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Organizing Your Storage Unit: What to Keep and What to Throw Away

Organizing Your Storage Unit: What to Keep and What to Throw Away

When it comes to getting organized, a storage unit does a lot of heavy lifting. Whether you're getting your home ready for a move and want to clear out some clutter before listing the house, or you simply have a lot of stuff and not enough room store it at home, renting a mini storage offers the perfect solution. 

But you don't want to simply toss all of those belongings into your storage unit. After all, you may need to access the contents frequently. You definitely don't want to rummage through piles of boxes and objects every time you visit your self storage facility. 

Here's the good news: With a bit of planning, you can easily and efficiently organize your mini storage. Read on to learn how.

Why Organize Your Storage Unit?

Let's start at the beginning: Why bother organizing your unit? Perhaps you use your unit to store those items that you don't need very often. Maybe you purchased a unit at an auction, and aren't sure what lies inside. Perhaps you inherited a storage unit, or need to go through an elderly loved one's stored possessions.

No matter what your specific situation, organizing your storage unit simply makes sense because:

  • An organized unit makes it easier to find what you need
  • A cluttered unit means you're likely to forget what's inside
  • Getting rid of stuff you don't need means you won't have to pay for unnecessary storage space
  • It's easier to move items in and out of a tidy unit

Take Inventory

Start the organizing process by taking inventory of everything inside the unit. Grab a pen and paper and take note of the number of boxes in the unit, any large items, and an approximate number of smaller items. You can also use your phone to create a photo inventory.

These notes or photos will help you determine how much time you'll need to organize. An inventory will also help you figure out if you need to recruit help and, if so, how many people to call.

Next, clear out an open space inside the unit to use as a processing area. If there's no space, ask the self storage facility if you can work directly outside the unit. Just be sure not to block anyone else's access while you're working.

One by one, move boxes into the work space and quickly inventory their contents. If a box contains something valuable, fragile or important, make a note. After you inventory each box, create a label that describes the contents and slap it on the outside.

Schedule an Organizing Party

Now that you have a rough idea of how much stuff you need to go through, set aside a few hours — or days, as the case may be — to work. If you need to enlist friends or family, plan ahead so they can help. 

Using your inventory, create a rough master plan. Think about the items you know you'll want to keep, and what you may be able to sell or donate. Consider where you can dispose of those items that you want to throw away, too.

If there are large items in the unit, such as furniture or appliances, plan how you'll move them out. If you need to rent a truck or trailer, make those arrangements ahead of time. 

If you know you want to sell or donate large items, arrange for the buyer or charity to come pick them up at the unit, if possible. The more you can move out ahead of time, the easier it will be to get organized.

On the big day, come ready to work with moving and storage supplies, such as:

  • Large totes (at least five)
  • Heavy-duty garbage bags
  • Pens and labels
  • Moving boxes
  • Tape
  • Packing supplies, such as newspaper, bubble wrap or Styrofoam wrap

Organize into Categories

Now comes the fun part: Organizing the contents of the storage unit. Grab your totes and label them with the following categories:

  • Keep: Items to take out of storage and keep
  • Store: Items that will remain in storage
  • Sell: Items to sell
  • Donate: Items to donate to charity or give away to friends and family
  • Toss: Items that will go in the trash

Working on one box at a time, place items in the appropriate categorized tubs. Of course, this step is easier said than done. While some items are easy to categorize, others may pose a challenge. 

When you encounter difficult items, it may help to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How often will I/do I use this item? If you're sure an item will get used, it may be worthwhile to keep it. But if it's been sitting in storage for months or years without being missed or used, it's time to get rid of it. Important exceptions may include holiday decorations or seasonal sporting equipment, such as skis or snowshoes.
  • Is this item in good condition? Does it need to be fixed or replaced? If an item is worn down, broken or outdated, it probably makes sense to let it go. While working items can be donated, broken items that will be difficult or costly to fix likely belong in the trash.
  • Can I sell this item? If you paid a lot of money for an item, getting rid of it can be extra difficult... even if you haven't used it in a long time. Why not try to sell it? Have a yard sale or list your items on Craig's List or other online sale forums, and try to get some of that money back.
  • Does someone else need this item more than I do? If you have more than you need, it feels great to help others by donating your unneeded items. Of course, you can also check with friends, family or neighbors before donating to a charity. If an item is good working condition, there's almost always someone who can use it — and that's better than simply sitting unused in a storage unit. 

As for the items that will remain in storage, keep like with like. Place items neatly in boxes and label them clearly. Re-pack the storage unit to ensure easy access, with the items you'll need more frequently in the front.

When it comes to moving and storage, organizing your storage unit can end up saving you time and money. Following these organization steps will result in a tidy storage unit, so you can easily find items ... and avoid paying for more unit than you need.