by Mark Lusky
The Today Show recently aired a segment about New York micro-living. Profiling units as small as 250 square feet, the report examined ways to multipurpose: "Fold-away beds, moveable walls, and coffee tables that expand to seat 10 for dinner are just a few of the clever touches that transform these shoe boxes into veritable mini-mansions...'The main idea is to get double, triple, quadruple use from every space,' Graham Hill, founder of the sustainable living site TreeHugger.com and the design company Life Edited [said]."
That can work well for beds and tables, but storage space? Physical stuff needs a certain amount of square footag (unless you've concocted a way to miniaturize). While there are ways to make storage space more efficient, stuff is stuff.
This reality should prompt self-storage owners to take notice in cities where micro-living is ramping up. Besides New York, the report notes that, "San Francisco recently passed an ordinance allowing for apartments to be built to 220 square feet." Even for someone downsizing from a 750-square-foot apartment, that's tiny.
The trend isn't confined to those two cities. A September 2012 Christian Science Monitor article notes, "So cities from San Francisco and Seattle to Chicago and New York have begun trials of ever-smaller efficiency apartments - dubbed micro-housing - in the hearts of their metropolises, proposing units as tiny as 150 square feet with monthly rents as low as $495."
When you add typical self-storage monthly tab on to a rent of $495, that's a built-in sales pitch to develop strategic partnerships with micro-developers and to start marketing to potential micro-unit dwellers.
And, micro-living isn't just confined to nation's most populous cities. According to forbes.com, "Tammy and Logan Strobel's house [in Portland, OR] is the size of a parking space...They moved in October 2011 and couldn't be happier with their tiny home, which includes a front porch, a kitchen, a bathroom with a composting toilet and convertible shower, a living area and a loft sleeping area." At 128 square feet, the home--which is on wheels-gives new meaning to the concept of a mobile lifestyle.
Pockets of micro-living also are popping up in smaller towns and rural areas. A CNN website report identifies tiny structure efforts in such places as Point Roberts, WA, and the North Carolina mountains. Some of these "micro-micro-units" boast square footages hovering around 100 square feet.
All this said, here's an idea for self-storage owners looking to get promotionally creative around the micro-unit trend: Promote micro-living to grab attention around living in smaller quarters, even if it hasn't yet taken hold in your area. Then expound on the mindset tied to micro-living, namely downsizing.
Downsizing living spaces is currently in a hot issue for a whole host of reasons: empty nester motivations, financial challenges, increasing ownership and rental costs, and a desire for simplification among them. Once you can get people thinking about downsizing issues, it's not much of a leap to get them thinking about storage.
And for those to whom getting rid of a ton of their stuff feels daunting or downright terrifying, self-storage offers-if nothing else-a convenient short-term solution. Self-storage has been criticized for encouraging people not to shed their extra stuff. And yes, there are situations where people rent storage units to find an easy way to get their clutter off-site and out of mind-at least for awhile. But, there are many people for whom this "stuff" carries treasured memories, high monetary value, and other compelling arguments for keeping it.
Compounded with the extreme downsizing demands of micro-living and the like, self-storage increasingly becomes the affordable, appropriate choice for extra belongings. That's a powerful argument for promoting it far and wide.