people turn to outside storage facilities.

According to the Self Storage Association, the number of storage facilities has grown to 35,000 nationwide from about 22,000 a decade ago. Given that the average size of a storage facility is about 43,000 square feet, that means there are about 1.5 billion square feet of extra storage space available in the United States.

And SSA reported on its site that this year the industry is going to add another 300 facilities, or about 12.9 million square feet.

M.P. Dunleavey, writing for, said that the self-storage industry is relatively new.

“Then came the economic boom of the ’80s and the ’90s, and suddenly everybody wanted not just a place to live but a lifestyle,” Dunleavey wrote. “And whether it was cooking, biking, gardening or yacht-building, the modern lifestyle demanded a certain amount of equipment. And the stuff needed a place to go.”

Dunleavey wrote that storage became linked with what SSA President Michael Kidd called “lifestyle management.”

And Americans can store in style, with facilities that blend in with the surrounding neighborhood and offer computer terminals, music studios, basketball courts, snack lounges, marble lobbies, landscaped grounds and uniformed employees.

So, if your larger home still isn’t big enough to store all your possessions, the self-storage option might be a good one. But beware of missing rental payments. Your stuff could be up for grabs at a public auction if you fail to pay rent.

According to California Storage Auctions and News, there are more than 2,900 self-storage facilities in California. An average 800 facilities will hold a storage auction or lien sale in any given month, according to its auction Web site. The site estimates that over $3 million changes hands at these 9,000-plus auctions a year.

Dunleavey spoke to a woman named Peggy Gamache who, upon hearing there was money to be made by buying the contents of abandoned storage units, decided to give it a try.

“Gamache bought six units over the course of a year, often paying as little as five or ten bucks for someone’s leftover life,” Dunleavey wrote. “She’d then hold a garage sale with the items worth selling and take the rest to the dump or to Salvation Army. Although it was fun, she says, it was a revelation to see the kinds of junk other people hold onto.”

Gamache said it really affected her. She told Dunleavey: “I find myself throwing things out now, or giving them to charity. I don’t want to become one of those people who keeps all this weird stuff. Clutter controls you. It keeps you busy, moving stuff from one place to the next place, making room for more stuff.”

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.

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