Sign up for Organizing Tips, straight to your inbox!

How To Choose A Self Storage Unit

Getting a self storage unit can be key to getting rid of what you really don't need or use anymore. When you are paying to store your stuff, the cost may motivate you to store less and for the least amount of time.

Currently we are preparing to put our house on the market. Our first goal is to declutter and stage our home for selling. At first I wasn't a big fan of "staging" but after doing some research, now believe it's important, especially in such an unpredictable sellers market.

We began purging and moving boxes around but, due to lack of time, I decided that the only way this move is going to happen is by getting a self storage unit. Why? In a nutshell, storing "stuff" at our home was just not working.

I've never rented a self storage unit before since I'm not much of a believer in spending money to store stuff! However, I've come to the conclusion that in some cases it makes sense.

And in our case, this move is not just about going through all of my stuff - it's about going through our whole family's stuff which goes back 20+ years times the number of people in our family. Even though I'm not much of a "saver", the rest of our family are "savers" on some level. Add to that all the furniture and other needs, and well we have a LOT of stuff!

Do Your Research

Next, I spent some time learning what I could online about self storage units.

If you need to store some of your belongings in order to prepare for a move, I hope hearing about the steps I took will help you along the way.

First, I Googled the keywords...

  • storage unit
  • self storage unit
  • storage rental

+ my location

There were only two places reasonably close in proximity so I went to their Web sites to check things out.

It didn't take me long to decide that if I was going to be hauling a lot of boxes, small furniture, etc., to a storage place that we'd want the closest one possible. The Web site itself was pretty easy to navigate and after a quick comparison of prices between the two facilities, I tentatively decided on the one closest to us.

One of the first things I noticed were the Specials they were running. Be sure to look for these. Specials can include things like...

  • free month's rent
  • percentage off on rental for x number of months
  • percentage off first month's rental
  • up-stair unit deep discounts
  • discount on packing supplies
  • discount on moving truck rental
  • inside unloading
  • temperature controlled units

Next, I took a look at the self storage unit sizes. Common sizes for a residential move are...

  • 5x5
  • 5x10
  • 5x15
  • 7x10
  • 10x10
  • 10x15
  • 10x20

Anything larger was being marketed more for business storage or for storing the entire contents of a home (i.e., if you're going overseas for a while or something).

For me it was a little challenging figuring out what size made sense for us. Cost was a factor so that helped guide me some. Like I said, I'm not a fan of paying to store stuff. ;-)

If cost plays into your decision as well, I suggest deciding on the maximum amount you're willing to pay and together with specials that are running, let that guide you on what size unit to get.

Check Out Features Offered

Next, I looked at features. Some storage facilities will include...

  • Drive inside buildings - good idea if you live in an area with all 4 seasons
  • Heated and cooled spaces - depending on what you are going to store (leather, photos and other things that need stable temps)
  • Computerized gate entry - you'll want to feel save
  • Security lighting - again for safety concerns
  • Clean and well-lit - safety, look for signs of possible rodent entry
  • Insurance coverage - most places require this but the fee is minimal

See What Others Are Saying

Then I visited their Facebook page. I read through several comments to see what people were saying about this particular self storage facility. Most were positive so that was reassuring.

Some facilities will also have blogs, Twitter accounts, be on LinkedIn and other social media sites. You can learn a lot about what others think of their business by taking a little time to read about them online.

Go See The Facility

I decided at that point to go look at the facility. I wanted to get a better idea of just how big some of the units really are and felt that actually seeing them would help me make a decision on what size made the most sense. I'm glad I did this.

The manager asked a few preliminary questions (do remember that they are sales people).

What size home?

What will you be storing? (boxes vs. furniture, etc.)

Will you be storing a lot of furniture or mostly boxes and small items?

Based on what I told him, the first unit he showed me was 10x20. The size looked perfect until... he quoted the prize. Gulp.

So we visited the 10x15 next. Again, I thought alright we can deal with this size. Of course you'll l have your own parameters when deciding, but for us and our needs, I thought the 10x15 would be doable. But turns out, the price wasn't all that much lower than the 10x20.

He showed me a 10x10 so I could compare. It's 100 square feet, literally square. And the price for a 10x10 was considerably less. And a 10x10 on the upper level was less than half of the 10x15! Something to seriously consider, I thought.

Since the place wasn't busy, he showed me a few more units...

5x10 and 5x15

These sizes were less expensive but you have to think about what you'll be storing and how soon you'll want access to anything. They are long and narrow. Items stored in the back will not be easy to get to if needed. The entry door may not be easy to navigate for larger items (i.e., you have to turn the item, picture moving a couch through).

Will You Be Retrieving Often Or Only When Moving?

Knowing how my kids are, we'll most likely be retrieving a thing or two from storage before we move everything out so we need to be able to find things easily. Boxes stacked way in the back of a 5x10 or 5x15 would take some maneuvering to pull out. That equates to extra time so we're going with a wider unit. After taking these things into consideration, and wanting to spend as little as possible I chose an upper level 10x10.

As I mentioned, upstairs units are discounted quite a bit. There are downsides of storing upstairs of course. It means climbing stairs. But if you can get a self storage unit close to the service elevators, it might make sense for you. Plus think of all that extra exercise you'll get in. ;-)

Choose the unit size and floor level that makes the most sense for YOUR move.

First, I thought only having a 10x10 would help motivate us to get rid of even more stuff. We wouldn't have a very big storage unit and we'd be climbing stairs. There is a service (only) elevator to bring items up in but you still have to walk upstairs to pull everything out and haul it to your unit. Not all units will be really close to the elevator. You'll need to use carts and dollies depending on how heavy the items you are moving are.

Next, the cost savings was important. And, if we ended up really needing more than 10x10, we could rent another 10x10 (or smaller). Two units would cost about the same as one 10x15! Also, in our case, we are storing things between a move, not everything we own. Your situation may be different.

All in all, going over to the self storage place really helped me gain an understanding of what you get for how much, what amenities to look for, etc. was well worth it, particularly in the savings.

Start Sorting And Packing!

Next, I'll cover how sort and pack efficiently for your self storage unit, what packing material to use, where to get it, and most importantly the frustration-saving discipline of labeling.

sign up for Organizing Tips, straight to your inbox!