Self-Storage Growth Trends Spiking in 2021

The State of Self-Storage in The US

packing up for moving to a new home
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

As an industry, self-storage has been an enduring market for businesses since the 1950s, when the post-WWII economic boom made luxury items more readily accessible. Over the past year, we’ve seen yet another sudden spike in that growth. According to Forbes, self-storage businesses are seeing such an increase due to many people moving in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. Some need storage because they are moving to smaller and more affordable homes and no longer have room for all of their belongings. Others are moving out of high population density areas to decrease their risk of catching the disease and temporarily need a place to store their belongings while they set up or build their new homes. Whatever the reason, self-storage is definitely on the rise.

How To Best Use Self-Storage

Vernon Storage, a self-storage company in Summit County, Utah, is expanding their facilities to meet the increased demands. Vernon Storage likes to focus a lot on maximizing storage use to make it affordable and efficient, so we asked them to share their tips with us.

1. Know What Your Needs Are

Self-Storage is always going to be an expense, so making the most out of it is a matter of proper use. For that, you have to know what your needs are. First, you have to consider what you’re using storage for. If you’re using storage because you’re moving into a home of similar size and need a place to store boxes so you can organize better, you’re looking for very temporary storage. That requires different planning from someone who’s moving into a smaller home and needs a place to store his property now that he doesn’t have as much room at home. Before you rent self-storage, figure out what you need to use it for.

2. Set A Plan, Stick To It

Most people who fail to make the most of self-storage put a bunch of things into a storage unit and then just forget about it. You want to avoid this, so you have to set a plan for how to use your storage.

A. Temporary Storage

If you just need temporary storage while you move in, then you first need to have a goal for moving into your new home. Set a schedule for unpacking your things and stick to it. The best way to manage that is to put some of your possessions in storage and some of them in the home. Unpack the boxes you bring into your home first. Because it won’t be everything you have, it won’t seem so overwhelming. Pick the items that are needed to provide space in your home first – like bookshelves, desks, tables, and other things. That way, you have a place to put all of the smaller items. Additionally, smaller items fit in smaller boxes, so what you put into storage while you unpack takes up less space, so you can go with a smaller storage unit.

Once you get the first round unpacked, go back to your storage unit and get the things that go on the shelves you brought out. Unpack things one box at a time, as every box you unpack is a box you can get rid of and every box you get rid of gives you a clear sign of progress, encouraging you to keep working. Continue this until you have everything unpacked and organized. If you set a schedule and stick to you, you may only need to rent a storage unit for a couple of weeks, a month at most. This is the best way to save money on the process.

B. Longer-Term Storage

Generally, you want to avoid long-term storage when you can, but if you’re moving to a smaller home, that may not be possible. In this case, you want to plan around ways to minimize the stuff that goes into storage and give yourself a means to keep track of it. For this, you need to work out what possessions you can fit in your home and what needs to be stored. This itself involves a couple of different possibilities. We’ll discuss that in a bit. But first!

3. Label and Organize Everything Before You Move

The key to keeping to your schedule is organization. When you pack up to move, you want to make sure that things packed into the same boxes will go in the same place when they’re unpacked. You don’t want to pack books in the same box as dishes, or coats in the same box as tools. Aside from the obvious risk of things getting damaged, if items are packed haphazardly, unpacking a box means constantly needing to move around the house with the box. If all the items in the box go to the same location, you only have to put the box in one place.

To make sure you keep on top of things, make sure you clearly label every box you pack. Labels should be as specific as they need to be in order to know where you’ll unpack them. For example, if different family members own their own personal books, label boxes of books according to who they belong to. This means you don’t have to spend a lot of time going through the boxes to find out which ones contain which items.

4. Consider Seasonal Storage

Seasonal storage is a strategy Vernon strongly encourages if you need longer term storage. Seasonal storage is a practice of filling your storage only with items you don’t use for the current season and switching them out when the seasons change. The main advantage of this is that it can really cut down on the amount of storage space you need, while maximizing the space in your home. You won’t be keeping winter coats in your home during the summer, so you can use that space in your home for storing things you do use in the summer.

The other advantage of this is that seasonal storage forces you to go through everything in storage at least twice a year. This means you never forget what’s in storage and what isn’t. Additionally, because you’re going through everything regularly, it helps you identify which possessions you actually use and which ones just take up space. When you can see every year which items aren’t getting used, it’s easier to talk yourself into letting go of it. Over time, it reduces the amount of things you need to store, which will let you move to a smaller, less expensive storage unit, saving you more money.

5. Know How To Pack

a crowded storage shed packed up for long term storage
Pictured here: not a good way to pack

The other big part of maximizing storage is knowing how to reduce the space things take up. Everything is going to take up certain amount of space, but there are always ways to minimize that. Vacuum sealed bags and shrink wrap, for example, can allow you to fit a lot more into smaller spaces. Packing things that can safely stack together reduces the amount of boxes you need. Stacking larger, firmer boxes on the bottom avoids the need to play Tetris with your possessions while also minimizing the risk of things breaking.

Properly packing will help you fit everything into tighter spaces, so you can get by renting a smaller storage unit. It also helps with organization, because you can pack things up in a way that lets you clearly see the labels without having to move everything around. Also, don’t forget to leave yourself room to move in your storage shed. You can’t unpack something if you can’t get to it.

6. Stick To Your Plan

Yes, I know I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating. The biggest mistake people make with self-storage is not sticking to the plan they make. They tell themselves they can put things off, or they can skip their seasonal storage check-up because they aren’t planning on doing anything that season that needs what they’re storing. It’s easier to break a plan than to keep it, so whatever the excuse is, once you go off the plan, it starts to become a habit. Stick to the plan you set. If your goal is to use seasonal storage to help identify what you can part with, then make sure you’re sticking to goals of getting rid of a certain amount of possessions every time you do the seasonal check-up. If your goal is to have the storage facility entirely unpacked in a month, work a little bit at it every day until you’re done. Sticking to the plan is the only way to keep yourself from spending more money than you need.

Storage Beyond 2021

The main spike in self-storage growth is pretty clearly related to trends arising out of Covid-19. As it can be hard to predict when that will end, it’s also hard to predict when the spike will stop. The best thing to do for now is focus on the needs of the moment while planning for the future. If you’re needing or choosing to move to a new home, have a plan for how to move, but don’t neglect to plan for getting back to normal when you can. Self-storage shouldn’t be treated as a permanent part of your life if you want to make the most of it. It’s a temporary solution for a temporary need. Whatever your needs are, plan accordingly and make sure you stick to the plan.