Self Storage Rocket Science

This is a guest post by Art Decker, a division manager with Self Storage Company. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Photo by jurvetson

So you’ve rented a self storage unit. You can easily figure out the basics of self storage — how to pack and label boxes and arrange things you need most often closest to the door — but having seen some super creative people maximize their storage units, I’ve realized that this simple investment can aid in productivity and stress relief by streamlining some of your most chaotic tasks:

  • Organize your personal belongings with a logbook. I saw a tenant doing this one day and was amazed. She said that when she puts items into her self storage unit, or removes them, she enters it in her logbook. She kept the logbook in the self storage unit, near the door, so she could quickly assess the contents of her unit. The logbook was a three-ring binder, with categorized lists: seasonal clothing, yard work equipment, family photos and documents, financial files, personal files, and books. Some tenants use a similar strategy but with electronic organizers, and others use online photo accounts to hold pictures of all the items they keep in storage.
  • Use rolling carts. I am a huge fan of rolling carts. (Personally, I think every piece of furniture should come with wheels!) Rolling carts work especially well in a storage unit because you can move everything around while simultaneously keeping it all organized. There are some tenants who use rolling carts with many small drawers to hold craft supplies, school supplies, and office supplies. Larger, heavy duty tool carts work well for holding heavy items, such as tools and appliances, but they are pricey, so you’ll want to use the lightweight rolling carts for whatever you can.
  • Store presents for family members until their birthdays, holidays, or graduation. Another place rolling carts could also come in handy! One of my tenants is a single mom with three children. She had a large rolling cart with three huge plastic drawers each of which was labeled with the name of one of her children. During the year, she bought gifts she intended to save for a birthday or for Christmas — and then stored those in that child’s drawer, eliminating the chance that they might find it at home. She also kept wrapping paper, greeting cards, tape, ribbons, and scissors in the storage unit, so she could do her wrapping there. In fact, this particular mom moved on from storing presents for her own children, to storing extra presents for their friends, so when the kids were invited to birthday parties, all she had to do was stop in at the storage unit on the way to the party, quickly wrap a present, have her child sign a card, and be on her way!
  • Store seasonal yard tools, such as snow blowers and lawn mowers, on a utility trailer. I am amazed to see how many of our tenants streamline the process of converting their garages from winter use to summer use — and vice versa. They do it by investing in a utility trailer, and loading it with all the heavy, bulky yard tools that they will not use for the duration of the season. Sometimes they have room left on the trailer to add the seasonal clothes or decorations that they want to put in storage as well. Then they simply roll the entire trailer into the storage unit and leave it there. When they bring it home at the beginning of the next season, they roll the snow blower and other equipment off the trailer, roll the lawnmower or other items on, and then drive the trailer back to the storage unit. With good planning, the whole changeover for the seasons can take an hour or less.
  • Use metal utility shelves to store extra bulk purchases when you are stocking up from discount warehouse like Costco or Sam’s. I am always surprised when my tenants tell me how much money they save by buying in bulk. But buying in bulk means having a lot of bulk to store, and everyone seems to have their own system for keeping track of it. Some tenants use their self storage units as if they were their own personal commissary, keeping every household item there that you can imagine: toilet paper, diapers, baby wipes, paper towels, cleaning supplies, school and office supplies. Most of my tenants who do this invest in some utility shelving to keep in their storage units. Then they organize the bulk purchases on the utility shelves in much the same way that they were organized in the discount warehouse. In fact, discount warehouses will happily let you take their leftover boxes, which are often just the right size for organizing objects on utility shelves. Keep a few empty boxes on an upper shelf, so that you have a box ready to carry things home in whenever you go “shopping” at your storage unit.
  • Stop in at your self storage facility on the way home from picking up a child at college. If you can convince your college student to pack his or her things in two batches — one batch to go home, and one batch to go into storage until fall — then you can make the process of moving back in for the summer much less painless. Stop at the self storage unit on the way, and unload the loft beds, computer desks, boxes of textbooks, and anything else that they can live without until fall. If you place all these items in the same corner of the unit, and leave them packed, then in the fall, all you will have to do is stop by the storage unit on the way back to college, and pick everything up again. This should save you a lot of time on both ends of the journey!

Do you have any tips for managing a self storage unit? Share below!

Art Decker is a division manager with Self Storage Company, which operates a group of websites, including a California self storage locator. Art leads a busy life and often travels between sites, like from Texas to the Illinois self storage site. As a result, Art has had the opportunity to witness many people’s excellent storage strategies.

Photo by jurvetson


  1. says

    I am like Monica Gellar in Friends; I am a freak when it comes to organizing stuff. My pastime is categorizing anything – from towels, clothes, books, dvds, groceries, even the toys of my son. We have like 10 toy chests because of the categories I created (e.g. ball, with wheels, books, musical instruments, etc.) Though my husband appreciates my being very organized, he’s problem now is that we have too much storage boxes in our house, again because of my categories – that I think is one thing I need to re-organize.