packing for self storage

How to Pack Your Stuff for Storage

Self-storage is a great solution for securely storing your personal items. Whether your storage needs are short-term or long-term, offloading your possessions frees you up for the tasks of relocating, moving home or business, downsizing your home, or whatever else may be on the table. However, the process of packing and preparing your belongings for storage can also bring on more stress than you may have bargained for. 
Like many things in life, adequate preparation will ensure that the process of packing your stuff for storage is minimally stressful and time-consuming. Importantly, proper packing means your items will be just the way you left them when you’re ready to remove them from storage again. Let’s take a look at some of the expert packing tips we’ve gleaned over the years.

How Long You'll Need to Prepare for Storage

While a self-storage facility provides your items ample protection from the elements and any would-be snoops or thieves, storage is not as simple as merely piling up your personal items in your unit and locking it up. To ensure that you not only maximize your storage space but also fully protect your items, you’ll need to adequately prepare. 
As a general rule of thumb, give yourself at least two full weeks to prepare packing materials and pack up your storage items. Keep in mind that you’ll also need time to clean any items you’ll be storing. That means laundering clothing, sheets, blankets, towels, and other linens, shaking out rugs, dusting off books, collectibles, art and decor, and thoroughly cleansing dishes, cookware, appliances, and other high-use items. You may also wish to vacuum seal your clothing and linens to prepare them for greater space-saving in storage. 
You may need a lot more time or a bit less time to prepare for storage, depending on how much you own and how many helping hands are involved. Either way, don’t wait until the last minute—that’s how mistakes happen and items get damaged.  

What to Use as Storage Containers

Now is the time to embrace your inner packrat: if you held onto any of the original packaging for your household items, take stock of them now. If the packaging is in excellent condition, you may use it to store the original item. A bonus is that the box will already be clearly labeled with names or pictures of the item inside. Suitcases are another great option for ready made storage!

Cardboard Boxes

For the bulk of your belongings, begin sourcing sturdy cardboard boxes several days or even weeks before you’re ready to begin packing. While scoring free boxes from liquor stores and other retail venues is a tempting option, you’ll need to ensure that any secondhand boxes you find are dry, clean, and undamaged. We recommend purchasing bulk cardboard flats that you can easily assemble and fill.

Online vendors can speedily ship cardboard flats and even moving kits, while your local home improvement stores will also carry a variety of cardboard moving and storage boxes. Special cardboard wardrobe boxes are a great option for storing clothing, keeping it vertically hanging for ventilation and anti-wrinkle benefits. Cardboard is also easy to label and markup—you’ll want to label your boxes as much as possible. 

Totes and Bins

For the most secure storage that protects your items from shifting, dust, mildew, and moisture, we highly recommend using plastic totes and bins as much as possible. While totes are usually more expensive than cardboard boxes, they will afford your belongings much more stability and safety - particularly for more long term storage needs. 

  • Clear totes stack perfectly and are especially useful for quickly eyeballing the items contained inside without disturbing them. 
  • Totes and bins are also ideal if you anticipate the need to relocate or use storage again at any time in the future. 
  • Use sticker labels to help organize your totes and bins if you’d rather not permanently mark them with markers. 

The Packing Materials You'll Need

Let’s begin with packing tape. If you’ve ever looked at all the options out there for tape, then you may share in our overwhelm at just how many tape options there are out there. Let’s keep it simple: don’t use tape that is not meant for packing boxes! That means don’t use shipping tape, electrical tape, gaffer’s tape, duct tape, or scotch tape. 
Packing tape is usually labeled for packing—denoting its difference from shipping tape, for example, which is much thinner and not made to last long term. Packing tape is sometimes clear, sometimes brown to match the boxes. Importantly, it is moisture proof, thick, and should have a high tensile strength marked on its packaging. Aim for around 20 pounds in terms of tensile strength, and a thickness range of 1.9-3.1, and your tape should hold up perfectly well. 
As for cushioning your stuff for storage, gather a variety of different packing materials to suit the individual needs of different types of items. Here’s a rundown.
  • Newspapers are a great way to recycle and can be used to wrap dishes, cookware, or silverware.  However, the downside is that the inks can transfer and you’ll likely want to wash anything that’s been wrapped in newspapers. A cleaner alternative to newspapers is packing paper - it can be purchased in bulk and contains no inks for transferring. 
  • Use packing paper, tissue paper, or newspapers to fill in all the gaps between items in the same box, as well as to cushion the bottoms, sides, and tops of boxes. This prevents shifting, which is a leading cause of damage to packed items. Be sure to place heavier items at the bottom, and lighter items near the top of each box. 
  • Bubble wrap—particularly the nonstatic variety—is a good option for wrapping up your electronics for safekeeping. It can take up a lot of space in a box, so pack accordingly. Remember to wrap with the bubbles facing in towards the item. 
  • Biodegradable packing peanuts are another good solution for filling in space and cushioning especially fragile items. Keep in mind that the cleanup of all those peanuts can be a bit of a pain, but it may be worth it to protect Grandma’s treasured China collection!
  • Get creative with soft items you may already own—think towels, bandanas, scarfs—and use them to wrap your more delicate baubles before packing them up.
  • Packing blankets, dust sheets, furniture covers, and straps are all excellent investments for larger items that don’t fit in boxes or totes. Mirrors, furniture, large appliances, and workout equipment should all be sturdily wrapped for ease of relocating and safe storage.

Strategically Storing

Once you’ve made it through the long and grueling task of carefully preparing and packing up all your belongings, it's time to transfer them to your storage unit! This is where things can begin to resemble a giant game of Tetris. Be sure to dismantle any large items that are made to be disassembled for moving. This includes wardrobes and dresser drawers, bed frames, some tables, and chairs, as well as certain exercise or workshop equipment. Much like with each individual box, always pack the largest, heaviest items on the bottom with the lighter items near the top of the unit. This means carefully planning how you load and unload your moving vehicle while also allowing extra space for maneuvering. 
While packing up for storage may take a lot of forethought, planning, and good old fashioned grunt work, the results will be worth it for your peace of mind. If you need any help strategizing how much storage space you’ll need for all your personal belongings, don’t hesitate to get in touch!