What You Can Learn From Old Furniture: A Quarantine Storage Story

Old Radio

One of my favorite parts of my job in storage is hearing about the reasons that folks are renting a self storage unit. Usually an answer is volunteered before I can even ask the question. I have heard everything from death, divorce, remodeling, selling, moving, summer break, collecting, business needs, really anything you can think of, you name it and I can cite an example of a customer who is using us for exactly that. Some of our customers use our self storage in Ithaca and surrounding areas for short periods of time or extended. I was one of those extended types who used storage for a deceased family member’s belongings.

Obviously a lot of us are spending a significantly higher amount of time in our homes. Some of us are having days of raging productivity and other days getting by, doing the bare minimum. Both of these are absolutely acceptable ways to spend time given the current circumstance. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I want and what I need, and then what I want and what I need Right Now. One of my most important focuses, too, is on what I can do right here, right now. So below I am going to share one of my quarantine storage stories.

In 2006, my grandfather passed away. He was ill and lived with his sister, and for the remainder of her life she kept his belongings in the house, hardly using them, but nonetheless, there they sat. In 2017, she passed away as well, and her home on Geneva Street in Ithaca was sold. In the months after her passing, my family members were left wondering what to do with all of their combined belongings. As it came closer to selling time, everyone took the sweet reminders of life with them and the sale went through in early Autumn. One of the few things I took was an old radio cabinet. This sat in storage until about 3 weeks ago.

After weeks of watching HGTV and the DYI network, and talking with my father who is an excellent electrician and craftsman, I decided it was time to try to restore this piece of furniture that has been sitting in storage for years (I realize as I’m writing this how cliche it may sound). Upon looking at this, if I’m being honest, seemingly unimpressive radio cabinet, I thought “what am I supposed to do with this?” I opened up the battered cupboards and read the labeling. It said, “Stromberg-Carlson Radio Receiver NO. 1210 “Salem Chest”.” I began sanding the tops and sides, removing the doors for better access. I cleaned the inside of the cabinet thoroughly, even between the decorative fixtures on the outside. It was really starting to look good! Feeling accomplished, I went inside and searched Google with exactly what I put in the quotations above. What I found out was that this cabinet was made in ‘47 or ‘48 in Rochester, NY. Further research showed me that this was made of mahogany and it has cleaned up in such a way that it now looks like a timeless piece that can be maintained. I am still eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new hardware so the decorative washers on the handles can match. I will post a picture when they are in.

This chest was made on the dawn of the age of television, long before we could turn on Netflix to drown out the noise of our insanely busy, technologically driven days of endless productivity. That was so powerful for me to think about- what this piece of furniture meant and what it was like on the day it was made, and even the day it was used for the first time, and the many years that it sat untouched. Now, I’m not sure where my grandfather acquired this, or what it’s monetary worth even was for that matter and truly, that matters less to me than it’s sentimental value. Working on this old chest has made me feel closer to my grandfather than I have in years. I pictured him dancing with a partner with the radio blaring in the background, smoking cigarettes indoors because, you know, the 1950’s, or listening alone while cooking or winding down from a day of manual labor with a radio show playing.

I share this not to make anyone feel bad for not bringing new life to their old belongings, or to shame people for buying new furniture, it is only to share my experience with storing an item and pulling it out and restoring it at such a time when I had the opportunity and tools to do so. There is no exact formula for what to do with inherited items, how to care for them, protect them, honor them, or even donate or throw them out. This is simply what I chose to do. I am grateful that I had secure storage to hold this item for the years I was unable or unwilling to do anything else with it. I truly believe that had I not had the option to place this in secure storage close to Ithaca, where I live, this story would have ended in 2017 when that house on Geneva Street sold and I would have missed out. But hey, maybe someone else would have ended up with this lovely chest and restored it as well, who knows?

I hope you enjoyed this story and there will be more storage tips, and personal stories of storage use in the future.

For whatever reason you have for needing storage, whether it’s deeply personal for you or just a temporary short lived fling with a storage unit, my hope is that we can help you at 4 Season Storage. We have a number of different storage options, from climate control, to regular self-storage, and even parking. We take pride in knowing our customers which is why we are in such frequent contact with everyone we serve. Thank you for taking the time to read this!