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Simple Tips to Help Organize (or Empty) Your Storage Unit

Updated: Mar 15

Simple actionable steps from a Professional Home organizer that will help you organize and clean out your storage unit once and for all.

Woman and man moving boxes in storage unit

If you are reading this blog, it’s likely that at some point you thought it was a good idea to store some items outside of your home. Or, perhaps you're considering it as a temporary solution to make some space in your home. Why would people pay to keep their personal belongings in storage? A few of the most common reasons are: relocation, inheritance, home renovation, and over consumption. Regardless of the reason, most renters' initial intentions are to temporarily store these items but weeks turn into months and over time you're less likely to give it much thought… expect when the auto payment hits.

Let’s talk numbers briefly.

Did you know that the self storage industry in the U.S. generates $29 billion a year annually? As they say, “business is booming”. How does that shake out for a person like you or me? The national average cost for all unit sizes reached a record high of $110 per month in 2022, according to SpareFoot reservation data. Those numbers don’t include upgrades like climate control or rental insurance. However, it really depends on where you live and how conveniently located the storage facility is to the nearest metro. In 2019, when we rented our unit the cost was about $100 including taxes and fees, now it’s $155, hence what motivated me to reconsider our options.

Here’s the interesting part about it, as the prices continue to increase, occupancy is decreasing. While there are a few things that have contributed to these numbers such as the stagnant housing market, which is keeping most renters put and the pandemic slowing ending which has allowed businesses to remove items they may have stored; It’s pretty simple to me, as consumers we are carefully choosing where we spend our disposable income as times continue to be uncertain.

I have said it before and I will say it again, each household is unique. Therefore, life management and home organization systems have to be based on your needs. So, I won’t tell you what to do but I will share my expertise as to how to do it well.

Whether your goal is to organize your current storage unit to get the most use out of it or to empty it out and save money this article will be extremely helpful.

Organizing and Maintaining Your Self-Storage Unit

Boxes outside of storage unit

The Benefits of Maintaining Your Self-Storage Unit

In my line of work as a Professional Organizer, I have come across numerous clients that have storage units that have become another pain point on their to-do list. If you have made the decision to keep your storage unit as this time, I want to share a few tips that we highly recommend to help you organize and maintain storage unit:

  • Saving Money- Decluttering and organizing your self storage unit can help you save money. Often, over time we are better able to determine if an item is still valuable to us or if we no longer need it. If you have an accurate up to date inventory, you can avoid buying items you already own and you can use this inventory list if you plan to resell on platforms such as Facebook Marketplace.

  • Maximizing Space- Regularly organizing and maintaining your storage unit can help you maximize your space and make it easier to find and access your belongings. If you currently have multiple self storage units, could you consolidate your items into one? Or could you organize the items in a manner that would require a smaller unit?

  • Safely Secure- At the least inspect your storage unit quarterly, check that it is in good condition and that your belongings are protected from damage or theft. Ultimately, we highly recommend adding the unit to your insurance policy. Unfortunately, after the deep freeze this year several self storage facilities suffered when their pipes busted, if you didn’t read the fine print you may be surprised.

  • Preventing Infestations- You know the saying, “you can pick your neighbors but not your family”, welp, not in this case. While there are rules to what can be stored, you have little to no control over the neighboring rental units. The good news is that regular cleaning and maintenance of your unit can help prevent pests like rodents, insects, and spiders from infesting your storage unit and damaging your belongings.

  • Avoid Moisture- Have you ever gone to pull an item from storage only to find it’s been damaged due to mildew or worse mold? Eww! If I am being honest, that was the sole motivator for me to move a few items into storage temporarily, until we completed a weatherization project in our basement. Guess what, moisture can accumulate in storage units, and regular maintenance including selecting the appropriate storage containers can help prevent mold and mildew growth, which can damage your belongings and create an unhealthy environment. Considering that quite a few self storage centers are repurposed older buildings, the climate control option may be worth the upgrade.

Our Simple Maintenance Method to Organize Your Storage Unit

Below is the basic method we use to maintain our clients storage units.

Remove all items: Start by removing everything from your storage unit so you can clean it thoroughly.

Sweep: Use a broom to remove any dust, dirt, or debris from the floor, walls, and ceiling of the unit.

Wipe down surfaces: Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down any surfaces, including shelves, walls, and the inside of the door.

Check for damage: While you are cleaning, take the opportunity to inspect your belongings for any signs of damage or wear and tear. If you notice any damage, address it immediately to prevent further damage or loss.

Reorganize: Once the unit is clean and your belongings are inspected, take the opportunity to reorganize the unit to optimize the space and make it easier to access your items. Like with like, square off the space by using air tight containers or medium size cardboard boxes.

Donate or Discard any unwanted items: If you find any items that you no longer need or want, consider donating or disposing of them to free up space in your storage unit.

Pro Tip: Plan your discard and disposal day, while storage facility have dumpsters most don't allow customer to dispose of items on site.

Empty Out Your Storage Unit- Save Money

moving boxes on pulley in storage unit

One of the obvious reasons to empty out your storage unit is to save money on the monthly rental cost. Storage units can be expensive, I am sure you can find a good use for an extra $1300-$1800 dollars a year. So seriously consider this, if you are no longer using the items stored in the unit, you are essentially paying for unnecessary space. Emptying your storage may seem like a daunting task but you can do it.

You want to approach emptying out your storage space in the same manner as decluttering a space in your home, don’t bite off more than you can chew. With Spring approaching, it may sound like a good idea to clean out your storage unit on a Saturday morning but preparation is key. Be realistic, decide what you can accomplish based on the size of your unit; Do you need a day or a full weekend? Or maybe you need to dedicate one day every weekend over the next month. Keep in mind that the weekends are the busiest time, especially the first and the last weekend of the month. My advice is always to overestimate the amount of time you will need

Start with the obvious, discard any items that you no longer need and that are not suitable for donation. If you identify items to donate be sure to drop off the donations when you leave the storage facility- do not, I repeat, DO NOT take the items home unless you need, love, or use them. I highly doubt that the latter is true if these items have been in storage for any significant period of time.

If you plan to sell any items, take pictures that represent the current condition of the item. Plan to sell items directly from the storage site to save time on drop off & pick ups. When pricing items keep in mind your overall goal to save money by moving out of the storage unit- price to sell. Set a deadline to have all items sold, if they don’t sell, donate them. Remember to check your mindset, though these items may have some monetary value, is it greater than the cost of storage.

Mindset Shift: I will not pay more to store items than their actual value

Show Yourself Some Grace- Enlist Help From A Friend

Adding box to storage unit

A word of caution, if any of your categories of decluttering involves sentimental items it may prove to be helpful to have more than one person on hand. Ask for help in advance and be sure to have all the support you need, meaning both emotional support (if you’re cleaning out a loved one’s unit) and having some extra muscle never hurts.

Last but most important, make a plan for the items that will re-enter your home. Did you recently move and gain more space or complete a renovation project? If so, space planning is key to avoiding clutter in your home. Keep in mind the philosophy “a place for everything and everything in its place” it’s the best way to stay well organized. Designate a non-living space for any items that need to be stored.

Mindset Shift: “A place for everything and everything in its place

I hope this brief discussion has inspired you to at the very least take inventory of your self storage unit. As you begin the process of organizing and maintaining your possession, you will be equipped with the information needed to make an informed decision- if self storage is the best option for you.

* week move organizing guide

If you're considering renting a self storage unit before a move, download our free Modern Move- 8 Week Checklist.

I am just an email away if you have any questions or need our support. Remember bringing order to your life and home is worth the effort, and is essential to living an intentional life.



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