If you know it is time to rent a storage unit, you want to be careful how to pack it so that you don't have to rent an extra one to fit all of your stuff in. In our 24 years of marriage, we have moved eleven times. Our last move included moving with seven of our eight children, while I was very pregnant with the eighth. Here is the best way to pack a storage unit.
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The Best Way To Pack A Storage Unit
Location of The Storage Unit
When choosing a storage unit to rent, you will of course pick one that looks safe from a company that has a good reputation. But what if there are many choices? How do you decide which one? Some people think it is best to rent in the middle of the two homes or that it is best to rent closest to the old home. We have found, through experience, that it is best to rent a unit closest to your new home.
Yes, it is a challenge to drive that far when you are busy packing and possibly cleaning your house for showings. But once you get the keys to the new place, you will want to get settled and back into a “routine” as soon as possible. This is especially important if children are involved. It is so much easier to do that if the unit is closer to get to so you don't waste any minutes on driving.
You may assume that you will have plenty of help from friends and family to get you out of the unit right away. This is not always the case. We live in Wisconsin and our last move was in February with record inches of snow. There were times that the roads were too dangerous for people to help us and we ended up renting the unit longer than we wanted to.
We don't own a truck or trailer to haul our items. In that situation, without moving help, my husband would stop at the unit on the way home from work and load the vehicle full of boxes. If it was too far away, he wouldn't be able to do that before dark. Many storage units do not have electricity and may not have street lamps to light the area to see what you are doing.
Size of Storage Unit to Rent
An important thing to consider is how large of a unit you will need. As far as saving money, it is more of a savings to rent a larger unit rather than rent a second one.
Walk around your home, garage and outdoors and estimate and measure items. You are looking to find the square footage. When you look at a storage unit's square footage, you have to realize that you won't be able to use all of that because some large items are impossible to stack.
Also consider whether the current owner or builder of the home you are moving into will allow you to move items into your new garage. Your realtor may be able to write up a contract about this for you. You may or may not have to pay rent. Factor in that amount of square footage so you won't rent too much space. If you are able to use the garage, plan to put the large items, odd shaped items, lawn mowers, bikes and furniture in there.
Finding The Boxes To Put In The Storage Unit
If you haven't started packing yet, it's a good thing. Now you can do it strategically. Try to find boxes that are the same size. For example, plastic 18 gallon storage totes. These are often available to rent from moving companies.
Fast food restaurant boxes are a favorite of ours. Just ask a manager to hold them for you. They are often of the same products, like “french fries” so they will be the same size and stack nicely.
You can also purchase moving boxes of a similar size. The least desirable situation is going to a grocery store and getting boxes of all different sizes. If you must go to a grocery store for your boxes, try to get similar sizes.
We were fortunate to get “banana boxes” at several of the same type of grocery store in our area, which are large enough to hold many items and have handles to make carrying easier.
You will most likely end up with some plastic storage totes, some boxes of the same size and some that just don't match up at all. That's just the way it goes and that's okay.
Remember to never pack chemicals, liquids, food, batteries, aerosol cans, etc. You may be able to get a list of what not to put in a unit with your signed rental contract or from the storage unit facility owner.
What Goes In The Far Back of the Storage Unit
Okay, it's time to pack the unit. Get ready to play a real life Tetris game. Boxes always go in the back. Furniture and odd items go towards the front. This is because you really need the furniture first in your new home. You want to get the furniture out while you may have help and have a moving truck rented or borrowed.
If the weather changes on moving day or people run out of time to help you move, all you are stuck with at the back are boxes. Totes and boxes could easily fit in your car each day after work, without having to rent a moving vehicle.
Plus, you will see below that this maximizes the space in your storage unit so you will not need to rent a second one.
Materials Needed To Fill Your Storage Unit
- Step Ladder so you can stack to the ceiling.
- Tape Measure to figure out how big of a container you need at the top of your stack to maximize space.
- Lots of your treasured items to pack into it.
In our example, we rented a 10 foot wide by 20 feet deep unit that was about 12 feet high. With your load of boxes at the storage unit, stack similar boxes all the way to the ceiling if possible. You can see in the photo below how we have plastic totes stacked up as high as we can go, then we added banana boxes in the middle and pizza crust boxes over to the right above the totes.
You will continue with the next row of boxes in the same way, right in front of the first row. If possible, always try to have plastic totes on the floor in case of flooding or excess rain.
Always put the heaviest totes on the bottom of the stack. If they were above the “not so heavy” boxes, they could buckle and crush contents below. Place cardboard boxes above them.
In the photo below, you can see that in the far back, we have many similar sized cardboard boxes on the left stacked almost to the ceiling.
Odd Shaped Items Packed In The Storage Unit
There will always be odd shaped items to pack in your storage unit. We place these along the sides until we can squeeze them in somewhere.
Fast Food Boxes Stack Nice In Storage Units
In the photo below, you will notice that in this row there are many of the same size fast food boxes. They stack so well, sometimes all the way to the ceiling!
Toys in Storage Units
Notice the toy box we stuck at the very top of the stack? Just measure how much room you have to the ceiling and fill it in. Sometimes you will not have that size available, which is when it is nice to have stuffed animals packed in plastic trash bags to stuff towards the ceiling.
It is not always possible to squeeze items in. Some have to stay toward the front with the furniture. Lawn mowers and bikes should be kept toward the front if you are not able to use or rent the garage of your new home.
You will notice the tall, clear storage case to the left. We just can't stack anything on top of this without ruining it. To get it off of the floor, we used random pieces of wood under it.
You will notice that we don't have a lot of furniture for this move. For this move, we had to be out of our home, lock it up and bring keys to closing. With all of these items out of our house, on moving morning, we just had to get the furniture out. We loaded the big moving truck with all the furniture and some laundry baskets of bedding, very needed kitchen and bathroom items, etc.
If someone had to have furniture in a unit, it would all need to go towards the front with all of the odd shaped items that can't stack well.
Off to the left, we set up a table because we brought in some smaller, heavier boxes that needed to be off the floor. We knew at that point that we didn't have more boxes to bring to the storage unit so we could use the space in the unit in that way for these special items.
You will notice in the photo below that we kept the portable folding chairs towards the front of the unit. I highly recommend doing this in case you need to sit down and take a break or if you decide to sell your couch and need a place to sit until moving day!
Notice in the photo below on the right there are some wood book shelves. We put small boxes inside them on the shelves to maximize the space. Use up every bit you can!
We have found this to be the best way to pack a storage unit. Do you have any tips to go along with these? Please let us know in the comments below.
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