Elevate Your Self Storage Game: Airspace

By Anna Roberts

Published 10 months ago

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In this interview for the Fundamentals Series, I am talking to Lizzie Hudson who works at Explorage.com. If the idea of sorting through your self storage unit fills you with dread, then this insightful conversation with Lizzie, our resident self storage user at Explorage.com, shall provide some much-needed relief.

In our interview, Lizzie shares her unique insights and experiences, offering invaluable advice on how to optimise your self storage from the very start. We are used to thinking about self storage in terms of square feet rather than the air space it takes up. 

'You are renting airspace, make the most of every square foot!'. These words of experience capture the essence of her functional approach to self-storage - it's all about maximising the vertical space in your self storage unit, commonly known as air space. 

We kicked off our interview by posing a crucial question to Lizzie. What was her personal choice for storage? 'Steel shipping containers have been my go-to for self storage. They're a lifesaver, and I can't imagine being without one," she revealed. For many, the quest for self storage springs from life-altering events like death, divorce, or relocation. Lizzie, too, found herself on this path following a pivotal turn in her own life. 'It happened just over a year ago when I was going through a divorce. I needed somewhere to put all my belongings. I was living out of boxes in my new little rented cottage, and after a couple of months, I thought I can't do this anymore. I need space.' Lizzie had to search online for storage in her local area: "At the time there wasn't a platform like Explorage.com where I could simply search and get back all the answers I needed.'

Lizzie had to make important considerations throughout her self storage journey and not all things went to plan, plus there was the fact that logistically she had to take a realistic view when considering self storage, 'I live on an island and it's quite rural so there isn't a lot of choice. I imagine it would be the same for people living in a city. In a city, there is higher demand, but you need to shop around to find an operator that has a vacant container, room or unit that you require.'

The process was slow and time-consuming as she had to get a list of operators off the internet and contact them individually, asking essential questions such as cost, the proximity of the unit to the home and whether they offer insurance. 'I was fortunate in that the unit closest to me was the only 10-foot unit available at the cheapest price. I didn't know what size I needed so I started small.'

Self storage is a very personal business and it provided a feeling of relief and sanctuary for Lizzie, ' I have just given up my keys for my 10 foot and I felt quite sad because that little unit had been a little haven for my personal belongings and a place to get rid of a little bit of stress in my life. I don't have to worry about my belongings as they are only sixty seconds away. They are accessible and safe. A tidy house really is a tidy mind. It doesn't have to be spic and span but it does help when you are not climbing over clutter.'

Storage tips for organising self storage 

Pack with the Long Term in Mind 

'When I first moved in I was so stressed that I didn't pack items into my container with thought,' Lizzie explained, 'they went in various boxes and bags. Some boxes were left open, with clothes on the top, just to get them stored away quickly. That's because I wasn't storing long-term. I didn't factor in the long-term consequences and practicalities.' 

Lizzie also didn't leave adequate room to move between her boxes as she didn't believe that she would be storing long-term at the time. Labelling only the top of the boxes created more issues, 'I didn't leave an alleyway and pack correctly. I might have labelled some things but not others. I also labelled the tops but not the sides of the boxes. If I had a corner with 10 or 12 boxes in wouldn't know what was in the boxes as they weren't labelled correctly.' 

Fear not! Packing self storage can often feel like a strategic operation but Lizzie believes that leaving spaces, called alleyways, between your storage, is fundamental to obtaining your belongings, long term, with ease. 

She urges people to plan what they are going to store 'Make a list of everything you need to store, then divide what you will never need, what you might need and what you are regularly going to need. And load your storage space accordingly; with those never needed going in first, to the regularly needed, at the entrance. Then always plan to leave an alleyway if you do want to get to all your stuff because nobody wants to pull everything out. If you leave a little alleyway down the front made it so much easier.'

Arranging the storage unit practically and making the most of airspace can make a real difference to how you access your belongings. 

You pay for it so make sure to use it efficiently! 

When it comes to upgrading your storage and moving into a larger self storage unit Lizzie has more invaluable strategies to share. Taking all the lessons she had learned from her first self storage unit when she moved into her new 20-foot unit, 'My furniture has gone right at the back. I put all of my belongings that I need access to regularly at the front of the self storage unit. My books, garden equipment and ornaments have all gone in as well,' she goes on to share her most savvy storage strategy, 'Right by the inside of the door, I have what I call my grab box. It's full of things that need to be stored but often come in and out of storage. For example a guitar or my grandchildren's toys and wellies. I pull it out when they come around and put it back when I don't need it anymore.' 

Try not to Pack Rubbish it's all about Airspace

Lizzie talks to customers daily and reminds them to remember their belongings as well as the furniture in their homes. One of the biggest challenges for Lizzie was conceptualising the space within a storage container in terms of square feet and air space.'You're renting every little bit of air space within that room. Whether it's a container unit or a self storage unit you are paying for every square foot of air space.' 

Utilise the air space to its maximum capacity by stacking high. Also, don't overpack to the extent that you cannot lift the box, 'Don't put a few extra books in a box, just to fill up it up, because when it comes to moving them again you will find you cannot lift them.'

Packing comes with its own challenges as well as its own health and safety considerations, 'Put the largest and most stable boxes at the bottom. When I was moving I did have storage laundry bags full of soft furnishings fall on me because I had not packed them correctly'

There are certain regulations about what can and cannot be stored in self storage. It is important to keep this in mind when creating your self storage inventory before the packing process begins. Lizzie thinks of her storage unit as her personal 'room from home.' Lizzie's experience with self storage shows the importance of having a strategy in place from the beginning, 'Self storage has to fit into your lifestyle. Life is too short to be taken up with precious time searching for self storage' 

Lizzie's Top Takeaways

  • Make a list of what you want to store in a storage inventory and how often you would like to access it.
  • Figure out logistics and weigh it up against cost- is it a case of driving up and drop-offing or do removal people pick it up for you? How far away is the unit or indoor room based? 
  • Label the sides of boxes as well as the top to make identification of boxes easier. No one wants to take all of their storage out to refill again. 
  • Stack vertically as well as horizontally. 
  • Do not overfill boxes and be mindful of weight and what you can carry. 

Self storage has to fit your lifestyle. Having availability and options at the click of a button is one of the significant advantages of starting (or continuing!) your self storage journey at Explorage.com.

Onwards and Upwards! 

Front door of a green storage container with handle

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