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5 Life Lessons From My Neighbor Who Collects Storage Buildings

by Gip Plaster on January 31st, 2012

I don’t know most of my neighbors, but I’ve lived enough out-of-control days to be a bit concerned when the lives I see just down the street appear to be spiraling into uselessness.

This is the story of my neighbor who collects storage buildings. Here’s a little about this family followed by the lessons I think we can learn from them.

The Family On The Corner

They live up the road for us in a three-section manufactured house (the housing-industry term for a mobile home) on just over an acre of property. It’s a corner lot visible to everyone in their neighborhood and everyone passing on the road.

We immediately noticed the home when it was installed because it is at least twice the size of any other house in the area. Then we noticed that when the moving truck backed up to the front door, it stayed there — in the same position — for over a month. How much does a month-long U-Haul rental cost?

Now it’s several years later, and their property is littered with storage buildings. One is a simple metal shed. Four or five are nice wooden structures with porches and windows. They installed an electric poll and meter box at the back of the property near these nicer buildings, but they never put in the meter nor a power line to the pole.

When they leave the door open on a building, boxes and piles of nothing in particular are visible inside each one. Nothing is organized, so nothing could ever be located. That blows my original theory that they might run a salvage or resale business of some kind.

The latest building addition is a bright blue one placed in their front yard up on blocks to make it level. It’s the largest one so far. Cinder blocks are stacked up to the door to form crude steps.

When I saw one of the women from the house entering this new building a couple of weeks ago, I saw a washer and dryer inside. There’s no electrical connection to the building, however. It’s near their water well, but there’s no water pipe going into the building either.

There is also a camper trailer and the trailer portion of an 18-wheeler permanently installed on the property.

Amazingly, the riding lawnmower sits outside like mine does.

What Can We Learn?

This is a true story, and the only conclusion I can reach is that this family lives a life out of control. How could I reach any other conclusion?

I could be wrong, but the life I observe up the road serves as an example that teaches me at least five important life lessons. Here they are:

1. Accurately assess your needs. Some of their buildings aren’t completely full, and I haven’t actually seen anything inside that trailer in months. They have a mess, but they have more space than they need. Do you?

2. Clean up what’s yours. They also have piles of dirt and rock all over their property from digging into or building up their land to make it level for each building. In addition, they accepted a property with an old road running through it and some other flaws, and they have never cleaned up any of them.

3. Finish what you start. Why would they pay to put up a utility pole and then never connect it to the any utility? Leaving things half done is costly, wasteful and calls your judgment into question.

4. Be kind to one another. If they’re outside, the family with the storage building graveyard up the road from me always waves, and we wave at them. They’re strange — like the couple that rarely mows their yard (that’s us) and the family with too many security lights (that’s the one across the street from us) — but they seem like nice people. Even those with lives out of control can be nice, can’t they?

5. Mind your own business. I really feel a bit guilty writing hundreds of words about a family I don’t know, and I’m wondering if minding my own business might be a good course of action for me. They may not be good at minding their business, but the family that collects storage buildings hasn’t shown any interest in my business.

I wonder, however, if this family up the road from me is living the kind of simple, deliberate life they could be enjoying.

Still, I don’t want to make any value judgments. I just wonder if there is a better way for them. I’ve found a path that gives me some peace and comfort, and I wish everyone could.

I’ll probably never know how things are really going for the family up the road with the storage building farm because I don’t plan to stop and talk to them. I don’t imagine they want me to.

Based on the story I’ve told you about the family up the road, what do you think of them? Does their life teach any kind of lesson to you? Does mine?

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From → Simpler Living

15 Comments
  1. Maybe their business is storing other people’s stuff, each with their own building or room in their house, and the power pole is there in case one of their future customers wants power.
    Linda Sand recently posted My ten foods

    • It’s possible, Linda. I really think they must buy junk lots or unclaimed storage unit contents or something like that. It’s interesting that all their storage buildings aren’t even the same brand. And placing a storage building in front of the house is not allowed in their area, so their newest building may get them in truble. It’s interesting, whatever they’re doing.

      The strange thing is that I never see trucks of stuff leaving the property.
      Gip

  2. Hey Gip – I think your neighbors may be related to me! Well, not by blood to ME personally, but philosophically to some of my blood relatives. You don’t know how close to home this hits! As for the main lesson to learn here? No matter how much space you have, it will never be enough if you don’t get a handle on all the “stuff” in your life. Just like a task expands to fill available time, if given the opportunity, stuff will take over and fill any empty space.

    What do I think of your neighbors? They sound like friendly folks with a LOT of stuff. I wouldn’t want to have all that stuff but I’d sure get to know them better if I lived in your neighborhood. They probably have anything anyone might ever need buried somewhere. Think how handy it would be if you could just borrow something you only need to use once or twice!
    Crystal recently posted CrystalClearEdits.com is Open for Business!

    • You have a very good point, Crystal. They probably have one of everything if they could find it. One day, I’ll have the right opportunity to ask what they do. I have relatives who move things from one storage unit to another, thinking they will need the stuff later. It’s funny that they never do.
      Gip

  3. Nicholle permalink

    Your neighbor is not organized in all the stuffs and they love to see messy things surrounds them and they don’t even know that they disturb someone. I hate an attitude like that a selfish attitude. This is a great lesson for me to think about the other person who are vulnerable in doing something in the house or in business area. Thanks!
    Nicholle recently posted Timber Doors Brisbane

    • Thanks for commenting, Nicholle. I’m glad to have you as part of the conversation. It’s always a good idea to consider other people when making decisions about your house or your neighborhood. While you don’t always have to satisfy others, it’s good to consider how they feel.
      Gip

  4. Megyn @Minimalist Mommi permalink

    You know, I think the same things about a lot of neighbors in our ‘hood. As soon as a garage opens, I often want to scream, “Really! You don’t need all that! Let me help you!” And this happens a lot as the majority of neighbors have over flowing garages (except the one man across from the park with the orgasmically beautiful garage organized to a T. Seriously, out of a magazine). I wonder if I put up flyers offering to help, if anyone will take me up on that offer. How cool would it be to transform a neighborhood? Seriously, my dream.

    Maybe one day your neighbors will realize what they’ve gotten themselves into. Maybe they’ll reach out to a fellow neighbor for help. I hope that neighbor is you 🙂
    Megyn @Minimalist Mommi recently posted MOVED!

    • I think the job of organizing that property is a bit too big for me, Megyn, but it’s an interesting idea. Thanks for commenting.

      It’s hard not to be judgmental when you see others making decisions that you know aren’t best for them. Still, it’s their business. And I still wonder what this neighbor’s business is.
      Gip

  5. When I see peoples’ overflowing homes and yards now I think “that was me about five years ago.” I own a lot less stuff now, if only by virtue of having less space for it, but I still have a way to go until I have the right amount of stuff for my tiny living space.

    This was glaringly obvious on a recent trip when the first thing I had to do upon arrival was unload several milk crates full of stuff so I could get back to the galley and toilet.

    I think minimalism and simplification are a journey — not a destination.
    Mike | Homeless On Wheels recently posted Photos Of This Morning’s Lunar Eclipse

    • Sorry for the delay replying. As you noticed, there was an outage of my blog yesterday, apparently lasting several hours. In any case, it’s working well now, so that’s all that matters, I suppose.

      You’re right about simplicity being a journey. I feel I’ve made some negative progress related to the house and clutter and some positive progress related to mental clutter in recent weeks. I’m looking forward to further improvements on both fronts though.
      Gip

  6. Joni Brown permalink

    I believe they may be Hoarders (like on TV). Does anyone watch the show Hoarding? I do b/c if I were not so poor and not careful that would be ME. Several of the stories revealed that the Hoarders had storage sheds (filled up) on their property and one lady had two storage rooms rented elsewhere unbeknownst to her husband. I also watch the show b/c I was a counselor and have a great interest in psychology. Every single story of hoarding is psychological underneath. It’s sad.
    As you said Gil, it is an uncontrolled life. I could write a book on clutter and hoarding from my past. It is akin to being an alcoholic; you are always a hoarder you are just on the wagon.
    Joni

    • Thanks for commenting, Joni. The situation with my neighbors has only deepened since I wrote this post. They are clearly hoarders, I would think. Even if they have a business that requires a lot of storage, there is surely a better way for them to store their things. I really do hope they have a business of some kind because it is even sadder if they don’t.
      Gip

  7. Joni Brown permalink

    You are welcome Gip (about posting). One of my “NOT New Years Eve Resolutions” is to reply more on the blogs I follow.

    They could very well have originally planned to have a business but lost control. My first husband used to be that way with his tools. They were such a mess that he couldn’t find what he needed so he would have to buy a new one when the need came up.

    I myself went wild when QVC first came on in the 80’s. I was in my first marriage (same husband from above) and stayed at home with the kids. I would order all kinds of things and hide them in closets from the hubby (yea, a GREAT lesson for the kids). I would bring them out one at a time, over time so he didn’t notice. It also helped that he was a heavy drinker that wasn’t home much. It’s not funny but sometimes if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry. I see now that I was exhibiting extreme passive aggressiveness to his drinking….

    What would worry me as a neighbor would be fire and RATS.

    Joni

    • It’s very easy to set a simple bad decision spiral into a huge mess. I’ve never been a hoarder, but I’ve made plenty of bad decisions.

      Fortunately, these people are probably far enough away that their rats can’t find me. And with the hot summer we had last year, I’m hoping there aren’t any anyway. I’m sure most of these people’s stuff melted, exploded or was otherwise damaged since it was over 100 degrees and didn’t get below 80 at night for a couple of months.

      Gip

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