Rural Storage: Put it in the Barn?

Lesley Latham |
Believe it or not, I had never heard of renting self storage units until I moved to college. In a rural community of less than 120 residents, including stray cats, storage facilities are lacking. However, the need for storage is not. I firmly believe that “pack rats” and hoarders are meant to live in rural America. Those wide open spaces that are nonexistent in the cities are perfect for extra storage space. A self storage entrepreneur would not be successful if he or she built a storage facility in my hometown. First, there would probably be more storage units than people, which would not be conducive to high occupancy rates. Second, there are plenty of places already to use for storage. Below is a list of rural (or redneck; we do not take offense) storage solutions.

Rural Storage Solution #1

Rural communities are stereotyped as farming communities. In my experience, the stereotype is entirely correct. Farmers and ranchers, or a combination of both, were plentiful in my hometown. And every “real” farmer or rancher has to have a barn; most have more than one. Barns and machine sheds have a very functional purpose. Where else could you store a combine or bales of hay? Certainly not at a storage facility; unless you were willing to pay for multiple parking spaces. Besides functionality, barns are perfect for any extras you might have lying around. Any proper barn that I have been in had a loft. And besides functioning as awesome make-out…errr…Hide-N-Seek spots, lofts are perfect for plastic tubs of out-grown clothes, knick knacks, and grade school papers.

Rural Storage Solution #2

What happened to attics and basements? Oh, yeah. You turned your attic into a trendy bedroom for your teenage son with indie rock posters on the sloped ceilings. And your basement became your second living room. Well, in rural America, attics are used for storage of antiques and play rooms for little girls. One living room is plenty, and the kitchen table is really the second living room. So basements are also used for storage spaces…and tornado shelters. Multiple functionality is key in rural towns.

Rural Storage Solution #3

The city folk actually use their garages for their vehicles. Apparently, a garage protects your car from theft and hail damage. Well, what the heck is a tree for? It protects a vehicle from hail. And if somebody stole my car, my nosy neighbors would have known and would have gotten a detailed description of the perpetrator. And it would be my own fault, my car was never locked and the keys were always in it. If a rural resident was concerned about a tree branch falling on their vehicle, they would put it in the barn. The garage remains free for more tools (because the tool shed is already full of dirt bikes), more lawn mowers, bicycles, tricycles, holiday decorations, another deep-freeze, and shelves of toilet paper in case of a zombie apocalypse. Although I am not sure how useful toilet paper is during a zombie apocalypse, but again, multiple functionality.

Rural Storage Solution #4

Although I find nothing wrong with using garages, barns, basements, and attics for storage spaces, I am judgmental of those who use their yards. Old stoves, broken down vehicles, air conditioners, and worn out church pews do not belong in your flower bed, or what would be your flower bed. Junk Yard is not to be interpreted loosely. Junk Yards are businesses, not residential lawns. My advice: Take your junk in your yard to an actual Junk Yard and make your yard a lawn. If a farmer cannot grow and maintain a little grass and a few bushes, then they might want to rethink their chosen profession.

Rural Storage Solution #5

My family does not farm or ranch, so we do not have access to a barn. However, we own a trucking company, so we have semi trailers at our disposal. My grandmother has at least one trailer full of antique Singer sewing machines. Another houses all of the memorabilia taken from my late-great-grandmother’s house. Refrigerated semi trailers are perfect for storing antiques and precious items. Yes, they could be temperature regulated if we kept them turned on, but that is actually unnecessary. They are insulated, so even in extreme Kansas heat and cold, the items remain at relatively safe temperatures. However, do not limit the trailer-storage idea to semi trailers. There are many types of trailers I have seen used for storage.

Rural Storage Solution #5½

Another advantage of owning a trucking company is the need for a shop, or a glorified machine shed. Since a semi mechanic was over an hour away, my father and grandfather do the mechanic work. This is probably more than you want or need to know about semi trucks, but an oil pit is very useful since trucks cannot be raised on the nifty car jacks. Our first shop does not have an oil pit, but our second shop does. And the first shop became our storage space for our boat, motor home, and any extra “toy” my dad brought home. If we had to rent storage for our “toys”...Well, let me put it this way: The second shop allowed my dad to impulsively buy any vehicle he wanted and me to graduate college with minimal student loans. I suppose this idea works the same as a farmer having a second barn, hence the ½.

Rural Storage Solution #6

I saved the best for last. When we ran out of storage space (I honestly do not know how it was possible to run out), we bought houses. Real estate is cheap in rural towns, and my family could rent the houses out to our drivers if we did not use them for storage. Most people buy their second home in Florida or Cape Cod as a vacation/retirement home. Not us. The number of houses we have owned is astounding, and a little embarrassing. Today, there are two that I am aware of that are plumb full of antiques and decorations. My grandpa is a holiday scrooge, but he loves buying strings of Christmas lights for five cents. I think we have enough Christmas lights to decorate every building and tree within the city limits. And I wish I was exaggerating. Additionally, we are not the only family that owns multiple houses with at least one being used specifically for storage. So, while storage facilities are scarce/nonexistent in rural American communities, storage space certainly is not.