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Safely Store Your Personal Belongings or Business Equipment

Published by Chris Townsend

The key factors

There are three key factors you need to weigh when opting for storage:

  • How long will these items be in storage? If you need to store your things for less than eight weeks, you can be much more casual about preparation than if you plan to store for years.
  • What is the total value of the things you have to store? It’s important to consider not just what your things cost, but also what it would cost to replace them if they become damaged. You must also consider emotional attachments. Perhaps Grandma’s watch isn’t a genuine antique, but, if it has been in your family for three generations, it might still be extremely valuable to you.
  • What is your budget for storage? Ideally, we would all store our things in carefully monitored, indoor, climate-controlled facilities. But those facilities are costlier than self-storage units. And the longer you need storage, the more significant the cost difference will be.

Unfortunately, there’s no math formula for deciding how you will store your things or how much you should spend to do so. Every case is different, and customers must decide. A good moving and storage company can, however, offer you a great deal of guidance on this matter.

Indoor vs. outdoor storage facilities

Outdoor self-storage facilities are extremely popular because they are cheap, easy to use, and customers typically have access to their stored items day and night, seven days a week.

Before opting for outdoor, self-storage, however, consider the following:

Temperature and humidity

Very high or very low temperatures can damage your belongings. To take the most obvious examples, wine turns to vinegar if directly exposed to a killing heat wave. Freezes can damage or destroy many electronic devices like laptops and ipads.

Indoor climate-controlled storage facilities keep your stored items within a range of temperatures, generally 55 to 80 degrees. With most outdoor self-service storage facilities, your belongings are at the mercy of extreme temperatures.

However, most experts agree that the real killer is humidity. Exposing your personal items to moisture causes mold, which can then spread to everything else that’s in the storage unit.

Humidity can also cause rust, and it can clog items with delicate parts, like phones, watches, and clocks. If you have opted for temperature-controlled storage, make sure that the humidity will be managed as well.

Things that definitely need climate control

In general, the more valuable an object, the more likely you need to keep it in a climate-controlled spot. For example, that still-life your neighbor gave you for your birthday might be, technically, original art. But is it worth paying extra to protect that painting? Probably not.

Here’s a list of things that are better kept in climate-controlled storage:

  • Designer or antique furniture made of wood
  • Paintings by famous artists
  • Sculptures by famous artists
  • Wine
  • Rare books
  • Documents that would be difficult to replace at the courthouse
  • Rare or one-of-a kind musical recordings, especially vinyl
  • High-ticket items made of leather
  • High-value musical instruments like violins and pianos
  • High-performing office equipment like high-volume printers and high-speed computers.


You will also need to consider the safety of your belongings. Clearly, indoor storage facilities provide a better buffer against theft. If they provide a security guard, so much the better.

Both indoor and outdoor storage facilities will make some efforts to keep your belongings safe. Consider where cameras are placed and the type of locks on the unit. Ask questions about security. You may also want to research your local online news archives to learn whether there have been break-ins at the facility.


The cost of a storage unit can vary greatly, depending on what part of the world you live in. For instance, storage in New York city or Los Angeles will cost you a great deal more than a storage unit in rural Arkansas.

Indoor storage, which should include both temperature and humidity control, costs more. How much more is a matter of local resources. A climate-controlled unit might cost only $30 more a month. Or it might cost fifty percent more than an uncontrolled unit.

How to reduce costs

If you live in a major city, research storage units that are a two or three hour drive outside the city center. It might be worth renting a truck and taking your things further out of town.

Rent the smallest unit possible. You can stack your belongings, using the largest things as a platform for the smaller things. In general, you can fit the furnishings of a three-bedroom apartment into a space that is ten feet by ten feet on the ground. Such a space is an affordable $95 a month on national average.

Donate things you don’t really need. If you haven’t worn that dress for a year, it might be time to donate it to charity. Similarly, if you replaced your 2007 Apple computer for a new one two years ago, it might be a good time to give away the old one.

Use a bank vault for a few small valuables. Perhaps you have only a few things that need extra security and climate control. Items like jewelry, documents, and small electronics can be stored in a bank vault. This might be a service your bank offers at no extra charge, depending on the type of account you have. Using a bank vault for a few high-ticket items allows you to go cheap on storage for the rest of your stuff.

Preparing items for storage

Whether you opt for an indoor or outdoor facility, there is a right way and a wrong way to prepare your things for storage.

Plastic, plastic, plastic. One good way to mitigate moisture damage is to line the entire floor of your storage unit with a plastic sheet. This will also make it easier to glide items across the floor.

Fragile items should be bubble wrapped to prevent breakage. Foam pellets are also useful in packing a number of fragile items in one box.

Use big plastic tubs to store items that are more susceptible to decay. For instance, books, fabrics, papers, wall art, and stuffed toys will do better with the added vapor barrier of a plastic tub. You can also swath cherished chairs and wood items in clean giant trash bags.

Place items upright. Some items will survive storage a lot better in an upright position. Books and wine are the most obvious of these. Most appliances need to be stored right side up. Your most valuable wood furniture is best stored in an upright position, also. Don’t put your refrigerator on its side.

Use original boxes when possible. If you kept the box your computer came in, this is a good time to take it out of the closet and put your computer back in it. Putting stuff back in factory boxes ensures that it remains in an upright position while being moved in and out of the unit.

Stack with care. Stacking allows you to save money with a smaller storage unit. But don’t overburden any piece of furniture with two many boxes or other items. Take special care with long tables and bed frames. If in doubt whether a valued piece of furniture can handle the weight, take some weight off it.

Label your boxes. You will not remember where you put the china. Labeling boxes not only protects your most fragile items, it will help you put things back in the right rooms when you unload your storage unit.

Beef up security. If you have weighed cost against security and chosen a cheaper facility, you can always add some do-it-yourself upgrades. You can install a wireless security system in your storage unit as easily as in your house or apartment.

Depending on the design of your unit, you can add extra locks or upgrade the locks. And you can put chains and combination locks and padlocks on chests and boxes.

Enjoy your liberation

The most important thing about choosing the right facility and preparing your things for storage is that you can now forget about them.

Give us a call to see how we can help today!

Chris Townsend is a moving professional and relocation expert that has more than 10 years of experience in the moving industry. With a background that includes working in virtually every aspect of the company, he has distinguished himself as an integral part of our operations with expertise in all things related to moving. Chris has a keen eye for detail and brings intelligence and passion to every project he’s involved with.

While getting his degree in communications from Santa Clara University, Chris started out with the company working in the field as part of our team of professional moving associates. Following graduation, he was promoted to our main office, where he has thrived in a role that involves increasing responsibility and requires him to wear many different hats. Some days, you may find him answering the phone and providing moving estimates, others he may be writing for our moving blog, and another day he may be coordinating a large corporate moving job or helping us with our marketing efforts. Chris has authored many of our in-depth moving guides, as well as provided our clients with information and advice to handle the complexities of their upcoming moving plans. Simply put, there’s nothing he can’t do and we wouldn’t be where we are today without him.

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