Londoners have too many possessions, and not enough space to put everything. Flats are getting smaller, but we just keep accumulating objects.
Now two west London entrepreneurs are challenging the storage world by developing an online service matching those who have spare room with those starved of space.
“It’s a kind of storage dating agency,” said Ben Rogers who, with Shaff Prabatani, runs www.storemates.co.uk as an answer to the insatiable demand for safe, local affordable storage.
The system allows those with space (parents whose children have flown the nest, senior citizens finding it hard to make ends meet) to help those living in small flats. “Putney has people with spare space and people who are space-starved,” said Ben.
The website lets those with attic, shed, garage or spare room capacity to list it free online. Searching is also free, with the only fee being paid (a fortnight’s rent) once storer and provider are paired.
It means that property-rich, cash-poor OAPs who want to remain in their family home, but need extra income to do that, can rent out their spare rooms or loft space to generate money.
Shaff stumbled on the idea when his partner, Louise, moved in with her boxes, and he looked into the cost of commercial self-storage. With insurance, Shurgard in Putney Bridge Road, Wandsworth (020 8875 6490) and Big Yellow in Lower Richmond Road, Sheen (020 8878 9781) charge around £40 a week, or £2,000 a year, to rent an area equal to the capacity of a Ford Transit.
He pushed a flyer through neighbours’ doors, and had 10 replies. Storemates was born.
Contracts offer reassurance, with the cost calculated at less than half the commercial rate. Everyone gains, and the concept has been broadened by offering rentable space in exchange for neighbourly services such as lawn-mowing, language lessons, shopping and dog-walking.
Storemates is also working with estate agents to help house sellers who want to declutter for a couple of months to make their home more minimalist, and saleable. “It’s a neighbourhood solution, a community idea,” said Ben.
Typical Storemates might be a couple needing somewhere to keep baby things between the arrival of number one and number two, and senior citizens looking for a little extra income to help with soaring bills.
A rating system, along the lines of eBay’s approval stars, builds trust, although space providers need to check the terms of home insurance policies to ensure they are properly covered.
“For every 100 people who use us, we’ll stop another of those unsightly, environmentally unfriendly commercial storage units being built,” said Ben.
picture: Put your bags and boxes in someone else’s loft