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Hi - A lot of people these days are storing things, either as part of a move, or just because they have too much stuff to deal with.

I thought it might be helpful to pass on some hints about storage. I'll cover Self Storage in this post, and will talk about storage with a moving company in a different post.

Self Storage has become all the rage. It seems like there is one of these little places on every corner these days. The reason is real simple: If a person has a bit of land (and it can be some really bad, useless land), they can plop a prefab storage system on it pretty easily, and make a little money. And of course, the upkeep etc is very low cost, but the important thing is to keep those units filled.

Size Matters!

Storage units can be found in a variety of sizes, ranging from something the size of a closet to areas that are 40 ft x 40 ft (and maybe larger). In our business, when we need to get some extra storage, we've found that a 10x20 ft unit will take almost a full truck of stuff. That's going to be about a 3 bedroom house worth. That assumes that you've got someone loading up the storage unit that knows how to do it.

Global Warming and Storage

When you put stuff in storage, you will sometimes be asked whether you want climate controlled storage or not. In theory, climate controlled storage is great. It protects your stuff from temperature extremes, and humidity changes. Well, there are a few things to consider.

1) Climate controlled storage will almost always cost more, so you probably want to think hard about this if you're planning to store stuff for more than a month. Shop around before you select a facility.

2) There is almost no standard definition for 'Climate Control'. Depending on how honest the facility's owner is, you can getting a lot of different levels of temperature, from a cool and comfortable space, to a place with a small vent that keeps the unit below 100 degrees sometimes. Caveat Emptor - check out the space before you buy!

3) Not everything NEEDS to be climate controlled. If you are storing a large amount of stuff, you may want to sort through it and see if it makes sense to put some in Climate Control, and some in uncontrolled space. That rag doll your grandmother made for you probably should be protected. The Weedwacker that broke 3 years ago and you plan to fix someday can probably go without it. When making these choices, remember that plastics tend to degrade in high temperatures, and finishes on wood furniture can be damaged by extreme weather.

Be a Wrap Star

When you put things in storage, they are probably going to get dusty or dirty. You also run the risk of stains or scratches as one thing gets placed against another. There are a few things you can do about this. When my company does it, we use heavy cloth moving blankets, but that's probably out of the budget for the do-it-yourselfer. So what are your alternatives?

1) Quilts, towels, old blankets, cardboard etc. Placing almost anything between two pieces of furniture is better than nothing. If you break a box down (flatten it), and put it on top of a piece of hardwood, it will offer a good amount of protection. Those old ragged towels you have in the linen closet are also really nice. Use your imagination!

2) Paper Pads. These are large sheets of multi-ply paper that can be in place of moving pads. Most moving companies carry these, and will sell them to you at a reasonable price. They are large enough to cover almost any piece of furniture, and you can use moving tape (available at Home Depot) to make sure the paper doesn't go anywhere while the stuff is in storage.

3) Plastic wrap, plastic bags, plastic tarps etc. This would seem to be a good choice, but be careful. Plastic tends to block moisture, so if you wrap something in it, it tends to 'sweat' while it's in storage. Plastic also has an unfortunate tendency to degrade in the heat, or when left in contact with other plastics. The results can be pretty bad. Just be careful with this stuff.

Pack it right, Pack it tight!
Since you are essentially buying space when you rent a storage unit, it makes sense to pack it the right way. Just remember the Movers Mantra:

Base - Boxes - Top

Here's what it means. The bottom layer (base) is composed of large, solid pieces of furniture. Dressers, tables, night stands etc. Next, we go for the boxes. These should be sealed with tape, and pack em in there as tightly as you can. Don't be afraid to rearrange things as you go, because sometimes you'll find something just the right size to fit into a gap. Put the heaviest boxes close to the bottom, or they will crush the stuff below them. Also, don't be afraid to stick a box inside a piece of furniture, or between the legs of a table. Use every square inch if you can. Finally, we do the 'top'. Basically, this is all of the stuff that didn't fit into the other categories. Baby strollers, mops, halloween scarecrows etc. If you find it frustrating, just pretend you're playing Tetris.

While you're packing the stuff in the unit, remember to use 'tiers'. A tier is a horizontal row. So, applying the Base, Boxes, Top method, we might put a dresser in storage, load a bunch of boxes on top of it, stuff some goodies on top, and then bring in another base piece, and do it all again.

Thou Shalt Not
There are some things you should never ever put in storage:
Food
Candles (they'll melt on your stuff)
Chemicals (cleaning products, paints, etc)
Aerosols (paints, hair spray etc)
Extreme valuables (Diamond Collection, Coin Collection etc)

Location, Location, Location
If you want professional movers to put stuff in, or takes stuff out of your storage, be sure and take a look at the facility, and make sure that it's possible to drive a truck in and out. Most facilities are fine, but there are some out there that are poorly designed, and will cause a problem for your crew. Be sure and ask the manager about this. If you're in doubt, just find another facility.

Dare to Compare
Let's face it, most storage units are pretty much the same. Spend some time on the phone before you commit to anything. An hour of shopping may save you significant money. And don't be afraid to negotiate! What can it hurt?

Well, that's about it for now. As always, feel free to ask if you have any questions....

Best Wishes
Zath
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