Self Storage Evolution Timeline

Posted on 12 October 2023 | 6 minute read

storage evolution

Self storage has been around for almost as long as people have had personal belongings. While archaeological evidence is slim, the consensus is that the first signs of people using storage to keep personal items were unearthed in China and date back to 6,000 years ago. The containers used to keep the items were large ceramic pots, which were kept in underground excavated storage rooms.

Plastic containers and cardboard boxes have replaced ceramic pots, and contemporary storage facilities are typically above ground. Despite these changes, the essence of self-storage has mostly stayed the same up to the present day. Regardless, exploring how an industry got its start is always fun.

The History of Self Storage in Ancient Times

There’s a story to go along with the archaeological evidence of 6,000-year-old self-storage methods. An Ancient Chinese man by the name of Xiang Lau enjoyed collecting rocks, bones, and other curiosities found in his village.
Naturally, Lau’s wife quickly became tired of the clutter and demanded he do something about all the bits and pieces strewn about their tiny village hut. Rather than discard all his precious belongings, Xiang created large ceramic pots for his items that he could store underground, out of sight and out of the way.

Xiang’s neighbours took notice of his now tidy home and happy wife and asked for pots of their own, which he was delighted to provide for a profit. Whether the tale is true or not, it’s an entertaining imagining of the start of self-storage.

Just like Xiang in ancient times, humans are still cluttering up their homes with all sorts of things and occasionally need somewhere safe to store them.

The Ancient Egyptians perfected the art of the dovetail joint more than three thousand years ago, which they used to create sturdy wooden chests for storing everyday items.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans also made good use of robust wooden boxes and coffers. Archaeological evidence shows that wealthier citizens preferred storing personal items in more ornately decorated wooden chests.

Boxes had also caught on the distant shores of early Britain, with ancient Saxons preferring plain, wooden trunks for storage. Unlike the upper echelons of Roman and Greek society, even the wealthiest Saxons valued function over form and made do with straightforward designs.

Storage During Medieval Times

It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that storage chests really caught on, because hundreds of examples have been unearthed over the years.

These chests oftentimes doubled as furniture, but we also have evidence of specialized storage boxes being used as tool chests for hauling luggage, weapon and treasure chests, and even boxes explicitly created for keeping clothing dry.

Storage in the 1700’s

The British Aristocracy were big on personal storage during the 1700’s. The travel bug had spread amongst the wealthy, who often needed somewhere safe to store their valuables while they explored the world.

Unlike today, where supersonic jets can span an ocean in hours, the early days of relying on wind and sail meant months in transit were required to visit exotic locations.

Not wanting to leave their valuables unattended for months, the wealthy turned to the banks. The banks acted as a middleman and hired stables for wealthy travellers to store their belongings in relative safety for extended periods.

1800’s and The First Self Storage Warehouses

While an Ancient Chinese legend suggests that the concept of personal storage as a business started thousands of years ago, more recent and verifiable records reveal that the self storage industry we know and love today was first started by a Dutch immigrant named Martin Bekin.

Bekin pioneered the storage industry by supplying storage space to immigrants who needed somewhere to keep their belongings while they settled into their new lives.

The Bekin company is credited with developing the first warehouses that were used as personal storage solutions. These large buildings were built from concrete and reinforced steel, similar to the materials used for modern self-storage units.

The first of these units went up in Los Angeles and then more in San Francisco. Interestingly, after the devastation wrought by the great earthquake of 1906, the Bekins warehouse was one of the few buildings left standing.
storage warehouse

Storage Facilities in the 1980s

Self storage facilities really began to take off in the 1980s, and it was during this decade that we first saw self-storage units pop up around the United Kingdom.

Growing businesses desperately needed secure storage for archived documents, unused office equipment, and surplus stock. Crunching the numbers revealed that self-storage was much more cost-effective than building an extra warehouse or renovating to expand an existing property.

The Evolution of Self-Storage in the Early 2000s

Large backyards and roomy garden sheds were staples of the typical Australian home, giving families plenty of room to spread out. Unfortunately, a shift in real estate trends at the turn of the century took its toll on the amount of square footage the average Australian could afford.

Developers quickly took advantage of a growing population and increasing housing prices. Soaring property values corresponded to shrinking yards, smaller houses, and even tinier garden sheds (if you are lucky enough to have room for one).

With more Australians living in apartments and townhouses than ever, storage space is at a premium. Many of us no longer have access to large sheds or a spare car space in the garage. Consequently, the self-storage unit has become the prevalent choice for storing excess belongings, keeping hobby equipment, or stowing leisure vehicles like boats or classic cars.

Self Storage at 1800 We Store It

Traditional self-storage units are perhaps the most well-known facilities for personal storage, but they are not suitable for all situations. Fortunately, there is a more convenient approach to storage available. For example, mobile self storage units from 1800 We Store It supply storage containers that come to you.

Rather than go through the hassle of transporting items to a distant storage unit, an 1800 We Store It shipping container arrives at your door. You can load it at your leisure before transporting it to a secure facility closest to you when you are done.

The containers are an excellent solution for temporary storage that gives you extra space when renovating your home. They are also a more logical solution when moving your house or office, and you need temporary storage before you take possession of a property. You can keep the secure containers on your property for as long as you need. However, if you take advantage of our warehouse facilities, you get extra security, such as CCTV cameras and security patrols.

From ancient Chinese ceramic pots to wooden crates, personal storage solutions have come a long way since ancient times. People will always require extra storage space at some point, and 1800 We Store It will be here to provide one of the most convenient, flexible, and affordable solutions in Melbourne.