Your storage space can be boxes of unknown heirlooms and junk gathering dust and costing you money, or an extension of your living space to shelve infrequently used items that are easy to retrieve whenever you want.  Storing it right also allows you to spend less on storage space than you thought, and get the walk-in closet you always dreamed of!

Deciding to use storage is a great time to sort through your items first.  Remember that old computer acronym GIGO -garbage in, garbage out?  It can apply to poorly planned storage spaces too.

The best way to start is to quickly sort items into 4 piles:
1. to donate
2. to throw away
3. to keep a: seasonal use and b: archive
4. I have no idea

This fourth pile prevents you from wasting time agonizing over what to do with a particular item, then getting frustrated and giving up (temper tantrums optional).  If you can’t decide in 10 seconds or less, put the item into pile 4 and move on.  You may be surprised at how much sorts itself into piles 1-3, when you keep going.

Label all boxes and their contents. If you plan to just ‘throw things in a box to get them out of here’, you may want to try the 4 piles method first.

Make a list of your items and boxes in storage. Do it while you are packing the box.  Just jot the contents of the box down on paper, and when the box is full assign it a number. The number is all you have to label the box with.  Label the 2 adjacent sides of the box so it can be seen in a stack. Extra marks for keeping your list in Excel for easy editing and sorting.  Keep the list at home and a copy in the storage locker, for fast retrieval of needed items.

Rectangular storage spaces of 7-8 feet wide work well for lining the sides and back wall with stacks of boxes (or ideally shelves) or furniture, and leaving a centre aisleway so that all items can be seen and easily reached.  Square storage spaces are hard to use efficiently as the middle space is wasted, or not all items are easily accessible. A row of boxes or shelving can be added in the middle but then you need twice the aisle space.

Boxes should be a uniform size. This helps in stacking and labelling.  If using shelves, it allows you to set the shelf height to a uniform minimum, allowing for more shelves.  An ideal multi-purpose storage box is sold at office supply stores, often called a ‘Banker’s Box’.  They are sturdy enough for a load of books, big enough for holding files, but just the right size for lifting, aided by built-in handles.  Separate lids make frequent access easy. (Sturdy yet reasonably priced shelving can be purchased from stores like Costco or Ikea).

Keep seasonal items such as Christmas decorations, off-season clothes, skiis, golf clubs etc. up front for grab ‘n go convenience. Archived boxes and old files at the very back.

Many of us run a home office. Storing archived accounting files, excess inventory and other supplies in our homes can make us unpopular with loved ones.  Renting a storage space for business can be a tax deductible expense.

Do you have furniture that you are considering storing? It is perfectly acceptable to store precious items, like grandma’s rocker for when the baby is born.  Before you store, you may want to consider the value of the piece before spending money to store it.  Flip through some flyers to judge the replacement value of that dining room set.  If its value is less than the cost of storing, consider selling it instead and storing the cash instead.

With the real estate market fluctuating, it may not be the time to get a bigger place, even if you really need it.  Renting a storage locker can cost way less than renting or buying more living space, and it may even free up enough living space to make a move unnecessary.

Storage Industry stats:
The Storage industry in Canada was estimated to be worth $8 Billion in 2006.  Currently there are approximately 2,800 self storage facilities across the country, up from approximately 2,200 in 1999.  There is an average of 2.5 square feet of self storage space per capita in Canada, compared with about 6.0 square feet per capita in the US.  This would imply there is still more room for growth in the Canadian industry. In the United States, there are more than 50,000 self storage locations, 20,000 of those are new in the last 7 years.

In the Lower Mainland there are approx. 108 facilities as of 2008, with an average 2.34 square feet per capita (slightly below the national average).  According to Candace Watson of Canadian Self Storage Valuation Services Inc. Between 2006 – 2008, 16 new facilities opened in the lower mainland.

– Article by Tami Reilly, of Get Organized, Office Management Consultant working for Vancouver Self Storage in Marpole, Canada’s first ‘Green unbuilt’ storage facility.