Storage Basics Overview

Finding a storage unit can be an overwhelming task, especially if you aren't familiar with all of the options and features available. It's best to assess all of your storage needs before you even search for a local storage facility.

Consider how long you might need the storage unit. Many facilities offer discounts for long-term storage, but some may also have specials for temporary rentals.

Estimate how much space you will require. Save money by only renting the space you need. Feel free to use the self storage calculator to help you. Many facilities will store larger items including cars, camper and other motorized vehicles.

How often will you need to access the unit? Some facilities are accessible 24/7 and may even have drive-up access. Hours of operations range from facility to facility and should be taken into consideration depending on your needs.

Are any of the items you plan to store sensitive to temperature or humidity? If so, you will most likely need a climate-controlled storage unit. Typically the following items need to be stored indoors with some type of climate-control: leathers, furs, clothing, paintings, film, photographs, furniture, antiques, musical instruments, wine, paper, software, DVDs, CDs and electronics.

All storage facilities should have secure units, but if you require additional security for your possessions ask the facility if they have any of the following: fencing, surveillance cameras, motion lights, alarms, guards or a police presence.

You may also want to consider mobile storage for your items. If you decide to use mobile storage, a unit will be brought to you and removed after you have packed it. The unit will be stored at the facility or can be shipped to another location. The cost and features of mobile storage are comparable to self-storage but if you require regular access to your belongings, it may not be the best option for your needs.

Check out more detailed storage tips on the left hand side of this page. There's a storage solution for every situation.

Why Use Self Storage?

Reduce Clutter

Renting a self storage unit can be a great way to reduce clutter and free up needed space at the home or office. A storage unit is a smart place to keep a few boxes, old appliances, memorabilia, heirlooms and old toys.


Often self storage units offer more security than homes. Self storage facilities provide security features not normally found on homes. In addition to a lock, facilities are often protected by a security fence, surveillance cameras, a gated entry, limited entry after hours, exterior lighting and possibly security guards or onsite management. You may choose to purchase an in-home security system for your home. While this may protect the items stored in your home, will it protect items left in your yard? What about that backyard storage shed? Self storage units give you the benefits of both extra storage space and added security.


Some items pose potential hazards at home and need to be placed in a secure area to ensure the safety of your family. You may be handy around the house and enjoy renovation projects, but between jobs a self storage unit can keep those power tools, ladders, saws and drills away from curious children and, thereby, reduce the risk of possible accidents around the house.


Homes often do not have the storage space to hold large items. For instance, if you have ski boats, canoes or vintage cars, you may not have room for them in your garage or driveway. A self storage unit could give you a place to store such items that provides protection from the weather and some added security. If your garage has slowly filled with things like your exercise equipment and camping supplies and you want to reclaim it for your car, a self storage unit may be a perfect solution.


When renting a unit you may be required or at least offered insurance. Insurance will replace your valuables if they are stolen or damaged while in storage. Self storage insurance may be cheaper than homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.

Choosing a Storage Facility or Storage Unit

If moving, do you want to pack and store items yourself or hire someone to do it for you?

If you value ease and saving time over saving money, you may want to hire professional movers who will come and pack up your belongings, move your items to their company-run storage site and then pack them up again and move them to your new destination. Make sure that you do your homework before hiring a mover. You’ll want to know that the company you hire is a reputable one before you entrust them with your valuables. Another thing to consider is that if you pack and store the items yourself you will have to pay for insurance, which can be costly. When hiring someone to do the work for you, insurance is often included in the cost of their services.

Do you need more time to pack, or want closer proximity to stored items?

You also may opt to rent a mobile storage unit. The mobile storage company will bring the storage unit to your house where you can pack it at your own pace. Then, they will move it to your new destination where you can unpack at your own pace. Some companies also offer to help with the packing for an added fee.

Are the items you wish to store sensitive to cold, heat, moisture or dust?

If you are storing valuable items such as documents, furs, electronics, computer equipment, stereos or television sets you may want to opt for a climate-controlled unit. Many storage facilities also offer dust-free storage for your sensitive electronics.

Will want to switch out the storage contents seasonally?

Often you will want to store your summer wardrobe or seasonal household items such as swimming pool equipment or patio furniture during the winter months. During the summer you may want to store your family’s skis, snowmobile, snow blower and shovels. Space may vary for these items and perhaps even the need for climate or dust control. Make sure that you consider all your possible needs before renting your unit.

Do you need 24 hour tenant access?

Be aware that not all facilities will allow you access to the unit during any given time of the day or night. Rules vary from one facility to the next. While some units are accessible 24 hours a day, other facilities have limited hours of operation that limit access to your belongings. Check the rules before signing a contract if round-the-clock access is important to you.

Do you need to store large items such as cars, campers or other motorized vehicles?

Self storage can be a great option for storing vehicles. If needed, you can rent a climate-controlled unit to help preserve these items. You will want to be sure that you rent from a company with an established reputation. Safety is another factor to consider. You will rest easier knowing that your valuables are properly secured.

Is the storage facility you chose secure?

Compare the safety and security features of facilities before renting. Ask if there are security cameras on the premises. Is the facility equipped with motion lights or otherwise well lit? Some storage facilities offer security alarms and security fences. Still other locations have an onsite manager living on the premises who will keep an eye on whose coming and going. They will alert the police of any suspicious activity.

Self Storage Packing Tips

Whether you need to pack a few items to put in the attic, send some boxes to a self storage unit to clear the house of clutter or pack everything you own in order to move, you want to do it right. This means packing carefully and thinking ahead. Take a few precautions to help prevent damage and make it easier to find things later. When summer rolls around, you want to be able to find the other half of your wardrobe without having to open and move stacks of boxes that weren’t clearly labeled.

Guidelines to keep in mind as you pack:

  • To aid in stacking, use same-size boxes when possible.

  • Avoid storing items in plastic bags as they are less sturdy and could trap moisture.

  • Fill each box completely to prevent the top or sides from crushing. If your box is filled with odd-shaped or loose items like glassware or toys, fill the open spaces with crumpled paper, bubble wrap or other packing material.

  • Don’t fill boxes too full. This may cause them to burst.

  • Don’t make boxes too heavy to move. Use larger boxes for things that don’t weigh much and smaller ones for the heavy stuff.

  • Use the right type of box or packing crate. For instance, use a heavy-duty box for your books as this is less likely to break than a standard box. You still need to be careful not to overfill it, though. Cell kits may work best for stemware or knick-knacks. Wardrobe boxes allow you to hang up clothing and fabrics while in storage.

  • Stack books; don’t stand them on end as this could damage the spines.

  • Stack plates on end. Wrap dishes individually and place like-sized items together. Nest individually wrapped cups together.

  • Wrap framed art in bubble wrap. Look for protective cardboard or plastic corners at your packing supply store.

  • Criss-cross masking tape across the face of mirrors or glass-covered art.

  • Store framed mirrors, photographs and artwork vertically rather than flat.

  • Label boxes clearly and on more than one side. Consider providing a general description like ‘kitchen goods’ and then providing a short inventory such as ‘potholders, towels, aprons, silverware’ so that no one opens this kitchen box when they need the pots and pans. Be sure to mark boxes full of breakables as ‘fragile.’

  • Clean items like clothing, blankets, drapery or furniture before packing them to prevent germs and dirt from being transported to a new location and odors from spreading throughout your storage unit.

  • Polish wood before you pack to provide a little extra protection from the elements.

  • Treat leather items with a specially made conditioner before placing them in storage.

  • Wipe metal objects with machine oil or another type of rust preventative.

  • Take apart items like bed frames and tables, and remove lampshades from lamps. This will help protect them from breaking and make them easier to move.

  • Cover furniture with sheets or tarps to protect them from stains, tears and scratches.

  • Place heavy items on the bottom of your moving van or self storage unit.

  • Place least used items in front of the van so they can easily be placed behind other items in your new garage or self storage unit.

  • Place valuable items like your television behind other items so that they will be more difficult to see and to steal.

  • Place boxes of fragile items on top of other boxes.

  • Consider the environment where you plan to store your valuables. Will it be very hot or cold? Consider renting a climate controlled storage room for items that could be damaged by extreme temperatures or humidity. This includes things like software, paper, electronics or clothing. Some items do best in cold storage such as wine and furs. In self storage units without climate control consider using a dehumidifier.

  • When choosing a storage unit, factor in a little more room than your belongings take up in order to allow space for you to walk between stacks of items. This will help you to find what you need after you store it. Leave a little room between the walls and the stored goods to improve ventilation.

  • Take a little time to plan and organize as you pack. This should make it easier to finds things in the future and less likely that anything will get damaged during a move or while in storage.

Storage Insurance

It is often assumed that self storage facilities will automatically provide insurance for the items being placed into storage. This is not generally the case. Few self storage facilities will offer full or comprehensive item insurance within their standard storage rental fees. Some may offer basic coverage as part of the package based on the size of storage unit rented, but this may not be enough for your needs.

Although some self storage facilities won’t insist that you have insurance coverage, others will and it makes sense to put adequate coverage in place. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of well-being just because the facility you’ve chosen has implemented good security measures or has a smoking ban on site for example. Your items are technically out of your hands in self storage and, although the facility may be doing everything it can to avoid theft, they can do little against accidents and damage caused by fires, floods, storms and other natural disasters.

It is recommended that you check your insurance options carefully before signing your storage rental agreement and placing your items into self storage. In fact, your first step should be to contact your homeowner/renter insurance agent to see if the items placed in the self storage facility will be covered by your current policy. It may be that you are fully covered for items stored away from home or you may be able to pay an additional premium to get such coverage. This option could be cheaper than taking out a separate insurance policy. If you do provide your own insurance coverage, be aware that the self storage facility you choose may ask to see proof of your policy before renting you space.

Should you purchase insurance? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are my items already covered under my current insurance policy? This would include vehicles and boats as well as household items.

  • Does the self storage facility offer any type of coverage?

  • If an accident occurs and the facility is at fault, will your items be covered?

  • If a natural disaster occurs, will your items be covered?

  • Has the self storage facility had many claims made by other renters?

  • Will the policy need to be updated each time an item is added or removed from storage? Be sure to keep a detailed list of what is in your self storage unit and its value.

  • Are the items being stored of high monetary or sentimental value? If so, it may be worth the extra cost to rent a climate controlled storage unit.