There are no bins at Vanguard Self Storage. There were none at big yellow either. It’s cunning. You throw the boxes in there, usually at a time of grief when you’re brain is too full to adequately sort. Then you discover that the bulk of it is magazines about yachts. You still have to take a car load of magazines about yachts off site to get rid of them. And it is slower and harder for you to sort the stuff you’ve stored. So the storage people get more money. There must be some storage millionaires somewhere. Not least among them the guys who own Vanguard, where our grandparent’s furniture has ended up. They have enough wodge kicking around to commission a replica of a WW1 Mark 4 tank and get it craned 54 foot up onto the roof of their building in the outskirts of London. There it sits as we speed past it going about our lives. A big tank distracting us from the building below us – a brick and mortar metaphor for our inability to let go of the past.
We were storing a box of letters to my uncle at Vanguard. Mostly bank statements. He literally never threw a thing away in his life including tissues. Loads of money a month to keep the unit and there’s stuff like that in there. We were storing boxes of paperback Jackie Collins books. All with a monthly cost. We still are. For everything in there that has value, we’ve already paid for it twice by now to keep it. It’s the chances of finding the things that don’t have value but we like – that’s why we are taking the time to sort it now. Plus trying to make back some of what has been blown over the years. A fraction of it.
If I ran one of these storage units I’d have a courtesy skip for customers. I would also quietly employ a skip picker, with the certainty that people would eventually give up on paying to keep things they’ll never sort, take the things with true meaning to them, and put the rest in the courtesy skip. I reckon it would pay for itself in good timber, old sewing machines, wardrobes, ornaments, God knows what. They could have TWO WW1 tanks on top of the building. And we would have been able to offload a load of magazines that MIGHT have value to a collector…
It’s a mixed clientele at the self store. You see men in their fifties carrying antique oak furniture. You see women with massive piles of fabric. We all look a bit tattily dressed as if we’ve spent all our spare money on a storage unit.
Some people run bookshops out of them. God knows how that pays for itself. They are a very expensive oubliette. A sort of liminal space between throwing things out and keeping them, where you can say to the ghosts that you haven’t chucked it even though you have.
I took home some shells today because I like them. Among them was a Nautilus.
Some gauche idiot had stripped all the natural colour off it so it’s just a big shiny chunk of mother of pearl. It’s still lovely. It’ll end up on the shelf in the bathroom. Illegal to sell so I couldn’t buy one if I wanted it. But a lovely odd thing to own and a reminder of our grandparents. While we work out how to get rid of large amounts of their beloved stuff.
“That’s life though, isn’t it,” says Max at one point. “You’re born, you get a load of stuff, you have lots of opinions, then you die and all the stuff goes in a box for twenty years before it’s thrown out.”