It is safe to say that self storage is one of the most impressively growing industries in the U.S., with more than a third of Americans currently renting a storage space. People need to use this service in order to bring some order into their lives and homes, whether they’re looking to store old furniture or vehicles, collectibles and valuables, or bulky seasonal gear, including clothes and sports equipment. Moreover, self storage is frequently used in the case of relocations, downsizing processes, and also when you need to store something (such as a car, for instance) for an extended time span.

However, seeing the sheer diversity of things that are kept in storage spaces, it is easy to unwillingly turn your unit into a dumping ground. Consequently, it is easy to lose track of what you have and even potentially damage your belongings. If your unit lacks good organization, you’ll also spend too much of your time going through your stuff in search of that one thing you need. Organizing your storage unit like a pro is not difficult, and these are the main tips you should have in mind!

1. Create a thorough list of all stored inventory

Especially in the case of larger storage spaces, or a large amount of small belongings that need to be stored, it is impossible to remember every single item. While you can easily remember large pieces of furniture or vehicles being kept in your storage unit, it is easy for you to forget about smaller stuff, such as pictures, electronics, clothes, jewelry and the like. Moreover, if you intend to use self storage for several months or even years, it is even more likely that you’ll forget about some of your stored items.

As a result, creating a master list of all stored inventory is key as a first step in the organization process. Creating a spreadsheet and updating it as you’re packing things is probably the best way to go. If you’re really keen on remembering exactly where everything is so you can quickly get the item you need, you should consider taking photos of your things and where exactly you’ve placed them inside your unit. Alternatively, you can also map out your unit to have a general idea of where everything is.

2. Label your boxes and organize them according to purpose

One of the most important aspects of storing a multitude of belongings, especially when moving or downsizing, is properly labeling your boxes. Not finding the stuff you’re looking for can cause stress and can significantly delay what you’re trying to do. Not labeling your boxes is a rookie mistake! Moreover, the more specific you are with regard to what’s inside the boxes and where that stuff should go, the better off you’ll be. Since most people tend to label their boxes according to the room they belong to, it is crucial to bring some order to your storage unit by packing kitchen boxes together, bedroom boxes together, and so on. It might seem easier to just stack them up regardless of their purpose, but placing them in a certain order will save you a lot of time and effort in the future.

Conversely, for those boxes that only contain toys, collectibles, books or glasses, and don’t have a specific room tied to them, make sure that your labeling is as specific as possible. In other words, it is both important and easy to differentiate between ”old books,” “children’s books,” and “new books,” for instance. In case a certain box does not contain a large number of items, you can even write down everything that is inside on one side of the box.

3. Clean your unit and make use of shelving for additional space

While most storage facilities make a priority out of keeping their units clean and providing you with an immaculate space, it doesn’t hurt to go the extra mile and ensure that your belongings will enjoy a dry and clean home. Dust and dirt can be removed by simply sweeping the unit, along with using some all-purpose cleaner. Walls and ceilings should be checked for cracks and leaks, just in case. Additional precautionary measures that should be taken into account include placing moisture absorbers, mothballs and rat bait around your storage unit. If there’s anything wrong with your space, alert the storage facility right away.

Additionally, if you’re in need of some extra space, make sure to ask the manager of the storage facility whether you can install shelving inside your unit. Generally, putting up freestanding shelving units is not an issue, and these shelves will allow you to use the entire height of your unit. You will enjoy more space, and you will be able to fit additional boxes, making the most of the 8-foot ceiling that is typical for most self storage units nowadays.

4. Identify the items you’ll probably need to access and put them in front

Differentiating between stuff that you will not use in the next few months and the items that you will need easy access to at all times is essential. You can place the items you don’t use regularly in the back of your self storage unit, but make sure you include them on your master list so you don’t forget about them. Likewise, seasonal items such as car tires, sports gear and bulky clothing should have a specifically designated spot in your storage space.

Seasonal items are things that you should consider placing toward the front of your storage space, as you might need them more regularly than others. Holiday items and decorations, kids’ toys, office documents and trip supplies, among other things, are some of the items you shouldn’t need to spend too much time searching for. In order to set these apart from other personal belongings, you can put a special note or use a different color for these boxes in order to remember what they contain.

5. Disassemble furniture and stack as many items as possible

The first thing that comes to mind is furniture that can be disassembled in order to maximize space and organize things more efficiently. Headboards, bed frames and tables can usually be taken apart. Moreover, individual parts should be stored vertically and toward the back of your unit, as this will open up significantly more floor space for other stuff. Keep in mind, however, that mattresses usually require special care and attention when it comes to long-term storage. With respect to how you should stack these things, take into consideration the fact that, in order to maximize and fully utilize the height of your unit, you should put heavy and sturdy pieces on the bottom and stack lighter or smaller boxes on top. This is meant to prevent toppling and potential damage. Tables can also be stored top to top, with the purpose of conserving space. As previously mentioned, it is recommended to stack from back to front in order of need.

6. Consider plastic storage bins and other alternatives to cardboard boxes

It is indeed true that cardboard boxes tend to be cheap and will generally get the job done, but there are several other alternatives to boxes that you need to consider and that have additional benefits. Clear plastic storage bins or bags will make it easier to see what’s inside and get to the items you need more quickly. Especially in the case of long-term storage, these plastic containers are more resistant, more stable and better for stacking, as well as being sealable. This is incredibly important since, if you use locked lids, it’s way more difficult for pests, dust and dirt to damage your belongings.

Not having to dig through a few cardboard boxes every time you have to pick something up is definitely worth it. In the case of clothes, using wardrobe boxes is recommended, as hanging your clothes inside will ensure that they retain their shape in the long run. Dresser drawers and cedar chests can be filled with linens, clothing and many other items in order to maximize space. Finally, if you need to store large appliances, suitcases and large pieces of furniture, why not use the room inside for storing other items? Just make sure you clean the space and store your belongings accordingly.

7. Add at least one aisle to your storage unit for easier access

While plotting the layout of your storage space, first consider what items you’ll need access to. Creating a walkway in the unit for accessing your items at the back is vital since, otherwise, you will have to move everything out of the way, which can take time and can damage some items. Having an aisle down the middle of your unit can ensure that it won’t turn into a maze you don’t want to go through. It might seem like you’re wasting precious space at first, but trust us, it’s well worth it in the long run! Additionally, your belongings should be able to “breathe,” especially if you don’t have a climate-controlled rental. Air circulation is important, thus, leaving some open space down the middle and close to the walls can guarantee improved ventilation.

8. Consider upgrading to a larger storage unit or a climate-controlled one

It is easy to get a small space filled up with unused personal belongings, so much so that you realize you’re running out of space. When in doubt, go bigger! An over-full unit can present many problems and the manager of the storage facility could probably provide you with some valuable advice on the type and size of unit you need. No matter how much of a Tetris master you are, sometimes you simply have too much stuff to store away. We strongly believe that this unit size guide can help you make a more informed decision.

An argument can also be made for how beneficial climate-controlled storage is. Sensitive items can easily get damaged, especially in the case of long-term storage and challenging environments with high fluctuations of temperatures and humidity levels. You will find that saving your valuables from moisture and temperature-related damage is worth the few extra bucks. Moreover, renting a climate-controlled space will save you the trouble and effort of packing your belongings for maximum protection. Go out there and find the ideal storage unit for your stuff!

Self Storage Unit Open Brown Doors

Matei Idu
Author

Matei is a creative writer for StorageCafe and has an academic background in urban development, governance and linguistics. Making use of these disparate sources of expertise, Matei has now turned towards the real estate industry, after covering the latest trends and projects in urban planning, regeneration and green city initiatives all over Europe.

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