Locked Up

By DiAnne Crown

June 7, 2016 6 min read

Are you moving? Renovating? Do you want less clutter, but you're not ready to part with your stuff? A storage unit may be the perfect solution. Sperry Hutchinson, a U-Haul spokesperson and moving and product expert, explains the importance of location, security and climate control to when using a storage unit.

*Location

As always, it's all about location, location, location. Storage units are available in on-site storage buildings or as portable storage units. With an on-site unit, the location of the building itself, as well as the location of your unit within the building, is important. Driving to the outskirts of town to find a file or grab the golf clubs can become a nuisance. "Having your storage unit close to your dwelling is a major convenience," says Hutchison.

You'll also have to decide whether you want your unit to be indoors or outdoors.

If it's a drive-up facility, you'll drive through a gate and pull directly up to your unit for outside access.

Interior storage units are often divided among a few floors of a building. To get in, you'll drive through a main entrance gate and park your car close to the door nearest your unit. If your unit is above the ground floor, you can use large carts, loading docks and elevators to carry items.

A portable storage unit may be a better option for you. U-Haul and other storage companies offer units that can be delivered to your property, loaded on-site, and either driven to a central storage location or left on your property for as long as you need it.

*Size, Price and Rental Agreement

Storage units are priced according to size. The bigger the unit the higher the price. "Units are usually sized in 5-foot increments," notes Hutchison "Get the size you need with enough room for you to get in and move around a little." You may, however, not need as big a unit as you think. If you get crafty, you can stack items vertically, disassemble furniture, etc. to maximize the use of space.

"Prices, and changes in prices, vary by region and move with the real estate market," Hutchinson continues. "For example, a storage unit that costs 60 cents per cubic foot in New York City may cost 20 cents in Phoenix, Arizona. And the agreement you sign today can reasonably be expected to go up and down over time with commercial mortgage rates. This information will likely not be in your contract." So, before signing a rental agreement, ask how much notice you'll receive before the monthly rate changes.

Generally, rental agreements are offered on a monthly basis. "Thirty days is fairly standard. Some locations may require a 60-day contract, though, so it's very important for college students or homeowners doing short renovation projects to find a location with shorter term contracts," says Hutchison.

As with any legal document, read the fine print carefully before signing. In addition, ask the salespeople at the company if they're running any discount promotions. That may save you some cash.

*Weather

Climate control in storage units helps protect items from damage from heat, humidity, floods and storms. It also protects the quality of your electronics, wooden furniture, precious photo albums and other items. "So, it's very important," Hutchinson points out, "that anyone storing items where the weather can get extremely hot and humid on a daily basis, such as New Orleans, Louisiana or Orlando, Florida, find a climate-controlled storage unit.

*Security and Insurance

Take the proper precautions to set up your unit safely and securely. The most basic measure is to find a top-notch lock. Hutchinson says that "the discus lock combination of padlock and cylinder is extremely resistant to most forms of forced entry, including prying, cutting and impact."

Simply, the more security the better. In addition to getting a first-rate lock, consider finding a unit with monitored video surveillance and alarm systems. This is becoming more common, says Hutchinson, and should be part of your shopping process if you're planning to store high-end valuables.

Be sure to discuss insurance with any prospective storage unit provider. "For most people, homeowner's insurance does not cover items stored off the property. So it becomes important to discuss the type of insurance offered by the provider," adds Hutchison. If neither the home insurance nor the storage provider offers sufficient insurance for your items, consider adding a rider to your homeowner's policy.

*Packing Tips

There are plenty of ways you can make life easier when moving items into your storage unit. Here are some quick tips:

--Don't overpack boxes, or they'll rip or topple over.

--Pack floor to ceiling. Storage units can be as tall as 10 feet, so stand long items on end, remove table legs, etc.

--Store frequently used and seasonal items near the front of your unit for easy access.

--Label every container carefully with a permanent felt-tip pen.

--Load your unit to have a center aisle for walking.

Now, using these tips and tricks, you're on your way to a less cluttered, less stressful and more organized home.

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