There are two types of self storage users: short term, who will use storage for 3 months or less; and long term, who will store for longer than 3 months. Regardless of whether you are planning for short term or long term storage, there are some steps we recommend you take for maintaining your storage unit to keep your valuables safe.
When using storage for long periods of time, it is important to protect your items for future use and to plan for storage in all seasons and temperature ranges. You will start by selecting the best storage type and size for you. You should think about how long you will have your items in storage and the time of year you are starting to store. Are you storing during the heat of summer, the cold of winter, or all year through every season?
When storing during the hot summer months, you need to consider selecting temperature control storage. This is especially true if you have sensitive items like electronics or antique furniture. These units keep the temperature at a range of 55-80 degrees all year, which will protect your items from damage caused by extreme temperatures.
When storing during the fall and winter, selecting a drive-up or interior access unit should work just fine. Things like extra clothes, summer items like pool rafts and bikes and outdoor furniture will all hold up well through even the coldest temperatures.
Depending on the time of year you are storing, you may be able to get away with any available storage unit when only planning to store for a short time. Most items will do fine in drive-up and interior access self storage units during the Spring and Fall because the temperatures are typically mild and extreme swings are unlikely.
However, even if you only plan to store for a month or two, the hot summer months of July and August should steer you toward temperature control storage. That high humidity and hot temperatures can cause damage to wood, electronics and even fabrics. Think about what you are storing before deciding for or against temperature control.
Whether you are storing short-term or long-term, you can benefit from these tips on organization and unit maintenance. By following these, your storage experience will be a more pleasant one all around.
Maintaining and Packing Your Storage Unit
Once you select the best unit size and type for your needs, you should gather up or purchase some of these items to make packing and organizing easier:
The boxes we sell in our retail shop are specially designed for the storage industry. They are manufactured to hold up over long periods of time and are treated to help prevent mildew. They are also crush tested to prevent tearing, denting and smashing even with frequent use. We offer several sizes and specialty boxes for those hard to pack items like TVs, mirrors and lamps.
We recommend that you never use plastic bags or standard cardboard boxes (like the free ones at the supermarket), especially if you are storing for longer periods of time. Plastic bags cause moisture build up which can damage whatever is stored inside. And, those free grocery store boxes are designed for temporary use and will break down, making them soft and start crushing soon after use.
Plastic storage totes.
Plastic storage totes are also a great choice, as you can get a quick idea of what’s inside just by looking if you select the clear ones. They also stack nicely and many have comfortable handles for lifting and moving.
Unprinted newsprint, packing paper and/or bubble wrap.
Your first thought is to use yesterday’s newspaper to wrap up your glass items and other fragile items. We don’t recommend that because the ink can transfer onto your items and cause damage. Instead, we suggest purchasing blank newsprint or packing paper to prevent any damage. You can also use bubble wrap to protect things like porcelain and crystal to prevent breaking. Wrapping table and chair legs in bubble wrap helps prevent scratches and dents and it also helps to cushion mirrors and framed artwork inside boxes.
Box labels and markers.
Using labels on your boxes in storage is ideal, although often overlooked. By using a dark heavy marker to write what’s inside helps you easily see at a glance what is stored where, giving you faster and easier access to your items. You can even label which room that box belongs to, keeping it more organized. It’s best to label at least two sides and the top of each box so you can still see the label when things are stacked in front of or on top of them.
Pallets, tarps or dust covers.
If you have access to pallets (you can ask at department or grocery stores because many times they just throw them away), they are great to get your items off the floor and promote better air flow. Allowing space between the walls and floor along with other items in the unit is best.
Use tarps or dust covers to cover your large furniture and appliances to protect them from dust and damage when things are stacked on top.
Pest repellent and dampness removers.
Keeping pest repellent close by, and even in your storage unit is a great idea. If you “neighbor” brings unwanted critters with them, this repellent will keep them out of your stuff in between the commercial spraying that is done regularly at our store. Spray it along the bottom and around all sides of your self storage unit before you fill it with your stuff. Then, give a refresher spray every few months for added protection.
Using dampness removers, such as DampRid®, pull the excess moisture out of the air and help prevent your wooden furniture and other similar items from absorbing it, which can cause damage.
Visit your storage unit!
Regardless of how few or many months you plan to use self storage, it is important to visit your storage unit at least once per season or twice per year. This gives you the opportunity to check on your valuables, replace any grocery store boxes that have crushed with our specially treated boxes, replace the dampness remover, re-spray the pest repellent and more. By visiting often, you can find potential problems more quickly and get them resolved before damage occurs.
Organization Your Storage Unit
You should start by organizing your items by how often you need access to them. The ones you need more often go toward the front and on top of other items, and the ones you rarely need go in the back or underneath other items. If you can leave space for a walkway down the center, or two walkways for larger units, it is a wise option. This will help you gain access to almost everything stored inside without having to move everything out of the way to get to something.
Those labels can be a big benefit when organizing! Don’t just label them with one or two words; add a description or list items inside so there is no question. If you have a large storage unit full of lots of boxes and totes, also keep a master list with a “graph” of where the items are inside the unit. Hang this list and graph to the left or right of the door using a magnet hook or tape. Update this as you move things around, too.
Before placing your furniture into storage, thoroughly clean and polish it first. This adds a layer of protection to the finish. If you can, disassemble the furniture to maximize space. So you don’t lose hardware and fasteners for the different items, put them in a small bag, label the bag which item they belong to and tape it to a larger piece of the item. If the larger items cannot easily be broken down, utilizing them to pack other items inside or on top of can save you space as well. You may want to cover tables or shelves with tarps, canvas or dust covers so you don’t mark the surface with other items.
When storing appliances and electronics, clean off excess dust and clean out interior spaces, and make sure they are completely dry. Prop doors slightly open on appliances to allow for airflow and avoid collection of mildew and mold inside. Place smaller boxes and items inside doors and drawers after placed in storage to maximize space. Electronics should be packed in original boxes whenever possible because they were made for storage in warehouses for longer periods of time and are designed to protect that specific item.
When storing clothing and fabrics; vacuum seal your items if you are able. This protects your items from moisture and air damage and takes up the least amount of space inside your self storage unit. Also avoid folding your clothing, as it can create stress tears and permanent fold marks when stored for long periods of time. Also avoid storing clothing boxes directly on the floor, especially if the items are not vacuum sealed inside and/or the box is cardboard. Moisture can collect more readily and damage your items.
Let’s do a quick recap:
- First, determine the size and type of storage unit. Going with one that’s a little larger than you think you need is a good idea. It’s better to have a little too much space, than not enough and need to move to a larger storage unit or use an additional one.
- Secondly, gather your supplies before you start moving stuff into your storage unit. Purchase boxes, packing paper, tape, bubble wrap and dust covers for large items. You can get all of these items in our retail shop inside the rental office.
- Lastly, think details! Plan ahead. Be organized. Clean everything. Label your boxes and sort items ahead of time. Keep a master list and a graph of your storage unit handy.
If you have any questions or comments about maintaining your storage unit, you can contact us for more information. And, if you have other helpful tips, please leave them in the comments below so everyone can benefit from your storage experience.
If you have your checklist ready and you need a storage unit now, you can reserve or rent a storage unit online 24/7.