The Complete Guide to Preparing, Packing, and Moving Your Belongings into a Self Storage Unit

Published on 2/14/2024

Complete Guide to Moving Your Stuff into Self Storage


Self-storage facilities offer temporary or long-term storage solutions for personal and business items that need to be safely stored and protected. The self-storage industry has storage units of varying sizes to accommodate the needs of both residential and commercial customers.

Self-storage plays a vital role during major life events and transitions that require extra space for storage. For example, they provide a secure location to store belongings while moving between homes, allow space to store items during home renovations, and offer an organizational solution when downsizing to a smaller living space.

Over the last decade, the self-storage industry has experienced rapid growth, currently generating over $38 billion in annual revenue in the United States alone. As urban housing gets increasingly expensive and cramped, more individuals are utilizing self-storage to securely hold items that no longer fit within their living space. The rise of mobile lifestyles has also contributed to the increasing dependence on self-storage facilities.

Reasons to Use Self Storage

Renting a self-storage unit provides a temporary holding space when moving homes. It allows movers to stage their move by shifting items over a few weeks rather than all at once. This comes in handy when move-in dates get delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. Storing belongings can also help reduce clutter and stress when moving between properties.

During home renovation or redecoration projects, self-storage protects household goods and furnishings from potential damage while construction work is underway. By placing items in storage units, homes can be left empty for interior design upgrades without concerns over asset safety or misplacement. This also eliminates space constraints for workers.

Clutter accumulation over time necessitates periodic decluttering to restore order and functionality within homes and workspaces. Designating specific categories of belongings for self-storage based on utility allows individuals to reclaim living areas and maintain only frequently-used items in their immediate vicinity. The self-storage facilities offer customizable tenure plans to accommodate both temporary and long-term decluttering needs.

Seasonal items like holiday decorations, recreational equipment, and seasonal clothing take up considerable space at homes. Placing such seasonal accessories in self-storage frees up closet and cabinet area for daily use items in homes. The contents can be retrieved whenever required each year.

Significant life events also occasionally require reliable self-storage facilities. Individuals downsizing to smaller homes after retirement can continue storing sentimental items that no longer fit in their new abodes. Similarly, military families can benefit from self-storage during deployments and frequent relocations. College students staying in compact dorms also often depend on self-storage to securely hold off-season clothing and other household items while away from home.

Small businesses, startups, and enterprises use self-storage to store inventory, documents, equipment, and supplies during transitions or space crunches. Renting external storage allows organizations to consolidate real estate spaces and optimize office productivity. Recently relocated offices also rely on these facilities when awaiting permanent storage infrastructure.

Types of Self-Storage Facilities

Drive-up self-storage units allow convenient vehicular access for loading and unloading bulky household goods and furniture. The ground access enables easy transfer of items to and from the storage unit. Hence, drive-up storage spaces are extremely useful when frequent retrievals are necessary.

Climate-controlled units regulate temperature, humidity levels, and ventilation within storage spaces. They provide protection for electronics, leather goods, wooden artifacts, photographs, books/manuscripts, wine collections, artworks, textiles, etc. Such items require protected environments to prevent deterioration. Non-climate controlled units, in comparison, offer affordable storage solutions for furniture, equipment, and metal items.

Indoor storage facilities offer greater weather, theft, pest, and contamination protection mechanisms compared to outdoor units. However, they come at higher price points due to the integrated infrastructure costs. Outdoor self-storage spaces, in contrast, prove more economical, especially when storing vehicles, trailers, RVs, boats, construction materials, and equipment. Covered outdoor spaces offer the middle ground with shelters against basic environmental exposure.

Self-storage facilities cater to parking needs through indoor parking spaces, outdoor vehicle lots, and covered vehicle storage options. Indoor spaces protect against weather damages for customers storing cars, bikes, RVs long-term. Outdoor lots prove cost-effective for short-term everyday vehicle storage. Covered spaces, on the other hand, provide an intermediate buffer against basic environmental factors.

Choosing a Self-Storage Unit

Creating an inventory of items intended for self-storage allows customers to estimate space requirements. This facilitates choosing suitable storage unit sizes. Units that are too small accumulate excess fees for additional units or upgrades. Overestimations also lead to paying for unused areas. Storage calculators available online help approximate required storage capacity.

Various self-storage unit size options include 5’x5’ and 5’x10’ for storing limited items, 10’x10’ and 10’x15’ for typical household goods, and 10’x20’ and 10’x30’ for extensive equipment and inventory. Larger customizable unit sizes are also available. Consider future storage needs when selecting between multiple appropriate sizes.

The amenities offered in self-storage facilities also influence unit selection. Climate-controlled spaces allow storing valuables safely. Multilayered security infrastructure ensures asset protection. Online client portals offer remote accessibility and payment interfaces. Some facilities also accept deliveries on behalf of clients. Evaluate amenities against specific storage needs.

Seeking self-storage spaces in proximate locations allows convenient transfers and regular inspection of stored goods. Ensure the facility offers necessary vehicle access paths to navigate trucks or trailers through the premises. For instance, indoor units may have height barriers while covered outdoor slots limit width clearances.

Rental agreements specify periodic payment plans for storage units, along with terms for late fees, early termination charges, lien clauses, etc. Certain facilities also mandate insurance procurement for stored items. Review such contracts diligently before signing to avoid hidden costs. Be aware of state and local regulations regarding self-storage as well.

Checking online reviews and seeking recommendations help determine reliable self-storage vendors. Reputed facilities also assign staff to guide clients make informed decisions concerning appropriate storage conditions, insurance, inventory management etc. Leverage such expertise.

Preparing for Self Storage

Create a documented inventory of items being transported to self-storage units clearly listing descriptions and quantities. Capture photographs if possible. Accurate inventory records help with insurance claims if required. Referring to the inventory also simplifies retrieving specific items from storage later.

Use appropriate packing supplies like specialty boxes, protective wraps, and moisture-absorbing packets to safeguard items. Wrap fragile objects in bubble wraps and transport paintings, mirrors, and glassware in reinforced boxes labeled ‘fragile’ to alert movers. Use smaller stackable boxes to optimize space. Segregate items stored together in larger boxes based on future intended retrieval schedules.

Clean all belongings thoroughly before storage to avoid pests, mold accumulation, and unpleasant odors. Wipe furniture, dry-clean upholstery, and disinfect containers. Preventing moisture build-up is critical. Place desiccants inside storage units to absorb ambient humidity. Take additional precautions when storing fabric, paper, and wooden items.

Affix descriptive labels on all boxes indicating contents. Use color-codes and alphanumeric sequences for efficient organization. Place frequently-accessed stuff closer to storage unit entrances for convenience. Creating a unit map helps recall stored item locations and eases future inventory checks.

Drain any residual fluids from appliances before storage. Disconnect and dismantle components wherever possible to conserve space. Wrap disconnected parts together to simplify reassembly later. Prevent moisture damage to electronics by storing them in sealed containers with moisture absorbers. Avoid exposing stored appliances and electronics to extreme temperatures.

Maximize storage unit space by disassembling bulky furniture into stackable components. Cover separate parts like legs and glass panels to prevent scratches. Use furniture blankets/quilts to pad items when stacking. Position often-used stuff requiring occasional access by stacking laterally across the rear walls rather than cramping everything along the entrance.

Self-Storage Dos and Don'ts

Pack belongings in a sturdy manner that prevents collapsing, tumbling or cracking during loading, transit and storage. Affix clear labels on each box and carton to allow easy identification of contents without needing to unpack items. Segregate contents appropriately to avoid damaging spills or stains.

Utilize the vertical dimensions in storage units by stacking lighter objects over heavier items to optimize space usage. However, be careful to not overload shelves or pile goods in an unstable manner. Step ladders inside units provide safe access to reach higher shelves.

Take adequate precautions to protect belongings from dust, pests, mold or moisture accumulation based on the unit conditions and the item’s durability. For instance, cover furniture with thick blankets and store leather goods in sealed bins with dessicants. Also check for leaks, humidity, and ventilation practices.

Avoid storing perishable eatables, volatile liquids, combustible chemicals or biological substances due to contamination, leakage, and hazard risks. Extremely valuable or irreplaceable items also do not belong in self-storage due to the remote theft and damage possibilities. Opt for secured in-home storage for such possessions instead.

Confirm that homeowners or renters insurance policies apply to items kept in rental storage units. Seek add-on coverage if the existing insurance falls inadequate. Storage facilities may also offer specialty insurance options as part of the rental contract. Evaluate different policies to determine sufficient coverage for stored goods.

Maintaining a documented inventory along with a labeled storage unit layout map simplifies retrieving specific items from rented facilities without needing to unpack multiple boxes. Keep copies accessible offline and online for easy reference. Update details whenever changes occur.

Security and Access

Seeking self-storage facilities with robust security provisions minimizes risks from theft and vandalism. Look for features like individual door alarms, access control systems, CCTV surveillance, perimeter fencing and security patrols when selecting vendors. Physically inspect premises to verify infrastructure and protocols.

Use high-grade padlocks on storage units rather than relying solely on facility security. Check if insurance policies impose any lock standards to qualify for theft coverage claims. Restrict unit access to limited known and trusted individuals only. In case of staff needing access for maintenance purposes, accompany them to oversee activities.

Inform the facility office about misplaced access cards or keys immediately. Change lock combinations if non-tenants gain unauthorized entry. Review facility audit logs and camera feeds after suspicious activities near storage units. Avoid sharing unit access codes or granting permissions without due diligence.

Moving Items into Self Storage

Research reputable moving companies in advance for transporting belongings to storage units. Seek insured and licensed vendors with expertise in storage transfers. Check online reviews and physical moving capacities before selection. Ensure they offer inventory audit, storage unit loading, and specialty packing services.

Clearly communicate planned arrival times and vehicle dimensions to storage facilities when scheduling moving dates to avoid bottlenecks. Brief movers on site constraints and unit number details. Segregate goods at origin by scheduled loading order to facilitate quicker transfer and optimal space utilization inside storage units.

Account for moving truck/trailer dimensions when renting drive-up storage units for heavy furniture and appliances. Ensure adequate clearance and maneuverability to directly access the unit opening without needing additional trolleys or carts. Strategize organized storage layouts for efficient retrieval later. Face items requiring interim access outwards for convenience.

Scheduling storage transfers on weekdays instead of weekends helps avoid peak traffic delays both on roads as well as at facilities. This also circumvents issues due to limited helper and equipment availability with moving companies during peak season. However, factor in workforce overtime charges applicable for working extended hours.

Provide explicit instructions to moving crews and storage facility representatives regarding special handling needs for fragile goods, hazardous materials regulations, access authorizations etc. to avoid misunderstandings. Exchange contact information to resolve clarifications. Accommodate reasonable recommendations concerning safety, insurance, and operations.

Financial Considerations

Self-storage unit rental costs vary based on location, size, duration, amenities, security levels and facility brand. Initial administration fees and refundable security deposits also apply. Research historically low-occupancy facilities in low-rent neighborhoods to unearth budget deals. Consider splitting items across multiple smaller units if certain sizes get exhausted.

Weigh benefits of short-term vs long-term booking options based on urgency and utilization requirements. Short-term contracts allow flexibility but cost more overall compared to long-term deals having fixed overhead expenses. Certain facilities also permit storage needs to dynamically evolve from short-term to long-term contracts with the same unit.

Some self-storage complexes offer discounted introductory rates and waiver of early termination fees to attract new customers. Check if such conditional benefits outweigh the regular charges applicable post the expiry of promotional offers. Avoid facilities lacking periodic payment flexibility because dynamic needs may necessitate early withdrawals.

Self-storage units charge recurring rentals on weekly or monthly payment cycles. Payments are due in advance or before defined cut-off dates. Late payments accrue penalty interest for the overdue period until account regularization. Severely delayed payments risk asset seizures, auctioning of stored goods, and even account termination in certain cases. Avoid payment defaults through calendar reminders and auto-debit options.