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How to pack your storage unit like a pro – The Ultimate Guide

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With many years of experience in all things self storage, we can confidently tell you – there is definitely a good way and a bad way of packing your storage unit!

Of course, people use self storage for all manner of reasons. Many use it to facilitate their small business, perhaps running a pick and pack operation, and need to access items frequently. Others use it to store items on a long term or short term basis, which they rarely need to return to – perhaps whilst a renovation takes place or linked to a house move or life event.

Whatever it is used for, there’s definitely some skill involved in making the most of the space in your storage unit. From keeping everything accessible to protecting your things from breakages or mould – we have all the tips and tricks you may need.

  1. Choose the right size storage unit for you

When it comes to storage unit sizing, the first suggestion we offer is to be honest. Many people play down how much they’re storing in a bid to save money – but it’s going to cause more hassle for you in the long run if you find out you can’t safely get everything you need into your unit! You can always scale down if your needs change further down the line.

A rough guide to storage unit sizing is:

  • If you’re emptying a small to media sized car (just once – not multiple trips!) you’ll probably need a 16 sq ft to 20 sq ft unit.
  • If you’re looking to store the contents of a shed you’ll probably want nearer to 25 sq ft.
  • For a small garage-worth, or the contents of a small van, go nearer to 35 sq ft.
  • If you’re emptying an entire room – say a bedroom, to renovate or undertake DIY – you’d probably be safest going for 50 sq ft with the need to store furniture, as well as boxes.
  • full transit van will probably see you needing 60 sq ft.
  • larger (medium) sized van, which could house around 150 average sized boxes, would require around 75 sq ft.
  • If you need to store the full contents of a two bedroom home, the equivalent of a large truck, go for 100 sq ft.
  • three bedroom flat might be nearer 125 sq ft and a three bedroom house 150 sq ft.
  • If you were fully unloading a jam-packed double garage, or the contents of a large three to small four bedroom home, 175 – 200 sq ft would be the order of the day. You’d likely need a removal van to manage the transportation. (we know just the Leeds removal firm…)
  • Once we get to five bedroom homes, we’re looking at 250-325 sq ft.
  • six bedroom home would likely be somewhere between 400 sq ft and 550 sq ft.
  • But we don’t stop there in terms. We appreciate some businesses and individuals need more space. So, we go up to a staggering 1,750 sq ft or even more, which is big enough to store over 4,000 boxes!
  1. Preparation is key
  • Make a list. Ensure you know exactly what is going into your storage unit and if you can, create a little map showing roughly where you’ve put it. You may think you definitely won’t need to access it – but what if you do? You don’t want to be searching through every box to find those Christmas decorations.
  • Keep an inventory. Keep your storage boxes themed and you this will make your life much easier when it comes to unpacking – for example your books can go in one, paperwork in another, or you could theme boxes by person, season or by room. However you choose to organise your things make sure you either label each box carefully, or number it and make an inventory of what’s in each one. It might take up a bit of extra time to start with, but it will definitely save you time in the future.
  • Have a good de-clutter beforehand to get rid of unwanted items. Packing up your things can feel really cathartic. Take the opportunity to get rid of any unwanted items and anything you’ve not used for a while (or even forgot you had). Some things you can sell online, while others you can give away for free or take to your local recycling centre. What you want to be left with are the things that are useful or that bring you joy. 
  • Clean before you store. It’s important to give everything a good clean before you pack it away for storage, and make sure that you dry it properly. Dirt and mess can grow mould over time, so you’ll thank yourself for giving your belongings that extra care before they are packed away.
  • Disassemble your furniture. If you are using your self-storage unit for furniture then think about how it might be arranged in there. Some items like wardrobes or bookshelves can be dismantled to make the best use of space. Just make sure that you keep any screws, allen keys and bolts together – you could put them into sandwich bag and tape the bag to the item they belong to.
  1. Equipment to consider
  • Boxes matter. Don’t be tempted by cheap boxes – they won’t like being stacked and will crumple and potentially damage whatever is within. It’s worth investing in good quality boxes. Don’t be tempted to use old food boxes or anything which could be contaminated – you don’t want to risk mould or insects!
  • Don’t scrimp on packing materials. Trust us when we tell you that chucking your things into bin bags is not the best way to store them. Using the right packing materials, like strong sturdy boxes, wrapping papers and bubble wrap will help to protect your things from damage and mould. Don’t scrimp on the details either. Use some desiccator sachets to ensure that your items are properly dry and take care to wrap individual items within your boxes, so they don’t get scratched or damaged.
  • Uniformity helps. If you have boxes which are roughly the same shape and size it will help for stacking purposes, maximising the space within your unit. If that’s not possible, obviously larger boxes will have to be placed at the bottom, so consider which items you are most likely to need to access and put them in the smaller ones which will be nearer the top.
  • Invest in dust sheets. It’s a good idea to use a dust sheet on the floor if you can – and potentially over the top of items too. Clean, fabric dust sheets can help to protect your furniture and allow it to breathe so it doesn’t get mouldy.
  1. Top tips for packing boxes
  • Fill boxes to the top – but don’t overload them. You want to avoid boxes crumpling under the weight above, so try to fill boxes. Where that’s not possible, due to heavy items such as books meaning you’d be unable to lift a full box, fill the extra space with soft furnishings like towels, old bedding, blankets or packing paper/bubble wrap. 
  • Seal boxes – don’t leave them open. If it’s something you’ll need regular access to, consider a plastic box with an easily removable lid. Leave some tape and scissors at the unit so you can re-seal boxes as needed.
  • Label everything. Label boxes on the side and top (as you may not be able to see it depending on how items are stacked) so it’s clear what is in each box.
  • Pack delicate items with extra care. Delicates come in various forms – it might be the precious fabrics of your favourite clothes, or china, mirrors, and artwork. They all need to be packed with extra care. Use packing paper, pad the sides of your box with spare pillows or beddings, and wrap each item individually. And remember to label these boxes as delicate so you handle them even more carefully when you move them around.
  1. Think about how best to use the space
  • Make the most of empty spaces. You may be storing cupboards or a wardrobe, which haven’t been dismantled – consider what you can store inside them to make the most of the space. Ditto with suitcases.
  • Create a pathway. Make sure you can get around your storage unit. Whilst you want to make the most of the space, don’t pack it so tightly that you have to remove everything from the front to get to anything stored behind.
  • Keep items you’ll need to access regularly close at hand. Consider what you’re most likely to need and keep that in a convenient location.
  • Consider shelving or racking. Dependent on the type of things you’re storing, it may be that some shelving or racks would help you organise your space and make the most of the full height of the unit.
  • Don’t overload your unit. Of course, when you are paying rent for your unit you want to feel like you’re getting the most from it. But don’t be fooled into thinking that means you have to cram it full. You need to be able to access everything, lift your boxes and stack them safely, so be careful about what you include and where you put it. 
  1. Protect your belongings – and others
  • Take care of your furniture. Make sure it’s wrapped well and stick it to the back of your unit, as you’re less likely to need to access it in a rush. As mentioned, dismantling furniture can be helpful, if it’s not too difficult, to make the most of the space and for ease of transportation. Store sofas, bed frames and mattresses on their end to maximise space. Be careful what you stack on soft furniture such as sofa cushions or mattresses, as you may permanently damage them.
  • Be clear what you can and can’t store. We have a list we can share with you, but food items, anything living and anything flammable are obvious nos. Be careful with any liquids which could spill and cause damage.
  • Be dust and dirt aware. Sofas, mattresses, and chairs are all susceptible to collecting dust and dirt over time. Although our storage units are clean and tidy, we can’t stop dust from accumulating on your items and also when you move your items in a van or lorry, these are likely to have dirty floors too.  Keep outdoor items separate from indoor items by covering things such as gardening tools and lawnmowers with a dust sheet or other suitable cover.
  • Shrink wrap to keep items intact. Packing pros know that a roll of shrink wrap can make a whole world of difference when it comes to preparing items for storage. Shrink wrapping any items that have opening parts such as fridges, bedside tables, and chests of drawers will stop doors opening in transit and causing damage. It also stops drawers either falling out when you pick them up, or indeed from sliding into your shins as you carry them! Shrink wrapping is also a great idea when you are dismantling furniture for storage as you can keep all the big parts together in one bundle, making it easier for you to locate them and put them back together again when needed.

If you are looking for safe and reliable self-storage units in Leeds, storage in Lincoln or storage in Sheffield then get in touch with McCarthys Storage World for a quote. We have a storage solution for everyone.

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