5 Questions to Ask Before Renting Self-Storage

Storage space at home is a hot commodity for most people, and even more so if you’re living in an apartment. Throw some roommates into the mix, and it’s no wonder that you’re seriously considering renting a self-storage unit for your stuff.

Moreover, the cost per square foot for extra storage is far less than getting a bigger home. That makes self-storage an easy-to-use, affordable solution to your clutter problem. However, there are a few things to consider before renting a unit.

What Am I Storing? Is It Worth the investment?

Your apartment is overwhelmed by stuff, especially if you live in a studio, and you decided that renting a self-storage unit is the best course of action. The first step of the process should be sorting through your possessions and deciding what’s valuable enough to go into storage and what should be sold, donated, recycled or thrown away. 

A small, basic self-storage unit costs somewhere north of $400 per year, and the price can increase based on location, size of unit and amenities.

To get your money’s worth, it’s essential to compare self storage costs and to store only items that are useful and important to you, and not clothing and shoes you haven’t worn in years – including your old prom dress, you know you won’t be wearing it again anyway so why not donate it to somebody who can really appreciate it?

The same goes for boxes of indiscernible papers, notebooks from college classes, broken electronics and other miscellaneous things that you won’t be using anymore.

Are There Things I Can’t Put into Storage?

There are items that you can’t put into storage, for legal and safety reasons, and others you shouldn’t store because they might cause damage. Foodstuffs, including pet food, live animals and plants, are all restricted. It’s also not allowed to store any type of hazardous substance or material that could create damage if dropped, opened or spilled. A few examples are gasoline, fertilizers, propane tanks, paints, paint thinners, weed killers, pesticides, ammunition and fireworks. If, for example, you want to store gasoline-powered tools and machinery, you can do it, you just need to empty the fuel tanks first.

You shouldn’t store wet or damp items, because humidity will create the perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow, and all the items in your unit might end up seriously damaged. Things with great monetary value, such as jewelry, or important papers, should be kept in a safety deposit box at a bank, not in a storage unit.

 What Kind of Storage Do I Need?

Some people use self-storage short-term – while moving, for example. Others rent a self-storage unit for years, storing various items for which they don’t have enough room at home: off-season clothing, sporting equipment, holiday decorations, books and papers, extra furniture, and so on. 

Before renting a unit yourself, think about how long you’ll be using it and make your decisions based on that. If you’re planning to rent long-term, pay extra attention to details such as location, security and services provided by the facility. 

Get a unit located as close as possible to your home, possibly with drive-up access – this makes loading/unloading a breeze. If you’ll be making the back-and-forth trip a lot, it should be a short and easy one.

Inform yourself about the type of security they have in place at the storage facility (electronic gates, surveillance cameras, security guards, and so on).  

Consider getting a climate-controlled unit, especially if you’re storing photos, books, artworks, expensive furniture and other items that could be damaged by temperature and humidity fluctuations. Find out if the facility provides pest control services. Also, make sure that your stored belongings are insured and ask the storage facility if they offer special deals for long-term renting.

What Unit Size Do I Need?

Storage facilities provide a variety of unit sizes, from as small as a closet to big enough to hold an RV and some furniture as well. It’s up to you to properly estimate the unit size that you need.

Renting one that’s too big means you’ll be paying more than you should. On the other hand, trying to squeeze your possessions into a storage unit that’s too small is complicated, and you might end up damaging your stuff.

Here’s how to find out what size of the unit is right for you.

The smallest is usually the 5’X5’ unit, which is about as big as your average home closet and can hold items like sports equipment, camping gear, tools, seasonal decorations, off-season clothing, and shoes. A 5’X10’ unit fits some small furniture (a desk and pliable chairs, or a twin mattress with a nightstand) plus a few boxes of stuff. These are the ideal sizes for people who live in apartments with very little storage space and are therefore renting the storage units long-term.

Medium-size units (5’X15’, 10’X10’) are big enough to hold the furniture and stuff from two or three rooms, respectively, and are a good choice if you’re moving into a new apartment and need to temporarily store all your stuff, or if you’re relocating or being deployed abroad for a while. 

If those sizes are not big enough for you, don’t worry! There are much larger units too (10’X20’, 10’x25’ and above). You can even get a unit that allows you to park a trailer, should the need arise. Just make sure you are renting the right size for your needs.

How Much Am I Willing to Spend?

The monthly rent for storage varies based on a variety of factors, such as the local market, size of units and the amenities included. A 10X10 self-storage unit in San Francisco, at $194 per month on average, is a lot more expensive than the same-size unit in Houston $85 on average. The size of the unit and the amenities provided by the storage facilities also push the price up to and down. 

Take a look at your budget and decide how much you would be comfortable paying for storage on a monthly basis.

Then, search for storage facilities in your area and find out what the monthly rent is for a unit that suits your needs. Hopefully, it’s within your budget. If not, go through your stuff once more and try to further reduce the number of items to be stored.  

Remember: It’s a bill you’ll be paying monthly, for a while, at least, and it’s important to reach a good compromise between the value of the items you’re storing and how much it costs you to keep them there. Once you make your decision and rent a unit, set up an automated payment method to avoid falling behind on your rent and having to pay late fees afterward.

Renting a storage unit is a good solution to very common problems such as the lack of storage space in houses and apartments, or the intricate process of moving from one home to another. However, in order to make the most of the money you’re paying for self-storage, you need to carefully select the items worth storing, to get a suitable unit size, and to obtain the right types of services for your needs.