Slightly cluttered storage unit that is hard to access

How to Organize a Storage Unit: The Ultimate Guide

Knowing how to organize a storage unit is just as essential as the storage unit itself. Picture a scenario where a weather report calls for chilly temperatures, and you realize that all your cold-weather clothes are packed in a storage unit. With the wind lashing and the temperatures plummeting, you make the journey to your self-storage unit and begin digging through the boxes, searching for your coats, boots, and sweaters.

Before you know it, a stack of boxes tip over, spilling your belongings outside the storage unit. The worst part is that you haven’t found what you came for yet. As bad as that situation may sound, picture the frustration when you realize that all your holiday decorations are also in storage a week later.

The last thing you want is to rummage through every single box in your storage unit — especially when you’re in a hurry. Taking time to design a plan on how to organize a storage unit now can save you a bunch of headaches later on. This post provides you with tips on how to organize different types of storage units so that you can easily access your belongings whenever you need them.

But first, let us look at the reasons why you may need a storage unit in the first place.

Common Reasons for Renting a Storage Unit

You’ve probably been wondering why self-storage facilities have been cropping up across the country. Why do people really use storage units? We’ll walk you through the common reasons why people rent storage units.

Life transitions

Whether it’s downsizing for retirement or divorce, working through a natural disaster, or caring for a family member’s estate, self-storage units can come in handy when dealing with sudden life changes.

Decluttering

One of the best ways to avoid relocating to a bigger home or office while also ensuring that your space is clutter-free is to move the items that you want to hang on to (but don’t necessarily need at the moment) to a storage unit.

Moving

Storing your belongings while living in temporary housing, transitioning between leases, moving to a new home, or relocating across the country are among the most common reasons why people rent storage units.

Apartment living

Storage units can make apartment living much easier, especially if you live in a one-bedroom apartment or a studio. This is because these dwellings don’t have much storage space. As such, renting a storage space helps you get more room (especially once you know how to organize a storage unit).

Renovating your home

Remodeling your office or home can take several weeks, if not months. It may also require you to move appliances and furniture out of the way. Temporarily moving these items to a storage unit is a convenient solution to this problem.

Business storage

Small and medium-sized businesses and contractors usually use storage units for additional space to store excess equipment, inventory, materials, files, or even business vehicles.

Military living

It’s typical for active military and military families to be on the move every few years, relocating to different bases. Given that these changes can be drastic, military storage units can be of great help when relocating.

College storage

Creating more space in the dorm room, heading home over the summer, or studying abroad for a short duration are all good reasons for college students to rent storage units.

Storing a vehicle

Motorcycles, cars, trailers, boats, RVs, commercial vans, and more can be safely stored inside a vehicle storage unit.

The Best Ways to Organize and Pack Your Storage Units

Woman adding boxes to a storage unit

Before booking a storage unit, you should double-check that all of your belongings can fit in it. This is a key step in the process of how to organize a storage unit. After all, you don’t want to start packing and organizing your storage unit only to return home with half of your belongings because they couldn’t fit.

Create a list of all the items you need to pack in your storage unit and a rough estimation of the number of boxes you’ll need to fit them all. Next, consider the amount of space these items will occupy. Then compare it with the amount of space available in the storage unit. Remember, you can fit most of your belongings in a right-sized storage unit if you plan before starting the packing and organizing process.

Here are tips on how to organize a storage unit based on its dimensions:

10×10 storage units

The 10×10 storage unit size is the basic storage unit size. This 100 square foot space is half the size of a standard one-car garage. 10×10 storage units can typically hold the contents of a one-bedroom apartment with furniture, appliances, and roughly a dozen storage boxes. These storage units can even fit all the contents of a large family room.

10×20 storage units

The 10×20 is among the largest storage units generally available. This storage unit can accommodate the contents of a 3-bedroom apartment. Standing at 200 square feet, the 10×20 storage unit is best used for storing large recreational vehicles, motorbikes, furniture, and mattress sets. The 10×20 storage units are best used when storing items while relocating or renovating your house.

10×15 storage units

When looking for a medium-sized storage unit, you should consider a 10×15 storage unit. You can use this space to store the furnishings of a two-bedroom apartment. These include items like furniture and major appliances. You can even use this space to store a compact car.

5×10 storage units

The 5×10 is one of the smallest storage units that we offer. This unit can be helpful when you just need a little more space for your belongings. It is ideal if you reside in a small apartment. Despite its relatively small size, a 5×10 unit is big enough for an extra dresser, a king-sized bed, and roughly 10 to 15 medium-sized boxes.

5×5 storage units

The 5×5 unit is the smallest storage unit available in most storage facilities. Given its size, this unit is perfect if you want a little more room around the house. It can hold a chest of drawers, small chairs, clothing, or several moving boxes and totes.

5×15 storage units

Approximately 30% larger than the 5×10 storage unit, the narrow 5×15 storage unit can be used to store the contents of a full-size bedroom. This storage unit can work perfectly if you’re moving out of a tiny studio apartment. Alternatively, you can roll in a motorcycle for winter storage.

10×25 storage units

At 250 square feet, this storage unit can fit the contents of six rooms inside it. Most people rent these storage units when relocating to a new place or when they inherit a houseful of items. Among the items that can be stored in this unit include furniture sets, filing cabinets, treading mills, all kitchen appliances, and much more once you have the right plan for how to organize a storage unit.

10×30 storage units

This storage unit can fit in the contents of a 4-bedroom apartment. The 10×30 storage unit is not only ideal for homeowners. Commercial customers can also use it for excessive supplies or large inventories that need temporary or permanent storage. The 10×30 storage unit can be beneficial for people moving from larger apartments to smaller ones. You can store excess appliances and furniture while furnishing your new home. It can also come in handy for those people who have home damage and need a place to hold their belongings while they look for housing.

Step-by-Step Approach for How to Organize a Storage Unit

Below are the general tips on how to organize the different sizes of storage units:

1. Create a list of all your inventory

When you are planning to place many items in a storage unit, it can be challenging to remember all of them without an inventory list. While you may find it easy to remember large pieces of furniture such as a bed or sofa, that may not be the case for smaller items like artwork and clothes. As such, it is important to keep a list of all the items kept in a storage unit to keep everything straight. You can either report each item stored on a spreadsheet or take photos of the items.

2. Consider storing items in clear bins rather than cardboard boxes

Don’t get us wrong. While cardboard boxes are okay to use in a storage unit, clear bins make it easier to keep track of the items in the storage unit. They make it possible to view what’s inside the box without having to dig through it. As such, it makes it faster and easier to locate whatever you need whenever you need it.

3. Disassemble furniture and store them upright

To maximize space and achieve a more organized storage unit, consider disassembling large furniture items before storing them. This includes taking apart bed frames, headboards, and mattresses. You can also take table legs off of the matching table bases to save space.

Another approach for how to organize a storage unit is to take advantage of vertical space. Set large furniture items in a vertical position at the back end of the storage unit.

Pro tip for how to organize a storage unit:

Mattresses should be stored in a horizontal position to help maintain their shape.

4. Store larger, heavy items at the bottom and towards the back

When you resume packing items into the storage unit, ensure that you start with bulky, heavy belongings such as heavy boxes and furniture. Place them at the back of the storage unit, and place the heaviest items or boxes at the bottom.

Keep in mind that storing lighter or smaller items at the bottom of the storage unit may result in damage. As such, heavy items should always be stored at the bottom part of the storage unit.

5. Store items that you frequently need towards the front

Chances are that there are items that you plan to use more regularly than others. For example, the extra couch you no longer have room for won’t likely see the light of day for some time. But your baby’s pack and play will. Items that you will need to use frequently should be stored towards the front of your storage unit in clearly labeled bins or boxes. Doing so will save you the trouble of having to dig through piles of boxes to locate them.

6. Go vertical

During the process of packing and organizing your storage unit, remember to store your items vertically. Furniture should be stored upright, and boxes stacked high. To create more room for smaller boxes, you can add hanging shelves to the storage unit. Also, if the storage unit is exceptionally high, you should consider keeping a stool or a foldable ladder inside the unit with your belongings.

7. Label every box and bin inside the storage unit

You should ensure that every box and bin used to store items is labeled. You may think that you’ll recall where you put that family portrait. But you probably won’t, especially if it has been sitting in storage for a long time. Label all boxes clearly using printed labels or permanent markers. Ensure that the labeled part is facing the front of the storage unit such that you can easily spot it.

How to Pick the Best Storage Unit Size for Your Needs

Homeowner packing bins at home to organize a storage unit

What storage unit size will fit all my belongings? Unfortunately, the response to this question is not simple, given that there are numerous storage unit sizes, with each having different features. But picking the right answer is a crucial element of how to organize a storage unit for long-term ease of access.

The storage unit that best fits your needs will depend on factors such as:

  • Intended use
  • The amount of stuff you want to store
  • The availability of the storage units

Here is an extensive storage unit size guide to help you narrow down your selection:

1. Determine the primary function of the storage unit

You need to examine the primary function of the unit to assist you in figuring out which storage unit size best fits your needs. You don’t want to find yourself in a scenario where you have outgrown a storage unit and therefore have to move all your belongings to a larger space. The questions that you should ask yourself when assessing the primary function of the unit include:

  • Will I use the space to store an expanding business inventory?
  • Will I use the space to store a car?
  • Do I need a temporary or permanent storage unit?
  • Will I be rotating items in and out of the storage unit?

It is crucial that you know which items you want to store and whether or not you’ll need to access these items regularly. The function of the storage unit will determine the size of the storage unit that best fits your needs.

For example, suppose you are thinking of storing business inventory. Then it is advisable to rent a larger unit that affords you room for growth. But if you only need to store items during a temporary move, then picking a unit that’s ideal for your initial belongings is your best move. In this scenario, the amount of items in your storage unit is unlikely to change.

2. Develop a preliminary inventory

You probably have a general idea of the items you want to keep in a storage unit. But walking through your house and creating a list can be helpful given that it will enable you to capture all the items that need to be stored. When creating an inventory, make a note of the following things:

  • Count the number of boxes you’ll be storing.
  • Determine the pieces of items that will be kept in the storage unit.
  • Take rough measurements of larger pieces.
  • Take a note of whether the items you’ll be keeping are fragile and will therefore need storage units with special features.
  • Make a note of whether or not the items kept in the storage will be changed regularly or whether they will stay in the unit for long periods before they are moved.

3. Measure the storage unit sizes using painter’s tape

Storage facilities usually have differently sized storage units to choose from. However, that doesn’t mean that you should pay for more space than you actually need. As such, it is best to measure the storage unit sizes before deciding on the one you want to use.

Use a helpful trick to conceptualize space: you can use masking tape or painter’s tape to mark off a space the size of an average unit in your driveway or any other open space. Afterward, you can place some empty moving boxes inside to see how fast the area gets filled. This measurement trick works best when you are looking to rent small storage units. This makeshift space lets you experiment to find your preferred strategy to organize a storage unit and fit in your belongings comfortably.

4. As a rule of thumb, whenever you’re in doubt, go one size bigger

While it may seem economical to pick the exact storage unit size, you may face some safety concerns in the long run. For instance, you shouldn’t stack more than four boxes. Stacking more than four boxes increases their chances of toppling. It can also complicate your overall plan for how to organize a storage unit.

Moreover, you shouldn’t stack more than two pieces of furniture. If you do so, chances are that you may end up damaging them. Stacking your belongings too high can also make them hazardous during the unpacking process. With that in mind, it’s always advisable to go one size bigger.

Also, keep in mind that there are instances when a larger sized storage unit is only a few dollars more per month. There are even cases where a larger unit might be less expensive. This is especially true when there is more availability. In short, you should run the numbers before deciding against using larger storage units.

Pro tip for how to organize a storage unit:

You can also save money by renting a larger storage unit that isn’t climate-controlled.

5. Determine the duration of time you’ll be storing your items and whether or not you’ll be adding more items

If there’s a chance that you will be adding more items to your storage unit, then it’s advisable to rent a larger unit that will spare some extra space. Moving storage units is challenging, so don’t put yourself in such a situation. Unless you are certain that you won’t be storing more items in your storage unit in the future, we recommend that you choose a bigger size to give yourself more room.

6. Assess whether you’ll be storing fragile or oddly shaped items

When storing boxes, you’re in an excellent position given that they are not only easily stackable but are easy to measure. They will allow you to maximize the storage space in your unit such that you’ll be able to store more items in a limited amount of space.

But what about storing items like mirrors, a couch, a fragile sculpture, or some tools? How can you handle such items? Given that some of these items aren’t stackable, you’ll need more storage space to ensure that they don’t get damaged. Ensure that you factor in some extra room when storing fragile items. By doing so, you’ll avoid incurring additional costs associated with repairing items like couches or replacing your mirrors.

7. Understand storage unit dimensions

Units are usually sized by length times width, which gives you an estimated floor space square footage. You can determine the amount of space you’ll need by calculating the square footage or the number of rooms whose content you’ll be storing.

But you should keep in mind that storage units typically have a ceiling height of 8 feet. As such, a little space goes a long way. Renters can stack many boxes and tubs. Also, you can turn beds and couches sideways to easily accommodate this furniture.

8. Gauge space using a moving truck

If you are using a moving truck, the truck’s dimensions can help you determine the amount of storage space you’ll need to fit all your belongings. Typically, trucks are usually one size larger than the storage unit size you’ll need. For instance, if you have a 25-foot moving truck, you can probably fit your belongings into a 10×20 storage unit. Alternatively, if you have a 20-foot truck, you can use a 10×15 storage unit.

Storage Unit Size Guide

Choosing the right storage unit size is important, and Neighbor is here to make it easier for you to create the perfect plan for how to organize a storage unit that fits your needs.

Small storage unit

These constitute storage units ranging from 5×5 to 5×10. Though they may seem small, these storage units provide more space than you’d think. Among the common uses of these storage units include:

  • Summer storage for students
  • Getting more space at home
  • Additional space while remodeling a home
  • Seasonal storage for holiday decorations
  • Storing children’s toys, clothing, and books 

Small storage units are great for storing twin mattresses, dressers, boxes, and small furniture.

Medium-size storage units

Medium-sized storage units constitute 5×15 to 10×15 storage units. These units are highly versatile and are typically used for things like:

  • Storing the components of a condo or an apartment
  • Additional storage to free up space
  • Business storage for inventory, equipment, and other materials

These storage units can be used to store appliances, tables and chairs, living room furniture, and bedroom sets.

Large storage units

These storage units are more spacious and can accommodate more items. Large storage units constitute 10×20, 10×25, and 10×30 storage units. They are large enough to store the contents of entire homes while still giving you plenty of room to organize a storage unit to best suit your needs. They are typically used for things like:

  • Storing the contents of a house while moving
  • Storing vehicles, including cars and smaller RVs and boats
  • Large commercial storage needs

What Is the Most Popular Storage Unit Size?

A wide variety of storage unit sizes are available to handle the storage needs of businesses, families, and individuals. The most popular storage unit size amongst them is the 10×10 unit, primarily because of its versatility. This self-storage unit is approximately the size of a standard guest room or a single bedroom. With 100 square feet at your disposal, you can fit the furnishings of two bedrooms in this storage unit size.

The 10×10 storage unit is an excellent choice for safely storing your furniture and other belongings when partially remodeling your home. This medium-sized storage unit is also ideal for college students who want to store their belongings over the summer holidays.

This storage unit provides storage space for shelves and racks holding inventory, promotional marketing materials, multiple large pieces of furniture, tradesmen’s tools and equipment, and large appliances plus several boxes. If you are planning on storing items that require controlled temperature conditions, it is advisable to look for a 10×10 storage unit with climate control features.

Ready to Rent a Storage Unit?

We hope these tips will help you tackle how to organize a storage unit. However, if you’re just doing research and are currently searching for an excellent storage place, check out Neighbor Storage. We offer safer, closer, more convenient storage units—right in your neighborhood. Visit our website to learn more about our services, or check out our blog for more tips about how to organize a storage unit, how to prepare your belongings for storage, and more.

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