Sometimes when you need storage, you need it now! It’s an immediate requirement; a death in the family, a sudden job offer in another state, a divorce, etc. We don’t always have time to pack neatly and put everything in its rightful place. Sometimes we just need to get everything out of one place and into another before a deadline and sort it out later.
For anyone who’s gone through one of these situations, your self storage unit starts to feel like a monster in your head. Every time you visit, you open the door and throw something inside quickly, then slam it shut before it all comes tumbling out to attack you. (This is what I call “Feeding the Monster”.) You just can’t bear to face it, and you shouldn’t have to do it alone. I have helped many of my tenants get their units organized and I will share some tips and ideas for you to get your unit back into shape; a usable space where you can find what you need when you need it, without being attacked!
Step 1: Analyze the Monster.
Sizing up your opponent is a time-tested, guaranteed way to swing the odds in your favor. Whether your unit is threatening avalanche upon opening the door, or just needs some minor rearranging, the first thing you should do is visit the unit. (I know, I know, you have been trying to avoid this!)
Bring a pad and pen, as well as your phone or camera. Take photos of the unit, make notes of how many storage totes or boxes are already present, how many large pieces of furniture are in the unit, as well as things that may not fit in boxes (bikes, skis, etc.). Now is also a good time to make note of the things you know are in the unit somewhere that you will absolutely need or want access to in the coming months. If it’s October, you’ll probably want to make note that your holiday decorations are in the unit. If it’s May, you’ll want to note that your beach and camping supplies are needed.
It’s tempting to dive right in there and start moving things around, but that can be a distracting time killer. If you want to do it right, you do it in stages. These notes will play into your plan later.
Step 2: Prepare to Take on the Monster.
No great warrior ever went into combat untrained or unprepared. So go home with your notes and photos and really look them over. Start thinking in your head about what things may go together, what things you really want to keep, and what things you could probably get rid of. Think about how much of the unit is trash and get a bunch of trash bags together. Think about approximately how many packing supplies you will need to replace damaged boxes or to put away unboxed items. Purchase the minimum amount of boxes and totes for your estimated needs (if you purchased plastic totes, keep the receipt in case you have some leftover to return). You can purchase boxes of all sizes at our retail stores located inside every rental office, along with many other necessary supplies like tape, bubble wrap and furniture covers.
Plan a day when the weather is nice, and you can have one or two people help you to move things around and sort through. Get a tarp or old sheet to put down outside your unit to use as a clean workspace for sorting, and call your property manager. We have many resources available to help you get organized. Ask your property manager about using some of our moving equipment or purchasing our moving packet which includes a box labeling and inventory system as well as a gridded map for reference. These will be invaluable tools in your quest for an organized unit!
Step 3: Fight the Monster.
On the day that you have scheduled to have help, head over to your unit and put your tarp or sheet out in front of the unit. Have your friend(s) help you move furniture out of the way and off to one side on the tarp outside the unit. Then, pull out one box or pile at a time, assess the contents, and assign them to sections on the tarp with similar items. Example: a box contains some old junk mail, an antique tea set and your child’s soccer cleats. You would put the mail in a trash bag, the tea set in a “breakables” pile and the cleats in a “seasonal” pile.
Every time a pile looks like it’s getting too big, wrap (if necessary) your items and put them in a box or tote, then label it, mark the contents in your master inventory sheet and set it aside. Assign a color to each category and try not to go over the number of boxes allotted in each color group. Continue sorting, boxing and labeling until everything has a home in a box or pile.
*Pro Tip: Avoid making piles of “Stuff” or “Miscellaneous” as these things could probably be re-labeled and it makes your inventory system difficult to manage.
Stack like items with each other as you sort and box so that in the end, you should have lots of boxes and totes of the same color grouped together in specific categories. If you have a lot of things to give away, ask your property manager if they have a donation bin at their location, or if they could schedule a pick-up for you. All of our locations work with Volunteers of America of Pennsylvania, who take donations of household goods and clothing. Take a break, grab some lunch, and look at your inventory sheet. You have taken on the monster and won this battle.
Step 4: Cage the Monster.
Sit down with your inventory sheet and your gridded map of your unit. Mark where the door to the unit is located and consult your list. You will want to sort each group of boxes into need-based categories (A-B-C) with “A” being needed regularly, “B” being needed seasonally, and “C” not being needed in the near future. Using your “Tetris” brain and a pencil, mark out the home of each category and piece of furniture in your unit so that the “A” items are closest to the door on one side, the “B” items are closest to the door on the other side, and the “C” items are at the back of the unit.
*Pro Tip: you should try to leave a small walkway between the “A” and “B” sections so you can have access to the very backs of those sections, as well as access to the very front of the “C” section.
Your “B” items will be rotated as you need them seasonally and having them all together on the same side minimizes the shifting around of other items. Then all you have to do is put everything away as you marked it out, make changes on your map as you need to, and close the door and walk away. When you are finished you will feel so good knowing everything is in its place, and there’s now a place that makes sense for everything.
Step 5: Celebrate!
You did it! You fought the monster, caged it up and made sure it will never threaten your storage unit again. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back (or have your property manager do it for you!). Take a picture of the fruits of your labor and share it with us in the comments below. We’d love to see how well you did!
If you are ready to fight the Monster that has taken over your self storage unit, but you need some help getting started, contact us or give any of our property managers a call for some help! We have all the necessary training and expertise to make this process as painless as possible for you. Now, prepare for battle!
And, if you are ready to tackle your first storage unit, you can reserve or rent a unit completely online!