How to Organize Your Self-Storage Unit to Retrieve Storage Items with Ease

Renting a self-storage unit can be a huge help in decluttering your home or providing you with additional space during a move. There are countless uses for self-storage units (take a look at our article here for the most common self-storage uses), but all of them revolve around organization and space saving. But then how do you keep your self-storage unit organized?

It is always easy to say “keep an inventory” and “load the self-storage unit tightly,” but how do you do these things – what do these tips really mean?

Here, we try to get into the nitty-gritty details of how to organize a self-storage unit, and how to take a proper, useful inventory of the items in it.

Taking an inventory of your self-storage unit

Knowing exactly what is in your self-storage locker and where it is will save you a lot of time, energy, and pain in the future when you go to retrieve an item you need. A detailed inventory is the best way to do this.

We strongly suggest creating an inventory on a spreadsheet program, such as Excel, as this is much easier to add, delete, edit and navigate through once it is complete and you are returning to the locker to locate something. Pencil and papers can work, but if your partner’s penmanship is sloppy, or you make a number of adjustments that result in scribbles, arrows and the like, things could get confusing months later when you need the information.

The first thing to do is categorize your items. The main categories should be by room designations, such as “Kitchen,” “Living Room,” “Bedroom,” etc. You should then create sub categories, such as “Dishes,” “Décor,” “Furniture,” etc.

Once you have your categories defined, you want to start filling in the items under their proper categories. To have the most detailed and useful inventory, we suggest you include the date of when the item was added into the self-storage unit, as well as its location in storage: this should help remind you of where and why that item ended up where it did.

Creating an inventory even before you rent your self-storage locker is also an excellent way to start determining the size of the unit you may need to house the items you need stored (use our self-storage size calculator here to help determine the size appropriate to your needs).

Preparing the contents of your self-storage unit

Before moving your items into self-storage, you need to organize them so that putting them in and taking them out of storage will be as easy as possible. When packing your items, create clear and concise labels, and use the categorization created for your inventory list to do so.

In other words, boxes should be filled with items from the same space, and labeled accordingly. Writing a short novel on the box, including every item in the box is not clear, nor a fast way of retrieving items. That’s exactly why you have an inventory list!

Instead, marking the box, “Kitchen – Dishes,” for example, is clear. If you need more than one box of dishes, then add a number to the box, and then create a corresponding numbering system in your inventory. “Kitchen – Dishes #1” includes plates and mugs; “Kitchen – Dishes #2” includes cooking utensils and glassware; and so on.

You now have a clear label that corresponds to categories in your inventory list. When it comes time to locate a specific item, you can now pull out your inventory list, find the item easily there, and then head to the storage unit and open the exact box the item you need is in.

(See more about how to pack boxes properly in our article here.)

Organizing the contents of your self-storage unit

Now that we’re clear at one end of the equation, we need to make sure that when you arrive at the self-storage facility to collect the required item, you can dig it out quickly and painlessly. This means planning ahead.

When you load your self-storage unit with its contents, load them with an eye to how you will need to get them back out. The items you know are going to live in there for the longest duration, those need to go into the locker first, so that they are at the back and out of the way.

If you are going to require consistent access to your items, then we strongly suggest renting a unit with a little extra space. With extra space, you can create an aisle or aisles down the middle of the unit, so you can get through to more of your items. Utilizing shelving that you already need to store is a good idea: they can help greatly in defining the aisle(s), while allowing you to load boxes and smaller items onto the shelves, saving you floor space.

Like the categories in your inventory, you should try to divide your self-storage unit up with items from the same space sectioned together. If all or most of your living room items, for example, are on the same shelf, in front of the furniture from the living room, then retrieving something for the living room becomes a much easier task locating the item than if everything is spread randomly around the self-storage unit.

As you are loading your self-storage unit, you should make a diagram of where everything is going, or make a note of the location for each category in your inventory list. With these directions, you should be able to locate everything anywhere in your locker.

If you have further questions about how to organize or load your self-storage locker, speak with your Real Storage agent today.