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Stationary versus Portable Storage for Families

If you have kids, you have clutter. From baby furniture and toddler toys to seasonal sporting goods and clothing, the stuff piles up. Before you know it, your closets are bulging and you've forgotten what it was like to park your car in the garage. Yet you can't bring yourself to part with a single, precious belonging because you know in your heart you'll regret it or need it again as soon as you let it go. That's why the self storage industry exists.

At last count, there were at least 50,000 self storage units in the United States serving approximately 113.3 million U.S. households, according to the Self Storage Association. That doesn't count the portable storage industry that sprung up in the late 90s. Both stationary and portable storage are flexible options for dealing with excess possessions you don't want to discard, donate or sell.

It Comes to You or You Go to It

Portable self storage units are convenient. If you're unfamiliar with this drop-at-your-residence option, Richard Farrell, a contributing writer for, offers this explanation: "A unit or POD is an empty, shell-like container that you arrange to come to your home. Using your own time, you then fill up the POD and someone comes back to take it to a warehouse or a facility." Many portable units have roll-up garage-style doors, which makes them easy to load, so you can even encourage the kids to help. These portable units provide an easy, practical way to pack up your belongings.

A traditional self storage unit requires a little more effort on your part. If you don't have a truck or a friend with a truck, you'll either have to rent one or make multiple trips in the family sedan. Check around, though. Some self storage facilities, such as Uncle Bob's, will include free use of a truck and furniture dolly with your rental contract.

Size Matters. So Does Cost.

Both portable and traditional self storage units come in a variety of sizes. The typical mini self storage unit will range from a small, closet-sized locker to a space big enough to store a houseful of belongings. Portable containers range from 7 feet by 7 feet by 8 feet to 16 feet by 8 feet by 8 feet. Monthly charges for either option will depend on the company you rent from, the size you rent and other factors such as special promotions, time of year and your location. The cost of the portable units can be slightly higher than a traditional self storage unit, according to Apartment Ratings, an online resource for renters; but if you factor in truck rental, gas and your time when you use a traditional self storage facility, the costs could end up being equal. If price is a big consideration, do some comparison shopping before you decide.


Reputable traditional self storage facilities and portable container storage centers will both offer a number of onsite security methods to keep your possessions safe. These can include security fencing, onsite security guards, alarm systems and video surveillance cameras. If the portable unit will be at your site overnight or longer, look for a container that has a good locking system. Apartment Ratings also advices that you carefully read the rental contract for your portable container because you may be liable for any vandalism to the unit while it's in your possession.

Other Things to Consider

What will you be storing? Most modern self storage facilities and units are climate-controlled, as are the storage centers for the portable units. However, most portable units are not. That can be a problem if items sensitive to extreme shifts in temperature or humidity are stored in the unit on your property for a prolonged period, such as musical instruments or electronics.

You should also check to see if there are any Homeowners Association rules or restrictions about putting the portable units on your property. Also verify if any parking permits are required if it will be on the street for more than a few hours. In cities where on-street parking is always at a premium, you may need special permits for your rental truck.


Will you want to access your stored possessions frequently or on a moment's notice? Steve Grimsley, author of Portable Storage Versus Self Storage, says it's usually easier with a traditional self storage unit, which you can typically access 24/7 year-round. "Portable storage units (when they are in the company's possession) can be stacked or arranged in a manner that is not conveniently accessible, so you will need to inform the business a day or two prior to checking on your stored stuff," Grimsley says.


Whichever solution you opt for, chances are you'll have plenty to choose from. There are now several national, regional and local portable container providers. You can find a storage facility near you by searching online.


"Self Storage Association 2012 (Mid-Year) Self Storage Industry Fact Sheet", Self Storage Association Website -

"How much can a PODS Storage Container hold?", PODS -

"Pros and Cons of Moving and Storage Containers", -


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