Finding and using self-storage can be a daunting task, and if you’re looking for storage you probably already have your hands full. Maybe you’re undergoing a life change such as a move or military relocation, or maybe you simply are trying to restore order to a home that’s overgrown with clutter. Whatever your reason for self-storage, here’s the lowdown on the self-storage basics.
Why use self-storage?
One of the most common uses for self-storage is for home use. When a homeowner or renter realizes they have accumulated more than they can comfortably keep in their home, they may turn to self-storage to help manage the chaos. Some people seasonally rotate their items between their home and storage unit, including summer and winter wardrobes, swimming pool supplies or holiday decorations.
You may also consider self-storage if:
- You need to store personal or business documents in a safe place
- You’re a service member or college student with frequent moves
- You’re a car collector or boat owner
How do I choose a storage unit?
When selecting a storage unit, while location matters, it isn’t the only critical factor. Also ask yourself which amenities you may need. For example, if you have any items that are sensitive to heat, cold, dust, or moisture, you may want to ensure the storage unit is climate controlled. Items that need climate control may include:
- Fur coats
- Computer equipment
Additionally, think about when you are hoping to access your belongings. Some storage units have fixed hours, while others have 24-hour access. If safety is a concern, ensure the facilities have surveillance cameras, ample lighting, security fences, or management that lives on-site.
What size storage unit do I need?
For determining your storage unit size, make a list ahead of time of the items you would like to store. Units can range in size from 5’ x 5’, which is like a standard closet, to 10’ x 30’, which can contain the contents of a 3- to 4-bedroom house. In-between, there are sizes comparable to standard and large walk-in closets, as well as those that can hold the contents of multiple rooms or a small home. When choosing a size, be sure to go for something a little bigger than the items you actually have so that you are able to walk around freely as needed. Also leave some room between the walls and stored items for better ventilation.
Do I need self-storage insurance?
Generally, self-storage units do not automatically provide self-storage insurance. We highly recommended you research insurance options before storing your items. Even if a self-storage company is highly secure, floods, fires and other natural disasters could still happen. Your first stop should be your homeowner/renter’s insurance policy, as you may already have coverage. If not, you may be able to purchase add-on coverage at a better price than if you were to purchase directly from a self-storage company.
The next step if you are unable to secure insurance through your current provider is to see what kind of insurance the self-storage facility can provide. If you have items of high value, either monetary or sentimental, it may be worth the investment to pay more to insure these items. When insuring your items in storage, be sure to always include a detailed and current list of the stored items and their values.
Self-storage packing tips
If you decide to pack and move items on your own, organization and forethought are key. Try sticking to boxes that are the same size for easy stacking and avoid plastic bags, where contamination can breed. Be sure to fill out the boxes completely to avoid caving, but not so full that your boxes are overflowing. If you have oddly-shaped items, fill in the empty spaces with newspaper or packing material. Be sure not to pack your boxes so heavy that you are unable to lift them, and be sure to choose the right type of container material. For example, you may consider more heavy duty boxes for your books.
Here are some additional packing tips to get you started:
- Stack books rather than standing them on-end to protect the spines.
- Plates, on the other hand, should be stacked on-end and wrapped individually.
- Use bubble wrap for framed art and criss-cross masking tape for mirrors and other glass.
- Don’t forget to label your items and mark boxes as fragile as needed. You may consider drilling down your contents even more with a brief list of what’s in the box.
- Clean, polish, wipe and treat items before their relocation to preserve and keep germs away. Cover furniture with tarp or sheets.
- Take apart bed frames and other furniture for easy transport and storage. TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® recommends taping all the pieces to the main base during the packing process to avoid misplacing them.
Self -storage alternative
Sometimes moving your home requires additional space and added flexibility. An alternative option to storage is seeking out availability from a moving company such as TWO MEN AND A TRUCK. They provide secure onsite storage facilities whether you have just a few boxes or countless crates and furniture. This option is a perfect fit during home renovations, downsizing or during transitional living between homes.
Moving your items to self-storage
When it comes to loading the moving van, place heavy boxes at the bottom and fragile items on top, with rarely used items toward the front of the van. This way, during the unloading process, the least-used items will be pushed behind more frequently used items. Keep highly valuable items out of plain view to deter theft, and place fragile items on top of heavier, less fragile boxes.
Depending on your schedule and budget, you may decide it’s worth the investment to hire professional movers to pack and move your belongings. If this is the case, be sure to thoroughly research the moving company before entrusting them with your items. TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® frequently moves items in and out of storage and arrive with fully trained, uniformed movers to ensure the process is completed with care and efficiency. If you move frequently, you may even be interested in mobile storage, where movers come to your home and pack and store your items in a cube that travels with you.
And that’s it – you are now ready to take charge of your self-storage future! Whether your life is in transition or you just need some of your space back, self-storage units help make daily living a whole lot easier.
Content developed in association with The Parham Group and Noah’s Ark Self Storage.
28 thoughts on “The ultimate beginner’s guide to self-storage”
I would add use new, clean boxes. Using grocery store boxes is like asking for a bug infestation.
I had no idea that most self-storage units don’t come with insurance. I think getting insurance for my unit is probably one of the best things I could do though – making sure that your stuff is all insured seems like it would save a lot of worry. I also enjoyed your packing tips for how to be safe and efficient with space. Thanks for sharing!
My wife and I have a lot of nostalgic things in our house that we don’t want to part with so I can see the need for a storage unit. I like how you listed tips for choosing a suitable storage unit as well. Overall a very informative post for all things relating to storage units, thanks for your article!
We recently used a storage unit and labeling every box with each item was a big task, however, it was one of the best things I could do to find our stored items. You will find on many occasions where you’ll need to get into your pack items so if you want to save yourself the added hassle, lable things in detail. I learned something though, don’t save money by wrapping breakables in towels…. They’ll often get broken later if you do (get bubble wrap/newspaper instead). Thanks for the reminders and happy moving!
Great points, Linda! It can be a difficult task when going in without a plan!
I like that idea to use boxes that are all the same size when packing up your belongings to put in a self storage unit. It makes a lot of sense that having same size boxes would make it easy to stack and organize your belongings. I’ll have to go an pick up some boxes that are all the same size so that it will be easier to organize my belongings when I put them in a self storage unit. Thanks for the ideas!
We’re glad this was helpful to you, Theodore!
This is some really good information about self-storage. It seems like it would be a good idea to wrap your things in something. It also seems like it good to know how far away the unit is. That way, you know if it will be easy to get to.
I didn’t know that there was an option for a climate control system for storage units. I am leaving for a few months for a study abroad and will need to store all my stuff for a few months. I think it would be very beneficial to have a unit that is climate controlled to protect my things. I will definitely do some research and find a unit close to me that has that option. Thanks for the information!
Size of the storage you buy can be a tricky thing to decide. To optimize your spending, you’d want to find a unit that is not too big and not too small. I thought it was interesting that you mentioned how large units can contain enough contents for a 3-4 bedroom apartment; that’s really big! I like how you suggested overcoming the challenge by deciding what exactly it is that you need to store. We are moving, next month, and our biggest challenge right now is deciding what to put in storage because we are downsizing our house. I hope we’ll be able to find a unit that fits our needs.
I really appreciate the tips on getting a self-storage and how to make the most of it. My sister is looking at getting a storage unit while she is in college and she is trying to find the safest/most affordable option. I didn’t know that self-storage insurance was something that was so highly recommended or that it might be included in your homeowner/renter’s insurance. I’ll make sure to have her find out whether or not she has self-storage insurance.
I’m so glad you gave a list of storage items that need to be in a climate controlled facility. I never expected animal fur coats to be on that list! My wife actually has 2 fur coats, so we would need to find a climate controlled unit. Another thing we will need to look for is a unit that is safe from water damage. A climate controlled space would help with that, I think.
I like your tip to get specific about what you are storing: how much and how big. I would think that it’s also important to find a storage facility that can offer you what you need. If I were looking for a storage rental, I would want to make sure it was local and trustworthy.
We are needing to store some winter equipment and clothes this spring! It was awesome to know that one should try sticking to boxes that are the same size for easy stacking and avoid plastic bags. We are no storage expert, seeing this is our first time so we will be sure to talk to experts about how we should store these items!
As you said, finding and using self-storage, especially for the first time, can be a little intimidating. My husband and I are looking for a place to store some extra furniture and items we have that don’t fit in our apartment. I hadn’t thought of checking for climate control as you suggested. We will be sure to keep all these tips in mind for finding and moving our stuff into a storage unit.
Thanks for sharing your ideas and amazing guideline, interesting and useful information. Keep it up. This was an excellent article. Thank you for compiling it into an easy to read and well-written post.
I agree that you need to consider what size a storage unit you need before you choose one. It would seem that you would want to find out how much stuff you will be storing because this would help you know what size unit to get. I’m looking to store some things after a move so I’ll have to find out exactly what kind of things I need to store before I choose the size of the unit.
I totally agree with you in that it is always a good idea to make sur5e you take into account the type of items that will be stored in a storage unit and any temperature needs they might have. It makes sense that doing this can help you make sure you choose the best unit that can provide those needs and keep your items safe and usable when needed. We are moving to a different town and want to find a good storage facility that can help us keep some of our things safe and avoid packing too much of what we don’t need in our new house, so I’ll make sure I take your tips into consideration as I search for the best unit.
My family as way too many things in our house now, so we have been looking up information about storage options. I liked the point you brought up about the location matters! I didn’t think about temperature problems that could arise! Thanks for the great tip!
Really a wonderful article to read. Thanks a lot for sharing!!! For some people, this is a bit more important than others. If you operate a small business from your storage unit, store work tools, or need to frequently access your unit you may want to make sure that the storage facility you choose is conveniently located near your home or place of work.
I’m looking at renting a storage unit for some things that don’t fit in my house anymore. The suggestions you provided on how I ought to pack my boxes for maximum storage will definitely be really helpful. I’ll make sure each box is packed completely to maximize storage while also ensuring the boxes don’t cave in like you mentioned.
It really helped when you mentioned how it was recommended to choose a self-storage unit that can provide climate control if you plan to keep electronics in it. I understand how anyone looking into this would also want to take the time to do some research and read online reviews can help you find the best one for your needs. We are planning on cleaning up our garage and want to make sure we find the best unit to keep our items safe, so I’m glad I found your post.
I agree that a good storage company would have good security measures around their facility to make sure that your valuables are well-protected against burglars, etc. Having a 24-hour access to your storage unit would also be good so if in case you would need something from it or you would need to store something any time, you would be able to. I would also recommend you consider what kind of things you will store and if the storages are climate controlled for things that would require such features like furniture, antiques or cars.
I like how you say that if you stack your books, you can help protect their spines from damage. I’ve got a lot of them, and I’m going to be moving into a smaller apartment for a few months and don’t have room for everything anymore. It seems like it would be a good idea for me to find a local storage unit that I could store my extra books and things in while I’m living in the smaller space.
I am glad you mentioned ensuring that items that are delicate are stored in a climate controlled storage unit. I have a lot of antiques that I am looking for a place to store and keep safe. Thanks for the tips for first-time self-storage.
Interesting and informative post! I love how clever your tips are. Also, I am glad you mentioned ensuring that items that are delicate are stored in a climate controlled storage unit. It also helped when you mentioned how it was recommended to choose a self-storage unit that can provide climate control if you plan to keep electronics in it.