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

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At Life Storage, we never assume that everyone knows what is involved with renting a storage unit, which is why we always try 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.

Some of these storage unit tips might seem obvious, and some suggestions might be informative and helpful. Hopefully, you will feel like a more educated consumer after reading. We cover each stage of the storage rental process, from shopping to packing to vacating.


Tips for 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. Search online for local companies and determine who is offering the best deal.

Also, ask yourself the following:

  • Which facility is located closest to my house?
  • Who offers remote leasing services?
  • Which site has vacancies in the size I need?

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


2. Figure out which size storage unit you need.

Most people make a mental estimate when they rent a storage unit on a whim. Sometimes this estimation can end up costing customers money because they end up with a space that’s larger than they need. In other instances, underestimating the area you need can cause a lot of stress because you’ll end up running out of space halfway through unpacking your items.

Before you rent, create a rough inventory of everything you plan to keep in the storage unit and for what duration of time. Taking the time to measure 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 types of storage units. In general, an outdoor storage unit is going to cost less than an indoor unit of the same size. However, it may be important to you to rent indoor storage when storing fragile items, which may make the extra cost worth it to you.

The benefit of an outdoor storage unit is that you can drive right up to it, which makes it convenient. The advantage of an indoor storage unit is that weather will rarely become a problem. Only you can decide which option works best for your situation, but it’s important to consider the pros and cons of both.

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. In fact, Life Storage uses a third-party vendor to provide storage unit insurance, so it’s not something our company offers itself. Most importantly, having adequate storage unit insurance will help you in the unlikely event that 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.

Tips for Packing a Storage Unit

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

There are simple self storage tips a customer can follow to keep their items out of harm’s way. For instance, make sure you purchase the best lock money can buy. Some locks are much easier to break into than others. Also, make sure you know what is kept inside your unit at all times.

In most cases, keeping your belongings safe depends on the storage facility, so choose wisely!

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

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

When customers are putting items inside a storage unit for the first time, it’s usually done in a very chaotic and un-thought-out fashion. 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 one load of stuff, make sure you have a rough idea where you are going to put things. Load large items first and create aisles, so everything is easily accessible.

You should also have 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. 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:

  • 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.

Tips for 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 written notice. If this is the case, plan so that you don’t get charged an extra month’s rent. If possible, move out at the end of the month instead of at the first of the month. 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.


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

Breaking some of these standard storage unit rules could cost you. As 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.

3. Understand your rental payment schedule.

Make sure you always pay your rent on time. If you have trouble remembering, inquire if there is an auto-pay option. Ask the store manager what other things you might need to be aware of before renting.

In addition, make sure you read your contract word for word, so there are no surprises! Most companies will charge late-fees, and after a certain period has passed with no payment, the storage unit could be repossessed.


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 originally published on August 3, 2018, and was revised on April 21, 2020.

About the Author

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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 The Spruce and Martha Stewart.

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