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'Out of sight, out of mind' - The place of self storage in securing pasts, ordering the present and enabling futures.

Owen, Jennifer 2018. 'Out of sight, out of mind' - The place of self storage in securing pasts, ordering the present and enabling futures. PhD Thesis, Cardiff.
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Abstract

Thirty years ago the self-storage industry in the UK was non-existent; now it is the biggest in Europe. Renting a self-storage unit is advertised as the solution to controlling clutter, a secure space for valuable objects and way to enable mobility. Its growth in size and popularity is thought to be symptomatic of wider material afflictions and shifts in Western society including overconsumption, an increase in divorce rates, an ageing population, increased mobility and ‘generation rent’. Self-storage plays a significant role in routine domestic practices as well as distinct periods of transition (i.e. moving house), trajectories (i.e. growing up, growing older) and events (i.e. bereavement, divorce) that occur over the life course. The overall aim of this thesis has been to form an understanding of what self-storage units signify including, and besides, their storage function. Based on interviews and object elicitation at self-storage units with users in the UK, this thesis argues that our possessions, as they are sorted, packed, moved and stored, are integral aspects of our dwelling and mobility in the contemporary world. By bringing to light the narratives surrounding hidden objects stored in self-storage units, this thesis has shown that ‘unpacking’ this kind of materiality provides rich possibilities to understand and grasp the world beyond and displaced from people’s immediacies. This thesis firmly situates self-storage use within a range of contextual forces: the categorisation, ordering and hierarchical place(ment) of matter in response to ideas of clutter, mess and excess; the containment of contingency and potential futures in the face of uncertainty; and the connection and consolidation of identities in light of mobility and changes across the life course. It adds new sets of ideas to engage with theories of consumption, home and identity, and demonstrates the importance of acknowledging stored materiality as a distinct, necessary and complex phase in biographies and geographies of objects, which has previously been underplayed in the material culture literature.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Geography and Planning (CPLAN)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: self storage; life course; material culture; consumption; identity; home; mobility
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 23 May 2019
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2019 02:26
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/122801

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