Whether you’re delving into a tiny home adventure, packing stuff away for future generations, or just temporarily storing your stuff for an in-between situation, you are going to be storing your stuff somewhere. Putting your items in storage frees up space in your home and…“out of sight, out of mind,” can put you at ease.
I’ve used multiple types of storage spaces throughout my lifetime and have discovered some helpful tips. When you’re packing your stuff away, you seldom (if ever) think about it’s storing life.
- Do your research
- Do try to keep boxes the same size (HxWxD) for stacking stability
- Do wrap individual items
- Do consider insect/critter control
- Do consider moisture control
- Do try to number and catalog your boxes/items
- Do not pack boxes too heavy (ex; smaller boxes for books)
Research your storage space. Don’t just take anyone’s word for it. Is it structurally sound? Is it climate controlled? Does it have lighting? Is it easy to access?
I’ve used my mother’s attic for storage and it was one of the better choices, but more difficult to access. A nice dry attic in the Northeast gets pretty hot, but doesn’t retain humidity. Pros—it was free and dry and spacious. Con—everything had to be hauled up on a twelve foot ladder. Thankfully, this attic was tall enough to stand in. This made it much safer and easier to move the heavy items around.
I’ve used a garage for storage and it was one of the worst choices. The walls and floors were cement and cinderblock so moisture came right through. It stayed cool being close to the earth, but that only helped the dampness spread. Musty odors and sometimes mold on outside surfaces were hard to avoid. The only “pro” was its accessibility.
Outdoor Shed– These also offer very little protection from the seasons. Dampness can easily penetrate through the meager building materials and rain often finds its way through vents. Not to mention the larger opportunity for critters to find a way to burrow inside. A shed is definitely not a great storage solution for anything other than outdoor decorations and equipment.
Professional Storage Facility– If you have no other option, you will have to pay to rent space from a storage company. I have done this several times with different companies. It’s important to do your research and read the reviews on a company. Previous tenants will speak the truth. Most of these facilities do not offer climate control, many are made from cement and cinderblock, and few have lighting inside the units. You will pay a monthly storage fee and insurance fee which can easily range from $80-$300 per month. View your contract and amenities like any real estate agreement or you will be unpleasantly surprised with hidden fees, restricted access, and possibly even unaddressed repair issues.
Do the math. Calculate the cost of storage over the proposed term and match it against the cost of replacing the items. If you’re paying an extra $100 per month for six months to store furniture that cost you $500, you’ve just wasted time and money. Sell the furniture and buy new furniture when needed.
Long–Term Storage. Many local moving companies offer much lower rates for storage. If you’re not planning on accessing the items until you’re done with storage, it’s a big money saver. For the same items that would cost you around $200 per month, a moving company will comparatively charge $55 per month. (They do charge for accessing items so make sure you’re not going to be back and forth racking up charges.)
Insurance. Lots of things can happen. If you are already trying to hold on to these items, you probably want them covered with insurance. If you do not have a Homeowner’s or Renter’s policy, a professional storage and moving company will offer you insurance. Do your homework—not all homeowner’s and renter’s policies will cover your personal belongings at another address. You may need the coverage offered by the storage facility or a change in your current policy.
Moisture Control. If you’re in an area that has humidity or any form of dampness, you must use something to control the moisture to avoid mold, mildew and musty smells.
- For the attic space which experienced little to no moisture, strips of fabric softener sheets worked well to keep “attic smells” at bay.
- Storage facilities can build up more moisture, especially the ground level floor. Silica gel packets added to each box really help keep items fresh. Any furniture should be wrapped with silica gel packets inside drawers and folds of the wrapping material. It’s also a strong suggestion to lay cardboard on the floor for any furniture you are storing. For the last facility I used, I had to use all of the above and I added containers of Damp-Rid to absorb excess moisture in the air. (Not all storage facilities will require this much attention, but I was on ground level and the business wasn’t maintained properly. Caveat Emptor.)
- Garages require intense moisture control in any warm, damp, and humid climate unless the garage has been finished and sealed for air tightness with temperature control. Definitely use silica gel, cardboard, and consider a dehumidifier if your garage is cement, cinderblock, and/or drafty to the elements.
Other Useful Items.
- Lighting– It really helps to have overhead lighting in your storage space. Many places don’t have that option (even professional storage businesses). If you can’t add a light, a headlamp is the next best thing. Flashlights become cumbersome and occupy useful hands.
- Box Types– Cardboard boxes can be great for storage. They let items breathe. Make sure you tape them shut for better durability. I prefer clear plastic tote boxes. You can see what’s inside without moving and opening boxes. They tend to be more sturdy and re-usable. They also protect items from moisture and dampness when you combine them with silica gel packets.
- Insects/Critters– Research the area for signs of critters and insects before you store your items. They can find their way inside your furniture and even chew through boxes to find shelter, nesting materials, and even food (cotton, wood, etc.). Small openings where walls, floors, and ceilings should meet need to be sealed. If your space is air tight, you should be good.
- Cataloging- I have found it very helpful to catalog my items in storage. If you’re storing for a full season or longer, you might find it helpful too. It’s simple to number each box and make a quick list of the contents for reference. It’s made it easier for us to access single items while in storage and even helped with moving and unpacking. Masking tape is a great way to label plastic totes temporarily. It peels right off when you’re done or need to change it.
- Access– This is a factor that you might not think about, but it can make your experience regrettable if you don’t. Everything always seems closer at first glance. When looking at your potential storage space, imagine making the trip a hundred times with the boxes in hand. That ladder, long hallway, or second floor unit can make moving even a car load of boxes exhausting.
Moving is considered to be one of the top five most stressful things you will do in your lifetime. Planning and research can help minimize the stressors that are inherent to moving. Definitely take the time to organize and plan it out of you have the opportunity.
My experiences are based on suburban living on the Northeast coast of the US. Climates and dwellings vary across the world, but the keys to a good storage experience remains the same. Let me know what experiences you’ve come across in your part of the world!