SIKESTON - Some call it hoarding. Others insist it has to do with sentimentality.
Call it what you will, the truth of the matter is more and more people are running out of room to put their stuff.
And in answering Americans' plea for help, the self-storage has grown into a $10 billion-a-year industry.
Todd Curtis of Todd's Towing Service and Discount Storage says the business he manages lets customers store practically anything that's not illegal, hazardous or explosive.
"A lot of people have a lot of things they need to store because they're moving, traveling or they're college kids," said Curtis, manager of the storage business which opened two months ago. "We store a little of everything, heavy equipment, large equipment, cars, trucks, boats, furniture..."
Once just a slot of space, some of today's multi-storied units nowadays come equipped with computerized climate-control and state-of-the-art security systems. Several companies even offer a pickup service, dropping off locker-size storage units at customers' homes and collecting them once they're filled.
To offer customers the best possible service, Curtis said Discount Storage will even deliver portable containers to construction sites.
The number of self-storage facilities in the United States grew nearly 9 percent between 1998 and 1999, from 27,535 to 29,955, according to the latest figures from MiniCo Inc., a Phoenix, Ariz.,-based company that tracks and publishes industry data. In 1990, there were 20,000 self-storage businesses and in 1982, just 10,000.
The average occupancy rate at the facilities, which offer some eight million individual storage units, was 86.9 percent in June 1999, rising from 85.1 percent the year before.
Chris Shanle relies on the storage unit he's renting to protect one of his most prized possessions. "I store my vehicle in it," he said. "If it wasn't for a storage unit, it would have to sit out in the weather. "What I like is they're sealed so nothing can get in them, they're doubled walled and they're vented. Twenty years from now you could go back to whatever you're storing in them and it would be the same."
Like many, Terri Matthews keeps her can't-bear-to-part-withs in a large storage facility behind her house.
"When we moved, I didn't have any storage. Older homes didn't have closets because they were taxed on closets as a room in the house," she said. "The people that own the house have things stored in their attic. So what was purchased, as a storage shed to keep outside tools and lawn equipment, has now become my 'treasured attic.'"
Tucked away inside aren't just things, she points out, they are countless memories, like her grandmother's recipes, her uncle's uniform and letters he wrote home while in the Navy in 1944 and their daughters' childhood Barbie dolls.
And then there are the newspaper articles on her dad's business getting started, canning jars, her grandmother's Bible, doll clothes and baby blankets.
"I accumulated these things of course by keeping my girls' things in suitcases from the years they grew up. Then when we moved to town after my dad died we combined our household with my mother's and she had an attic with my grandmother's things, my dad's things and my Uncle Clay's things. These may not be worth a lot, but they are priceless to me. I can be transported back through the years to my grandmother's attic where my cousins and I would go up and play."
But don't get her wrong, Matthews doesn't try to hang onto everything. In fact, over the over the weekend she sorted through the stored items to see what she needed to part with.
In going through the items she tried to finds things she could give to someone or sell in a garage sell, she reasoned.
"I like to give things to people who will have a better use for them. I still have special things that have a history to me and I want to preserve some of that and pass it on to the younger ones. Our daughter Amy is expecting and I found her baby doll and some baby blankets that she will be able to use for her baby. This makes me happy that I can pass them on to her."
Life without storage buildings, Matthews said, would be life without memories. "I think that if we can preserve some of our heritage it is a good thing. Working at the Sikeston Depot Museum has given me an opportunity to see the joy that people experience when they look back at the past. They reminisce and usually have a good time talking about things of the past.
"All that stuff, every single piece is a treasure," said Matthews. "You know how they say one man's junk is another man's treasure? Well, it's so true because I know that if anyone saw what was saved in our basement, attic and garage and storage facility, none of it would look worth saving to the untrained eye. I mean, no one but loved ones can realize the unlimited worth of the treasures in Grandmommy's attic. Even though Grandmommy had been smart enough to save them, well, we were the ones that new just how valuable they were."