Self Storage Part 3 – How to Be a Smart Self Storer

This is the last in a three part series on Self Storage.

Check out the other articles in this series:

Self Storage Part 1 – When Paying to Store Your Stuff Is a Good Idea

Self Storage Part 2 – When Paying to Store Your Stuff Is a Bad Idea

Now that you’ve made a decision to store your items there are things you can do to make sure you store smart.

1. Gather and Cull. Again. Once you’ve gathered all the items that need to be packed, go through them again and weed out any items that can be thrown away, given away, or actually used. Don’t be afraid to get rid of unnecessary items in order to have room for the stuff you really need to store.

2. Pack smart. Don’t close up half-empty boxes. Make the most of the space you have since the more space your stuff takes up the more you’re going to pay to store it. Make sure breakables are well-cushioned, too!

3. Make an inventory. Just writing “kitchen stuff” on the outside of a box is not the best way to go. When I recently put some items in my in-laws’ hangar I modified my Relocation Packing System (I’ll post that soon!) to keep track of what was being stored. Who wants to look all over the house for something that you forget you put in storage, or have to go through fifteen boxes to find your lobster pot?

  • List loose items (treadmill (really, just sell it!), canoe, crib, etc.).
  • Inventory each box individually. You don’t need to go into excruciating detail. Instead of “12 blue highball glasses, 12 lowball glasses, 12 blue juice glasses, Proctor-Silex Toaster Oven” simply write “blue glasses, toaster oven”.
  • Assign each box a number. This will help you find things quickly, and save lots of tape wasted by looking in the wrong box.
  • Place your name and contact number inside and outside each box and attach a tag or label to each loose item.
  • Save list in a computer file.

See how easy? This can save you loads of aggravation. Loads. Trust me.

4. Figure out how much space you really need. You don’t just have the space on the floor, so don’t forget to go vertical. Err on the side of too small, as they’ll be happy to sell you a bigger unit if all your stuff doesn’t fit. And if it doesn’t fit perhaps you’ll want to cull some more!

5. Look for the right facility. Don’t store your grandmother’s fur coat in a facility without air conditioning. PODs can also be a good alternative to traditional storage. Consider location, price, condition of the facility, security, service, and access. Here is a list of questions to guide you:

  • What kind of security system do they have?
  • Are the grounds patrolled, and if they are, how often?
  • Have they had any break-ins and if so, how did it/they occur?
  • Are there smoke alarms in each building?
  • Is there a sprinkler system in case of a fire?
  • Are there any limits to your access?
  • Can you rent space on a month-to-month basis? If so, how much notice do you require to vacate the storage unit?
  • If you can’t tour the facility yourself, can you see photos of the facilities, including a picture of an empty unit?
  • How is the climate controlled?
  • Will my items be safe from the elements? Leaky roofs ruin stuff. Visit on a rainy day.
  • Are the grounds and inside the facility well taken care of?
  • Are there large bushes or overgrown vegetation along the sides of the building? This may be a deterrent if you plan on accessing your storage unit at night.
  • Are both the inside and outside areas well lit?
  • Is the security fence intact? Make sure you walk around the entire perimeter to make sure.
  • What is required for someone to access the storage unit areas?

And, finally, the gut check:

  • Do you feel comfortable leaving your things in their care?

6. Buy the best lock you can. The better the lock the better your chances of your stuff staying where you put it.

7. Use tarps. Put one (or two) on the ground under your stuff, and put one (or two) over your stuff. If there’s a roof or plumbing leak you’ll be really happy you did.

8. Visit your stuff monthly. Make sure that all is well secured. Look at the units on each side of yours to make sure there are no leaks, pried locks or other red flags.

9. Get your stuff out as soon as possible. Don’t let it languish there past your initial target removal date without revisiting the wisdom of paying to store the items. Are you ready to let go of the items? Can you sell or donate them? Can you find a place to store them for less, or no charge at all? Are they worth the money you’re spending?

10. Pay. Your. Bill. The most un-frugal self storage mistake you could make would be to stop paying the storage bill. They will lock you out and sell your stuff. I once picked up a beautiful solid wood bookcase for $10 at a storage company’s abandoned stuff sale. And they’ll throw out your childhood memorabilia and paperwork, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft. Really, pay your bill.

That’s it on self storage. I hope this series helps you make the smartest choices for you.

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