So Who Doesn’t Like Free Stuff?

Sofa Free

Sofa Free (Photo credit: walknboston)

Who doesn’t like free stuff. Anyone? Anyone? Oh look. There’s always some joker in the back with his hand up.

A friendly young man and his dad drive up to our house to pick up an old, but still in excellent condition, Nordic Track cross country skier exercise machine. He is thrilled by the condition of the machine while he and his dad load it into his truck. I’m thrilled because it had been sitting in the garage for 20 years taking up space. He’s especially thrilled because it was free! Thank goodness for Freecycle.org – person to person, value for value. He sent me an email with a picture of the Nordic Track in it’s new home. It looked so happy.

Now go to the Self Storage Association fact sheet at http://tinyurl.com/b685v2e here’s some fun facts:

The self storage industry has been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the United States commercial real estate industry over the period of the last 35 years.

At year-end 1984 there were 6,601 facilities with 289.7 million square feet (26.9 million square meters) of rentable self storage in the U.S.  At year end 2010, there are approximately 46,500 “primary” self storage facilities representing 2.24 billion square feet

One in 10 US households (HH), or 10% (10.8 million of the 113.3 million US HH in 2011) currently rent a self storage unit; that has increased from 1 in 17 US HHs (6%) in 1995 – or an increase of approximately 65 percent in the last 15 years

There is 7.3 sq.ft. of self storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation; thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand – all at the same time – under the total canopy of self storage roofing

It took the self storage industry more than 25 years to build its first billion square feet of space; it added the second billion square feet in just 8 years (1998-2005) [During the boom. Remember those days? “Sigh”]

Note: 700,000 units are rented to members of the military.

What’s the point? Outside of our military personnel who need to store things while deployed, we have a lot of extra stuff we’re not using. In the wake of the recession so many people have been abandoning their storage units that two cable shows, Storage Wars and Auction Hunters have become hits. Now some storage facilities are seeing up to 100 people show up for auctions hoping to score some valuable but forgotten item.

Besides the storage units, how many of us have unused things lying around our abode that haven’t had any warmth or affectionate use for years? How many of us have stuck something in the closet or garage and said to ourselves,”I might need this solar powered nut cracker someday.” I see you nodding in agreement.

In economic terms this stuff represents a great deal of idle inventory (Of course, some Christmas or birthday gifts have to remain idle inventory like the knit sweater with Barbara Streisand’s face on it that Aunt Gertrude gave you that you’re afraid she’ll ask to see you wearing the next time she drops by), hence Ebay and Craig’s list. Yet, there sit the filled storage spaces.

If you’ll be so kind as to hop over to http://tinyurl.com/a7oulb6  and look under “Redistribution Markets” you’ll see a list of sites where you can find things for free or swap items. If you look under “Productive Service Systems” you’ll see rental and sharing sites. There is an entire economy growing to bring all that idle inventory online. With so many people still struggling think of the distribution of all that idle inventory into new households where it could be put to use.

There are 2.24 billion square feet of storage space available for stuff to be shoved into and forgotten. If my math is correct that represents a square almost 9 miles long and 9 miles wide. Maybe someone can use some of that stuff and save ourselves the extra $100 to $200 a month for storage rental.

But won’t the redistribution of all this stuff hurt business and by extension jobs? I’ll go into that more in another post. But going back to the Nordic Track, the young man who picked it up probably saved anywhere from $500 to $1000 or more in new or even some used equipment. If he didn’t have the money to spend and needed to pick up the item for free no sale is lost elsewhere, potentially his quality of life is improved and maybe some health care costs are reduced. If he did have the money to spend but chose the free item, then most likely that money will be spent somewhere else that wouldn’t have had the sale otherwise. No net loss to the economy that I can see.

I have a treadmill I’m not using. Do you want it? (No wonder I’m overweight)

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