Public Storage is maybe too public

“I just had this weird feeling that my money wasn’t safe here anymore.” — Sneakers

Some people wondered about my vague microblog post last week. I didn’t post the details because I didn’t know everything about the situation yet, but now I do.

After 16 years in the same house, we moved this year, putting our old house on the market. The kids had all moved out. It was a good time to downsize, move a little closer into town, and maybe simplify. We had accumulated so many things, including thousands of books which I didn’t want to part with. The easiest way to solve this seemed to donate everything we could and then just box the rest up and rent a storage unit somewhere, to give us time to move and go through things more slowly.

This mostly worked out great. We recently downsized the storage to a smaller unit, because almost everything had been moved.

Fast forward to last week, I got a message from the storage facility that the lock on our unit needed to be replaced. No other details. We went up there and discovered a new lock on our door. The metal around the door was a little bent out of shape. I was able to point my camera into the grate at the top to look in. Someone had clearly broken in and messed everything up. Boxes were moved and at first it looked like half of our stuff was missing.

I often reflect on how lucky I’ve been in my life. Very few regrets, only a couple true setbacks to complain about. No one has ever robbed me! (Except identity theft to go on a shopping spree in my name, which was annoying and a huge waste of time, but fixable.)

What hit me hard about this was the irreplaceable stuff. I was imagining photos that were never scanned, family videos on VHS from my grandparents, my kids' old artwork from school, random documents, some stuff I’ve never even seen because I kept putting off digitizing it. I don’t worry about losing laptops, tech gadgets, or books. It’s the stuff that money and insurance can’t fix that hurts.

The next day I got to meet with the manager and get inside our storage unit. Turned out someone had made a run on multiple locations. They rented a unit to get an access code for the gate and elevator, then I guess cut locks or used a crowbar to open whatever they could. Other renters were there like I was, trying to understand what in their stuff was missing.

This is where the story ends with good news. Sorting through our stuff, I think everything actually important remained, just tossed around, boxes ripped open. The thief even skipped over old MacBooks and iPods. Maybe they were looking for guns? TVs to pawn? Who knows.

I’m still trying to understand what is missing, but even worst case now it might be a few inconsequential things or nothing at all, not what I had feared. Mostly a happy ending, and lessons learned. Please make copies of everything that matters.

Manton Reece @manton