Savvy Packing for Self Storage

By Anna Roberts

Published 1 year ago

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When you've made the decision that you need self storage, unless you plan to store boats, bikes, or caravans, one of the most important things to consider will be the packing.  

When I first started using self storage, I was going through a divorce and needed somewhere to store my belongings quickly. I didn't pay much attention to how I stored my things, just as long as I got them stored somewhere fairly close by, and safe. It didn't take long for me to realise that had I given some thought to how I packed, and knew how to stack and pack the items into my container efficiently, I could have saved myself lots of hassle, effort and time!

Recently, I migrated my belongings from my original 10-foot steel container to a 20-foot steel container. And using the lessons I had learned the hard way, I packed my new container much more efficiently. This time I created an access alleyway. I also chose stronger packing materials, making sure they would stand up to being stacked and easy to carry. I labelled the boxes and bags much more efficiently, and took the time to create an inventory.  

I am storing a lot of belongings in my new 20 foot container. As I will not need my furniture until I move from my rented cottage into a permanent home, this has been moved in first. I have been very strategic this time, with how much space this took up, and in what order everything should go into my storage space..

Always bear in mind that it's air space you are renting!

You will notice that I mention air space quite often. This is something I never considered when I began renting. It isn't just floor space you rent, it's every square foot of air space. Once I got used to thinking like that, I packed everything in a much more practical and economical way.


My first big decision was deciding what I wanted to store, and then considering the most efficient packing material for getting the job done. I originally used boxes, bags, and laundry baskets for storing absolutely all sorts of things, without considering how easy they would be to carry or stack.  

Making a list of what you are storing will help you decide what needs to be stored in boxes and what may be easier stored in large laundry bags, or suitcases. With a list at hand, you can easily work out how many items will need boxes for. It is the same for bags and baskets, which will help you work out roughly how many packing materials to buy and get hold of.

If you are reusing cardboard boxes, make sure they are strong and sound. You may need to strengthen used boxes with packing tape. Boxes with integral carry holes are perfect for use in self storage, as they make carrying the heavy boxes so much easier. and don't forget, that just because a box has space left to fill, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to fill it. Check the weight of the box you are packing as you go along, to avoid making it too heavy to comfortably carry. Your back will thank you in the end!

The strong cardboard removal boxes that can be bought easily online may be a little pricey at first glance but they are made for the job of packing, carrying and stacking. I found that shopping around a bit helped me find the best deal. Most removal companies also supply their own boxes if you need them. The best thing about these removal boxes, besides being made of dense, strong cardboard, are the carrying handles. When I was packing for my 20 foot container, I was much more organised and purchased medium-sized, sturdy removal boxes with carry handle holes, as I had lots of heavy items, such as books, pans, and crockery.

If you are using large laundry bags for bulky soft items, such as duvets, curtains, cushions, soft toys, etc, you can often buy multiples of them, with a cost per item less than single purchase price. 

The tall laundry basket comes in handy in self storage when used for storing tall, awkward items such as gardening tools, and cleaning equipment. I especially like them kept by the entrance of my container, as a grab basket for items that will be needed on a more regular basis. A large, sturdy cardboard box is good for this too!

woman packing boxes


You will need to label as you pack and before you stack, to stop things being hidden away in boxes and bags. The exception are stored items such as furniture, bicycles, guitars, etc, that are easily recognisable. I didn't do this the first time around, as I was sure I would remember what had been packed in the boxes and bags. That was my first mistake! At the time, I had dozens of cardboard boxes and around ten large laundry bags, full to bursting. When it came time to get my winter duvet out of storage, along with all my winter coats and boots, I had absolutely no idea which box or bag contained what.

When packing again for my 20 foot container, I was much more organised; I purchased sturdy removal boxes in a medium size, as I had lots of heavy items, such as books, pans, and crockery, complete with carry holes. I didn't want to overload the boxes as they would be too heavy to carry. Large boxes only half filled with books, would have been a waste of space and money.

I purchased regular strong packing tape and packing tape with the word FRAGILE printed on it. This helped to remind me to be more careful with some boxes than others. Again, learning from a previous mistake, I labelled each and every box on the top and on the side. Once stacked, if you have only labelled the top of the box (as I did the first time around) you will have to unload your storage container just to read the label of the box you are looking for. Labelling more than one side is a good tip, just remember to keep the labelled side facing your access alleyway, so you can actually see it!

Make what you store work for you

If you are storing furniture that has drawers and shelves, or a wardrobe, then make use of the space within and on them. Fill the drawers of cupboards, hang clothes in wardrobes or use them to stack shoes and bags of bedding. Use the shelves of dressers and bookshelves to store smaller boxes and other odds and ends that never found their way into a box or bag.

Making an inventory

By this, I don't mean making a note of every single item that is packed away in a certain bag or box, unless of course you want to, and have lots of time. Just a general list of what is contained within is enough to identify the contents. For example: books, toys, bedding, glassware, crockery, cleaning products, winter woollies. You get the idea.

Use a bold-coloured, thick-tipped felt pen for boxes. It will save on purchasing labels, and usually removal boxes already have an area ready for labelling. And write BIG! If you can read the label on the box from several feet away, then it will save you having to move boxes out of the way, just to be able to read what is on the box. For the large laundry bags, I make my own tags out of cut up cardboard boxes, and tie them to the handles or zips with some yarn or string. Just make sure that if stacking the laundry bags one on top of another, then the zip opener is on the side facing the access alleyway, and the label is hanging down clearly. Again, use a bold, thick felt tip to write on the label.

Well, I think I have all my tips in the bag, so I had better wrap up this post, before I get boxed in! 



Happy storage!

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