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Packing and Self-Storage Tips

Bridget CassidyFeb 27, 2018

Let’s face it. Packing and moving your stuff into a self-storage unit is probably not on your top ten list of fun things to do, yet it's often a necessary task in today's highly mobile society. The reasons for opting to do so can vary greatly. For example, you may be moving to a smaller place and don’t want to part with family heirlooms or inherited furniture. Maybe your job or military service is taking you overseas for an extended period, or perhaps you're renovating your home and have to move your things out temporarily. Regardless of the reasons why you're placing some items in storage, here you'll find a few tips on how to safely pack your belongings and make the most of the storage space you lease.

Get the Most Out of Your Storage Space

You probably don't want to pay for storage space you'll never use. To save money, take inventory of the things you need to store before packing them. That could help you keep track of the items you're placing in storage and may also be useful in the event you have to file an insurance claim. Once you’ve made an inventory of the things you'll be storing, go to different storage company websites and see if they have a space calculator or a unit size guide that may help you determine which unit size could house all your belongings. Let's say, for example, that you have a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen, living room, and dining room. Most companies suggest a 10' x 10' unit for the number of items typically found in such a space.

Sizing recommendations can give you a good idea of the standard measurements used in the industry, yet there are other factors you should consider before opting for a smaller or larger storage space. Most storage units are at least eight feet tall, so you can take advantage of that extra space by stacking containers. Place heavy boxes first and then pile more fragile items on top. Make sure to keep an access aisle in the center of the unit and store anything you may need to find in a hurry near the entrance. If you need to store large pieces of furniture like sofas or dining room tables, you may need to get creative with space planning or go for a larger unit. Just remember, don't rent more space than what you'll ultimately use and try to make the most of the space you do rent.

Organize and Plan Ahead

Although this may sound odd, try to imagine what the unpacking process will be like before you even start packing. Picture yourself in the space where you'll eventually unpack a particular box, say in your new kitchen or bedroom, and organize the contents of the box according to their use and where you intend to keep them. For example, glassware, dishes, and utensils could go in the same container, while linens (bedding, tablecloths, and towels) could go in another. Here's a detailed list of planning and organizing your move.

Get Packing Supplies

We recommend you invest in high-quality packing supplies like storage containers, packing tape, and bubble wrap to ensure your items remain safe and dry while in storage. Other useful supplies could include labels and permanent markers. Some storage companies—especially those that offer full-service storage—often provide these supplies at no additional cost, so check if your company does the same before purchasing anything.

Use High-Quality Storage Containers

If you can, use clear plastic containers with snap-on lids for added protection or opt for high-quality cardboard boxes if you're trying to cut down on expenses. We recommend using boxes or containers of similar sizes and shapes for easy stacking and organizing. Finally, do not use paper or plastic bags to store your belongings. Even though they're the cheapest alternative, they will offer no protection against water damage, mold, or mildew and make finding items a hassle later on.

Label Everything

Use large labels and permanent markers to label all of your containers. That will help you locate things in the unit quickly and also let you know what box goes in what room when its time to unload and unpack.

Pack Tightly

For safety and stacking purposes, pack items tightly in their respective containers. Partially-filled containers and boxes are hard to stack and may collapse, damaging or breaking your valuables in the process. Instead of opting for newspaper or packing paper, consider using bubble wrap to protect glass and other fragile items.

Protect Your Clothes

Wash your clothes before storing them and place cedar chips or mothballs in the bottom of the container where you'll keep them. We recommend you do this regardless of whether you store your clothing for a longer or shorter period. You can also place a dryer sheet in the container to keep your clothes smelling fresh. For long-term storage, consider leasing a climate-controlled unit where your things will not be affected by extreme cold or heat, humidity, or pests.

Other Items

If you're storing household appliances of any size, be sure to check with the manufacturer of each item for safe storage instructions and recommendations.

If you're storing a car, lease a well-secured climate-controlled unit with 24/7, 365-day access. If you plan to put the car in storage for an extended period, you may want to place mothballs inside the vehicle, especially if it has cloth seats or covers. Here are some additional tips on how to prepare your car for long-term storage.

Storing wine in self-storage units has become quite commonplace. When putting such items in storage, make sure you rent a unit specifically designed for wine preservation, particularly one that features a climate-controlled environment, temperature and humidity level monitoring, or both.

What Not to Store

Only keep dry items in your unit and refrain from storing liquids or hazardous products such as gasoline, paint, or cleaning supplies. We advise you not to save any expensive or irreplaceable items like jewelry or artwork in your storage space, especially if the facility doesn't offer enhanced security features.

Check on your unit whenever possible to ensure it hasn't been broken into or suffered any weather or pest damage. As an additional precaution, always carry insurance coverage for the items housed within it. If the storage company itself doesn't offer a policy, you can purchase one through your insurance agent. Regardless of the policy, always check which items are and are not covered.

If you're ready to begin your search, take a look at our top ten picks for storage unit companies and read our detailed reviews on their products and services.