How to Pack and Organize a Storage Unit: The Ultimate Guide

Transitioning to a new city, moving to a smaller home, or clearing some clutter? You need to know how to pack and organize a storage unit so you can store extra furniture, get winter clothes out of the way, and hide that extra refrigerator. Read on to find out how to protect your furniture from damage, how to maximize space, and how to keep your favorite sweater from disappearing forever in your storage unit’s sea of boxes.

What do I need to do before I pack my belongings for a storage unit?

Before you find out how to pack and organize a storage unit, you need to get your storage unit ready to hold your belongings. From cleaning your storage space to taking inventory of your belongings, here’s what you need to do to prepare to pack and organize a storage unit.  

Make sure you have enough space in your storage unit.

If you’ve already booked a storage unit, you need to double check that your belongings will fit before you start packing the storage unit. You don’t want to start packing and organizing your storage unit only to return home with half your belongings when they don’t fit.

Create a list of how much furniture you’ll be packing in your storage unit, plus a rough estimate of the number of boxes and other items that you’ll need to make fit. Consider how much space these items will take up, and then compare it to the space available. Will it all fit, or do you need to prioritize and get rid of some things? Remember, you can fit a lot in when packing and organizing a storage unit, you just have to plan well.

Check if your storage unit is climate-controlled.

Whether or not you’ve rented a space that is climate controlled will have an impact on how you pack and organize your storage unit. If your storage unit is indoors and climate controlled, you’ll spend less time packing your belongings for maximum protection. The climate control technology will protect your belongings from mildew and other weather-related damages. However, if your storage unit is not climate-controlled, ask yourself if it’s worth the risk to store items like expensive clothing, electronics, and instruments in your storage unit. If you do decide to store these items, you need to be extra careful with how you pack these items in your storage unit.

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Thoroughly clean your storage unit.

Before deciding how to pack your storage unit, make sure it’s clean and free of damage. Examine the unit’s walls and roof for cracks, sharp edges, and leaks. Then, sweep the floor. If you want to be extra cautious, scrub the walls and floor with soap or a disinfectant. If your unit is not climate controlled or is outdoors, you may want to lay a tarp or wooden pallets on the ground to help protect your belongings from weather and pests.

Clean everything that’s going into the storage unit.

If you store something while it’s dirty, it’s only going to be dirtier when you unpack it two, four, or twelve months later. Before you decide how to pack and organize your storage unit, don’t forget to scrub, wash, and dust your belongings. Here are a few tasks to keep in mind:

Inventory what you’re taking

Before your belongings get lost forever in a sea of boxes, write down a list of what’s going into the storage unit. With your inventory list in hand, you won’t have to spend hours trying to remember if your favorite winter sweater is hiding in your closet or packed away in your storage unit. Before you decide how to pack and organize your storage unit, write down what’s being moved and include the details below on that inventory list.

  • Photos of serial numbers, model numbers, and brand logos, when applicable

  • A brief description of the item, including if there is any damage pre-move

  • For expensive items, their relative monetary value (in case items are stolen from your unit)

  • How and where you packed the item (in a box, storage bin, or something else)

  • The name and location of the storage unit facility

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How should I pack my belongings for a storage unit?

Your belongings can easily be damaged if you don’t know how to appropriately pack and organize a storage unit. No matter what you decide to pack in your storage unit, the tips below will help you protect everything from your flat-screen TV to your winter coat.

How to pack furniture for a storage unit

Take extra care as you pack your furniture for storage.  A good rule of thumb is to avoid plastic packing materials (unless you’re using bubble wrap for a lamp or picture frame) since it can suffocate the furniture and lead to mildew. Instead, drape furniture loosely with quilts, drop cloths, or old sheets. If you need to tape coverings over more fragile items, be careful not to tape directly onto furniture. This could cause accidental paint or fabric removal, ruining the furniture you're trying to safely pack for your storage unit.

How to pack appliances for a storage unit

When packing appliances for storage, drain any remaining liquid from the appliance, remove glass shelves or fragile pieces (to be packed separately), and do not plug the appliance in once it’s in your unit. To avoid odors, you can place baking soda inside the appliance and prop the door open once the appliance has been moved into the unit. The mechanical and electronic parts of your appliances are suspect to rust and fissures, so be aware that a non-climate controlled unit may not be the best choice for these items.

How to pack electronics for a storage unit

When deciding how to pack a storage unit, pay special attention to your electronics. Pack electronics properly by storing them in their original packing supplies and keeping them in a climate-controlled storage unit. Label and take photos of wires before unplugging them. Then, wrap items in packing paper or household linens to ensure that electronics will be protected if the box they are in is damaged.

How to pack clothing for a storage unit

The best way to pack clothing for a storage unit is to use plastic containers with clip-on lids. This will protect clothes from dust, mildew, and moisture. You should also pack cedar balls with your clothes to prevent damage from moths and to ward off musty odors. Make sure items are neatly folded and extremely clean so that you don’t have to launder everything again when you eventually unpack your clothes.

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What is the best way to organize a storage unit?

Now that you know how to pack for a storage unit, you need to know how to organize a storage unit.  There are multiple ways to keep your storage unit organized, so choose the methods that are the best fit for your needs.

Organize your storage unit by priority

Remember the inventory list from earlier? Take a look at it again and highlight those items you think you’ll need most often from your storage unit. Will you need your winter coats in a few weeks? Will you want to use your golf clubs once a month? Whatever items you might need to access regularly should be stored at the front of your storage unit. On the other hand, if you’re not going to need your grandma’s dining room table until you move into a new house in two years, it can be stored in the very back corner of your storage unit.

Organize your storage unit with descriptive labels

If you want to have any hope of finding what you’re looking for in your storage unit, you’re going to need labels. For example, labels like “kitchen” are not very specific. You could easily end up with four or five different kitchen boxes and never be able to find the cookie cutters you need. Instead, label boxes with a simple list of contents: instead of “kitchen,” write “cookie cutters, pancake griddle, measuring cups, mixing bowls.”

Organize your storage unit by creating a map

If you want to make finding what you need a whole lot easier, create a storage unit map. Before you move anything in, lay out your storage unit on a piece of paper and assign every box and piece of furniture a place. Then plan a pathway throughout the storage unit so you can easily access what you need. Keep your map and when the time to recover a sweater or book comes, you can find exactly what you need in mere minutes.

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How do I maximize space in my storage unit?

So now you know how to pack and organize your storage unit. But what if you have too much stuff, and you don’t want to up the size of your storage unit? Here’s how to maximize your storage unit’s space!

Maximize your storage unit’s space by starting at the bottom

The best way to maximize space in your storage unit is to start at the bottom and stack up. Put your heaviest boxes on the bottom layer. Then work your way up to the top, putting your lightest items there. Just remember to leave an aisle to walk through your storage unit and to keep necessary items accessible.

Maximize your storage unit’s space by installing shelving

Did you know you can install shelving in your storage unit? You can purchase hanging shelves and temporarily drill them into the wall, or get large plastic or metal shelves that stand on the ground. This can help organize large or oddly shaped items that won’t fit in boxes.

Maximize your storage unit’s space by using furniture

When you pack furniture for a storage unit, take it apart as much as possible. For items like dresser drawers that can’t be broken down, pack smaller boxes and fragile items in the drawers and underneath. Get creative!

Now you know how to pack and organize a storage unit.  Have additional tips? Let us know in the comments below!


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