How Big Does My Storage Unit Need To Be?

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Since the birth of the box truck people have been asking, “How big of a rental truck do I need?” But the same question now goes for the rising trend of renting a self-storage unit. The answer, of course, is no different.

It depends on how much stuff you have.

To help you figure that out, we need to ask one question: how big is your home?

While no two homes are exactly alike, there are some reliable estimates for how much storage space your home requires.

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For example, on the graph above, a heavily-furnished studio apartment (or a lightly-furnished one-bedroom) will require between 50 sq. ft.-75 sq. ft. of storage space, while a two-bedroom house or a three-bedroom apartment is looking at a 150 sq. ft. or more, on average.

To help you get a clearer idea of how much space your stuff might require, check out this cool storage calculator our friends over at PODS have created.

how big should my storage unit be
PODS storage calculator

Protip: Packing your storage unit efficiently saves space and, therefore, money. Hiring moving labor for a couple of hours may save you hundreds in unneeded storage fees.

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Storage Units

How much do storage units cost?

Again, how much storage units cost depends on how much stuff you’ll be storing and for how long.

Our friends over at Sparefoot tell us that a 10’ x 10’ unit averages $95.00 a month.

It may depend on what kind of storage you need for your things. Common types of storage units include:

  • Temperature control
  • Climate control
  • 24-hour access
  • Simple exterior-access garage-like unit

(To some extent, the price will also be impacted by where you live. In short, California costs more than Kansas.)

Packing your storage unit efficiently saves space and, therefore, money. Hiring moving labor for a couple of hours may save you hundreds in unneeded storage fees.

The bad news is that no matter what size unit you rent, storage does not come much cheaper than that. Again, your cost may differ, depending on a variety of factors.

But the good news is self-storage costs actually seem to be decreasing after reaching their peak in 2017.

What can you not put in a storage unit?

Animals, food, soil, and stuff that can catch fire.

Okay, there’s more to it than that, so let’s run down the list.

  • Animals – Alive or dead, a big no-no. (Stuffed animals, like your childhood Snoopy? No problem.) Animal food should also be kept out of storage
  • Food – Only the canned stuff. Some folks will say dry pasta and rice is okay. We take a more cautionary approach. Eat it, give it to your neighbor, or donate it to your local soup kitchen or food bank
  • Flammables – Basically anything that is used for fuel (e.g., propane, gasoline, lighter fluid, camping stove fuel cans), anything meant to be lit (e.g., lamp oil, fireworks, matches), or anything under pressure (spray paint, hair spray, cooking oil, cheez whiz). Paint, paint thinner, fertilizer, motor oil, car batteries, cleaning products, ammonia and bleach will also run you afoul of your self-storage facility guidelines. If you aren’t sure, check!
  • Plants – All of them, along with soil, peat moss, seeds, sprouts, bulbs, even dried flowers. Likewise, check any outdoor/gardening equipment for dirt and moisture. A little leftover water in a watering can or a garden hose can lead to mold, bacteria, and some nasty smells over time
  • Yourself – That’s right. It is absolutely illegal to live in a storage unit, or even work out of one part-time (in case you were wondering)

Protip: (Non-flammable) liquids are often given the okay, but on the off-chance something leaks you’ll decide too late that it wasn’t worth it.

how big should my storage unit be

What size storage unit do I need for a 1-bedroom apartment (or my dorm room)?

~ 5 ft. x 10 ft. Unit. (50 sq. ft.)

As the graphic up top suggests, if you have a studio or a one-bedroom apartment, you’ll also have no problem fitting everything into a hundred square foot unit.

What size storage unit do I need for a 2-bedroom apartment?

~ 10 ft. x 10 ft. unit (100 sq. ft)

Likewise, a 10’ x 10’ unit might accommodate a moderately-furnished two-bedroom apartment.

What size storage unit do I need for a 2- or 3-bedroom house?

~ 10 ft. x 15 ft. unit (150 sq. ft.) OR 10 ft. x 20 ft. unit (200 sq. ft.)

This will depend on the density of your place, which is why you may need to use a calculator to double-check.

Can I make sure how much space I need at home?

Whatever you’re planning on storing, help yourself visualize how all that stuff will fit (or not) by marking off a 10’ x 10’ corner of floor with masking tape.

Then start piling your world into that corner. It’s certainly easier if you’ve already packed up your belongings into boxes and disassembled your bed, but even if you haven’t you can still get a good idea of what a hundred square feet looks like. From there you’ll be able to make a more educated guess.

Note: storage units may vary a bit in height, but your standard 8’ high ceiling makes for a reliable model, giving you an idea how much you can cram into that taped-off corner of your living room or bedroom if you stack stuff up to the ceiling.

If you have a couple of moving pros handling the job, your chances of everything fitting in a 10’x10′ storage unit increases.

A 10’x10′ unit might also be the go-to size for storing all that miscellaneous stuff that won’t stack up nice and neat, like :

  • Bicycles
  • Sporting equipment
  • Weight sets
  • Patio furniture
  • Lawnmower
  • Snow blower
  • Skis and snowboards
  • Golf clubs

Can I fit a car into a 10 x 15 unit?

Well, guess what? It depends. How big is your car?

You probably need around 200 sq. ft.

But does the self-storage facility allow vehicle storage? Most don’t, but there are a few speciality storage companies that may accommodate this. And of course, it’ll likely need to be drained. Do your research on storage businesses near you first.

Are there storage unit discounts?

Self-storage is a highly-competitive industry, and those competing for your business often throw in attractive extras, such as giving you your first month heavily-discounted (if not free), complimentary use of one of their moving vehicles, and off-season specials.

However, there is always fine print. Know what you are actually committing to, and for how long, in exchange for those freebies.

Which is better: Moving Storage Containers or Self-Storage?

how big should my storage unit be

Storage units can be great, but what if all your stuff could exist on your own driveway?

Storage Container Pros

  • Totally portable. A company like PODS will drop your storage container off at your home
  • Extremely convenient access. (Especially if you’re doing an office remodel)
  • Easy to pair with labor. Moving companies work with companies like PODS and 1-800-PACK-RAT all the time and sometimes offer discounts
  • Storage facilities (usually) available. If needed, they can also pick it up when it’s full and drive it away to their own storage facility. (It will probably cost you around seventy-five bucks for the storage fee)

If you have a couple of moving pros handling the job, your chances of everything fitting in a 10’x10′ storage unit increases.

Storage Container Cons

  • Moving costs. Here’s the thing thing though: your PODS unit will ultimately cost a lot more upfront, since you are paying for, well, moving services. If you want to see how much more, check out Moving101 for up-to-the-day storage container prices
  • Space big enough to accommodate that container. If you don’t have a driveway, and can’t get permission to have a container placed curbside or in your building’s parking area, you may be out of luck. Plus, if you opt to keep your things outdoors, the weather may be a variable, depending on where you live

Which is better?

In terms of pure convenience, portable storage is the way to go, especially if you are planning on just leaving it all in there for the duration of your storage contract. If you are storing stuff for a long period of time, and might want to get stuff out from time to time, a self-storage unit will save you money while giving you an extra amount of freedom.

Storage Unit Protips

  • Inquire early during the busy summer months. There’s more available in both numbers of available units and sizes
  • If you’re moving first, load stuff going into storage last (or first) on your rental truck. Besides making sense, having all that stuff in one (neat, tight, safe) pile gives you an idea of how much space it requires meaning you can rent the right size storage unit
  • Leave a little wiggle room if you plan on – or think you might need to – access your stuff while it’s in storage. If you plan on storing everything and leaving it until you move it all out, you can afford to pack it in tight, saving space and possibly money

Questions About Portable Moving Container Companies (That You Didn’t Know to Ask)

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It’s probably not hard to guess that the portable self-storage business is booming. Those boxes are everywhere. What might not be so well-known is how differently the many players out there operate.

In this spirit, here are some answers to questions you may or may not know to ask, but a lot of “movees” everywhere ask us all the time.

If a meteor pulverizes my container, who is liable for the damage? Will I be reimbursed?

Obviously, damage is more likely to occur in some other, less dramatic way while the container is parked somewhere. But regardless of how it gets damaged, it still depends!

If you didn’t purchase coverage (sometimes incorrectly called “insurance”), you may not be covered for anything – and that includes damages to the container. You might be thinking that, say, a meteor qualifies as an Act of God and is one of those things you’ll be covered for no matter what, but tell that to the couple from Houston who found out a little too late that the portable storage company they used didn’t offer flood insurance.

It is critical that you ask your portable storage provider about coverage against loss and damage. Not just for your stuff, but for the container itself, as some companies require you purchase coverage for both their stuff and for the container itself. Make sure to ask if you don’t want things left to the whim of floods. Or meteors.

Can I arrange to keep my storage container on my property until I am able to load it up?

PODS, like many companies, will tell you that you can keep it there on the driveway as long as you want, as long as you pay. The municipal authorities, however, might not be so accommodating. Make sure you double-check. 

Are portable storage containers weatherproof?

PODS containers aren’t, though they will say their containers are weather-resistant. Barring a headline flood, however, they might hold up. On the other hand, Packrat and ABF (with their ReloCube) claim their containers are weatherproof. (Anyone who has owned both water-resistant and waterproof boots will understand that the distinction is important to make.)

Whether containers are fireproof or fire-resistant is another point you might wanna ask about, especially if you live in fire country. Many containers are made of galvanized steel, though some can be aluminum or even plastic. As for SmartBox, they incorporate wood into the interior. If you’re keeping these things anywhere near woods, far crazier things have happened.

Can my portable storage container be locked?

Of course. It sounds like a silly question, but you may not know that you often have to provide your own padlock. So checking beforehand is anything but silly.

Are portable storage container facilities climate controlled?

It depends. PODS says “many” of their storage facilities are climate controlled. U-Haul says climate-controlled storage “is available”. Some companies may store their containers outdoors, so call and make sure!

American Portable Mini Storage is one company that offers climate-controlled portable storage containers as a mainstay feature.

Can I access my container if the company is keeping it in storage?

Once again, it depends. PODS says yes, but an appointment is necessary. U-Haul offers 24-hour access to their storage facilities.

Anything else I should I ask?

Sure: size of container to get, delivery window questions, and what a good price is are the most obvious. Luckily, you don’t have to be a moving expert. We’ve charted all of that info for you over on Moving101, so you can see all that stuff at a glance.

Plus, you can read what real people who’ve collectively used all the different companies have to say about their moving container experiences.

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6 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Moving Into a Dorm

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Category: College Moves

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Moving to college is a big deal. Take it from me, emotions are running pretty high, you may be nervous, you might have traveled pretty far and you have a lot on your mind.  Mistakes happen. Fortunately, there are several ways to make moving into college a whole lot easier. It won’t take away from all of the emotions of leaving home, but you can at least transition with simplicity, so you’re just prepared to enjoy your new life.

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Every Place You Can Get Free Moving Boxes

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People say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Well, how about a free box? We hear a lot about those, but where are they?

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Burglaries Inside Storage Units Are Becoming Common, but Can Be Avoided

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[Synopsis: In developing business relationships, quality is just as important as quantity.]

In our very first HireAHelper newsletter (Anyone out there remember?) we raised the idea of making friends with the folks at your local self-storage facility to develop a mutually beneficial business relationship. At any time of the year (and particularly during the busy season when so many people are coming and going) having a solid working situation with your industry colleagues can pay huge dividends.

But it also pays to know who you are shaking hands with. In any industry and profession, you are going to run across some bad eggs. The moving industry is certainly no exception. And neither is the self-storage sector.

Recent events in Independence, MO and Santa Cruz, CA remind us of this.

There in Independence, multiple break-ins of storage units left several customers feeling shaken and unsure of the industry.

“I always thought that if you put your things in something like that you are trusting those people to have security and watch over your stuff,” Hall said. “They just don’t.”

The situation repeated itself in Santa Cruz, CA. Dozens of customers had their valuables rummaged through and stolen, and multiple people were found living inside the storage units. That storage unit was eventually inspected by the city Planning Department and declared a public nuisance, but not before plenty of people got burned.

disclockTips such as not storing more than $5,000 in goods, purchasing insurance and using disc locks are offered when people get victimized. But the onus should ultimately fall on us within the industry for referring quality and safe services, as opposed to consistently pushing for maximum quantity. The latter is how we destroy our brand as an industry.

Business is all about relationships. And success in business is all about successful relationships. Successful relationships, in turn, require integrity and clarity from both sides of that handshake. If you hear there have been issues with a storage area, if you are dubious of your local storage units after seeing them, or if you are simply cramming as many customers into one place of business as possible, consider finding more alternatives.

As we continue down the roads of our own success, picking up people along the way, it’s important to remember to choose our friends – and our allies and business associates – wisely.

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