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            I’ve been fascinated by the term “Self-Storage” for a long time. I would see the signs on the side of the highway as we drove to visit my brother’s family, and I’d wonder, why not just call it “storage?” “Self-storage” sounds so ominous, as if you are being asked to store your soul in a box.


So, of course, I’ve been trying for years to plan out a science fiction story about a society where it’s possible to store your “self,” or parts of yourself, for varying periods of time. Maybe if you wanted to do a task that was disgusting to you, or that seemed immoral, you could store the moral part of yourself temporarily. Or if you were grieving and the pain was preventing you from moving forward with your life, you could store your emotional self for a few years, until you could get your life back on track.

            I picture self-storage as something that would be available mostly to people with money. For a smaller fee, maybe, you could remove single strands of thought, like the strands of memory Dumbledore kept in vials and revisited in his pensieve in the Harry Potter books. But those single thoughts would degrade more quickly and be lost more easily.

            And then there would be the danger of putting too much of yourself in storage at one time, and becoming someone so completely different that you couldn’t figure out how to return to yourself, or wouldn’t want to.

            And what would happen if you couldn’t pay your storage fees? Would your parts be sold to the highest bidder? Or destroyed?

“Don’t try it.”

            I think people might want to use self-storage to get through something grueling, like medical school or a prison term. Or after experiencing a traumatic event, like rape, or a natural disaster, like a flood or a bad presidency.


            Some self-storage places might offer therapy for the reintegration process, but of course that would only be affordable for the premium customers, and there would be a range of prices and qualities of storage available, depending on how much money you could spend. Maybe the cheaper places would use less effective drugs for the processes of removal and reinsertion of the self, or harsher chemicals for the storage of the self, which would make the self degrade more quickly. Some places would have expert self-removers who could do it safely and cleanly and without excess pain, and others would just use a rusty nail, or the equivalent, and leave you to manage the pain on your own.

“A rusty nail?!!!”

            The dangers would be many, of course, and you’d have to buy self-removal insurance, in case the technology went wrong or a clerical worker lost your “self” or confused it with someone else’s. There could also be side effects, though I don’t know what they would be.

“That doesn’t sound good.”

            The self-storage story would, of course, be an allegory for the damage we do to our personalities when we try to deny our memories, or our feelings, and do things that we don’t really want to do. Whether we use alcohol or drugs, or dissociation, or workaholism, or denial, or all of these things at once, our often well-meant attempts to separate ourselves from pain have unwanted side effects that can become life altering. But we are still, endlessly, drawn to these behaviors, because without them our pain often makes life unlivable.

            I think of the self-storage idea around the Holocaust, both because of the human experimentation the Nazis did on their victims, and because of the ways regular Germans, and so many others, were able to ignore the horror of the concentration camps, and all of the events that led up to the final solution, because they were told to think of Jews, gay people, Gypsies, and the disabled as not truly human. I also think about how the Holocaust survivors had to make it through life after the camps, forced to compartmentalize in order to function in the “normal” world. So many people had to squash their memories, of the horror, and of their lives before the horror, just to survive.

            I think of Butterfly, my rescue dog who survived eight years as a puppy mill mama and lived with the resulting medical and psychological wounds for her 4 ¾ years with us until she died. She blossomed and found joy and learned how to live as a real dog, but some parts of her were forever in hiding, unable to heal.

My Butterfly

Humans have a hard time accepting the reality of wounds that deep, and are forever looking for ways to remove the memories, and deny the pain, and to pretend life is universally good. But that need for easy answers takes a toll on us, and on society at large. If you put yourself, or your soul, in storage for too long, can you ever get it back?

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

130 responses »

  1. I suspect you’ve just written your self-storage science fiction, or at least an outline for it. Don’t we already engage in a certain amount of self-storage, compartmentalizing, or keeping some things hidden? Ask the dogs.

    • I think the dogs are the only people I know who DON’T compartmentalize all the time. They don’t seem to be troubled by their own thoughts or feelings the way I am. Cricket, in particular, revels in her dark side on a daily basis.

  2. “Self-storage”… hmmm, I have the image of a cryogenic chamber.
    As to the horrible histories, I keep in mind Psalm 37:10 – “In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.” Blessings 🍀

  3. What a great thought provoking topic. Sounds like a mini series to me.

  4. There was an episode on a tv series called “CSI”, during which one of the agents made a comment about some guy living in an overcrowded home– saying that guy was a hoarder. His agent partner replied, “Don’t you keep a a bunch of excess stuff at a storage facility. That makes you a hoarder too. It’s just that you can afford to pay the storage fees.”

  5. In the city where I used to live, a giant self-storage establishment had a huge neon sign, visible from the freeway. One day the first S went out, and the sign stayed that way for months. Elf Storage always gave a huge lift to my day. I highly recommend thinking about Elf Storage.

  6. Rachel, have you seen any of the Black Mirror episodes? They do highly imaginative scenarios with ‘self-storage’

  7. We could ask the Republicans in congress where they have locked up their soul or moral compass. You ask some very serious questions. We should all be asking where we may have hidden away parts of our self that bring us closer to our humanity and connection.

  8. Your science fiction story sounds a bit like something I read by Phillip K Dick, but I can’t remember what it was called. And a more worrying thought is what would happen if you couldn’t afford to keep up they payments for self storage.

  9. Take that idea and run with it!

  10. Butterfly was so blessed to have you. Brilliant blog on self-storage.

  11. Loved that. Gentle, whimsical start, then… bang! A clever metaphor – ‘self’ used in that context.

  12. I loved this ride into storage of our unwanteds. Great fantasy, or is it? We might label the building “Hang On” 🤓

  13. Thanks for liking my recent post, Rachel. For some reason, WordPress will not allow me to like yours. I don’t know whether it has anything to do with my recent browser update to Catalina on Apple.
    Take care,


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