Whether you’re a homeowner, renter, student or small business, self-storage units can be a convenient solution to limited space. With multiple unit types and sizes, climate-controlled facilities and flexible month-to-month terms, self storage can meet just about anyone’s budget and needs without the risk of long-term contracts.
However, like any service, there’s an art to using self storage effectively and responsibly. All facilities, no matter what storage company you choose, have rules that are designed to keep every user — and their belongings — safe. While some of these regulations are common sense, others may come as a surprise, even to seasoned storage users. Keep reading to learn the most important self-storage do’s and don'ts to keep in mind.
- Do Store Permitted Items — Including Vehicles
- Do Split the Cost With Someone Else
- Do Plan for Easy Access
- Do Check for Special Offers or Discounts
- Do Bring Your Own Lock
- Don’t Store Perishables, Flammables or Other Prohibited Items
- Don’t Use Your Storage Unit as a Workspace
- Don't Use Self Storage for Irreplaceable or Priceless Items
- Don't Work on Your Car in Your Storage Unit
- Don't Live in Your Storage Unit
1. Do Store Permitted Items — Including Vehicles
When using a self-storage unit, always ensure that you’re storing items that the facility allows. While different storage companies may have different rules, most will let you store everyday household items, furniture and personal belongings. At SmartStop Self Storage, examples of permitted items include:
- Appliances (like ovens, stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, etc.)
- Bed Frames and Headboards
- Collectibles (like magazines, artwork, coin collections, etc.)
- Furniture (chairs, tables, sofas, room dividers, organizers, etc.)
- Home Decor
- Lawn Equipment (in working condition, with any oil/fuel drained beforehand)
- Musical Instruments
- Sports Equipment
- Tools and Gear
SmartStop’s units range in size from storage lockers to small, medium and large units, allowing you to find the right unit for your needs. Storage lockers are perfect for documents, files and seasonal clothing, while storage units can hold an entire closet or bedroom’s contents, depending on the size.
You may not have known that you can also keep vehicles in a storage unit, including:
In other words, if you have an extra car you’re no longer driving, a collectible car you want to protect from harsh weather, or an RV or boat you need to store during the off-season, a storage unit can be an affordable way to keep your vehicle safe. You can choose from outdoor covered/uncovered and indoor options, depending on your needs.
|Note: Rules may vary between different storage facilities and providers. Check with your local self-storage facility for the most accurate breakdown of permitted and prohibited items and practices.|
2. Do Split the Cost With Someone Else
For college students and young adults living with housemates, budgeting is often a top priority. If you need just a bit of additional space but can’t justify renting an entire unit for yourself, consider sharing a unit with a friend or roommate — or even a few. As long as you’re complying with other facility rules, there’s no issue with teaming up and splitting the cost of a unit between multiple trusted friends. In the best-case scenario, it’s a win-win for everyone involved: You pay less per month but get exactly the amount of storage space you need. On the other hand, sharing a space comes with additional considerations and potential downsides. Here are a few tips to help you avoid disputes:
- Come up with a clear, agreed-upon way of dividing the space.
- Draft a written agreement detailing how you will split the rent.
- Only share a unit with friends or roommates you trust.
3. Do Plan for Easy Access
When storing your belongings, keep items you may need more frequently toward the front of the unit. Ensure that you maintain a clear pathway that allows you to access all of your belongings when you need them. We also recommend using clear plastic storage containers with tight-fitting lids that make it easy to identify the contents of a bin. For a complete list of tips to help you organize or reorganize your storage unit for maximum accessibility, explore our blog.
|Tip: Use blue painter’s tape or duct tape to clearly delineate a walking path on the floor of your storage unit.|
4. Do Check for Special Offers or Discounts
Many storage facilities offer promotional rates for new renters or discounts for long-term commitments. It’s always a good idea to ask about any ongoing promotions that could save you money or to check for deals online. Remember, there aren’t rules that limit you to renting only one storage unit at a time. If you need more space than what your current unit offers — or if you’d benefit from having multiple smaller units — wait until the best deal becomes available.
5. Do Bring Your Own Lock
Storage units don’t typically come with locks, though you can purchase them at the facility if you don’t have one. At SmartStop, we recommend using a disc lock (not a padlock), which is shaped like a disc rather than a “U.” Unlike padlocks, disc locks have a closed shackle, making them harder to cut with a pair of bolt cutters and providing more security for your stored items.
6. Don’t Store Perishables, Flammables or Other Prohibited Items
Only some kinds of items are permitted in a self-storage unit. Keeping prohibited items in your unit not only violates facility rules but it may also be illegal. In addition to the numerous liability issues associated with certain items, keeping any of the following in your unit may lead to your storage privileges being revoked and even legal trouble:
- Firearms and other weapons, which pose a significant liability risk for storage facilities
- Perishable food (like meat, dairy products, eggs, and raw produce), which attracts pests and mold
- Hazardous materials or dangerous substances, including acid, fireworks, sparklers, gasoline, kerosene, cooking oil, propane tanks, fertilizer and weed killer
- Anything in an aerosol, such as compressed air, hair spray, spray paint and cooking spray
- Living things, such as pets and plants
- Stolen goods
7. Don’t Use Your Storage Unit as a Workspace
While the idea of converting a storage unit into a private workspace or studio might seem like an appealing storage “hack,” it’s not allowed. Most facilities have strict rules that prohibit the use of units for purposes other than storage. This is due to a number of reasons, including fire safety concerns, ventilation issues and potential disturbances for neighboring renters. Additionally, using the unit as a workspace may violate local zoning regulations or the terms of your rental agreement. If caught, you may face fines or even eviction from the facility.
If you need a separate workspace, it’s better to explore other options — such as renting a dedicated studio or co-working space — to avoid any complications. Some SmartStop facilities across the U.S. and Canada even offer dedicated office spaces you can rent if you’re a small business or solopreneur.
8. Don't Use Self Storage for Irreplaceable or Priceless Items
Self storage isn’t the right place to keep valuable, irreplaceable or priceless items. While some storage facilities provide property protection (and if not, your belongings may be covered by your homeowner’s insurance), many facilities require that your total stored items not have a value greater than $5,000 unless you have written permission from the facility manager. Talk to your local facility if you’re looking to store antiques, jewelry, family heirlooms, high-end art or other one-of-a-kind, priceless items. Better yet, find an alternative way to store them, such as a home safe or bank safety deposit box.
|Note: It is not recommended to store money of any amount in your storage unit.|
9. Don't Work on Your Car in Your Storage Unit
Even though you’re allowed to store your vehicle in a storage unit, most facilities won’t allow you to work on your car due to liability reasons. Any and all vehicles you keep in a unit need to be operable — i.e., in working condition — before you bring them to the storage facility.
10. Don't Live in Your Storage Unit
It may seem like an unconventional solution to housing costs, but living in a storage unit is both dangerous and illegal. Storage facilities aren’t designed for habitation — there’s no proper ventilation, natural light, electricity, plumbing or heating. Living in a unit also goes against fire safety regulations, building codes and the terms of your rental agreement. If caught living in your storage unit, you may face eviction and even legal consequences. If you’d like to learn more, or if you’re seeking out community resources that can help you find legal housing, explore our blog on living in a storage unit.