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The Cure for a Crowded Home: Self-Storage

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It seems like minimalism and simple living are having something of a renaissance these days. With celebrity shows like Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up and rising interest in tiny homes and small living spaces, streamlining your belonging is in vogue. While not everyone is ready to discard most of their belongings, most people can certainly understand the desire to live a less cluttered life. If your home has become overstuffed with things you like but don’t need right now, self-storage is one excellent solution. You can get things out of your home and reclaim your living space without discarding important items. Self-storage is a helpful halfway point between a crowded home and stark minimalism. So if you’re ready to make some room in your home, here are our top tips for self-storage mastery.

Selecting A Storage Facility and Unit

The first decision you have to make is selecting a storage facility and a storage unit. To pick a storage facility, you should consider several factors. 

Convenience

A storage facility should be convenient, but what counts as convenient may differ depending on what you are storing and why. If you are storing items that you will want to access somewhat regularly, you need a storage facility that isn’t too far from your home and has convenient access hours.

You also want to make sure that the storage unit location matches the types of items you want to store. If you have large, heavy items that don’t need climate control, consider a drive-up unit for easy access. If you are storing small items that could be easily damaged, opt for an indoor, climate-controlled unit. You can often save money by getting a unit on an upper floor of a storage facility. If your items are small or relatively easy to move, this could be a great option. But if your items are heavy, bulky, or hard to move, consider paying a little more for the convenience of a ground floor unit.

Quality and Cleanliness

There are lots of storage facilities out there, but they are far from all the same. When you store your belongings away from your home, you want to know that they are safe and won’t be ruined. There is nothing worse than coming back to your belongings after a few months in storage to find that some of them are now trash. The overall quality and cleanliness of a storage facility should be a significant deciding factor in choosing your facility. If you want to be sure to get a clean, reliable facility, try a TrustDALE certified self-storage facility.

Customer Service

It may seem like self-storage if pretty DIY. It’s in the name, after all. But customer service is still important when choosing a self-storage facility. There is a lot that a facility and its managers can do (or not do) to affect your experience. First, it should be easy to contact your facility manager about any concerns you may have. Communication should be clear, so you know exactly what to expect in terms of pricing, services, security, and the facilities you are leasing. There are also lots of small things many consumers don’t think about. For instance, are there carts readily available to help you move your belongings? If you get locked out, is it easy to get someone to verify your identity and let you in? If you need access to additional packing supplies, a dumpster, or other helpful items, is someone there to help? Customer service can make a big difference, so choose a facility with a track record of customer service and satisfied customers.

Security

When you store your belongings at home, they are under your careful watch. You lock your door at night. Perhaps you have a home security system. You know where your things are. But when you lock your stuff into a self-storage unit and walk away, you are placing a lot of trust in your storage facility. That’s why you should always know exactly what security features and measure your facility uses to keep your belongings safe.

Most self-storage facilities have the same basic security features: individualized entry codes for every tenant, security cameras, and a sprinkler system in case of fires. But some go beyond that. For example, Midgard Self Storage, a TrustDALE certified business, invites police K-9 units to train in their facilities, offering an additional level of security. Whatever your facility does for security, make sure you know upfront how they plan to keep your belongings safe.

Finding the Right Unit

Once you know what facility you want to work with, you need to select a specific unit. Most facilities offer some combination of indoor, climate-controlled units and outdoor, drive-up units. Which you choose depends on what you plan to store and the climate in your region. Many parts of the country experience extreme weather conditions—whether it’s intense heat in the Southwest, humidity in the Southeast, or freezing temperatures in the Northeast and the Upper Plain States—that can affect stored items. If you have items that would typically be kept indoors, you should probably opt for a climate-controlled unit. If you have large items that are relatively unaffected by temperature extremes—vehicles, military equipment, light machinery, etc.—you may prefer a drive-up unit that lacks climate control.

Once you know which type of unit you need, you need to select a size. Units range from as small at 5x5 feet to as large as 10x30 feet or even larger. While bigger may seem better, if you want to get the most value, you should avoid paying for more space than you need. Remember that units are mostly 10 feet tall, so even a 5x5 unit offers as much as 250 cubic feet of storage space. Also, keep in mind that all but the smallest units will need some space left open as a walkway so you can access your belongings.

The Cure for a Crowded Home - Self-Storage [infographic]

Storing Your Belongings

Once you have secured your storage unit, you’re ready to begin loading it up. But don’t just start shoving things in. There is definitely some strategy to packing a storage unit. You want to make sure that your items are safe, you get the most out of your space, and everything is in the best possible condition when it comes time to remove it. So before you dive in, here are some tips to make the most of your storage unit.

Packing Up

As you select items to put into storage, you will need to pack them somehow. Most of your belongings will go into boxes and bins. Larger items can be protected in other ways. Now is the time to invest in packing materials. You’ll need plenty of cardboard boxes in different sizes, packing paper or bubble wrap for fragile items, and packing blankets for large items like furniture that you don’t want to be bumped and scratched.

This would also be a good time to consider investing in some plastic storage tubs. Spend a few extra bucks if you can to buy bins that seal tightly. You can use these bins for clothing, photo books, personal papers, or anything that wouldn’t respond well to moisture. Also, make sure that the bins have sturdy tops for stacking.

Before you pack anything, make sure it is clean. Wash clothes, dust and clean furniture, and make sure there are no cobwebs or bugs in any of your belongings. Items that go into storage clean will stay better longer. For example, no one wants to take out a piece of clothing that has spent months in a sealed bin with a dirty t-shirt.

Loading the Storage Unit

Maybe you’re an expert Tetris player with exceptional spatial awareness. In that case, we don’t have a lot to tell you. But for most people, loading up their storage unit can be a bit daunting, especially if you have a large unit and lots of stuff to load. Starting with a plan will always have better results than just throwing things in as you go. Also, make sure you have the tools and the people you need. At the very least, a hand truck and cart might be useful, and they are often available to borrow from the storage facility. If you’re moving heavy items or a lot of stuff, having a friend or two on hand will also make things go faster and more smoothly.

As you plan your storage, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, think vertically. Your storage unit is probably ten feet tall, if not more. Don’t waste half the space you are paying for by loading things just a couple of boxes high. You want to avoid the Leaning Tower of Cardboard, but you can get a lot of storage space out of minimal square footage if you plan right. For example, a sofa could be stood up on its short side to take up less floor space. If you follow this rule, you will find that you have a lot more room than you thought. Also, when stacking items, start with the heaviest boxes on the bottom. Put lighter things on top of those, and the most lightweight items at the very top. The goal is to get as much vertical storage as possible while keeping everything stable.

The second rule is to avoid empty spaces. If you want to get the most out of your storage unit, don’t leave any unused room. Have a bin? Fill it completely. Storing a shelf or drawers? Put things in them. If you had x-ray vision and looked at your storage unit, would you see a bunch of empty pockets? If the answer is no, you’re doing a good job.

The third rule is not to forget about access. There are some items you probably won’t need for a long time. Those can go toward the back of your unit. If there is something you may want in just a couple of months or even sooner, keep it up front. Also, make sure you have a way to reach the items in your unit without unpacking the whole thing. If you have a unit large enough to walk into, you’ll need to leave a path to move around. Ideally, keep a lane down the middle so that you can access all of your belongings as efficiently as possible.

Finding the Perfect Self-Storage Facility

It’s not always easy to find the perfect storage facility. There are plenty out there to choose from, but it’s hard to tell them apart. Do you just choose the closest one? The cheapest one? Luckily, TrustDALE can help. When you are storing your personal belongings, you don’t want to leave it to chance. You need a storage facility you can trust. Choose a TrustDALE certified self-storage facility to get all the benefits of Dale’s 7-point investigative review. You’ll be glad you did.