More and more people, households, and businesses are using self-storage units to help them declutter and get organized, prepare for moving or downsizing, or to safely store items for future use. If you have never used self-storage units before, then you may have a few questions about how to find the right solution for your needs, how to properly move and store your items, how long you can keep the items in storage, how frequently you can visit your storage unit, and so on.
Here are a few things to help you find, rent, and use your first self-storage unit:
You can choose to rent your storage unit for a few weeks or much longer, for instance, for months or years. Depending on how often you wish to access the unit, you may need to find a facility that is located near you for convenience. When choosing a location, you may need to consider not only your area of residence, but also any places you’re likely to move to in the near future, especially if you’re relocating. In addition, you should have 24-hour access to your facility, including on weekends and holidays so you can get your items when you need them. Keep in mind that self-storage facilities located near a city tend to cost more, although they may be more convenient for you. So try to balance price with convenience, depending on how often you plan to access the items in your unit.
Size of Storage Unit
Storage units vary in size, usually from 25 to 300 square feet, which makes it easier to find a suitable size for your needs. Larger units are also available to store motor vehicles, watercraft, and recreational vehicles, including snowmobiles. If your budget is not enough to get a bigger unit size, you can optimize the space provided by packing the items more efficiently. Here are a few ideas to make the best use of a smaller unit:
- Disassemble bulky furniture. Consider dismantling any furniture pieces, like table and chair legs, to use as little space as possible to store each item.
- Stack your items. Since storage units have high roofs, you can take advantage of vertical space by using strong and sturdy packing boxes and bins that are stackable.
- Fill all spaces. Don’t leave any hollow spaces in your items. For instance, any empty space in your wardrobes, cabinets, or dressers should be filled with smaller items.
- Keep frequently used items closer to the entrance. Any items that you’re unlikely to access any time soon should be placed at the back or at the bottom of your unit, while those that you’re likely to remove from storage in a short time should be closer to the entrance.
- Leave an aisle. Since you never know when you need to obtain an item from storage, make sure to leave space between rows of goods for easy access to all items in the unit.
Your Storage Needs
There are different types of self-storage units depending on the size, amenities, accessibility, and other factors. So, how do you choose the right unit for your needs?
- Duration. While many facilities offer self-storage units on a month-to-month contract, some allow for even shorter-term rentals like one to two weeks, though the daily rate could be much higher. You should workout the cost to determine the best option for you.
- Climate control. Generally, all the items going into storage can benefit from climate control. But considering that you will need to pay about 50% more to rent such a unit, it is mostly recommended for your most valuable items, like antiques, musical instruments, important documents, fabrics, electronics, furniture, paintings, and so on. Climate control helps to maintain steady temperatures and humidity year round, protecting your possessions from fluctuating weather conditions that may cause heat damage, mould, mildew, distortion, and other kinds of damage.
- On-site business center. If you need a self-storage unit as an extension of your home-based business or to store office documents and other business-related items, you may enjoy more benefits if it has a business center on-site where you can mail packages, print documents, or do some other work.
- Drive-up access. A self-storage “garage” can allow you to drive or wheel heavy items directly into the unit for easier access and retrieval.
Keep in mind that your selection is likely to affect the cost of your self-storage unit.
Most self-storage facilities prefer to rent their units on a month-to-month contract, usually with better discounts if you sign up for several months or longer. Factors that affect the cost of your storage unit include the size, duration of rent, indoor or outdoor access, option for drive-up access, option for climate control, and its location. You should expect to pay significantly more to rent a storage unit in a metropolitan area compared to the less busy suburbs.
While many self-storage facilities operate 24 hours a day, it may not always be possible to access all the facilities offered. That said, it’s best to partner with a facility that offers a range of onsite facilities, whether free or at a cost, since they will make everything easier for you. For instance, you may need assistance with moving heavy or bulky boxes or equipment to your unit. Facilities with staff who are qualified to operate a forklift truck can aid with the heavy lifting, or even offer their trucks to help with moving your packed items from your home or office to the storage unit. There are other essential moving items that can make transferring items to storage easier, like packing supplies, pallet jacks, trolleys, and so on.
Range of Security Features
Any items that you move to storage are obviously valuable to you, even if you plan on selling, donating, or gifting them later on. For your peace of mind, self-storage facilities offer a number of security features to protect your property while in storage, including 24-hour video surveillance, security guards, fenced perimeter with access control, secure unit doors with padlocks and personal alarm codes, and so on.
Final Note: Get Insurance Cover for Your Items
Self-storage companies are not liable for any theft or damage to your items in storage. So, in the event of a break-in, flood, or other disaster affecting your unit, your facility won’t compensate you for the loss. In some cases, homeowner’s insurance may cover your belongings wherever they are, including in storage. However, you should check whether your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy includes such coverage, and how much you’re entitled to, relative to the cost of items in storage. Otherwise you should consider getting additional coverage so you’re adequately protected.