9 Ways to Make Short-Term Self-Storage Work for You

Short-term self-storage generally refers to a storage duration of three months or less, though this isn’t set in stone. The “self” part means you’ll be loading and managing the unit yourself, rather than working with a company who handles the legwork for you. 

If this is your first time renting a short-term self-storage unit, you might feel overwhelmed by the options. If you’re going through a significant life transition or busy planning your next adventure, the last thing you need is stress about storing your belongings. 

Never fear: We’ve got some tips to guide you through the process. Whether you’re relocating for temporary work, redoing your floors or something else, we’ve worked with folks in the following situations:   

  • Moving
  • Building a home
  • Remodeling/renovating/restoring
  • Student work relocations
  • Staging a home for sale
  • Extensive travel
  • Decluttering a home
  • Starting/expanding a business
  • Separation/divorce
  • Military deployment
  • Renting out a home or part of one
  • Extra car/boat/RV
  • Summer storage for college students
  • Death in the family
  • Natural disaster
  • Seasonal and hobby gear

When you’re ready to get started, read through these nine ways to make short-term self-storage work for you. 

1. Start Searching Early, but Not Too Early

You certainly don’t want to be scrambling to find a suitable self-storage unit the day before you have to be out of the home you sold. At the same time, you don’t want to pay for a month of storage and only use the last few days of it.  

Take a look at your timeline and consider how much you have to store, your budget and how many storage facilities you plan to contact. Begin the self-storage search a week or two before you need to start using the facility.

2. Choose the Best Facility

Never select a self-storage facility because it is the cheapest or closest option, although affordability and convenience are important factors to consider. 

Take a look at the company’s security, staffing and maintenance efforts. Do they have a gated, coded entry? Are there surveillance cameras? Is the staff helpful? Does the property appear clean and well-maintained? Read reviews of the storage facility and ask about taking a tour before making a decision. Make sure to chose a storage unit that works with your life - if you live in Paterson, NJ, then our Haledon self-storage location would be ideal for you.

3. Choose the Right Storage Unit

A storage unit that’s too small could force you to load the unit improperly or unsafely. A storage unit that’s too large will cost money for space you don’t need. If you’re storing delicate things, like fine art or electronics, a standard unit may get too hot and humid, possibly damaging your belongings. 

If possible, measure the square footage of what you need to store, or have a sense of how many rooms’ worth you’re packing away. Storage unit measurements typically increase by increments of five, so you could get anything from a 5-foot by 5-foot locker to a 10-foot by 20-foot unit. (See our Storage Unit Size Guide for more.)

Ask about amenities like climate control, indoor units, drive up units, parking spaces and packing supplies available on site. Creating an inventory beforehand helps you and your storage professional figure out what’s best for your needs.  

4. Know the Requirements, Contract and Payment Plan

It is your responsibility to know what’s expected of you in self-storage. Carefully read the rental contract and be ready with any required documentation, such as identification, proof of ownership or insurance policies. Be clear on how much you owe and when.  

For short-term self storage, month-to-month rental plans are ideal. Talk to your facility about how flexible they are about how long you’ll need to use the storage unit. 

Be sure to know if your belongings need to be insured, as some facilities require it. Your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance may include this coverage, or you might be able to purchase it from the facility itself. The peace of mind is well worth it. 

5. Be Your Own Backup

Even the best self-storage facility can’t fully guarantee nothing will happen to your belongings. A rule of thumb is that if you can’t bear the thought of something getting lost or damaged, don’t put it in self-storage. While it’s highly unlikely that anything will happen to it, you’re better off storing where you can keep a close eye.  

Here are some other tips as you ponder putting your things in a self-storage unit:

  • Invest the time and money to protect your items
  • Create an inventory so you know what you have
  • Buy a good lock that’s not vulnerable to tampering
  • Carefully wrap breakables and cover furniture with soft sheets (don’t use plastic as it can trap moisture and encourage mold growth)
  • Never share your entry passcode or key with anyone who doesn’t absolutely need it; the contents of storage units are often tempting, and the more people who can get in, the weaker your security (and that of the entire facility) 

6. Make the Most of Your Space

Pack and store your boxes strategically. Self-storage units tend to be about 8 feet high, so there’s plenty of room to stack bins and boxes (just do it safely with the heaviest boxes on the bottom).  

While it’s unlikely you’ll have a sudden need for your couch or childhood art pieces, you may need certain documents or pieces of clothing. Try to put anything you might need toward the front of the unit, and leave aisles between stacks for ventilation and easy access.  

7. Respect the Rules

Don’t do anything dangerous or gross in your self-storage unit. Never store hazardous or flammable materials. Nothing perishable or alive should be stored, from houseplants to produce to a pet rodent. These things can be smelly, unsanitary and attractive to pests. 

Of course, humans are not allowed to live or work in a storage unit either. This includes working on a vehicle or hanging out with friends.  

8. Ask for Help

If you’re fortunate enough to have friends and family who will help you load and unload a storage unit, take them up on it. It will make the process faster and safer. You’ll have someone to help you lift the heavy and awkward things, as well as a buddy to increase your safety, especially if you visit the facility at night. 

9. Be Prepared to Extend Your Storage Period

Often, people take longer to move into a new home than they think, whether it’s because of a long build or a desire to sort through boxes one by one. 

Be ready for this change of plans by having an inventory and labeling your bins and boxes. You might need them to retrieve certain things during the storage period. It’s easier than you think to forget what’s in them, and it’ll make the unpacking process far easier. 

We know that getting started with short-term self storage is a big undertaking, and we’re here to help. Now that you know the different ways to make short-term self-storage work for you, don’t hesitate to contact us through our website.