Are you considering renting a storage unit? Read these self storage tips and tricks no matter what stage you are in your rental.


At Life Storage, we never assume that everyone knows the ins and outs of renting a storage unit. Maybe you’ve just settled down in a new city, and this is your first time trying out self-storage as a long-term storage solution. Or, you might be toying with the idea of temporarily downsizing your home to save money but need somewhere to keep your excess belongings in the meantime. 

No matter what your situation might be, our staff of storage experts always tries to educate our potential and long-standing customers. In this spirit, we want to share several self-storage tips that we’ve gathered over the years to help make your first-time renting a breeze.

Related: How to Clean Out and Declutter a Storage Unit

You might find that some of these storage unit tips seem obvious. But it’s easy to forget the basics in the chaos of renting a storage unit for the first time. Hopefully, you will feel like a more educated consumer and a self-storage pro after reading this guide. We cover each stage of the storage rental process, from shopping to packing to vacating.

Storage Unit Tips: Renting a Storage Unit

1. Research the best storage unit deals before renting.

If this is your first time renting a storage unit, you may be able to score a deal on discounted rent. Aside from that, some facilities will sometimes offer limited-time discounts based on upcoming holidays, seasonality, current vacancies, and other factors. Search online for local companies and determine who is offering the best deal. 

Related: How to Get the Best Deal on Your Storage Unit

2. Figure out which size storage unit you need.

Most people make a rough estimate of size when renting a storage unit on a whim. Sometimes, this estimation can cost customers extra money because they end up with a larger space than they actually need. In other instances, underestimating the area you need can cause a lot of stress because you’ll run out of space halfway through unpacking your items. You also risk breaking or damaging your belongings if you overpack your unit.

One of our top storage unit tips: Before renting, create a rough inventory of everything you plan to keep in the storage unit and for what duration. Measuring larger items before you rent will help you better estimate the size and type of storage unit you need.

If visual aids are helpful, check out this storage unit space estimator to get started.

3. Weigh the pros and cons of indoor vs. outdoor storage.

Believe it or not, there are a few different types of storage units. Specifically, some storage facilities offer indoor and outdoor units, which vary in cost despite being similarly sized. (It costs more in utilities to rent out an indoor storage unit, especially if you add amenities like climate or temperature control.) Keeping this in mind, renting indoor storage when storing fragile items may be important. In this case, the extra cost might be worth it to you.

On the other hand, the benefit of an outdoor storage unit is that you can drive right up to it, making it incredibly convenient to store anything large or heavy. These are just a few factors to consider; only you can decide which option works best for your situation.

Related: How to Choose Between Different Types of Storage Units

4. Make sure the storage unit is insured.

Most large-scale storage unit companies require that their customers attain adequate property tenant insurance against loss or damage. This requirement isn’t to get extra money. It’s to make sure everything inside your unit is safe and accounted for at all times. Most importantly, having adequate storage unit insurance will help you in the unlikely event your belongings are compromised.

There are a couple of different ways you can attain coverage:

  • Use an applicable renter’s insurance policy.
  • Add the storage unit to your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Purchase third-party insurance through the storage facility.

Storage Unit Tips: Packing a Storage Unit

1. Take steps to keep your belongings as safe as possible.

Customers can follow simple self-storage tips to keep their items out of harm’s way. For instance, make sure you purchase a sturdy and reliable lock for your unit. Also, make sure you know what is kept inside your unit at all times. (This goes back to the need to insure your unit!)

In most cases, keeping your belongings safe also heavily depends on the storage facility, so choose wisely! Choose a storage facility that has most of the following safety measures in place:

Choose a storage facility that has most of the following safety measures in place:

  • Adequate lighting
  • Surveillance monitoring
  • Gates with access codes
  • A well-maintained property

How do I prepare my belongings for storage? 

Depending on what you plan to store, there are a few different ways to prepare and protect your belongings. Check out a few of our most popular storage guides below: 

2. Organize everything in your storage unit for easy access.

When first-time renters put items inside a storage unit, they don’t always take care to pack the unit strategically. This habit tends to change once they vacate a storage unit for the first time or they go inside their space to find something and have no clue where it ended up.

Before you unpack even a single load of stuff, make sure you have a rough idea of where you are going to put things. Load large items and anything you don’t frequently use first, and create aisles so everything is easily accessible.

It would help if you also had a working inventory on hand, complete with a diagram that shows where things are located. In this process, a label maker will dramatically improve your chances of maintaining an organized storage unit.

Related: How to Organize a Storage Unit for Frequent Access

3. Make sure everything is stored correctly.

Of all the storage unit packing tips out there, this one is perhaps the most important. Remember that for any given item, there is a right way and a wrong way to store it. Haphazardly throwing it into your unit without taking proper precautions can lead to permanent damage. There are so many factors to consider that we’ve created storage guides for some commonly packed items.

In general, try to follow these self storage tips when stowing items away:

  • Keep as much as you can off the floor. Use wood pallets and other shelving to lift everything at least a few inches off the concrete.
  • Never use cardboard boxes that stored perishables, like those you would find outside a grocery store. Consider using plastic totes instead.
  • Consider investing in climate-controlled storage when storing fragile items, such as wood instruments or classic cars.

Storage Unit Tips: Vacating a Storage Unit

1. Give proper notice before moving out.

If you only plan on renting in the short-term, make sure you ask what the policy is for canceling your rental. Some companies might require one month’s written notice. If this is the case, plan accordingly so you don’t get charged an extra month’s rent. If possible, move out at the end of the month instead of at the beginning. Depending on when you give the notice, you might get penalized by having to pay the entire month’s rent instead of having it prorated.

Related: How to Break Your Lease the Smart Way

2. Make sure you don’t break any rules.

Breaking some of these standard storage unit rules could cost you money in the long run. Or, in a worst-case scenario, breaking the rules or the terms of your contract could ultimately end up with your stuff being evicted or auctioned off.

Some rules that apply in most storage facilities include:

  • Under no circumstances can you live inside a storage unit.
  • Unless it’s a special unit, you’re not allowed to conduct business out of your storage unit.
  • Do not use items like power tools and do not store items like gasoline.
  • Most facilities won’t let you keep items like firearms or fireworks on the premise.

If you’re a new renter, it’s a good idea to ask the store manager what other things you might need to be aware of before renting. Every facility is different, so make sure you’re willing and able to follow the rules for your specific storage unit.

3. Understand your rental payment schedule.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but make sure you always pay your rent on time. If you have trouble remembering, inquire if there is an auto-pay option. 

In addition, make sure you read your contract word for word so there are no surprises! Most companies will charge late fees if tenants don’t pay rent on time, and after a certain period has passed with no payment, the storage unit could be repossessed. Highlight any important dates in your contract and transfer them to a planner, a digital calendar, or a reminder on your phone.

Related: How Much Does a Storage Unit Cost in 2023?

Use These Self-Storage Tips to Rent Like a Pro

We hope these self storage tips weren’t too intimidating and helped you understand what goes into a rental. We are here to help, so if you have any other questions about renting, we’d be happy to speak with you directly! Call us anytime.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 3, 2018, and was revised on April 21, 2020 & July 17th, 2023.

About the Authors

Emily Malkowski

Emily Malkowski is a writer and SEO strategist with over 5 years experience, living in Buffalo, New York. Having graduated from University at Buffalo with a Bachelor's degree in Communications, her work has appeared in outlets like The American Prospect, Roadtrippers Magazine, Step Out Buffalo, and more.

Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann has written about self storage and moving since 2015, making her our storage expert. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and Linguistics and has published over 150 articles on moving, storage, and home organization. She is also a contributing writer at and Martha Stewart.

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