Storage units can be a great solution for people who are moving and need a spot to perch their stuff during the transition. Likewise, if their home is damaged in a storm or they’re doing a major renovation, a storage unit provides an easy, short-term solution. But when people simply don’t want to, or can’t, curate their possessions and instead opt to put them in storage indefinitely, both the storage space and its contents become a serious and long-term burden.
Before you make the decision to rent a storage space, here are a few things to consider.
Take time to check out a few facilities before deciding which one to use. Find a few options online and then go visit them. Ask questions about temperature control, when you’ll be able to access your unit and, perhaps most important, how they will keep your belongings secure. For instance, do they have 24-hour video monitoring of the entire facility? What type of lock is required, or available, for the units? Also consider the overall cleanliness of the facility and whether the level of customer service suits your needs.
Give yourself a realistic deadline for renting the space. Most people end up leaving their things in storage much longer than they thought they would. It’s easy to postpone clearing out the space when you don’t have to look at the contents every day. And then, before you know it, a year or two has passed, and you’ve spent thousands of dollars to store things you obviously don’t need.
Try to accurately measure the items you want to store and choose the smallest available unit. Not only will this save you money, but it also will curb the temptation to continually add more to the space whenever you’re faced with the decision about whether to keep or get rid of something. Also think about how you can most efficiently store the items. This may mean disassembling furniture, using a ladder to stack boxes from the floor to the ceiling or propping a couch upright.
It’s important to think about how often you’ll need to visit the unit — either to put things in or to remove items. If you don’t need to access the unit regularly or until you’re ready to empty it, it may be worthwhile to choose a facility farther away from the city, where costs are lower. However, if you’re putting things in storage that you’ll need to access often, it makes sense to pick a place closer to your residence. Be sure to ask when customers can access their units and whether the facility is accessible on holidays.
Make sure you read the contract and understand the facility’s pricing before signing on the dotted line. Clarify whether there is a minimum lease length, what your exact monthly cost will be and how long those costs are guaranteed to remain the same. You may also want to consider whether and how to insure the contents of your storage unit. Some storage facilities offer insurance, but your homeowners or rental insurance may already cover some of the items.
If you don’t want to bother with visiting storage spaces and hauling your items back and forth, there are companies that will transport everything to a storage facility for you. MakeSpace will deliver bins to your home for packing, return to pick them up when you’re finished, take them to a storage facility and provide an online photo inventory of your stored items. This is a good option if you don’t need to access the items regularly and feel comfortable turning your possessions over to the company’s workers to handle.
Another option is using a company that will deliver a storage “pod” to your home. You do the packing and call for a pickup when you’re ready for the pod to be taken to the storage facility. This saves you the trouble of transporting your items and gives you control over how things are packed, but you will not be able to access specific items without having the whole unit returned to you. Also, the pod delivery and pickup require substantial space for loading and unloading. Make sure you have a spot that can accommodate the truck and pod and find out whether there are parking or neighborhood rules regarding the pod’s location and duration at your home.
Anzia is a freelance writer and the owner of Neatnik. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.