Whether you live in a tiny apartment at the center of a sprawling metropolis or a family home in the middle of the suburbs, there will come a time in your life where you will need to store your extra stuff in a self-storage unit. Your self-storage unit doesn’t have to be a cluttered mess of trash bags, old boxes, furniture, and junk. You should treat your storage unit as an extension of your own home. Here are 10 life hacks you can use to make the most of your storage unit.
1. Use a free blog to keep a photo-catalog of your things
We’ve covered on Apple Storage before how valet self-storage services are taking advantage of the cloud to help customers manage their self-storage. While these emerging startups are still only available in a select few cities in the United States and Canada, you can still take advantage of the cloud by creating a photo-catalog of your things using a free blogging or website platform like WordPress, Blogger, or Weebly. With a camera and a free blog you can take inventory of a box’s contents before hauling it off to your storage-unit. Every time you add something to storage, just remember to add it to the blog, and you’ll have a free, virtual, catalog of your belongings that’s accessible anywhere with an internet connection.
2. Use boxes not bags
This one is really simple, try to use boxes instead of bags whenever possible. Garbage bags can tear easily or trap moisture and grow damaging mildew. They also give your storage unit the unkempt appearance of an unruly garage. Instead, try using uniform sized boxes and bins to make stacking easier and keep the storage unit looking clean and organized. A tidy storage unit is easier to access and makes a trip to the storage facility less of a chore. If you are storing furniture or unusually shaped objects, you can still make an effort to stack boxes on top of couches and bundle objects like rakes and brooms together in the corner.
3. Leave an aisle
What good is a storage-unit if you can’t access the items you place there when you need them? It is a good idea to make a floor plan of a storage unit before you begin placing boxes in there. If you have already created a virtual catalog of your things, it should be easy enough to plan and organize your storage unit based on item categories. Leave just enough space to comfortably take out a box and sift through its contents. You can get creative and use any shelves you are already storing in the unit as additional storage space by placing them along the walls with a small aisle for easy access.
4. Protect clothes and other items with vacuum storage bags
Protect clothes, towels, and other fabrics from bugs, mildew, and wrinkles by using vacuum sealed bags. You can then store these bags within bins or boxes for easier stacking. In addition to protection, vacuum sealing your fabrics can help you optimize for space by removing excess air. It is amazing how much of the volume in storing winter coats, blankets, and clothing can be reduced by removing all the air.
5. Use the Bundle Approach
Judith Guilford, co-founder of the Easy Going travel store and author of “The Packing Book,” initially created the Bundle Approach for travelers on the go, but you can use this same technique to save space in your storage unit. The basic principle involves laying your clothing flat while hanging out of the bag, and then repeatedly folding them on top of one another, effectively bundling your clothing into a single bag. This technique avoids creases and wrinkles by smoothly wrapping everything around each other. If that sounded confusing, don’t worry, a helpful video of the technique shown here illustrates its simplicity and power. If you happen to store your suitcases along with extra clothing in a storage unit, this can be a great way to maximize space in your storage unit.
6. Roll your clothing
Another great way to save space is to take a cue from flight attendants, frequent travelers, and the military and roll all your clothing. Rolling clothing simultaneously saves space and avoids wrinkles and creases characteristic of the traditional fold and stack method of packing. It is also easier to achieve than the Bundle Approach which requires a flat open face bag or suitcase to work.
7. Cover the floor of the storage unit with a thick sheet of plastic
Most storage-units are outside, so covering the floor of your unit with a thick sheet of plastic accomplishes two things. First, it guards against temperature change within the unit, protecting your belongings from the harshness of the winter. Second it protects the bottom of your boxes from condensation which causes mold and mildew to form. That said, do not cover your belongings themselves in plastic, for it can trap moisture and have the opposite effect. Use dust covers or breathable fabrics to prevent dust from accumulating on your things.
8. Russian Doll Method
You can maximize space by remembering that items like suitcases, dressers, drawers, and furniture can and should be used to store items. Empty space is wasted space, so the Russian Doll Method involves storing your valuables within your larger objects. Make use of those old suitcases by filling them with extra clothing or items. Need to store your shelf? Store your extra dishes, glassware, or books on the shelf. Fill your dressers to the brim with extra clothing, preferably sealed in vacuum bags. There are many ways to optimize space within your storage-unit.
9. Place heavy items on the bottom
As a general rule when stuffing boxes, place your heavier items on the bottom to ensure that you don’t damage anything. Furthermore don’t place all your heavy items into a single box, you’ll be more likely to drop and break it. Instead distribute your items’ weight evenly among all your boxes and place heavier boxes at the bottom of a stack. This may sound like common sense, but it can make a huge difference on the accessibility of items within your storage unit.
10. Turn your storage-unit into a DIY project
No two storage-units are exactly the same; they can be as varied as the people that use them. That is why it is important to be able to improvise and make the most of what you are storing. Need to store some ornaments? Hang them on wood rods drilled into a plastic storage bin? Turn cereal boxes into internal dividers within a drawer or bin to better organize your valuables. Put that spare wood to work and build yourself a makeshift rack to hang your winter coats. Dust off your old toolbox and build your own self-storage solutions.