Self-storage units don’t have to be a
space you visit once or twice a year to dig something out of a stack of
boxes. They can be highly organized, easily accessible spaces that free
up necessary space in your home or office. To get the most out of them,
though, it is best to plan ahead before you start loading up the truck.
Here are steps to help you plan
Step 1: Plan What You Will Store
- Start by identifying items that will be packed in boxes and
- Prioritize boxed items you will want to access most
frequently (they’ll go closer to the front of the unit).
- Group by fragility or weight – heavier, sturdier items
should be stored on the bottom of stacked items, fragile items on top.
- Consider awkwardly-sized items that won’t stack well,
including how often you will need to use them, and how heavy they are.
Step 2: Choose the Right Size Unit
- Nobody wants to pay for storage they don’t need. But a
little extra space makes moving around within the unit much easier. It
also gives you room to add those unplanned items that always seem to
- Storage facility managers can be quite helpful in
determining how much space you will need. The Extra Space Virtual
Storage Unit Selector is also helpful in calculating size requirements.
Step 3: Organize and Pack Your Items with a Plan in Mind
Organizing and efficiently packing your items will take time
and concentration. However, the up-front effort will be well worth it
when you’re able to easily unload and organize your items at the
storage unit. Here are some tips for packing:
Invest in Supplies
- Use boxes, not plastic bags. Boxes are sturdier and stack
well, taking up less space. Many moving companies require that goods be
packed in boxes for transport. Also, sealed plastic bags can trap
humidity which can cause damaging mildew.
- Invest in good quality, sturdy boxes and packing materials.
Boxes should be sturdy enough to hold up for years under the weight of
the stack. You may be tempted to get boxes for free from supermarkets
and liquor stores; however, the mismatched shapes and sizes will impede
your ability to organize most effectively. You can buy standard-sized
boxes and specialty boxes for items such as TVs, videotapes and
- For wrapping breakables, paper will do, but bubble wrap can
be used repeatedly, is cleaner, and because it is transparent, makes
identifying contents easier.
- Most people end up needing more tape than they thought they
would when packing. Your self-storage manager can help you estimate how
much tape you’ll need for the number of boxes you’ll be packing. Some
places sell tape that is pre-labeled.
- For your convenience, packing supplies such as boxes,
bubble wrap and tape are available for purchase at the storage facility.
Packing in Boxes
- Box up everything that you can. Anything left unboxed in a
self-storage facility can get dusty.
- Fill boxes to capacity. The contents in half-empty boxes
can shift during transport or lifting. Corners and sides can collapse
if there’s nothing to support them. Foam peanuts are handy for filling
in the gaps in boxes.
- Distribute the weight in packed boxes evenly. Make sure
they are not too heavy for you and others who may be lifting them.
- Wrap all fragile items and breakables such as dishes,
glasses, ornaments, etc. separately. Pack these items tightly into
strong or reinforced boxes, filling any gaps with paper or filler. Mark
“Fragile” on any boxes containing breakable items.
- Clearly label all boxes on more than one side so you can
easily identify the contents.
- Pack books flat to avoid damaging their spines.
Packing Other Items
- If you plan to store clothes, think about investing in a
wardrobe box with a built-in hanging rod. These are available for
purchase at most storage and moving facilities.
- Large appliances must be prepared correctly for proper
- Defrost refrigerators and freezers thoroughly to avoid
water damage and mildew growth. Tie down the appliance doors during
transport, but leave them slightly ajar once in storage.
- Drain washing machines, and tie down hoses and cords before
- It’s a good idea to wipe down the inside of appliances with
baking soda before you store them to keep them dry.
- Wrap mirrors and pictures in protective covering such as
bubble wrap and mark them as “Fragile.” Cardboard corners can be
purchased to protect the sharpest, weakest areas of frames.
- If storing photographs, consider a climate controlled unit
where temperature fluctuations will not damage your photos. If you do
store loose photographs, place them between pieces of clean cardboard
and consider taping them together to avoid curling.
- Separate lamp bases and lampshades and wrap them for
- If you're storing upholstered products such as mattresses
and sofas, consider investing in covers, bags or sheeting for
additional protection. Storage and moving facilities often sell large
heavy-duty bags for this purpose.
- Vacuum-sealed bags work really well for draperies, bedding,
- Electrical equipment such as TVs, stereos, and computers
should be packed in their original boxes whenever possible. If using
other boxes, choose ones that are as close in size to the original as
possible, and fill all gaps with paper. Make sure you secure the player
arm of a record player and turntable.
- Disassemble furniture such as beds and tables before you
store them. Wrap and cover the separate sections, clearly mark them and
keep them together. Keep assembly components such as screws and bolts
together in a plastic bag, mark them clearly, and tape the bag to the
appropriate piece of furniture. (Use tape that is safe for use on
furniture, or tape the bag to an inconspicuous place on the piece.)
Cover chair legs with bubble wrap or rags for extra protection.
- Spray your wood furniture with a good quality furniture
polish before storing it to give it some added protection.
- Treat leather items with a leather conditioner before you
- Wipe down metal objects and tools with a little oil before
storing them to avoid rust formation that can occur when the tools are
not used regularly.
- When storing an oven as well as a refrigerator, enclose the
exposed back area of the appliances to prevent vermin.
- Consider having awkward or heavy pieces such as exercise
equipment packed professionally. Talk to your storage facility manager
or local pack-and-ship store about options.
- As you go, keep an inventory of every item you’ve packed.
Ideally, include an estimate of the replacement value of each item you
store. Consider taking pictures of valuable items. These steps will
help you make accurate insurance claims in case of unforeseen damage or
Step 4: Unpack and Arrange Items Efficiently
Before you load up the truck to take your packed items to your
self-storage unit, check with the storage facility manager to make sure
there is adequate space for the truck to maneuver to your
As you arrive at the facility and begin to unload, arranging
your furniture, equipment, boxes, and other odds-and-ends efficiently
in your storage unit will make a big difference in maximizing its
Here are a few tried-and-true suggestions for putting items
into your unit
- Plan ahead
- While your storage unit should already be clean and swept
out, consider putting down protective canvas sheeting, cardboard or
wooden boards on the floor for cleanliness.
- Keep a fold-up step stool in your space for accessing
- Based on the climate in which you live or work, consider
putting down moisture absorbers, deodorizers and/or vermin bait to
protect your belongings.
- Frequently-used items should be placed near the entrance
for easy access. This holds true for file boxes and other business
- To ensure security of valuable items such as computers or
TVs, place them farthest from the door, with other items concealing
- Unload the largest items and place them against the far
wall, as well as along the sides of the unit. See if the storage
facility has dollies or other machinery that you can use to unload and
place these heavy items. Some self-storage companies will offer these
free of charge.
- For archived business documents that you won’t need to
access frequently, place them against the far wall of the
- When arranging items, leave an aisle space for easy
access to your items. You can either leave aisles between your stacks
of boxes and furniture, or line up all your furniture and boxes against
the outside walls of the unit in a “U” shape, leaving the inside of the
U as open space.
- For furniture and other large items
- Break down furniture into smaller pieces, if possible.
Take the legs off of tables, disassemble bed frames and lean them
against the wall, etc.
- Store large pieces of furniture vertically to save space.
Stand sofas on end when possible.
- If you have room to store a sofa flat, then a loveseat
can be placed upside down on top of the sofa, and a table stacked on
top of that.
- Chairs can be stacked seat to seat.
- In most cases, you can stack dryers on top of
- For odd-shaped, miscellaneous items
- You can tie tools and long-handled items such as rakes,
snow shovels and brooms in bundles. Or, put them inside garbage cans to
keep them neat.
- Mirrors and framed artwork should never be stored flat,
as they can collapse under their own weight.
- Be sure when stacking boxes and containers that you can
clearly see the labels you put on them.
- When stacking boxes, always make sure to put the heaviest
boxes at the bottom to avoid damage.
- Stack boxes and similarly sized items together to save
- Be creative
- You can use virtually all of the space in and around your
stored furniture, including other items, as places to store more items.
Fill anything that's hollow with items to maximize your available
- Furniture drawers are good for storing fragile
- Stack the shelves of bookcases with books, small boxes
and other odds and ends
- Store boxes containing fragile goods inside of wardrobes
- Store pillows, blankets and other bedding inside washers
- Store clothes inside dresser drawers
- You may be thinking that all this planning, preparing and
setting up your self-storage unit may seem like a big project. You’ll
find the time and effort are worth it, though, when you discover the
peace of mind that comes with knowing your belongings are protected,
conveniently accessible and well-preserved.
Hints for packing and storing
- Use furniture drawers to hold delicate items. Wrap them in
bubble wrap or newspaper.
- When packing toys or smaller objects, remember to fill
boxes completely, stuffing open areas with plain newspaper to prevent
collapsing when stacked.
- Be careful not to store anything combustible (such as paint
and chemicals) or perishable (such as food that is not permanently
- When storing lawn and garden equipment, drain any fluids
prior to storage in order to avoid corrosive damage.
- Use trash cans to store shovels, hoes and rakes.
- Always use high quality locks on your unit. Extra Space
Storage sells locks on-site; ask the Store Manager for details.
- When storing delicate heirlooms, use specially constructed
boxes, such as wardrobe boxes, and utilize dehumidifiers to prevent
mildew build up.
- Store furniture carefully on boards or pallets.
- Cover mattresses and store them flat on level
- Store small items like pots and pans in large appliances,
such as stoves or refrigerators.
- Break down items (such as table legs) and store large
furniture (like tabletops and sofas) on end to save space.
- Use protective covers and treat wood surfaces before
- When storing business files, label all boxes and construct
aisles so files are easily seen and accessible.
- Clean furniture, boxes and the storage unit of all food and