storage units

The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for Long-Term Storage

If I had to take a guess, the mere thought of organizing long-term storage sends shivers down your spine, and not the thrilling kind. It’s not just about shoving stuff into a darkened unit and hoping for the best, but rather a tightrope walk between care and abandonment.

You might be asking, what the heck is long-term storage anyway? Well, think of it like parking your stuff in a cozy spot for an extended vacay; could be months or even years. The point is, you’re giving your belongings a safe haven until you’re ready to reunite with them.

So, despite this topic ranking pretty-darn low on the thrill spectrum, long-term self storage and long-term storage units can be the best option for anyone wrapped up in home renos, making a big move or downsizing. Let’s dive headfirst into the place where prized possessions mingle with dust bunnies. This practical guide will teach you about long-term storage solutions and how to prepare your belongings. 

  1. Declutter and Deep Clean: Start by purging items you no longer need and thoroughly cleaning everything that’s going into storage.
  2. Special Care for Delicate Items: Take extra precautions for items like mattresses, furniture, electronics, and collections by disassembling, wrapping, and considering climate-controlled storage.
  3. Proper Packing Materials: Use sturdy, translucent plastic bins, bubble wrap, packing paper, and furniture covers to protect your belongings.
  4. Labeling and Inventory: Create a detailed inventory of your items, label bins clearly, and keep a physical copy inside the storage unit.
  5. Climate-Controlled Storage: Invest in climate-controlled units for sensitive items like wooden furniture, electronics, artwork, and collections.
  6. Elevation and Organization: Stack items from heaviest to lightest, use shelves or pallets, and keep frequently accessed items at the front.
  7. Regular Check-ups: Schedule routine check-ups to monitor the condition of your stored belongings and address any issues.

Declutter and Deep Clean

Up first, the grand pre-storage cleaning ritual! Decluttering prior to storing allows you to pay for only the space you need, rather than storing stuff you no longer want. After a thorough purge, it’s time to clean … everything! Vacuum, dust, polish, de-grime or launder anything and everything that’s headed in. 

Some ‘special stuff’ considerations:

  • Vacuum mattresses to remove dust and debris, and spot clean any stains with a mild detergent. Allow it to dry completely, then put it in a properly sized protective cover that will prevent moisture damage and potential mold growth. Prevent sagging and drooping by storing flat.
  • Disassemble large furniture items, like beds, tables, and shelving units, and remember to keep assembly hardware nearby in labeled bags or containers. This step will help you save space and prevent damage.
  • Dust and polish any wooden furnishings to maintain luster and protect them from drying and warping.
  • With a soft, dry cloth, dust all electronics and properly label and store any cords, cables and accessories to prevent tangling and future frustration.
  • To protect vinyl records, artwork, instruments and any other prized collections from the harmful effects of extreme heat or cold, learn about climate-controlled storage units.

Once you’ve gotten all your goodies cleaned and properly prepped, you’ll also need to get the unit clean and free from any potential hazards. Pull out that shop vac and get to work on the floors, wipe down surfaces, and check for any signs of pests or moisture. Moisture-absorbing products like silica gel packets or dehumidifiers can help maintain optimal conditions by preventing mold, mildew and excess moisture.

Proper Packing Materials

After cleaning and organizing, packing with a purpose is the next step in prepping for long-term storage. It’s time to play Goldilocks with your containers: not too big or too small, but just right. Plastic bins are preferable to strong cardboard boxes in many cases because they can stand the test of time, offer better protection from pests and moisture, and they’re stackable, too. Choosing translucent plastic bins gives you an added super power, allowing you to see what you’re after with ease. Further protect your items by making sure containers are spotless, bone dry, and free from any lingering odors prior to packing. 

Superior packaging materials are our next requirement. Employ it all: bubble wrap, packing paper, foam padding, and furniture covers. Give your fragile glassware, ceramics, and sensitive tech items extra TLC by wrapping them individually with bubble wrap or packing paper, and layering them in bins with extra padding. If you have a lot of books heading into long-term storage, turn to this book-specific guide to protect their spines, and yours!

Labeling and Inventory

Let’s talk about sealing and labeling our bins and boxes for the long haul. Be careful not to fill your bins right up to the brim so they’ll still create a good seal around the edges of the lid. If you’ve opted for cardboard boxes, grab that packing tape and go to town, adding extra layers of tape to the bottom and seams for extra strength. 

Now, onto the labeling game (and trust me, this part is a lifesaver). Before you put anything into long-term storage, take the time to complete a thorough inventory of all your belongings. The reselling, small business and prepper communities on YouTube showcase some awesome ideas for inventory systems, including some that have item photos corresponding to specific numbered bins. If you’ve got the time, it will be well worth finding one that jives with you. Make sure you have a physical copy of your inventory system in addition to the digital one. Go ahead and secure a physical copy within the storage unit itself for easy access. When you’re hunting for that one treasure, no other map compares.

Climate-Controlled Storage

You have a few options when it comes to self-storage: using space in your or someone else’s house (attic, basement, shed, etc.), renting a traditional unit, or investing in a climate-controlled unit: the VIP section of the self-storage industry. These bad boys shield your belongings from extreme temperatures and humidity, reducing the likelihood of bug infestations and mold growth. As previously mentioned, everything that’s susceptible to the whims of Mother Nature, like wooden furniture, electronics, artwork, and so on, is an ideal candidate for climate control.

Thinking the cost of VIP isn’t justified? Well, I’ll offer up a cautionary tale. In a fit of frugality, I decided to stash my very comfy (and very pricey) couch in my friend’s attic to save a few bucks on storage fees. “It’ll be fine,” I said, “what could possibly go wrong?” Unfortunately, I didn’t factor in that the deal came with a heavy rain + leaky roof combo, and when the time came, I collected a sad and soggy couch. Let’s just say, investing in a proper storage space would’ve saved me much more than the cost of a new couch. Sometimes it does pay to pony up.

Elevation and Organization

To maximize protection and keep everything secure from unforeseen leaks or spills, elevating your belongings using palettes or platforms is a must. Channel your inner Tetris master, stacking items upward from heaviest to lightest. Garage shelves are a good option for strong shelving units. They’ll allow you to make the most of the vertical space, and can be used to create rows for easy accessibility. If you think you’ll be heading into your unit to find specific items at any time, leave yourself ample space to get at it! 

In fact, go one step further by making sure the front of the unit is where you keep the things you’ll use most often. This could be anything from seasonal clothing and holiday decor, to your camping or sports gear. Avoid future hassles by taking a minute to think through how you plan to use your long-term storage to organize it for efficiency.

Regular Check-ups

Just like your annual physical, your stored items need regular check-ups too. Set a reminder on your phone, mark it on your calendar, or use whatever memory job works best for you. During these routine check-ups, give your space a once-over, making sure everything is in good condition. Doing so will keep you one step ahead of any mold, critter, or sticky situations. 

Now that I’ve taken you from the daunting prospect of long-term storage all the way to becoming seasoned stuff strategists, you’ll be scrubbing, packing, labeling, and organizing your way to storage success. Just keep in mind that it’s not a “set it and forget it” situation when you say goodbye to your possessions and put them in their new temporary home. Remember to check in on your long-term storage unit from time to time for the sake of a smooth reunion.

Categories Storage