Storage 101: What You Need to Know if You’re New to Self Storage

Jon Fesmire | January 12, 2021 @ 1:04 PM

If you’re new to renting a self storage unit, we’re betting you have some questions.

How to Rent

There are four ways to rent a storage unit.

  • In Person: The oldest and perhaps still the most common way to rent a unit is to go into the office at a self storage facility and rent a unit with the help of someone working there. The advantage here is that you have someone to answer your questions and to lead you through the process. This is also when you would typically get a tour of the facility.

  • Over the Phone: When you call a storage facility to rent a unit, you also get to have a person helping you through the process. You’ll need to go in to sign paperwork, or perhaps sign it digitally over the internet, but otherwise you’ll be able to rent your unit then start your move-in.

  • Online: One amazing thing that we now take for granted is how much we can accomplish online, whether on a computer at home or in the office, or a tablet or smartphone. Most facilities make it easy to rent a unit online now and sign documents digitally. This is especially helpful in the age of COVID-19, because you can rent a unit and move in without having to get close to another person.

  • At a Kiosk: Some facilities now have kiosks set up either inside their office at the front desk, or outside. These allow you to rent a unit on a screen and even get your lock and key dispensed. You’re then set to move your stuff in.


The cost to rent a unit per month varies depending on where you live. Some areas simply cost more than others. One thing you can be sure of everywhere, however, is that the rental price of a unit will cost less, per square foot, than residential or commercial space. This is true even when you rent a unit with climate control.

Paying Your Bill

Just like with signing up for a unit, there are several ways to pay your bill each month. You can go into the office and pay in person, pay over the phone, pay online, or even drive up to a kiosk and pay there.

There’s an additional option to set up autopay, which we highly recommend. In general, your payment will come out on the first of the month, and it will come right out of your checking account. Ask the facility to be certain of the withdrawal date. You won’t have to worry much about the bill, except to keep it in your budget, and you can be sure you won’t have to pay a late fee.


Facilities often offer special discounts. For example, there may be a deal where your first month’s rent is only a dollar as long as you rent for at least two months. Or, after several months, you may get a month’s rent at half price.

Active members of the U.S. Armed Forces often get a 10% discount on rent and possibly on supplies at the facility store. If you’re in the military, we encourage you to ask, and ask what you need to do to show your status.

Climate Control

This is a big topic on its own, but let’s cover the basics of climate control here. Climate-controlled units are designed to protect your stuff from high and low temperatures and humidity. If you live somewhere that has hot, humid summers, cold, dry winters, or both, we highly recommend getting a unit with this feature.

These units are generally kept between 50 and 80 degrees, though sometimes the range is tighter, and between 30% and 50% humidity. These conditions will keep your stuff in good shape over the long term. Units with climate control generally rent for about 30% more than standard units.

Gate Code and Access Hours

You may wonder how to get into the facility once you’ve rented a unit. You’ll get a gate code, which will allow you to open the gate on both sides. If your unit is indoors, you may use the same code to get into the building.

Most facilities have office hours and separate gate hours. The office may be open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., while you can get through the gate and to your unit from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. These vary depending on the company and the facility and are important to know.


When it comes to choosing a lock for your storage unit, there are those that work well and those that don’t.

Most of the time, you’ll want to get a strong disc lock. Your facility will sell these. They’re made from stronger steel than other types and their curving bars are tough to get bolt cutters around.

Some sliding doors at storage facilities also take cylinder locks. Ask if yours does. If so, this is the type of lock for you, it’s like the lock on the door to your house, with no bar to be seen or accessed.

Finally, more and more facilities are using the Noke Smart Entry System by Janus International. If your facility does, then you’ll simply use your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone to open and lock your unit.

Boxes and Stacking

When it comes to choosing boxes, we recommend sticking to sticking with boxes that are the same size. We like document storage boxes for this. You can also use strong plastic bins. Both are sturdy and stack well.

When you put your boxes into your unit, stack heavier boxes on the bottom, and the lightest boxes on top. This way, the higher boxes won’t crush those beneath them.


Shelving can make it much easier to organize and retrieve your stuff. Usually, the facility will have a solution for this and will install the shelves for you. So, if you want this feature, ask for it.

Labeling and Keeping an Inventory

It’s common for people to be in a rush when putting their stuff in storage. Don’t let this happen to you. Take your time, decide what you need to store, label each box, and keep an inventory of what’s inside each. We have an entire article outlining the process. When you need to retrieve something specific, you can simply look up where it is and easily retrieve it.

What Not to Store

While you can store quite a lot in your unit, there are some prohibited items. Do not store the following.

  • Flammable Items: These include gasoline, fertilizer, and various chemicals.

  • Guns and Ammunition: Most self storage facilities do not allow you to store firearms, and none allow you to store ammunition. There are alternatives for storing these, but not at standard facilities.

  • Illegal Items: This is a broad category, but easy to understand. Don’t store anything that is flat-out illegal, such as illicit drugs, and don’t store anything stolen.

Those are the basics! There’s a lot more to self storage than what we’ve covered here, so we encourage you to peruse this blog for additional articles on a wide range of topics.

Find storage near me

Recommended locations