Self-storage units are a convenient way to keep your belongings safe and out of the way, but they can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t keep them organized. A cluttered unit is more than just an eyesore — it can make finding what you need a nightmare and prevent you from fully utilizing the entire space. Whether you’re preparing to rent a new storage unit or dealing with an existing one that has spiraled into chaos, read on to learn practical tips that will help you organize your storage unit and make your items easily accessible whenever you need them.
1. Plan a Layout That Maximizes Accessibility
If you’re storing more than a few boxes in your storage unit, arranging your items with a clear pathway in mind is key to ensuring that you can access your belongings on demand. Whether this is a straight line down the middle of the storage unit, from the front to the back, or a zig-zag if you have more items, thinking strategically about the layout is the first thing you should do before you pile items into your unit. Be sure to leave enough space for you (and anyone who may be helping you) walk comfortably and safely throughout the unit.
If you’re storing a car in an indoor unit, be sure you have enough space to open the doors and drive the vehicle in and out of the space.
2. Add Shelving Units
While you may not be allowed to modify your storage unit by nailing shelves to the wall, placing sturdy free-standing plastic shelves throughout of your unit can be a great way to maximize vertical space. These units can be a great way to keep boxes and bins of all sizes secure and easily accessible, while also preventing your items from getting crushed (which may happen if you stack boxes made of flimsier materials, like cardboard, on top of one another for a long period of time).
3. Use Clear Plastic Bins
Rather than using opaque storage bins or boxes, opt for clear plastic containers instead — they’ll make it much easier for you to see what’s inside each box without having to open it. Also, unlike cardboard, plastic is a sturdier material that’s affordable, resistant to damage and strong enough to be reused for years. Plus, they do a better job at protecting your items from dust and pests.
|Note: Whenever possible, use boxes of the same size. This makes stacking and arranging them much easier and safer. If you're using different-sized boxes, always put the heaviest ones at the bottom.
4. Label Everything
Using a labelmaker or permanent marker on painter’s tape, mark the contents of each box on the side that’s visible to you so you can easily identify its contents. If you’re filling up a larger storage unit with many boxes and bins, you may want to consider a more advanced organizing method, like a QR code system that you can scan with your phone for a detailed list of items, or a note on your phone where you track the contents of a specific box. (For example, you can label a box as “KITCHEN 1” and jot down all the items in that box in a note on your phone marked “KITCHEN 1.”)
5. Create a Storage Map
If you have a large storage unit or multiple storage units, you can make it easier to navigate your space by creating a “map” or a list detailing where each labeled box is placed. You should update this map whenever you add or remove items from the storage unit, and it’s best to keep it taped to the wall inside of your unit so you don’t have to take it with you every time you access your belongings.
6. Sort Items by Frequency of Use
Items that you plan on accessing frequently should be placed toward the front of the unit, without other boxes or bins blocking them, while everything else can be kept toward the back. Remember — if you need to access an appliance, piece of furniture or other bulky item that you’ve placed in the back of a unit, you may need to move everything that’s in front of it out of your storage unit before you can remove the larger item. Consider keeping the boxes and bins at the front of your unit on dollies or placed on shelving units with wheels to make it easier to move them out of the way when needed.
7. Disassemble Large Items
If you’re storing large furniture or other bulky items, consider disassembling them if possible and placing the parts in boxes. Not only can this free up space, but it’ll make it easier for you to lift and transport bulky items in and out of the unit. Just be sure to keep all the pieces together (or clearly marked) and to save the instruction manual.
8. Reorganize Your Unit for Maximum Efficiency
If you’re dealing with a messy unit that you’ve had for a while, or planning on adding new items into storage, don’t panic. Reorganizing a chaotic storage unit can be daunting at first, but these tips can make the process manageable:
- Empty the unit completely. This may take a while, but it’s the best way to ensure that everything is sorted, labeled and catalogued properly, and can save you headaches down the line.
- Sort through your belongings. If you haven’t taken stock of what’s in your storage unit in a long time, consider selling or giving away the items you no longer need.
- Clean your unit. Before you put things back into the unit, sweep the floor, dust off the shelves and wipe down any surfaces. If you notice any pests, consider laying out traps or giving everything a more vigorous cleaning.
- Start from the top. Follow the steps in this guide — starting with planning a layout — to ensure that you’re organizing your unit in the most efficient way possible.
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