QUESTIONS ABOUT SELF STORAGE?
When selecting the right storage facility for your needs, there are many decisions you will have to make. Obviously, the most important consideration is ensuring that your stored items will be safe and secure and in the same condition when you retrieve them as they were when you brought them in. All of your decisions should stem from that prime directive. Other things to think about include size, location, convenience, price, etc. Here’s a quick checklist of things to mull over before you make your final choice:
Indoor or Outdoor?
Depending on what you plan to store, you will need to decide if an indoor or outdoor facility is the better option. If you are storing any of the following, you should definitely choose an indoor facility:
• Books and documents
• Personal items
• Art and antiques
While not all indoor units are climate-controlled, if your items are old, expensive, or particularly delicate, you should definitely choose a facility that allows you to control temperature and humidity. In addition, indoor units offer greater security and protection from pest infestation.
Of course, the facility should be clean and well-maintained. If you are planning on storing valuable items, you will want an enclosed unit with concealing walls so that nobody can see what’s inside.
Generally, anything that you would normally keep in a garage can be kept in an outdoor storage unit. They are best suited for the following types of items:
• Small trailers
• Recreational vehicles
• Yard equipment
Outdoor storage units will not often do not have climate control. However they are often convenient in that you can drive right up to the front of the unit to unload your vehicle. Additionally, they will usually be less expensive than indoor units.
Access and Security
While you want to be able to access your self-storage unit anytime you need to, you don’t want any unauthorized people to be allowed to enter the facility for any reason. That means that you should choose a place that has convenient gate and access hours for you and adequate security to keep out unwanted visitors.
In terms of your access, find out how you will be allowed in. Will you need a key for the gate, or is there a keypad with an access code? Will you have to identify yourself to a guard? What if you need a friend or neighbor to get something out of your unit for you? How will that be accomplished? Are there any times of the day or days, themselves, such as major holidays, where your access will be denied? Is there adequate parking at the facility and/or enough room to load or unload a small truck?
In terms of security, check to see if the facility is monitored by surveillance cameras 24/7. Is the facility well lit at night? Are the buildings and doors in good shape? Are the fences strong and high enough? Is there a property manager on-site? Is there a guard on the premises, and if so, what are his or her hours? Who else has access to the facility and what other protocols are in place to make sure that your unit is safe from prying eyes or unauthorized intruders? Does the facility have insurance to cover your items in case of fire, or will your own insurance policy cover any losses? Get answers to all these questions before signing a contract.
Size of Your Storage Unit
Once you’ve made a decision on the indoor/outdoor question, and you’ve found a facility that offers you adequate access and a high level of security, you need to think about the size of the unit you plan on renting. If you don’t expect to be visiting the unit regularly, get the smallest unit that will fit all of your belongings and pack it as tight as possible.
However, if you are going to be in and out of the storage unit from time to time, make sure you rent a unit that is a bit bigger than you think you need, so that you will have room to move around in it while you are looking for a particular item or moving things about. You don’t want to be wasting a lot of time unpacking and then repacking items to get to something you need that may not be easily accessible. This is also important if you are storing a vehicle in an outdoor unit and expect to service it for any reason while it is in storage.
Estimating the correct size of a self-storage unit is not always easy to do. You have to visualize how your possessions are going to be stacked in three dimensions – length, width, and height. If your unit is too small, you’re going to be upset that you don’t have enough room. If it’s too big, you’re paying for space you don’t need.
This is where an experienced property manager can help you. Before you choose a unit, bring an inventory of your items to the facility and get advice from the person on-site who can best aid you in your decision. Or, ask for a reference guide, or find one online. The guide will give you a general idea of what can be stored in rooms of various dimensions.
Other things to consider include location, price, and any extras the facility may offer, such as packing materials, or help with loading in or out.
• In terms of location, you may want to decide if convenience to your home is more important than the fact that a facility further away may be less expensive. You should also consider if the facility is in a safe part of town.
• Price is important, but should not be the determining factor. You may want to pay a bit more for a higher level of customer service, better access hours, more security features, etc. Remember, as it is in most everything, you get what you pay for.
• Extra services can be a boon if you need to save time or effort. They can also be useful for elderly customers or people with physical disabilities.
Most important is the necessity to shop around. Compare features and prices from various locations and facilities. Talk to people who you meet while touring a facility and ask about their level of satisfaction with the management and the units, themselves. Take your time before deciding. If the items that you intend to store are important enough to you, the self-storage unit that houses them should be chosen with clear-headed thought and careful deliberation.
Several years ago, our mother passed away, and it was up to my brother and me to figure out what to do with her possessions. We didn’t want to liquidate everything until we had time to decide what we wanted to keep, what could be sold or given away, and what could be disposed of. My brother didn’t live in town, and there was no room in my house for any more “stuff.” Our best, and really only, choice was to find a good, local self storage facility in which to temporarily store Mom’s things, until we had formulated a good plan for their ultimate dissemination.
Of course, self storage is not just an option for those who find themselves in a situation similar to mine. It’s also a way to make the most of anyone’s current space. For example, you may have extra furniture or other personal items that you don’t regularly use, or have room for, but would rather not throw away. Or, you may be renovating your home and need a temporary place for your possessions while the remodeling is in process. Or you may have a lot of business files that you don’t want to keep in your office, but would like to have handy, in case the need arises.
Whatever the necessity, it’s a great benefit to have a safe, secure place to store your stuff, with the added advantage of being able to have access to your own personal storage unit at anytime without having to inform anyone. But, in order to get the most out of your self storage experience, you’re going to have to put some thought into it. That means planning what you’re going to store, deciding how you’re going to prepare all of your stored items, and figuring out how you’re going to make the best use of the space you’ll be renting. Here are some general tips and guidelines:
Choosing and Preparing the Right Unit
The first consideration is size. Self storage units generally come in different sizes and rent at different prices, according to their size. You don’t want to pay for a unit that is bigger than what you’ll need. On the other hand, you don’t want to wind up with a bunch of items for which there is no room while everything else is stuffed in so tightly that you risk their being damaged. You also want to be able to access the things you want, when you want them. So doing a little measuring, estimating and planning before you sign on the dotted line is essential. Choose a unit that is a little - not a lot - bigger than what you think you’ll need.
Another consideration is climate. Extreme atmospheric conditions can damage certain stored items. For example, too high heat can cause some things, such as musical instruments, to warp. Extreme humidity can cause metal to rust and fabrics to spoil. Extreme temperature fluctuations can harm photographs and electronics. Climate controlled storage units ensure that the temperature and humidity inside your unit is consistent, regardless of outside conditions. If you want to protect your stuff, you should choose a self storage facility that keeps the temperature and humidity levels constant and within a comfortable range.
A third consideration is security. Make sure the self storage facility you use has adequate security measures so that any unwanted individuals cannot get in. There should be a guard on the property at all times, and a way to identify only those persons with a lawful right to enter the premises. If the items that you’re storing are particularly valuable, you don’t want to choose a unit that is enclosed in fencing, but rather in a room with concealing walls, so that nobody can see what’s inside. The facility should also have adequate pest control to make sure that mice, rats, and other pests can’t get in and ruin your possessions.
Once you’ve chosen the right sized unit in the right facility, you should prepare the space according to your needs. A good idea is to put pallets, or plastic sheets or tarps, on the floor. This will protect any boxes or other items stored at the bottom from getting wet in case water gets into the unit for any reason.
Preparing Your Storage Items
Before moving them in, you’ll need to prepare your items for storage. That means, among other things, investing in quality supplies – good sturdy boxes; packing material like bubble wrap and tissue paper for breakables, and stronger paper to fill in gaps in boxes; wardrobe cartons and/or clothes boxes; covers, bags or sheeting for upholstered products, such as mattresses and sofas; packing tape and labels; old sheets or blankets to keep dust off furniture; etc. Make an inventory of every last item in your unit, noting its replacement value in case of unforeseen, future damage.
Whenever possible, furniture such as beds, chairs, tables, etc. should be dismantled, with legs taken off and hardware stored in a plastic bag, attached to the item. All large appliances should be cleaned, dried, and disinfected. Washing machines should be drained, and all hoses tied down. Doors to refrigerators and other kitchen appliances should be tied down for moving, but left slightly open once placed in the unit. Empty all fuels entirely from items such as lawn mowers, and vehicles. Wrap mirrors and glass items in a protective covering and mark them as “Fragile.” Treat wood furniture with wax or polish, leather items with conditioner, and metal objects and tools with a little oil before storing them. Separate lamp bases and lampshades and wrap them for protection.
Box everything you can and fill all boxes to capacity, but make sure they’re not too heavy to lift. Fill in gaps with paper to avoid having the contents shift while in transit. Label all four sides and the top of all boxes, so that however they wind up, you can see what’s in them. Use bureau drawers, washers and dryers, wardrobes, and anything that’s hollow, as packing spaces. You can put good quality clothes, draperies, etc. in vacuum-sealed bags, but don’t use regular plastic bags for storage – they can trap humidity which might attract mildew.
The art of moving your stuff into a self storage unit is making the most intelligent use of the available space, so that everything fits securely, and you can get to any and all items if and when you need to. So, first make sure that the larger, heavier, and sturdier items and boxes are stored on the bottom layers and the fragile items closer to the top. Put items that you don’t expect to need closer to the back of the unit, and items that you might want to retrieve, near the front.
When arranging items, make an aisle for easy in and out access. Don’t place anything directly against a unit wall – leave a small space to prevent mildew or mold from appearing. Whenever possible, store large pieces of furniture, such as sofas and beds, on end. Stack chairs on top of one another. Stack boxes and similarly sized items together to save space. Don’t store mirrors or framed artwork flat – stand them up. Use shelves, if available, for smaller objects. To keep packing tight, stuff holes and empty areas with things like pillows or throw cushions. Never store paint, chemicals, cleaning supplies, or any other combustible items in a self storage unit.
Using care and forethought while filling up your storage unit is the best way to save time and trouble when you need to go back and recover an item sometime up the road. It also protects your possessions from damage while they are in storage. We left my Mom’s stuff in its unit for almost a year. When we finally had the time to dispose of things, we knew what was there, and how to remove it all in one easy operation. The cost of the unit was well worth the price as it gave us peace of mind while we were dealing with more immediate matters.
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