Need a little extra space? Before boxing your miscellany, consider these seven suggestions from a former self storage facility manager.
You might think you need a large unit to store a bedroom worth of furniture. But, you can probably store everything in a unit 25% of the size of the room (give or take). Not sure it will fit? One trick is to rent two smaller units near each other, and cancel the second one if everything ends up fitting in the first. Put beds and couches on their sides. Stack boxes and small furniture on top of dressers and desks. Stack to the ceiling. You’re paying for the whole unit, so use it.
Get Rid Of Your Crap
If you don’t need it: sell it, donate it, or toss it. Many people spend a ton of money storing cheap stuff that’s easily replaceable. Remember, a $200/mo. storage unit costs $2,400 per year. Don’t waste that money hanging onto an entertainment center you found at a garage sale for $40.
Everyone thinks they’ll have their new storage unit for a month or two. A year or two is more like it. Figure the cost of the unit over a couple of years, and ask yourself: “Is it worth paying hundreds or thousands to store this stuff?” Only about a third of customers (if that many) empty their unit within the first few months. Self-storage facilities know this, and they bank on it. So don’t be fooled by “first month $1″ deals or introductory rates. Make sure you get the lowest long-term rate.
Pack all the small stuff in clearly labeled boxes. Make sure you can get to them without having to move a dresser and a large freezer. After a few visits and some hasty re-arranging, an unorganized storage unit can become a total mess.
If you’re storing something expensive (and thus worth stealing), put it in the back of the unit inside a mislabeled box. When you sign your storage lease, the rep will try to up-sell you on insurance and a secure padlock. Buy them both. In the event of fire, theft, etc., the storage facility will not replace your belongings. The insurance is cheap. Don’t decline it unless you’ve spoken with your homeowners insurance agent and confirmed existing coverage. You might think your stuff isn’t valuable enough for insurance. If so, why are you paying to store it? As for the lock, buy the most secure-looking one they sell. You could pick one up at the hardware store, but you won’t save much and – let’s face it – you won’t get around to it.
As always, the rep is more likely to help you if you’re nice to them. Perks may include lower rates, discounted packing supplies, free use of the dumpster, and waived late fees. If you find them helpful, tell them. And fill out a comment card. Those are like gold to any low-level employee.
Shop around. Even if you’ve decided to use the facility down the street, get their competitors’ prices. Be ready to haggle. Every dollar per month you save adds up over a year. The cheaper facilities might be scummy, and worth avoiding. But you can use the comps as leverage. The rep often has a minimum monthly price for each unit size, so start by negotiating that. When you’re satisfied it won’t get any lower, move on to the introductory offers. Common deals include one or two months free, several months at half price, or a reduced rate for the first 6-12 months. Always tell them you’re planning on a long stay (but make sure it’s a month-to-month lease). Let the rep get creative in order to earn your business. You may need a calculator. When that’s done, go for the free padlock and flat discount on boxes and/or supplies (5-10% is realistic). Ask them to waive the admin (sign up) fee. You might even try for a discounted truck rental. Don’t agree to the unit until you’ve gotten everything you can.
Are you an insider with helpful information? Join Whistleblowers Anonymous by writing to us at tips [at] consumerist [dot] com. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER