How to Pick, Pack, and Organize a Self Storage Unit
Why do people need storage?
Most of us need extra storage space at some point in our lives. It could be during a big move. It could be when you need to sell your house and you need your personal items off-site while the stagers work their magic. It could be during spring cleaning, a home renovation, or when you're having guests stay for an extended period of time. I even know people who take year-long sabbaticals and store their things so they can sublet their apartment. There are many reasons why people rent storage units.
How to pick a storage unit?
The storage business is booming with new companies opening up facilities everywhere. How do you know which place is right for you? Let's go through the steps of how to pick the right storage unit, how to pack it efficiently and organize it in a way that works for you. Here is a quick primer on what to look for:
First, you'll want to pick the right size. Here are a few of the most common small and medium-sized storage units and what they can hold:
- A 5x5 storage unit is the size of an average closet. It holds one piece of furniture with a narrow footprint, tall narrow items like lamps, and 6-8 boxes.
- A 5x10 storage unit is approximately the size of a walk-in closet. It's big enough for a king-size bed, an extra dresser, and about 10-15 medium size boxes.
- A 5x15 storage unit is about 30% bigger than a 5x10 and roughly the size of a small bedroom. It holds the furnishings of an average 500 sq.ft. residence, excluding major appliances.
- A 10x10 storage unit is about half the size of a standard garage. It holds the furnishings of an average 750 sq.ft. residence, including some major appliances and about 10-20 moving boxes or totes. It's the most popular size.
You donâ€™t want to outgrow a storage unit and then need to move everything to a larger space. When in doubt, go one size bigger.
For more information, and more size options, check out this blog post on storage unit sizes.
Typically, storage units on the main floor or near the elevator are more expensive. If the storage facility has more floors, then choose a unit on the top floor to reduce your storage fees. However, do they have an elevator? Are there drive-in loading docks so you can unload in a protected space out of the rain and snow? Trust me, these features really matter.
Climate and Humidity Control
Well, what will you be storing? If you have antiques, items made out of wood, artwork, electronics or other sensitive items, then a climate controlled unit is needed. Extreme cold or heat can cause damage to your important possessions. For even better storage of your sensitive items, consider a humidity-controlled unit. This is especially important for original art, documents and musical instruments.
For more information, check out this post on why a climate controlled unit is better.
Insects and rodents can be anywhere. What precautions does the storage facility take to prevent infestations and damage? I once had my supplies in a storage facility (that wonâ€™t be named !) and I found a mouse infestation that had ruined my moving boxes and 2 upholstered chairs. Even though this facility had bait traps throughout, they clearly weren't working or were not refilled with bait. They blamed it on someone having food in a nearby unit and while that may have been true, it didn't help me with my wrecked stuff! Whenever possible, store your items in sealed bins or cover thick plastic (2.5-3mm) plastic bags to help prevent possible damage.
How to Organize a Storage Unit
Will you need to access anything while it is there or is it just a "cram it all in there" situation and not look at it until you need it all back? If you need to access items, it's important to set up your storage unit properly. If you open the door and see a solid wall of boxes and furniture, then there is no way you are getting the box with your winter coats that are in the back corner unless you haul everything out. Not fun. I recently moved my supplies to a new storage unit and had only a half hour to get it all in there. The starting photo shows everything thrown in. What a mess! In the space of an hour, I got it all set up with shelving, pathways and frequently used items near the front. Follow the photo sequence to see the progress!
Shelving is key here. Heavier items go below and lighter items go higher. Depending on your budget and length of time that you will have your items in storage, here are some shelving recommendations:
How a Professional Organizer Can Help
As a certified professional organizer, I help my clients make these situations happen and help them choose the right storage option for their needs. I'd like to take you through the process of one of my client jobs where we needed storage. This is how we handled it:
Pack up contents of home into 3 categories:
- Items to go into storage
- Items to go to their cottage
- Items to sell or donate
Using an inventory app called Sortly, we photographed (using the app) and inventoried all the items going to storage. Each box was given a number and a room of origin. Within Sortly, each box had a description of the contents and correlating photos. When complete, I exported it to a pdf document (again, through Sortly) for my clients to reference in case they needed to find and access anything in storage over the summer. But thatâ€™s not all! We placed items that we knew they might be needing when the weather got cooler near the front of the storage unit so they could pull them out easily. Also, it was important that my client know where each box was in the storage unit so I provided them with a simple map. See below:
It's a beautiful thing when you have a properly organized storage unit - especially when you need frequent access. Talk to the staff at the storage facility about your needs and look at a variety of shapes and sizes of units (Long and thin? Square?). My guy Mike, the manager at Bluebird Storage in the Leaside area of Toronto, has been very helpful to me and my clients. He also takes great care in ensuring that COVID-19 protocols are being followed and that his customers can safely access their possessions. Also, it may help to hire a professional organizer to guide you through the entire process.