Robin Ashenden

My life in storage

The appeal of fake minimalism

  • From Spectator Life

I’m off to South Italy for a few months having recently sold my late mother’s house and, if I can find a nice immigration lawyer, perhaps longer. This means my home is now full of cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, marker pens and panic. It’s a feeling I’m perfectly familiar with, having changed my living space (and country) more times in life than I care to count. The boxes won’t be going with me abroad. Instead, I’ll be renting local accommodation for my worldly goods: a storage space.

Such austerity’s strictly for saints or lunatics, and most of us don’t make the grade as either

The buildings that house storage spaces are nearly always the same. They’re plonked down in industrial estates and look faintly like car-showrooms without cars or windows. There’s usually an office selling boxes and parcel tape at severely whacked up prices, and little attempts at jollity (at the latest the receptionist’s kitted out in the same royal blue as the storage space doors and there’s a teddy bear on the counter, albeit with padlock dangling weirdly off its arm). Banks of CCTV cameras are everywhere and, near the industrial lift are the trolleys – huge, unwieldly things which have a mind of their own and are hell to steer. There are signs forbidding you from keeping all sorts of items in your locker (food, gelignite, Kalashnikovs etc.), and, surreally, from using said trolleys for the transportation of people (dead bodies clearly aren’t welcome here either). Once you’ve made your way upstairs, you find yourself in long, strip-lit corridors lined with numbered and padlocked spaces, each with its mesh ceiling and corrugated walls. They make you think of communist jails.

Why do people use storage spaces? Doubtless there are happy stories, winners who have snaffled the dream job in Dubai or are off to backpack for a year round South East Asia.

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Written by
Robin Ashenden
Robin Ashenden is founder and ex-editor of the Central and Eastern European London Review. He is currently writing a novel about Solzhenitsyn, Khrushchev’s Thaw and the Hungarian Uprising.

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