Storage Unit Organization 101

Written by Lily Rogers

Standing out from the crowd is a good thing. It can lead to new perspectives and interesting innovations. Storage unit organization is not that. Sure, the couch you inherited from grandma is one-of-a-kind, but to keep the fabric fresh and indent-free, tried-and-true methods are best. Luckily, we know a few experts who can show you the way.

We surveyed CubeSmart teammates from around the country in search of the best organizing, troubleshooting, and mistake-avoiding advice from the people who've seen it all. Here are their best tips on how to organize a storage unit.

How to Prepare for Storage

First, organization and proper preparation are a must. This starts with the right packing supplies. Even if you're not the most organized person, these items go a long way to set you up for storage success.

    Proper boxes and storage bins
  • Make sure you have sturdy, stackable boxes and bins that are the right size for shelves and uniform sizes for stacking.
  • Flimsy, overused boxes get crushed when stacked and tend to fall apart much faster.
  • People often use big plastic bags, which are hard to label and impossible to stack. This wastes space and leaves your items less protected.
    A label maker and markers
  • Labeling boxes and bins gives you a quick view of everything that's tucked away. It's a time and energy saver.
    Stretch wrap
  • Instead of tape, use stretch wrap to adhere padding and protections to furniture and other large items.
  • It keeps like items together or loose pieces from getting lost, especially parts of disassembled furniture. It's also good for bundling boxes.
  • Most CubeSmart teammates surveyed recommend shelves if you plan to store smaller items. Shelves keep things off the ground and help you use the height of the unit to your advantage.
  • If you're unsure how to organize shelves, the first step is to use boxes. Put similar items in the same box, make sure to use labels, and place boxes neatly.
    Mattress and furniture covers
  • These go a long way to help protect bigger items like couches and beds that are susceptible to wear.
  • Use covers to protect stackable surfaces that are also scratchable.
    Moisture absorber
  • Products like DampRid help trap excess moisture and prevent musty odors.
    Pallets or other floor protection
  • Protective layers are your friend. Use barriers, like thick plastic sheeting, between your things and hard or rough surfaces.
  • Pallets are a good way to keep items elevated off the floor and allow for air circulation.

Common Storage Mistakes to Avoid

What are the biggest mistakes people make when organizing their units? By far the No. 1 reported mistake is poor organization. People tend to drop things in haphazardly with no attention to reachability or the need to add items later.

If you don't know how to store clothes in a storage unit, follow CubeSmart teammate Jessalea Peterson's advice to roll clothes instead of folding. You can fit more per box and avoid hard creases. Use boxes instead of bags.

Common mistakes also include: Not using the proper containers, stacking heavy items on lighter items, stacking boxes too high, overfilling the unit and not leaving space to access things, not using all the space (including drawers and above and below tables), putting heavy items on soft-surface furniture, and not covering mattresses.

Top 5 Areas of Storage Advice

1. Space: 

  • Use the height of the unit by stacking boxes, especially in smaller units.
  • BUT, don't stack so high you create an unstable tower.
  • Store items in and under furniture pieces to use dead space.
  • If possible: hang bikes, store couches upright on one arm, and don't lean items against the wall.

2. Access:

  • Organize your storage unit starting with larger items in the back and to the sides and work forward.
  • Keep items you need to access toward the front, and store like items together.
  • In large and medium units, make a walkway so you don't have to remove everything to access the back.

3. Protection:

  • Quality storage supplies help protect your things.
  • When it comes to how to store furniture, protection is key. Disassemble furniture when possible (like taking the legs off your tables).
  • Store items on furniture, just make sure you're protecting against imprints or scratches with pads and barriers.

4. Inventory:

  • Keep a detailed storage inventory. Don't just rely on your memory
  • Clearly label containers and boxes. Color code for added organization.

5. Time:

  • Don't rush the job. Resist the temptation to throw things in storage without a plan.
  • Make sure to follow a preparation checklist:
    • Items are clean before going into storage
    • Boxes are packed full—but not bursting—with like items
    • Take it one step at a time and stay organized—your future self will thank you!

What Size Storage Unit Do You Need?

  • When in doubt, go bigger. This gives you the ability to leave space to walk and access your things. An over-full unit can present many problems, including having to unload it all to access your things and not leaving room for air to circulate.
  • Plan ahead for room to grow.
  • Talk to the manager! They are there to help. Every customer need is different, and they're the experts.
  • No matter the size unit, keep it tidy!

About the author

Lily Rogers

Lily is a writer, editor, and content strategist. Her curiosity spans genre, from travel to pop culture to food, and she writes about all that and more. She's also a social introvert, literature nerd, and (slight) hoarder. When not in pursuit of her next adventure, she's most likely at home with her wife and two cats.

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