When I drive past large signs that say ‘Self Storage,’ I imagine rolling up the sliding doors of a storage unit to find people standing there, in self-storage. Maybe the sign should say DIY storage, because surely no one is storing themselves inside storage units. Silly, right?

Looking at vast rows of storage units and seeing five-storey buildings in urban centres — all filled with ‘stored’ items, I wonder what manner of items are people paying to store? It must be stuff they cannot part with. It must be stuff they had to clear out in order to stage and sell their home. It must be stuff that landed at someone’s home because of a relocation or as the result of closing up a family member’s home.

Home buyers may look for a mountain view, but they want storage. They may want four bedrooms, but they need storage. They may want a gourmet kitchen, but they require adequate storage. Oh, look! A cold storage room! There is a moment of silence while people imagine ourselves reaping the benefits of large gardens, peeling, pickling and boiling in order to put up jars of bottled goods for the winter. Garages are great. Extra sheds are even better. Basement storage is a plus. ‘Look at all the storage!’ people exclaim. (No one says ‘Look at all the self storage!’)

It isn’t news to anyone that we all have more than we need. Some of us have multiple interests and skills, all of which require certain accoutrements, but only periodically. We don’t use kayaks and snorkeling equipment every day. Snowshoes, golf equipment, looms and quilting frames are items we use, but not necessarily every day. In a climate such as ours, we have clothing for three seasons: hot, freezing and in-between. We need room to store all the extra clothes, boots, scarves and hats that we own.

I write about this as if I am the exception and require no storage. I am not. I, too, have tools and all the stuff I need for my various interests. Alas, in my circa-1905 home, there is no storage. It is a reminder of how people lived 120 years ago. With little time for side interests, fewer clothes, and with emphasis on useful items, I know my three-bedroom home was filled with people, not things.

I imagine the people from the past and their belongings which used to be in my home as each owner called it their own. I think about the meals that were prepared here, the family gatherings, the visit to a grandmother, the time spent sitting on the front porch as the light of day grew dim. I like sitting on my front porch just as the sun dips below the horizon. I think about the thousands of times that the reddish light of the setting sun has illuminated the gingerbread on all of the porches on my street. I like to think that others who were here before me enjoyed the same moments of quiet beauty.

In those moments, the stuff in my house really doesn’t matter.

I could live with less and be just as happy.

The trick would be to reduce what I own. And: resist the urge to find storage space. Indeed, perhaps people rent self-storage units and keep them empty. Maybe they visit once in a while, if only to stand inside and enjoy a moment of being away from all of their stuff.

If you need a breather from the stuff and the housework and the yard work, you can always go for a walk to clear your head. But be sure to lock the door when you leave home. You wouldn’t want anyone to break in and take some of your stuff.