How to Pack and Organize a Storage Unit
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
People are sometimes in a hurry when packing a self-storage unit. This results in their belongings getting stuffed into their unit haphazardly.
Before we provide some tips about packing and organizing a storage unit, let’s start with a photo of how not to pack a storage unit.
Admittedly, the contents in this image represent the "extremely haphazard" end of the spectrum.
However, the general "pile up everything" style of storage unit packing is more common than you may think.
If you have some time to plan and you’re able to make a few upfront investments, you will be able to maximize the use of space for a given size unit.
You will be able to more quickly and easily get at specific items that you want to remove from the unit.
The items suggested for purchase below will cost you a little up front, but they will make access and storage easier for whatever size storage unit you rent — whether it’s 5 x 10, 10 x 10, or larger.
Buy one or more shelving units
Shelving will let you make more efficient use of the vertical room in your storage space.
Plastic ventilated storage shelving from Home Depot is easy to assemble, lightweight, and easy to move around.
For heavier items, you can use steel shelving. Steel shelving takes a little more time to assemble.
Store a step stool
If you do use shelving or if a person taller than you stacked some items high up on move-in, a step stool will let you more easily reach things.
Document what’s where
Unless you have a photographic memory, you may forget exactly where you placed certain items. Write up an inventory list and create a simple map that shows where items are located.
If there's anything you know you won't need for a while, pack it in the back of the unit.
Label boxes on the tops and the sides
When packing boxes, labeling them only on the top is the natural inclination for most people.
However, if boxes also have labels on the sides, what each box contains will be visible when boxes are stacked.
Substitute plastic storage totes for some of your boxes
Plastic bins are stronger than boxes and they stack better than boxes. Translucent or clear plastic also has the benefit of allowing you to see what’s inside.
Make sure to use bubble wrap for fragile items such as dishes and glassware.
Use holiday-themed storage containers
Green and red holiday bins make decorations easier to identify.
We’ve also found Halloween-themed bins in the past, but those are harder to come by.
Hang clothes from a portable rack
If you are storing clothing items such as dresses, jackets, and dress pants, you can avoid permanent crease lines by hanging these up on a wheeled portable garment rack.
Have an Allen wrench set and screwdrivers at move-in
Some pieces of furniture such as pedestal tables can be easily disassembled with the right tools.
Disassembling furniture will create more room. Make sure to put any furniture hardware in plastic bags and tape the bags to one of the pieces with masking tape.
Place pictures and paintings near the unit's opening
Standing up your pictures and paintings on the sides, near the unit’s door will make sure that nothing gets stacked up on them.
With this approach, you can even get away without having to wrap each item individually.
Jumbo or giant clear storage bags are a great way to keep dust off of large, loose items.
Everyone has their own style of packing a storage space, but hopefully, some of these organization ideas will help save you time and prevent frustration.