Anatomy of a storage unit

At first, Mike wondered if the storage unit was really a safe house. The bags of cash on the floor were a dead giveaway. He was relieved when the red leather case at his feet contained neckties instead of handguns. He won the space at a storage auction and the previous renter had disappeared.

Rental units are abandoned for all sorts of reasons. It happens so often that storage venues will auction them off on a regular basis. Buyers show up, peek inside each unit and place a bid. The final price depends on who showed up and what might be waiting inside. (You can forget about what you see on TV; some buyers claim that the shows are rigged.)  There are conditions to winning an auctioned unit:  you may have only 24 hours to empty the space and you can’t use their dumpster. Renters can cram a lot of junk into a walk-in–you’d better collect with a pickup instead of a Prius.

Rescued items run in different directions like a great continuum. Some stuff goes into other storage. Antiques and collectibles appear on the web, at flea markets and thrift stores, or in the hands of dealers. Paperbacks, luggage, glassware, stereos, tires, shoes, costume jewelry, magazines, dolls, and computer parts. . . one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Every unit is like a shadow box, a personal history that runs from back to front. Mike is intrigued by what he finds. Discarded items might show where something went wrong. It wasn’t Jason Bourne who left behind all that cash, but rather an old man stricken with mental illness and paranoia. Most of his life was scribbled into notebooks found inside. The gentleman had lived from coast to coast before he settled down. Some of his last residences were hospitals. Digging further, Mike came across a pair of ice skates in good condition. The skates were also mentioned in the notebooks.

Auctions are a hobby to Mike, but he does like to make a few bucks from the sale of collectibles. He finds the TV shows to glorify the whole point of auctions. You won’t find a Victorian wardrobe or an Indian Harley in every space. You have to spend money to make money. You can get lucky or you can get nothing.

There’s also something special about the whole process:  no matter where our treasures end up, they always seem to find a home.


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