Packing efficiently for self storage
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
Step 1: Plan What You Will Store
1.Start by identifying items that will be packed in
boxes and stacked.
2.Prioritize boxed items you will want to access
most frequently (they’ll go closer to the front of
3.Group by fragility or weight – heavier, sturdier
items should be stored on the bottom of stacked
items, fragile items on top.
4.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 pop up.
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
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
•For wrapping breakables, paper will do, but bubble
wrap can be used repeatedly, is cleaner, and because
it is transparent, makes identifying contents
•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
•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
•Large appliances must be prepared correctly for
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 storing them.
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
•Separate lamp bases and lampshades and wrap them
•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, and clothing.
•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
•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
•Spray your wood furniture with a good quality
furniture polish before storing it to give it some
•Treat leather items with a leather conditioner
before you store them.
•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 a vacuum cleaner, clean out the bag or
canister first; bacteria, mold and vermin can
•When storing an oven as well as a refrigerator,
enclose the exposed back area of the appliances to
•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 loss.
Back to Storage Tips
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:
•While your storage unit should already be clean and
swept out, consider putting down protective canvas
sheeting, cardboard or wooden boards on the floor
•Keep a fold-up step stool in your space for
accessing hard-to-reach areas.
•Based on the climate in which you live or work,
consider putting down moisture absorbers,
deodorizers and/or vermin bait to protect your
•Frequently-used items should be placed near the
entrance for easy access. This holds true for file
boxes and other business items, too.
•To ensure security of valuable items such as
computers or TVs, place them farthest from the door,
with other items concealing them.
•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 unit.
•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.
•Cover furniture with sheets or tarps to protect
them against scratches, dust and other damage..
•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
•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 space:
•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
•Store pillows, blankets and other bedding inside
washers and dryers
•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
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