Storage Mistake #4: Choosing the Wrong Sized Unit

Storage Mistake #4: Choosing the Wrong Sized Unit

The classic fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, teaches a lesson all too common in the storage »”>self storage industry. You don’t want to rent a self storage unit that is too small, or one that is too large. Instead, you need a unit that is “just right!”

Too Small!

It is our experience that most people new to the world of self storage underestimate the amount of space they need, and wind up renting a unit that is too small for all of their belongings. We find this decision is generally driven by a desire to keep their monthly rate as low as possible. Sure, nobody wants to pay more each month than they absolutely need to, however there are some significant “down-sides” to renting a unit that is too small.

There is little worse for a new renting tenant of self storage than to find your new storage unit “filled to the brim”, and still have a quarter of your moving truck loaded with items meant to be put in storage. And the common response is to “force” as much in the too-small unit as possible. This can cause significant problems in the future.

Attempting to force too much into a storage unit can have serious consequences down the road.

  • Over-stuffing a unit can lead to broken and damaged items over time, especially if you find yourself accessing the unit often, and moving and jostling the items in order to find what you’re looking for.
  • An over-stuffed unit restricts air flow, greatly increasing the chance that trapped moisture will cause mold and mildew.
  • With no space to move around inside the unit, you’ll find yourself angry and frustrated when you have to remove several items from a storage unit just to reach a small item in the back, especially if it is raining and the driveway is the only place to temporarily place your items.

Too Large!

Conversely, there is the risk to overestimate the space you need and rent a storage unit that is too large for your needs. This ends up costing more money every month that could have instead been saved with careful planning.

Just Right!

So how do you decide on a unit size that is “just right”? A little pre-planning ahead of time and asking for guidance from the storage manager will allow you to zero-in on the perfect size.

  1. First, make an accurate list of what you will be storing. List large and small furniture, appliances, bedding sets with mattresses, and entertainment centers. For the boxes, estimate the number and sizes of boxes you’ll be storing and calculate their total volume, adding about 20 percent as a “cushion.”
  2. Second, with this information, consult with your storage manager. They work with these issues day-in and day-out. They will generally be able to provide an accurate suggestion for the proper unit size.
  3. Third, plan ahead, allowing for a little extra space to provide adequate and organized walk-ways inside the storage unit. Making small ‘hallways’ in and around your items and boxes will both help with proper air-flow (reducing the risk that moisture will get trapped), and it will lessen your frustration level every time you need to access your unit.
  4. Finally, maximize your use of space by careful packing and stacking of the unit contents. Once again, the storage manager can provide tips and tricks for stacking, packing and “inter-packing” of items inside of other items. And this Guide offers “15 Little-Known Packing Tricks” elsewhere on this site.


Storage Mistake #3: Choosing a Facility Based on One Single Factor

Storage Mistake #3: Choosing a Facility Based on One Single Factor

Selecting a self storage facility on one single factor alone, such as price or location or if they have paved drives or cameras, for example, is not a solid approach.  Instead, making the decision for the “perfect storage »”>self storage facility for you” requires a decision to be based on a combination of several factors, all at once. Sure, this complicates things a bit, but not too much. It simply takes a bit of planning and research.


Location may very well be the most important consideration when selecting a storage facility.  Consider from where and when you’ll most likely be accessing your storage unit and begin there. You will want to be able to access your unit with as little hassle as possible. Consider this first to save you money and time in the long run.

Of course, “location” actually has several aspects to consider.  You’ll want a convenient location (from your home or work or convenient to the lake where you launch  your boat,) a safe location (in a desirable part of town), a location away from a flood plain to lessen the risk of flood damage, and a location that has easy access in and out, especially if you are coming and going with a large vehicle such as an RV or large moving truck.

Managers Live Onsite:

While usually considered one part of the over-all security system for a facility, the presence of Onsite managers represents a very important selection criterion for choosing a storage facility.  Experience has proven that when a storage facility has live-in managers, much less “bad stuff” happens. And much more “good” stuff happens.  It only makes sense. Onsite managers keep an eye on the property 24/7.

Available Access:

(Note: Be sure to read “Mistake #1” for our opinion on “Free 24-hour Access”.)
Your goal is to be able to gain access to your storage unit when you need it. So the question that begs asking is, “What access do you really need?”

The fact is, available access and site security are tied closely together, but in reverse.  Greater access weakens site security, and greater security restricts access. The trick is to find a blend of access and site security that works best for you.

Most facilities provide some lever of unrestricted access, during a set number of daytime hours.  This full access (hopefully using a computer-controlled electronic gate and a security PIN for each tenant), offers access for between 12 to 15 hours each day, 7 days a week. Hours usually range from 6am to 9pm or 10pm.

For 90% of all tenants, this level of access is usually quite acceptable.

And for the remaining 10% of tenants that require more lenient access hours, such as businesses or vehicle parking tenants, extended access hours are usually available upon request (sometimes for a small fee.)

A final thought…Many facilities will offer free 24-hour access for the first 5 to 7 days after you rent your unit.  This gives you the freedom to come and go as you need, while you’re moving your items in, without any restrictions.  But once you’ve moved in, your access will return back to “normal” access hours. This is a very nice compromise between access and site security.

Variety of Unit Sizes and Storage Types:

“Variety” is the key word here.  You’ll want to find a storage facility that offers a variety of both unit sizes…and unit types.

Unit Sizes:  Storage unit sizes usually start with small 5’x5’ units (25 square feet), and increase from there, in increments of 5 foot lengths and widths.  (i.e. 5’x5’, 5’x10’, 10’x10’, 10’x15’, etc.)   A greater variety of sizes is better for you, the prospective tenant, as you’re able to rent precisely the size you need, without being forced into a room too small or without having to pay for a room larger than you need.

Unit Types:  Unit types fall into the following common categories:
Standard Units, also called Non-Climate Controlled (NCC) units
Hallway NCC units
Tall-Door NCC units
Climate Controlled (CC) units
Climate Controlled units with commercial Dehumidifiers
Outdoor Storage (usually for parking vehicles)

Uncovered Parking (on pavement or grass)
Partially Covered Parking
Covered Parking
Fully Enclosed Parking

Again, variety here is the key. You may find yourself choosing to rent two or more smaller units, but of different types, allowing you to receive the benefits of different types of storage units, to more precisely fit your storage requirements.


Feeling that your belongings are secure should bring you peace of mind.  And while no facility can absolutely guarantee that their facility is 100% secure, smart storage operators will put in place a “system” or grouping of security features, that when all taken together, can dramatically improve the overall safety and security of both you and your belongings.

This “system” is a combination of the features listed below.  And when grouped together, this causes “the whole to be much greater than the sum of its parts.” And even if one or another of these items is missing, as long as “most” of these items are present, you can rest assured that your interests are as well protected as possible.

  • Managers that live onsite (the #1 security feature for any self storage facility)
  • Full Security Parameter (either high Fences or the buildings themselves)
  • Security Lighting
  • Security Gate(s) controlled by electronic PIN Code selected by the tenant.
  • Security Cameras
  • High-quality Tempered Steel locks on the storage unit.
  • Solid, steel roll-up doors

Climate Control Units:

While climate controlled units represent only one “type” of the many storage unit types available, this one type does represent the most “protective” of them all.

Extremes in temperature can be very destructive to nearly everything “important” that we own and store.  From antiques and photographs to electronics and musical instruments, temperature extremes can be very damaging. And it is not just the “hot” or the “cold” by themselves.  It is the fluctuation from hot to cold, and back again, often times in the same day, which can be the most destructive.

Of course heat causes expansion and cold causes contraction. And when a cool or cold spring night leads to a warm or even hot spring day, this constant expansion and contraction of your most fragile (and valuable items) can be the most damaging.

And humidity is also a factor.  While CC units only claim to moderate the temperature, it seems logical that when air conditioners are cooling the air, that at least some of the humidity is being removed from the air, as well.

It would be wise to carefully consider if the added cost of renting a CC unit for what you will be storing, will be worth the risk of damage.

And a final note about climate controlled units.  As you would expect, climate controlled units will not have “drive up” access.  It’s just not possible.  These units will be located inside a large building, and your unit opening will be down a hallway.  So be sure your facility offers free Carts and Dollies to assist you when moving items in and out.


As there are so many important factors to consider when renting storage, we do suggest that it would be a miss-step to select or to reject a storage facility based on one single factor alone. Instead, make your decision for the storage facility that meets your requirements based on a combination of these several factors, all at once.


Storage Mistake #2: Choosing a Storage Company Based on Low Price Alone

Storage Mistake #2: Choosing a Storage Company Based on Low Price Alone

Choosing storage units on low price alone can be a problem in three ways:

  1. Low price can be the bait that attracts your phone call. But once the manager gets you on the phone, he may pressure you into a much more expensive option.
  2. Low price can be for a “solution” that is not right for you. Rarely will you know exactly what you need during the first phone call. So how can the storage manager know? Tossing out a low price is only a trick…a game some unscrupulous storage managers play to get your attention and then your business.
  3. Low price may also mean that the storage facility is “compensating” for other less desirable factors. They may be in an undesirable part of town or may not have a full breath of security features.

We all know the truth about price. You usually do get what you pay for .


Storage Mistake #1: Choosing Free 24-Hour Access

Storage Mistake #1: Choosing Free 24-Hour Access

The 8 Biggest Storage Mistakes people make so you can avoid them! From free 24-hour access to choosing a storage facility on low price alone, learn to avoid these 8 mistakes that could wreak havoc on your storage experience.

The fact is, you should never, ever, ever store at a facility that offers “free 24-Hour Access” to all of its tenants. This places you and your possessions squarely in the center of a very risky security situation.

Think about it for a minute. Do you really want to be storing at a facility where every single tenant has unfettered access to the property, even at 3:00 in the morning? If any bad things were to happen, they would happen in the middle of the night…right?

This is precisely the time that you want more security, not less! If the Storage Manager tries to “sell you” on the benefits of unlimited 24-hour access, run away and run away fast!

Sure some tenants need 24-hour access. If you fish every weekend and you and your boat need to be on the lake before the sun comes up…or if your business drivers need to swap out their cars for your delivery trucks so they can be on their route by 5:30 a.m., then you need 24-hour access. You’ll probably even be willing to spend a few extra dollars for this service.

But “Free 24-hour Access” to every single tenant on the property is just, well, dangerous. And since storage facilities are not responsible for theft on the property, this one tip could save you a lot of money in the long run.