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America's Obsession with... Storage

The newest trend in home-ownership is to devote an entire room as a "Costco annex."

By Elizabeth Gettelman

Since the 1970s, the average U.S. home has grown by 80 percent, yet Americans face a "storage crisis," according to UCLA researchers.

The self-storage industry is only 35 years old. It took 25 years for the first billion square feet of storage space to be built. The second billion square feet was built in just eight years. Seven square feet of commercial storage space now exists for every American.

One in 11 households rents storage space 𔃉 million more households than two years ago.

For $200,000 the GarageTown chain sells "condominium" storage units complete with fridge, cable TV and members-only clubhouse.

Self-storage units cover 72 square miles, the area of Manhattan and San Francisco combined.

The New York Times reports a surge in multiyear, multiunit renters, or what one self-storage company calls "a segment of the population that has truly embedded storage into its lifestyle."

Last year, Americans spent $7 billion on organizational products for their homes, closets and garages.

Container Store staff are trained to develop an "emotional connection" with customers. Says a salesperson, "When someone comes in to organize belts or shoes, there is usually a bigger problem."

American women would rather organize their closets than lose weight, according to a 2005 Rubbermaid survey.

One in three Ikea customers say they get more satisfaction from cleaning out their closets than from having sex.

Men who don't organize their sock drawer have sex three times more a month than men who do.

Men who own Palm Pilots are four times more likely to forget their wives' birthdays than men who don't.

The National Association of Professional Organizers claims that Americans spend 55 minutes a day looking for things they know they own but can't find.

Four in five new homes have multicar garages. Most two-car garages have one or no car in them.

Seventy-five percent of L.A. garages are used in ways that preclude any parking.

Many upscale homes now feature a "transition room" or, as one woman told the New York Times, "the room where we will channel all of our crap.''

After a Massachusetts family moved into a smaller home in 2005, the mother was reportedly "very depressed" until they converted their den into a "Costco annex."

According to Mental Health America, more than 2 million Americans are hoarders.

In 2003, a Bronx man spent two days trapped under his magazines—ranging from Vibe to the Harvard Business Review—before firefighters rescued him.

In 2005, a 12-year-old Long Island girl was accused of strangling her mother after being told to clean her room. Her attorney claimed self-defense.

Ninety percent of parents say that their kids' rooms are causing "mess distress." A recent study found that college conservatives' rooms are more neat and organized than liberals'.

The U.S. produces 40 percent of the world's new stored information.

Each American produces 800 megabytes of digital data a year, the equivalent of 30 feet of books.

The CIA burns up to 10 tons of documents per day.

The director of the National Association for Information Destruction says paper shredders are becoming "a household requirement as much as a washer and dryer."

The initial version of this year's U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act bill set aside $74 million for peanut storage.

A Kansas salt mine is home to the world's largest film collection, and, until recently, 400 versions of the good book, owned by the American Bible Society.

The Mormon church advises its members to keep a year's worth of rations because "It may someday be as important to store food as it was for Noah and his family to board the ark."

The average American fridge is twice as big as its European counterpart.

Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, state troopers rescued 1,400 frozen embryos from a flooded New Orleans fertility clinic. The first set of twins was delivered in December.

The San Diego Zoo's "Frozen Zoo" has semen, embryos and DNA samples from 675 species, half of them endangered.

For $110 a year, Clone USA will store your pet's semen—provided you collect it yourself.

This edition of 'Exhibit' originally ran in the July/August issue of Mother Jones magazine. The Byrne Report returns Oct. 10.

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