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Looking for Storage? 10 Things to Keep in Mind Before You Rent a Unit

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Sometimes, no matter how carefully you maximize the space in your apartment or house, you realize that you just don't have enough room. Whether you need to store furniture temporarily during a remodel or are tired of stumbling over your summer gear all winter long, knowing what to look for in a storage unit can help you find one that suits your needs precisely. From figuring out how big of a storage unit you need to understanding any special requirements for your special items, the answers to these questions will help you find storage that fills your needs.

Is Self Storage the Right Option for You?

You're probably most familiar with self-storage — renting a unit and moving your stuff into it. Full-service storage providers take all the work out of storing items off your shoulders — the provider arrives at your home, packs your belongings into a truck, transports them to a new location, and holds your items in storage until you have them delivered. Full-service storage may be a good option for people who are moving to a new city, but don't yet have access to their new permanent home. It's helpful to think of it as the difference between hiring movers and calling in your friends for a DIY move to a new home or apartment. 

Self storage has a lot of benefits, and is nearly always the best solution for most people who need extra space for their belongings. 

  • It's more affordable.
  • You have easy access to your belongings.
  • You control how your belongings are handled, so there's a much lower chance of your precious items being damaged or lost. 

What Are You Planning to Store?

Simply put, the items you're planning to store will determine nearly everything about the type of storage unit you choose, from what size unit you need to how much access you want to what kind of special features you need. Some items, such as your wine collection or electronics, for example, require precise climate control. If you're planning to move large items in and out of storage, you may want a unit with drive-up access to make it easy for you to load and unload your vehicle. Make a list of the items you'll be moving to storage, and use it to help you determine the size, configuration, and special features you'll need in a storage unit.

Pro Tip: It helps to ask the experts! Once you've figured out what you need to store, make a few phone calls to storage facilities and ask for their best recommendations. They'll help you figure out what size unit is best for you, and can tell you about the special features available at their facility.

What Size Storage Unit Do You Need?

When deciding how big of a storage unit you need, consider both the amount of stuff you'll be storing, and how much access you'll need to get to it. A small unit may be big enough to fit all your stuff — but if you'll be moving things in and out of storage, will you be able to access the items you need without moving everything out of the way first? This can be especially important if you're using self storage to hold inventory or supplies for your small business. A larger unit may cost a little more, but if it allows you to organize your unit more efficiently and conveniently, it could save you a lot of time and energy.

How Much Can You Fit Into a Storage Unit? 

Obviously, the size of your storage unit affects how much you can fit into it. Most facilities list the dimensions of their available storage units, but measurements can be hard to visualize. It can help to compare the various sizes to familiar room sizes — a 5' by 5' unit, for example, is about the size of a hallway closet. Check out our size guide to help you visualize the capacity of our SmartStop units.

Pro Tip: Unit size isn't the only factor that affects how much you can fit into a storage unit. Good organization and packing can help you maximize the space in a small unit.

What's the Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Storage Units? 

The biggest difference between indoor and outdoor storage units is whether or not the unit has a door that opens to the outside. 

Pros and Cons of Indoor Units

Indoor units are rooms located inside a building, with doors opening onto a hallway or corridor. 

  • Pros
    • Indoor units have more climate protection. Even if they aren't specifically climate-controlled, just the fact that they're inside a building, which is climate-controlled for the comfort of customers, provides more protection from extremes of temperature than an outdoor unit.
    • Indoor units generally have an extra layer of security. Facilities with outdoor units provide gated access and security check-ins, of course, but indoor units are just a little more difficult to access.
    • Indoor units tend to be cleaner because they have less exposure to the outdoors. 
  • Cons
    • Indoor units can be less convenient and harder to access.
    • It may be more difficult to move large objects in and out of indoor units.
    • Indoor units may be slightly more costly than outdoor units of the same size.

Pros and Cons of Outdoor Units

Outdoor units are more like a garage or row of sheds, with doors opening to a driveway or parking lot. 

  • Pros
    • Outdoor units are easier to access. In most cases, you can drive up, open the unit door and unload your car or truck directly into the unit. This can be especially convenient if you're accessing your unit often, or if you're storing large items.
    • They are often more affordable than similarly sized indoor units.
  • Cons
    • Items in outdoor units are more exposed to the elements. This may not matter for short-term storage, or for some items.
    • Outdoor units are less private than indoor ones.

What Is a Climate-Controlled Unit and Why Would You Need One?

A climate-controlled storage unit is one that is specially designed to maintain steady temperature and humidity ranges. Climate-controlled units generally cost a bit more than standard storage units, so it makes sense to be sure you need one before plunking down the extra cash. These are some of the reasons you should consider a climate-controlled unit.

  • You live in an area with extreme temperatures and/or humidity.
  • You are storing items that can be damaged by temperatures and humidity outside a specific range. Those include:
    • furniture
    • clothing
    • books
    • important documents
    • collectibles
    • antiques
    • wine
    • medical supplies
    • electronics and computer equipment
    • photographs
    • sports equipment
  • You are planning to store your items for longer than a month or two.
Pro Tip: At some locations, SmartStop also offers air-cooled units, for items that can tolerate slightly higher humidity levels, but need cooler temperatures.

Can You Rent Storage From Month to Month?

While many storage facilities require you to sign a contract for six to 12 months, others offer shorter-term storage. At SmartStop Self Storage, we never require you to sign a long-term contract, and frequently have specials and discounts to save you even more money.

What Kind of Security Can You Expect at a Storage Facility?

Security features can vary from one storage company to the next. At a minimum, you should look for a storage facility that offers gated entries, surveillance cameras that cover all public areas and assigned key codes to access the facility. 

When Can You Access My Storage Unit?

Before you commit to a storage unit, find out when and how you can access your storage unit. Some only provide access to units during office hours, while others have extended hours, often called "gate hours." 

Can You Park a Vehicle or Boat in a Storage Unit?

Check with the storage facility to find out what they allow to be stored. Many SmartStop locations offer short- or long-term storage for your boat, RV or vehicle. Check our location pages to find a facility near you that offers outdoor or indoor vehicle storage or parking.

Can You Store Anything in a Storage Unit? 

While you can store a lot of things in a storage unit, most storage facilities prohibit certain types of items — and there may be state laws about what you can store in a public storage facility. Typically, you are not allowed to store:

  • Food
  • Flammable items
  • Explosives
  • Firearms (subject to state law)
  • Fireworks
  • Odorous items
  • Propane tanks
  • Very valuable items

If you're uncertain whether or not you're allowed to store an item at one of our storage facilities, call and ask. 

Final Thoughts

Self service storage units are an affordable, flexible way to extend your storage space. They're useful for downsizing, temporarily clearing space for special occasions, and storing seasonal items without cluttering up your living space. Take the time to understand all your options when you decide to rent a storage unit to make sure you get one that fits all of your needs. If you're ready to rent a unit now, explore all the facilities near you.

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