The last time you tried to retrieve something from a self storage unit, some special friends had to wrestle you into that cool designer jacket with the very long sleeves and take you to that lovely “resort.” Apparently you spent a lot of time knitting with spoons and hanging by your knees from the rafters singing “Let’s Go Crazy.” If you have to deal with one more chaotic and over-stuffed storage unit, they’re going to name the new wing at Riverside after you.
So take a few deep breaths, listen to some calming music, and use these tips to become a storage stacking Feng Shui master.
1. Visualize Storage Nirvana
Before packing even one box, you’ve got to have a plan. Spontaneity is all well and good when it comes to trying a new drink at Starbucks, but the last time you rented a self storage unit, cramming everything in there all willy-nilly before jumping on a plane to Cuba didn’t work out so well, did it?
Grab a notebook and write down everything you’re shoving into storage as though it’s an illicit lover and the hubby just got home. Color code your inventory by room and then label the boxes with corresponding colors. Plan how things will be stacked—e.g. heavy items on the bottom, less-used things at the back, etc.—so you can retrieve things easily if you suddenly need to go on the lam.
2. Rise Above the Ewww Factor
The last time you returned from a stint at the “resort” your mattress was covered with mold like you were going after the Nobel Prize for molecular biology. Be a fool once, shame on you; be a fool twice, shame on you again. Many self storage facilities are just glorified garages, so put pallets on the floor before stacking your cardboard boxes full of memories. This lets air circulate underneath, preventing the boxes from getting damp. Also consider covering your mattress and other furniture with heavy weight storage bags to protect them from dust, dampness, and critters. Come to think of it, you might as well just donate that mattress to the lab.
3. Clear a Path
Remember how you broke out in a cold sweat and your right eye started twitching when you couldn’t find the box with your passport? How much easier would it have been to flee the state if you’d had the foresight to clear a path in your storage unit? This time, create an aisle that goes right down the middle of the room so that you can be in and out before you can say “escaped fugitive.”
4. Up, Up and Away
Think outside the storage unit box and go vertical. The sky—or rather, the ceiling—is the limit. Line the walls with heavy-duty shelving units to make use of all that empty space up there and ensure that your boxes are visible and accessible. Home Depot and Lowes both have lots of options.
5. Meditate on Uniformity
We condone non-conformity in all other areas of your life, but when it comes to storage boxes, you want them to be boring. Use uniformly-sized moving boxes of no more than two sizes for optimal stacking and stability. Use smaller boxes for heavier items like every volume of The Ultimate Bugopedia: The Most Complete Bug Reference Ever, and put lighter items in bigger boxes. If you plan to keep your belongings in storage for a long time, eschew cardboard boxes for heavy-duty storage bins instead. Just because stability is a four-letter word in your personal life, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it in your storage unit.
6. Embrace Labels
We’re starting to get the picture—you shun labels. But trust us, they come in handy on your boxes. While you are packing, affix color-coded labels to the boxes and write down what’s in those boxes on the labels before you tape each one shut. For example, use red labels for your Communist swag, green labels for all the expensive clothes you stole from your sister with her perfect little life, purple labels for your Prince fan club paraphernalia, etc.
7. Back to Front, Tall to Short, Heavy to Light
No, this is not a square dance caller prompting the dancers. It’s shorthand for how to stack larger items in your storage unit. Start at the back (we shouldn’t have to say this, but remember, we’re dealing with a country whose average IQ is just a notch above “dullness”) with taller, heavier items. Prop your dry, bagged mattress, sofa, and table up against the walls to make the most out the space.
8. Feng Shui Furniture Stacking
To save even more space with furniture, remove the legs from tables and dismantle bed frames, then duct tape a labeled baggie with all the hardware to the bottom so you can make like Humpty Dumpty and put it all back together again.
9. Fill Dead Space
Even if you’re standing your sofas, tables and box springs against the walls, there’s still dead space between them. Make use of this prime real estate and hide your gold-plated hats and never-used fishing poles in there. Fill that chest of drawers with knick knacks. Pack your rolling suitcases with books. Use those awesome space bags to vacuum-seal blankets, sweaters, and pillows into flat, easily-stackable slabs.
10. The Art of Concealment
After carrying on a love affair for six months, you’ve become quite the expert at concealing things, so you probably already know these tricks. Pinterest has many suggestions for using your deodorant dispensers, soup cans, and maxi-pad wrappers for hiding valuables. The underwear with the skid marks on it is a perfect spot to stash your passport. Just remember not to get grossed out and throw it away or the next time the men in white come after you, there’s no escaping the country.
With these handy tips to save you space, you can put away your belongings without being put away.