Self Storage 101

Deciding what to do when short on space.
When your possessions become more than your home can hold, or if you're living in limbo and need a place for your things to hole up, you're going to need a self-storage company.

Use to find a self storage location in your area. Then answer these basic questions as you're deciding where to store your stuff.

  • What is self-storage?

    Self storage facilities offer customers do-it-yourself, month-to-month storage space rental. Like any landlord-tenant relationship, you will owe the storage company a rent payment each month under your occupancy agreement.

    Self-storage companies offer units ranging from 25 square feet to 400 square feet, or from a carload to a home-full. For 25 feet, you will be able to fit about the same amount you can fit in a half bathroom.

    Two hundred square feet should be large enough to accommodate enough items for a small house. You will want to find a unit sized so your items will not have to be stacked too high. A storage company will provide you with a key to your unit and may charge extra for electricity.

  • What should your storage facility provide?

    Select a facility that offers security. Some provide motion detectors, nightly patrols, guardsmen and a gated parking lot with a computer access keypad or surveillance cameras.

    Ask storage companies how they protect your possessions. Call your home or renter's insurance agency and find out if your stored items are covered on the policy and keep an inventory of what you place in storage.

  • What should you agree to?

    Read your contract carefully. A self-storage contract is mostly designed to protect the property you store, but it also protects the storage company. Find out what happens if you miss a payment, even if it's through no fault of your own. If you default on your payments, storage facility managers may hold your possessions or send them to auction.

    Find out when and why the facility managers might enter your unit. Will the company, for any reason, ever move your belongings from one storage unit to another? Although this is fine in an emergency, make sure this won't happen simply to give another customer a better spot.

  • What will a self storage unit cost?

    The price will depend on the size of the unit and whether you add any extra services to your contract. Most self-storage companies will ask for a deposit before you move your things into the unit, but this money usually is refundable and some companies may waive the deposit.

    Some storage facilities offer climate and dust control. This will protect your belongings better, but will be more costly and may not be necessary.

    The basic cost usually includes the space you rent, lighting, basic environmental controls, insurance and security. Some companies will insist that you buy a padlock from them. Usually this will provide more security, though it will drive your cost up somewhat.
And now that you have a place to put your things, follow these packing tips:

  • When packing your unit, create aisles with labels facing out.
  • Leave doors to appliances ajar.
  • Dab bicycle chains with oil, and cover the floor with plastic to avoid oil stains.
  • Don't stack boxes too high.

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