Here’s everything you need to know about storage rentals

By city standards, the 800 square foot apartment I share with my partner has decent built-in storage. Yet even after reading resources on closet organization and general home decluttering—and watching a few shows on home organization—we came to a frustrating conclusion: We may need to rent a storage unit.

More often than not, professional organizers say you shouldn’t hire one. According to Betsy Fein, owner of Decluttering!!, near Washington, DC “Then they hired us five years later, to try to figure out what was in their storage unit,” she adds. Betsy says an acceptable reason to rent a unit would be if you’re downsizing your home, to give yourself more time or space to catalog everything.

professional organizer by Kate Bosch the husband is an artist and uses an offsite storage unit for his artwork. “His studio just isn’t big enough to store all of this,” Kate explains. “So sometimes there’s a reason to use an offsite storage unit for specific collections.”

My partner and I think we have a pretty good excuse: after all our decluttering, we have to try and find a place to store a mountain of snowboard and kayak gear, along with all of our holiday ornaments. Storing seasonal amenities and decorations when living in an apartment can be another rational reason to rent a unit, agreed some of the experts we spoke with. But bearing in mind that experts advise against having a storage unit in most cases, here’s what they say to think about when renting one.

Climate control and environmental factors

The ground floor unit rented by Kate’s family is elevated four feet off the ground. This boost helps limit the risk of flooding or water damage, rather critical considerations for valuable or unique assets like works of art. Asking for a unit on a higher floor, or a unit with a raised foundation, may make sense depending on the area’s vulnerability to such weather conditions.

Neat Neat Solutions Founder and owner Carolyn Rogers explains that some storage units aren’t temperature-controlled, so the rental price can vary if the unit includes such technology. She adds, “Some things won’t survive storage without air conditioning or storage in an outdoor unit.”

Kate notes that humidity and temperature control may not be offered by a storage company, so be sure to ask what is available. “If you really want to monitor it, you can put a smart thermometer in your unit to send you updates, so you can always see what the condition is,” she suggests. Smart water detectors are also commercially available to monitor flood conditions.

Carolyn also mentions that perishables, chemicals and paints should not be stored in units due to environmental sensitivity. Prolonged exposure to humidity can also damage wooden furniture, documents and photos.

Think about security

Our apartment building has basement storage units for rent, but they use chain link fences to divide the space. Anyone can walk past a unit and see what’s inside, and that’s a security concern, as the visibility of interesting or valuable goods can encourage theft. But even if a unit can’t be easily accessed, it’s a good idea to keep security in mind. Make sure everything is covered or framed, especially if it has obvious financial value.

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