8 Tips For Using Rental Storage Units

Over the years we've been tenants in several storage units, because sometimes you just need more space. There's lots of reasons to rent one, but there's also lots of tips and tricks to pick up along the way that they don't mention at the front desk when you sign up! Here's a few things we've learned in our adventures of paid storage, all of which we wish we would have known before hand …

1. Pallets, Pallets, Pallets: Keeping your items off the floor is almost essential. It might sound silly, but before renting your unit, there's no way to promise that the melting snow won't come under the door, or the adjacent unit won't have a spill that soaks its way into your heirloom sofa.

2. Wrap What You Can : Each time we use a storage unit, we wrap what we can in industrial plastic wrap. That way, we know that things are sealed up tight and it won't collect dust or creepy crawlies while it's doing time. Check out Uline for easy ordering of large rolls.

3. Use A Hefty Small Lock: Although most units have security in them, that doesn't mean they'll always be paying attention. Find an all-weather pad lock that has a short arm to ensure a bolt cutter can't slide it's way in to be sliced open!

4. Label, Label, Label: Even though you know exactly what you're putting in your storage unit at the time you open it, that doesn't mean in 6 months when you need back in it that you won't be digging for ages and opening random boxes until you find what you're after. Label everything. The hidden, the obvious, and you can even go as far as to make a checklist that hangs inside the door telling you where something might be (back right corner under the desk = cameras to sell on eBay).

5. Plan For Temperature Changes: Although this might not be an issue in some parts of the country, there are a few things that don't like the cold or the heat and should either be double wrapped or well insulated or not stored at all. Electronics, vinyl records, old photos (if humid), things of that nature all come out a little less awesome when not stored properly.

6. Winter? Carry Sand!: Most outdoor storage units are built so water drains away from doors and to one central location. .... in theory. Quite often what happens is large ice slicks can form outside the door, making it almost impossible to get to your goods without risking life and limb. Carry cat litter, sand or even spare sheets of plywood to help you unload or access your items.

7. Protect The Space: While we're concerned about protecting what we put in the unit, protecting the unit itself is also important — there can be heavy fines for scarring the unit during your tenancy. If you rent one to use for, say, your freelance furniture flipping or restoration business, make sure to plastic off the walls and floors to catch glue drips and sprays (not that we've ever accidentally spray painted the inside wall pink before.... oops).

8. Bust Out Your Tetris Skills: Even the smallest storage unit can hold a great deal, just make sure you use the space wisely which means packing things all the way to the ceiling. Bringing in plywood to lay across several boxes can help stabilize layers as your stacking it up, up and up! It will take the pressure off the tops of your boxes and help keep things safe.

Do you have a storage unit tip you wish someone would have told you before renting your first one? Let us know in the comments below!

Image: Flickr member Bradly J licensed for use by Creative Commons

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Sarah Trover has lived all across the Midwest and currently calls the hot dog-laden city of Chicago home. She rides scooters and seeks out kitchens that make the best pie.

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