If you place items in self-storage without a complete inventory, you may not be able to find things when you need them or file an accurate insurance claim if your unit is damaged or burglarized.
A self-storage inventory “is absolutely essential,” said Deborah Moyer, owner of Your Organizing Answer, a California company that helps people organize their homes and storage units.
“The benefit will be down the road when you are looking for specific items,” she said. “It cuts back the anxiety. It cuts down on the amount of time you spend going through all of the boxes.”
Moyer said she often has seen people without inventories replace items they already own simply because they couldn’t find them in storage. They decided that making a new purchase made more sense than spending more time sorting through unlabeled boxes
“They have a tendency to go out and buy a replacement,” she said. “They say, ‘I can’t find it and I need it right now.’”
Mark Skeans, former president of the Texas Storage Association, agrees that having an inventory is important. Unfortunately, self-storage tenants typically don’t take the time to create them. Why? They often are in too big of a hurry.
Don’t drop and drive
“People just want to unload their stuff and do what I call ‘drop and drive.’ They want to get in and get out as soon as possible,” Skeans said.
In addition to helping you keep track of things you’ve accumulated in storage, a complete inventory will help you settle an insurance claim more quickly if your property is damaged or stolen.
Be sure to check with your insurance agent to make sure your renter’s or homeowner’s policy includes protection for items in storage. If you store expensive things that exceed your policy limit, you may need to take out a separate policy called a “rider” to expand your protection.
If you are a collector, riders can be purchased to cover an entire category of possessions, such as artwork, jewelry, camera equipment, musical instruments and collectibles.
Creating your inventory
You’ve got a variety of ways to create a self-storage inventory. Some people find it convenient to record items as they unload them into a storage unit. Some people record items by grouping them into categories like furniture, sporting goods, toys and jewelry. Moyer creates highly detailed records for her clients, labeling each box by number and keeping a list of the contents in each box.
“Anytime someone goes into a storage unit they can say ‘OK, Box 39 has X, Y, and Z in it,” she said. “You’re able to get what you want without going through 30 other boxes.”
You may prefer to create a visual inventory. If you take photos or videos, be sure to open important boxes so you can get pictures or videos that show everything of value.
Smartphone apps are another inventory tool. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers iPhone and Android apps that let you photograph or capture descriptions of your possessions and store those descriptions electronically.
It’s important to organize the things you place in storage to make access easy when you need to retrieve something. If you use shelving, consider creating a walkway in the center of the unit that allows you to easily reach any item.
Save receipts for stored valuables
If you save receipts for valuables as part of your self-storage inventory, you can reduce the chance of disputes over what items were worth when if you file an insurance claim.
Keep a copy of your storage inventory in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box, or make an electronic copy and store it online. You may want to share copies with friends, relatives and your insurance agent.
Robert Chiti, who sits on the boards of the Self Storage Association and the California Self Storage Association, said it’s important to update your inventory each time you put something new in your unit. By keeping your inventory up to date, you won’t overlook the important things you have put away.
“A lot of people forget that they have stuff,” Chiti said.