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Rotate Your Storage Unit to
Preserve Your Belongings

When you first move spare items into a new self-storage unit, you may believe you'll never run out of space. All too soon though, storage space can become a holding tank for everything that couldn't fit in the closets at home. The shove-and-forget method of storage is not only inefficient; it's also potentially damaging to delicate items. Rotating items in your storage unit is a great way to make better use of your space and preserve your belongings.

Like rotating your tires, rotating the items in your storage unit reduces wear in high-stress areas. Even in a climate-controlled storage unit, it's important to shift containers occasionally to prevent crushing them. The same is true for rugs to prevent folds in rugs from becoming permanent creases. Items closest to a vent receive more dry air; in an already arid Arizona climate, prolonged exposure to dry air could result in cracked furniture, musical instruments and leather upholstery.

How often you rotate your items in storage depends largely on how you use your space. Organization experts typically advise going through your belongings every few months, if not more often. Audrey Thomas, a professional organizer with Better Homes and Gardens, recommends staggering the dates of your rotations so that you don't feel as though you're taking on everything at once.

Seasonal Storage Rotation

Seasonal shifts mark ideal starting points for rotation schedules. Holiday decorations and seasonal decor make an appearance for a relatively short time, but you know you'll need them again next year. Lawn care equipment, sweaters, jackets, camping gear and water skis also see seasonal use. Designate a row of easily accessible shelves for seasonal gear so you can swap it out easily.

Three-month rotations are ideal for quick once-overs on delicate items and packing materials. If you stack anything atop cardboard boxes, switch the stacks to keep the lowermost boxes from being crushed. Move items near vents to more distant corners of the unit to equalize the drying effects of conditioned air. While you're moving boxes and bags, check their condition; it may be time to replace a dented cardboard container or swap a brittle plastic wardrobe bag for a new one.

Peter Walsh, author of a series of books and videos called It's All Too Much, recommends changing out cedar products every three months to repel any bugs that might be living in your storage space. He also points out that stains on clothing and upholstery are especially attractive to fabric-munching insects, so clean items before storing them.

Semi-Annual Storage Cleaning

Tying your storage rotation schedule to other semi-annual events can help you remember when it's time to declutter in earnest. Holidays work, but no one wants to be moving heavy furniture on a hot Independence Day weekend, so stick with spring and fall dates. Labor Day and Memorial Day make good reference points. These twice-yearly holidays can mark your deep-cleaning time.

Pull out containers you haven't opened since the last major cleaning and go through their contents. Closet-cleaning experts with CNN Living recommend adhering to the "golden rule of closet organizing" and donating anything you haven't used in a year. Assuming the item isn't a family heirloom (and no, that pair of jeans from high school doesn't count), a year is long enough to miss something if it's important. Large items such as upholstered furniture and dining room tables should get a thorough cleaning. Dust and dry air can age organic materials before their time, but semi-annual maintenance keeps them fresh.

After moving containers out of the unit, resolve to keep their numbers constant: No new boxes can enter the storage unit until a box is donated or thrown away. If you're on a decluttering mission as well as performing maintenance, vow to remove two boxes for every new one that goes into the unit. Label boxes or opaque containers before they go back into storage; you'll save hours during future storage unit rotations.

Cutting Clutter with Regular Rotations

Regular rotations keep you on top of torn packaging and dusty upholstery. If your storage unit already feels too full to handle, rotating items can also offer incentive to scale back clutter. Decluttering expert and author Julie Morgenstern recommends developing a theme for decluttering. By defining a goal and developing a vision, you can more easily sort through items that fit your new lifestyle and donate those that don't. Your goal can be concrete, such as making enough space to turn an unused room in your home into your own art studio, or it could be more abstract, such as making way for a bright new career. Morgenstern notes that "giving a name to what you want to do or feel or express will help dislodge you from your current state of stagnancy."

Until you know what you have, you can't know what you still need, so rotating items in storage is almost like a shopping expedition. You may just discover a buried ottoman that would look perfect with your new love seat.

Start your storage rotation project today.

"Ideas for Strategic Organization & Storage", Better Homes and Gardens, Jessica Brinkert Holtam http://www.bhg.com/decorating/storage/organization-basics/strategic-organization-storage/

"Peter's Tips for Storing Out-of-Season Clothes", Organize.com, Peter Walsh http://www.organize.com/peter-walsh-tips-conquer-storing-out-of-season-clothes.html

"10 Tips for Organizing Your Closet", CNN Living http://articles.cnn.com/2009-01-05/living/mhi.organize.your.closets_1_hangers-sweaters-closet?_s=PM:LIVING

"Ask the Experts - 5 Steps to Clutter-Free Living", Time, Lisa McLaughlin http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1812185,00.html