Though it’s generally worth avoiding, sometimes there’s just no getting around the need for long-term storage.
Most of us would rather not have our items stored in a musty storage unit for months or years, but if it’s inevitable, there are a number of things you can do to make the experience a positive one.
Whether you’re teaching abroad for a year, a college student striking out on their own for the first time, or temporarily moving to an apartment while your new home is being built, you’ll likely have plenty of long-term storage options from which to choose.
Whatever your situation, considering the following long term storage tips may help make the process a lot less overwhelming.
Quick Tip: If you’re moving, and require long term storage, moving with a moving container company could be your best option!
You’ll also want to take into account the Covid-19 situation by asking prospective storage providers if they have precautions in place to prevent spreading the virus.
Consider Moving Container Companies
If you need long-term storage because you’ll be between moves, you’ll likely want to consider hiring a moving container. These are containers that are dropped off at your house and the company picks them up and stores them for you. You can schedule to have them dropped off at your new home when you’re ready.
This option allows you to avoid having to load everything twice and it helps avoid damage to your items.
See if this is the best option for you where we compare self storage units with moving containers.
Seriously considering this option? See our list of the best moving container companies and get a free quote from them.
1. Where is the Facility in Relation to your New Home?
Starting with the basics is a good way to weed out storage services and facilities that don’t meet your needs.
First, consider where you’ll live when you’re finally ready to have your items moved out of long-term storage.
In some cases, you may not know, but being as close as possible to where you’ll eventually live will streamline the move-out process, and make it a lot cheaper and faster if you plan on hiring a professional moving company.
You may also find that self-storage facilities in rural areas are less expensive than those in town, so weigh the pros and cons carefully.
2. What are their Hours of Operation?
If you’ll be overseas indefinitely or otherwise indisposed, accessing your items while they’re in long-term storage won’t be an issue.
However, if you’ll need to get at them periodically, the storage company’s hours are important.
These days most storage facilities are open 24/7, but others keep banker’s hours, especially independently owned and operated ones in rural areas.
If they’re closed on evenings, weekends, and holidays, you may need to take time off to get to your items, which could be costly and inconvenient.
And remember, though you may have planned well and separated the things you will and won’t need, there may be instances where you’ll have to access your items unexpectedly.
Insider’s Tip: Always place important items near the front of the unit where you can get to them easily.
3. Do the Facility’s Amenities Meet your Needs?
If you live in places like Miami, Anchorage, and Phoenix that experience extreme temperatures and varying levels of humidity, climate control is a big deal.
This is especially true if you’ll be storing sensitive items like artwork, wine, electronics, and antiques.
Thankfully, most long term storage units are climate controlled.
That means their temperature and humidity are regulated, and generally stay within normal ranges that are appropriate for common household items.
But remember, high humidity can lead to mildew, which can permanently damage items like clothes and furniture.
Likewise, extended exposure to extreme temperatures can cause furniture to crack, warp, and dry rot.
It’s always a good idea to see potential storage units in person because photos on websites can be terribly misleading.
As you’re doing your walkthrough, consider the following:
- Is the unit on the ground floor?
- Will your items be subject to flooding or a leaky roof?
- Is it constructed with wood, concrete, or weather resistant steel?
- Are there security cameras, attendants, locks, and keyless entry pads?
- Is the facility periodically serviced by a pest control company?
- Does it appear to be well-built and in good condition?
- Is it clean, odor free, and well-lit?
4. How Accessible is your Unit?
Many newer facilities have multi-floor designs that maximize usable storage space.
But though this may drive down cost, the price savings may come with downsides.
Second and third-floor units require you or your movers to use stairs and elevators.
This results in extra time and cost, and if you’re doing a DIY move, added exhaustion and frustration too.
Some storage facilities have free carts and dollies available for their customers to use, but they’re usually offered on a first-come-first-serve basis.
If they’re already being used when you need them, it’ll make things significantly more inconvenient.
Insider’s Tip: Look out for narrow halls, steep stairways, low ceilings, and tight corners that may limit the movement of large items like entertainment centers, sectional sofas, and oversized refrigerators.
5. Consider Cost and Payment Options
Cost is definitely a major concern when it comes to long-term storage, but payment terms can be an equally important consideration.
Like you can for utilities, cable, and internet, it’s possible to set up automatic bill-pay with many storage companies.
This is especially convenient for customers who’ll be out of the country for extended periods.
Many companies offer promotional pricing and discounted rates to customers who sign long-term storage contracts, so don’t be shy about asking.
You may also get a big price cut for upfront payment.
Though it may require a hefty chunk of change on the front side, it can promote peace of mind since you’ll have one less thing to worry about every month.
You’ll also want to know if their contracts are binding.
If your third-world volunteering adventure doesn’t pan out, or your new home is ready for move-in earlier than expected, you may need a shorter storage term than anticipated.
6. Choose the Correct Storage Unit Size
Though it probably goes without saying, choosing the correct size unit to accommodate your stored items is imperative.
If you’ve finally had it with the old tarp-clad cabin-cruiser that’s been blocking your driveway for years, you’ll need a storage company with a large outdoor area.
For young adults, college students, and studio apartment dwellers however, indoor 5 x 5 or 5 x 10 units may do the trick.
If your family of 6 has hoarding issues and resides in a 9-bedroom mansion, you’ll likely need multiple 10 x 30 units.
There’s nothing worse than realizing at the end of a long day that your items won’t fit into the storage unit you’ve rented—especially if there aren’t any others available.
Ample research on the front-end and erring on the side of caution will lessen the likelihood of this happening to you. Consult our storage unit size guide.
7. Ask about Insurance Requirements
Insurance is something most of us would rather not think about.
It’s often shrouded in mystery and riddled with obscure terms, and in many cases, we’re not really getting what we think we are.
Having said that, most storage facilities require it, but they may not mention it until you’re ready to sign on the dotted line.
It can be a maddening omission, especially when you discover that they’ll gladly sign you up with one of their in-house policies… for a hefty price.
To avoid this situation, address insurance requirements during the screening phase.
Ask if it’s OK to have a policy from a 3rd party provider, and if so, what proof they’ll need to verify that you’re covered.
Also ask if their policies have deductibles, and if they cover things like:
- water damage
- insect and rodent infestation
8. Check Reviews and Ratings
Customer reviews are easy to find these days, so choosing a quality long-term storage facility doesn’t need to be a huge hassle.
Many are associated with well-known national chains, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that each location is up to snuff.
A lot depends on local management, and sometimes independently owned and operated facilities are just as good.
It’s always a good idea to reach out to friends, family, and coworkers to see if they have personal recommendations.
You’ll also want to check them out with the Better Business Bureau and see how long they’ve been in business.
Insider’s Tip: Stability and longevity are important issues for long-term storage shoppers. Having a business go belly-up while you’re out of the country is a headache worth avoiding.
9. Pack Properly
Once you’ve established which self-storage facility best meets your long-term storage needs, you’ll need to consider the following packing tips.
For short-term storage, it might not be a big deal, but the rigors of long-term storage often require more substantial and time-consuming packing.
Even though they’ll be sitting perfectly still while in storage, protecting fragile items like glassware and electronics with bubble wrap and using sturdy boxes is still important.
You’ll also want to get as many items up off the floor as possible.
This will water damage if your unit floods or leaks during a storm.
Consider placing items like sofas and boxes of clothes on pallets, and covering them with a tarp to deflect dripping water and prevent moisture absorption.
It’s also a good idea to wrap sensitive electronics, bedding, and clothes in plastic bags before packing them in boxes.
Some savvy packers even use vacuum-type bags.
In addition to saving space, they prevent mold and mildew—both of which are common when items are stored for any length of time.
If you’ll be storing appliances like washing machines and refrigerators, place an open container of baking soda or a scoop of clean kitty litter in a sock inside—they’ll absorb funky odors caused by residual water.
10. Appoint Someone to Help While you’re Away
Appointing a friend or family member to handle issues while you’re away is a good idea for long-term storage customers.
Though they may not need to check up on your items periodically, you’ll want them to have the facility’s phone number, your key, and the security code if there’s an electronic gate.
Before leaving, introduce them to the facility’s management, and let them know that they’re authorized to act on your behalf in case of an emergency.
If you might need them to access your items, show them around the unit and point out where those items are located.
If you’ll be storing important documents like birth certificates and wills, place them in a watertight plastic bin, label it clearly, and put it in a conspicuous place.