Out of Storage

For weeks, we’d laughed about our decision to take the Greyhound bus to Vancouver, British Columbia, milking it for all the sympathy we might muster from our friends and family. (None was forthcoming.) As Canadian residents (we “landed” in October 2007), we can no longer drive a US-registered vehicle into Canada. What to do? Flying was too expensive, and the Amtrak train entailed a switch to a bus in Seattle and would take over 26 hours. So, the bus it would have to be. With a week’s advance purchase, our trip would cost $157 and would take 24 hours. Mark joked that we would have to take up smoking to have something to do at the rest stops along the way. Privately, we were both getting ready to blog about the experience.

The day before we needed to purchase our tickets, we decided to rent a U-Haul truck, empty out our storage locker in Alameda, and drive to Vancouver. “We’re driving to Beverly” we announced. But that image didn’t quite fit the U-Haul truck, even though we managed to fill the entire volume of the 14’ truck. We’d done the “Beverly Hillbillies” thing some years ago, when we borrowed a friend’s open-bed truck, propped the sides up with plywood, filled the truck up with junk, covered it up with tarp, and tied it down as best we could. The customs official on duty at 2am that rainy morning was not amused. “What do you have in there?” “Oh, we don’t really know – it’s just a lot of junk.” “Then why are you bringing it in?” “To store it at our house.” “You can’t just bring things into the country to store in your house!” “We can’t?” … But I digress…

Mark and I have had a personal storage unit since early 2003, when friends sold our house on Telegraph Hill and had the contents packed up and moved – lock, stock and 3,600 square feet barrel – into a fancy storage facility in San Francisco while we were in India. Most of the contents of those three containers stayed untouched during our couple-month stay with friends on Henry Street and 9-month stint on a houseboat and were only removed when we moved into our 2,500 square foot loft space on 10th Street in April 2004. A year and a bit later, we sold SomaSala, fostered our furniture, art and artifacts among friends and family as far away as Seattle, took up most of a friend’s garage and put the rest of our things into City Storage in San Francisco. Then when Betsy bought a house in Rockridge, Oakland, we moved in with her and Zing and moved our stuff into a smaller storage space at Public Storage in Alameda.

Why keep all this stuff? First and foremost, we are lazy. Getting rid of things properly takes more effort than keeping them. Second, ever since we’ve been “homeless” in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ve entertained vague hopes of eventually having some kind of dwelling of our own again. And I guess we still do. (We must not be alone. According to a recent New York Times article, the self storage industry has grown from almost non-existent to over 51,000 facilities nationwide in 35 years, and is still booming despite the overall economic downturn.) “We’ll never be able to afford to replace the furniture we have,” we rationalized. But now, if we ever get a place, we’ll have to manage without the contents of our four previous kitchens.

It feels great not to have a storage locker any more. But that feeling is mitigated by the fact that we still have all this “stuff.” Even though we’ve meted out some of our plates and bowls we still have remnants of our First Sunday Soirees – china, cups, glasses and silverware for 50. The tens of boxes of files from my days of international development work will get recycled. Our clothes and coats will be donated. The books… I don’t know… hard to get rid of books…

We still have too much stuff – in four different households in three continents and two garages. Oh, and all the fostered furniture and art.


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