News @ AsiaOne

No space for hobby? No problem

More people paying hundreds of dollars each month to rent storage space for their cherished collections. -TNP

Tue, Sep 04, 2012
The New Paper

Above: Mr John Lee stores about 280 swords and knives in his self-storage unit at Lock+Store at Chai Chee Lane.

Once a week, in the wee hours of the morning, he heads for Chai Chee.

Mr John Lim, 37, simply wants to spend some quality time with his collection of samurai swords that he stores at Lock+Store's air-conditioned self-storage facilities at Chai Chee Lane.

The asset management director in an Italian investment firm tells The New Paper on Sunday: "I can just take my time - about two hours - to check on my swords and maintain them if there is a need to."

It is a collection that is worth at least $500,000 - more than, in his own words, "the latest BMW model".

But that is also why he is shelling out about $588 a month for his air-conditioned 103 sq ft unit - about the size of a small bedroom - to store his swords.

"With all things metal, I was worried about my collection of swords and knives rusting," says Mr Lim.

He pays about $800 for another non-airconditioned unit that contains his collection of about 200 bowling balls.

As space grows scarce, Mr Lim is one of a growing number of hobbyists who are using self-storage spaces here, say industry players.

The CEO of Lock+Store, Ms Helen Ng, says the demand is partially fuelled by the smaller living spaces most people have these days.

She says: "The growing demand for shoebox apartments has also created new demand for self-storage space as households look outside of their homes for additional space."

Ms Daphne Lim, the marketing manager of Extra Space, explained that while it's usually companies renting the bigger spaces for their inventory, they are seeing ordinary folk pick up spaces to store unusual things these days.

Think kayaks, ski gear, and even someone who stores his three prized Ducati motorcycles. Extra Space has five facilities located throughout the island at places like Boon Keng and Marymount.

Said Ms Lim: "Initially, people mainly used it for pragmatic purposes like storing household items while their home is undergoing renovation."

But as Singaporeans have higher disposable incomes, the things being stored reflect that as well. People may pay anything from $88 for a 24 sq ft space at Lock+Store to $1,450 for a 450 sq ft walk-in room - about the size of a small apartment.

Business consultant Johnny Leong, 43, is paying about $300, mainly to store his wines that were beginning to get on his wife's nerves.

"I had more than 1,000 bottles that spilled over from the kitchen to the hall and then to the dining room," says Mr Leong with a laugh.

Mr Dave Lim, 35, a sales manager at a car workshop, stores his cosplay alien and predator masks in his 62 sqft Extra Space storage unit on Marymount Road.

As he works nearby, he visits his unit every day during lunch time to maintain or transfer masks that are for sale.

The storage space has become a bit of a playroom for his friends as well, he smiles.

They come over to try on the masks - some of which are made by Mr Lim himself.

"They pose and take photos with the masks on," he says.

Mr Lee agrees that his unit has become a bit of a convivial meeting place too. His friends often come over to take a look at the replica swords and knives from famous Hollywood movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Kill Bill.

Storage specialists have also seen another trend.

Some customers are using the air-conditioned spaces as walk-in wardrobes.

Ms Ng says, "We have executives who visit both our facilities to change into and out of their office wear daily when they find commuting back home for a night out too troublesome."

One disadvantage of their own storage space?

"You buy more stuff because space is no longer an issue!" says Mr John Lim with a laugh.

His interest in swords and knives began 23 years ago when he was a boy scout. That was his first introduction to a survival knife that helped him in the wild during camps. His collection was modest initially.

He had only about 30 before he rented a storage unit about five years ago.

Now, his collection boasts about 280 swords and knives.

"The buying spree began and never stopped after I started renting the space here," says Mr Lim with a mock groan.

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