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6 Simple Steps to Declutter Your Storage Space

Jon Fesmire | February 12, 2021 @ 9:44 AM

There are a lot of great reasons to rent a self storage unit. You may use it for off-season clothing, sports equipment, yard tools, personal items, or for business reasons.

It’s pretty common, especially right after a move, for people to realize they need more space in their home and that a self storage unit can give them that space. If they’re in a rush, they may simply pack up everything extra, rent a unit, and leave it there.

It can be a relief making all that room at home, so they may not think about what’s in their storage unit for quite some time.

We get it, and some of us have been there, too.

However, you’re going to end up paying that rent every month, and if there’s a lot of stuff you simply don’t need in storage, you’ll pay more than you should.

At that point, there’s one solution: declutter your storage space.

A Worthwhile Time Investment

It will take time to declutter your storage space, but in the end, it will be worth it.

You’ll sort through all your boxes. Get rid of the things you don’t need one way or another, then pack back up the things you are keeping in storage.

Depending on how much you have to go through this could take a full day or several days. If your unit contains belongings from everyone in your household, get them involved if you can.

By the end of your decluttering, you’ll most likely be able to move into a smaller, more affordable unit.

Here are the steps we recommend. You can modify the order somewhat to suit your needs.

Step 1: Inform the Facility

The first thing you should do is let the people who work at the facility know what you’re going to be doing.

This isn’t strictly necessary, but it is polite and will show that you’re a good storage tenant.

That way they won’t wonder why someone has been in or around their unit all day, since typically, people come by, drop things off or pick things up, and go.

As long as they know you’re working on organizing your unit, you should be fine. While you’re there, don’t play loud music, and be friendly with the other tenants.

Step 2: Bring Extra Boxes

When you start, you’ll have full boxes in your unit and nothing to sort stuff into, so bring some boxes for that purpose.

Document boxes, which are a decent size and sturdy, or plastic bins are best.

Step 3: Start Sorting

As you go through each box in your unit, decide what to keep and what to get rid of.

If you plan to keep it in storage, keep it in the box. If you know you can get rid of it, put it in a new, “outgoing” box.

You don’t need to decide what you’re going to do with the things you’re getting rid of yet. Just put them in boxes that you plan to take home.

We know that a lot of the stuff you’re going to get rid of isn’t junk. Much of it may be in great condition, but that doesn’t mean you need to keep it.

There are several decluttering methods.

Right now the KonMari method, popularized by Marie Kondo is popular, but that’s too extreme for some people.

For example, anyone who loves lining their walls with bookcases filled with the books they’ve enjoyed over the years will find it shocking that Kondo suggests keeping only about 30 books at home.

We’ve covered a bunch of alternatives to the KonMari method that you can read about.

Each day you work on this, you’ll probably bring a bunch of stuff home from storage that you’re ready to let go of.

Step 4: Sell, Donate, Recycle, and Trash

Now, it’s time to sort that stuff into four categories: sell, donate, recycle, and trash. Here’s how those work.

  • Sell

This covers items in good condition that you may be able to sell on sites like Craigslist, eBay, or OfferUp. Over time, if something doesn’t sell, you can move it to the next category.

  • Donate

Stuff that is in good condition, but that you don’t think you’d be able to sell, belongs in this category. You’ll donate these items to thrift stores like Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, or other charities. They can then sell them and use the profits to fund their work. When you donate, write down an inventory of what you’re giving to any particular place, along with the estimated value of each item, and have them sign off on it. You can then use the donation amount as a line-item deduction on your taxes.

  • Recycle

This category is for things that you can’t sell or donate, such as broken or really out-of-date electronics, pieces of metal, paperwork that you no longer need, old newspapers, old magazines, and so on. It may also include items you weren’t able to sell or donate. Too much of our old stuff ends up in landfills or worse, in the ocean. By recycling, you can ensure the materials will be used again, and those materials can be quite precious. Look up recycling centers online to find one near you.

  • Trash

If you can’t sell, donate, or recycle it, and you don’t need it, you can always trash it. We suggest bringing this stuff to a local landfill. When you get there, you may be surprised what they can sort out and reuse, such as broken pieces of old furniture, computer casings, and so on.

Set these things aside until you can deal with the sales, donations, and so on, and return to your storage unit as soon as you can. Repeat the process until you have removed everything from storage that you don’t need in there.

Step 5: Label and Inventory

Perhaps you have a sense of what’s coming.

We’re going to suggest you go through your storage one more time.

This will be easier, but still somewhat time-consuming. The advantage though is that you’ll never wonder where you put a certain item in your unit again. When you need that wrench for a particular repair job, you’ll know just where it is.

Go through the boxes and repack them by room.

Stuff for the kitchen will go in certain boxes. Your winter clothes and other bedroom items will go in other boxes, and so on.

As you pack each box, label it by room. You’ll have boxes like “Kitchen 1” and “Living Room 2.” As you pack each box, on a legal pad, write the name of the box at the top, and jot down each item in the box on that sheet.

When you’ve finished, you’ll have a bunch of well-organized boxes in your unit and a full inventory of everything in it.

At home, put on some music and take a few hours to fill out a spreadsheet, in Excel, Google Sheets, or a similar program, with a page for each box. Save it to your favorite cloud storage server. From then on, you’ll be able to search it and find out where any given item is in your unit.

Step 6: Move to a Smaller Unit

At this point you may have about half, or even less, of the things that you did before in your storage unit.

That means if you had a 10x20 unit, you can now move your stuff to a 10x10, and if you had a 5x10, you can rent a 5x5.

Most facilities allow tenants to make the change online and to move into the new unit, and out of the old, without even having to talk to someone at the facility, so see if that’s possible.

If you can’t do it online, your facility will let you know how to transfer into a new unit.

After all that, the task is done!

It may take a little time, but you’ll feel great when it’s finished. You’ll know that what you have in storage is important, and that you’re not paying to store stuff you don’t need.

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