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Brownie camera survives well in storage.

Get the most value from your storage rental

by Ben

Let’s be real — self storage is an extra bill every month. There are several great reasons to invest in self storage (just ask us!), but the bottom line is that you have to pay for the extra space. That’s just the way it is.

With any expenditure, you want the most for your money. What can you do to ensure that you are getting maximum value when its time to find self storage? Let’s take a look at some clever ways to squeeze every cent out of your storage space.

Hacking self storage: Get the most bang for your bucks

Brick building, possibly for storage

1. Get free stuff.

Amenities are the spice of life. According to the research report “Self Storage Economics” by R. Christian Sonne, MAI, the average occupancy period of a self storage rental is 12 to 18 months. That’s going to work out to a decent chunk of change of your part — some freebies and discounts would be nice, right? Everyone likes a little VIP treatment.

Keep an eye out for offers like:

  • A free month of storage. Make sure you ask your provider about special storage ratesIt’s common for major storage companies to offer a free month on a storage rental, or discount on self storage prices when you rent a unit online.
  • A free truck rental. Look for storage companies that help you haul. While that old couch is not going to fit in your Yaris, it will slide nicely into a moving truck that your storage provider — like Uncle Bob’s, for instance — lends you gratis.
  • Military discounts. The Self Storage Association (SSA) reports that over 1.5 million self storage units for rent in the United States are claimed by military personnel. Cities near military bases can see up to 95 percent rental occupancy from active military members. If you are in active service, remember to flash your military I.D. when renting — the SSA notes that you may be entitled to ‘10%-30% discounts off rental rates, free months of rent, gift certificates, free use of moving truck, ‘one-dollar move-ins,’ no rent increases while deployed overseas, waiver of security deposits, administration fees, etc.”

 2. Save as much space as possible.

lots_of_stuff1

You are paying for every square foot of space in your storage unit. Whether you are a business using commercial storage or an average person who wants to declutter their home, efficiently organizing storage spaces is crucial.

According to our old friend Jenny Young, there are three key factors to remember when packing your rental:

  1. Create aisles (easily forgotten in the urgency of unpacking), and make sure the things you will need the most — seasonal gear, important papers, excess stock from your business — are easily accessible.
  2. Label all of your boxes or containers on both sides.
  3. Make sure your boxes or containers are sturdy and made for long-term storage. The banana boxes from the local produce department do not count (and they may carry bugs). Use pallets or other flooring, if possible, to keep those boxes off the concrete floor.

For your DIY types — you can build a storage container organizer from PVC pipes relatively easily, as home expert Franz Ostmann demonstrates below:

 3. Use the right storage for the right job.

I believe that the only tools a man needs are a hammer and a roll of duct tape. This, my wife explains, is why we can’t have nice things.

The lesson (or so I’m told) is that each situation requires a degree of nuance. The same is true for storage. If your philosophy for home organization is out of sight, out of mind, then you will have two problems instead of one. Put some thought into the type of storage you need.

Classic car

If you’re storing a vehicle: Whether you’re leaving town for an extended period — like our friends in the military, for example — or simply own a great ride that you want to protect, vehicle self storage is a great option. The first question to answer is how much space you’ll need. Check out Brian Schrekengast’s blog, where he has listed the sizes of the most popular vehicles as a reference guide.

Other important questions — do you want indoor storage (“Select a dark and dry place to discourage rust, corrosion, and sun damage,” mechanic Donald Mayes advises)? How big is your car? Do you live in a region where climate control storage makes sense? Settling on cheap self storage is not much help if it results in car repair bills.

If you need commercial storage: Storage for your business can become a major expense when you’re using pricey office space to house excess inventory, equipment, files or supplies. You can actually quantify that cost using Uncle Bob’s storage calculator.

Commercial storage, like vehicle storage, comes down to a space game. If you’re renting more storage space than you need, you’re still wasting money. If you aren’t renting a big enough space, you’re not solving your problem — or you’re risking damage to your inventory. Luckily, Uncle Bob’s also has a storage space estimator that can help you visualize how much space you need.

If you’re storing personal belongings: Remember that electronics do not take kindly to temperature or humidity extremes — that’s right, low humidity can be bad, too, according to Brian Smith of Electonic Assemby Americas. Mary Beth Quirk of The Consumerist notes that “Ideally, you’ll want somewhere well-ventilated, cool, dark and dry to store your clothes.” Important papers, scrapbooks or periodicals should be kept in acid-free boxes and tissue. Audiophiles know that vinyl records should be stored vertically and in a dry, cool environment.

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Like all things worth doing, self storage requires an investment of time, money and strategy. Put in the work, and you’ll create a truly valuable asset — and a have a great place to safely stash the items that mean so much to you.

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• Next great novelist