Choosing a self-storage unit doesn’t have to be like the kids’ fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” where you try out every size unit before finally finding one that suits your needs.

Whether you’re looking to store the contents of an entire four-bedroom home or just your seasonal clothing, there’s a unit that’s just right for you.

But how do you determine what size you need? Watch and read below for everything you need to know:

 

Take stock

“One of my first questions is what are you storing?”’ said Peder Ronning, property manager at Lock Up Self Storage’s Plymouth, MN, location. “It’s not to be nosy; it’s to help you pick the right size.”

Take a quick inventory of items including furniture and appliances and estimate the number of boxes and/or totes. You can use a tape measure for the larger items. Consider whether you have irregular-shaped items that can’t be boxed or stacked like lamps or bikes.

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To Cram or Not to Cram

Are you stuffing it full or do you need a slightly larger unit to walk around and move items?

“For people who are going to store everything and just shut the door and come back in six months when they get their new place, they don’t need as big of space,” Ronning said. “But if they need to access the space, they need an aisle or else they have to take everything out and spread it down the hall to find what they’re looking for.”

“While it’s rare, I’ve had customers who want to turn their unit into an honest-to-goodness storage lounge with pathways, shelves and ladders to reach tall goods,” said Cindy Bellomy, co-owner of Able Self Storage in Pearland, TX, and Crowley Mini Storage in Crowley, TX. “That’s OK, too.” You just have to be clear on what you want.

Use Interactive Size Guides

They can help you gauge the right size unit and offer ideas for packing your unit.

Examples:
Desert Storage – Space Estimator
LifeStorage – Unit Size Guide

“You can find tons of diagrams online depicting what can be stored in various unit sizes,” Bellomy said.

“Everyone, including me, is surprised at how much a unit can hold. Prospects come in thinking they need a 10’x20’ or even two units, and once they understand the charts are happy to realize that something small and more economical can do the trick.”

Gauge Space Using a Moving Truck

If you’re using a moving truck, the truck’s dimensions can help you estimate how much total storage space you’ll need. The truck size is typically one size larger than the unit size you’ll need, Goodin said.

If you have a 25-foot moving truck, you can fit your items into a 10’x20’. If you have a 20-foot truck, you need a 10’x15.’ If you have a 15-foot truck, you need a 10’x10.’

When in Doubt, Go Big

Goodin finds many new customers underestimate their needs and choose a unit that’s too small. He recommends inquiring about the price of the next larger size.

“Sometimes it’s only a few bucks more,” he said. “If you want to get to your stuff easily, go with a unit one size larger and leave a path. I’ve seen people need something in the back, and it takes them three hours to find it, get it out and repack.”

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See For Yourself

Fish said before making that final decision, visit the facility to tour a unit that’s the same size as the one you’re planning to rent. Seeing it might be easier than trying to picture it in your head.

Fish’s facility in Auburndale, FL, offers a 10’x20’ demo unit with the standard sizes broken down with lines on the floor to show customers the differences between the sizes.

“That really helps them visualize the space,” Fish said. “It’s really like Tetris; you try and fit as much as you can in the space.”

Understand Dimensions

Typically, units are sized by length times width, giving you an estimated floor space square footage. You can calculate your needs by square footage or the number of rooms you’ll be storing.

But remember units typically have a ceiling height of 8 feet; so a little space goes a long way.

“I remind tenants that that’s tall!” Bellomy said. “They can stack safely a number of boxes and tubs, and turn couches and beds sideways to easily accommodate furniture. One normally thinks [furniture] has to rest in a unit in the same position it rests at home. Sometimes that realization is an ‘ah-ha’ moment.”

Unit Size Breakdown

5’x5’ unit

Size: 25 square feet, equivalent to a large closet
What fits: A dresser, small mattress set and several boxes. Other uses include seasonal decorations, personal items, gardening equipment, camping gear, children’s toys or off-season clothing.

Marc Goodin, president of Fort Lauderdale, FL-based Storage Authority Franchising, tells new customers that if they stand in the 5’x5’ with their arms stretched out, they can touch both walls so it’s relatively small.

“I’ve seen somebody cram in a sofa, love seat and ottoman on end in a 5’x5’, but they were pushing it,” Ronning said. “Usually, it’s for totes and boxes and Christmas decorations.”

5’x10’ unit

Size: 50 square feet, equivalent to a walk-in closet.
What fits: Furniture from a one-bedroom apartment or dorm room including a queen-sized mattress set, dresser, TV, bike and several storage boxes.

10’x10’ unit

Size: 100 square feet, equivalent to half of a standard one-car garage. Think of it as an extra bedroom since most are about 10’x12’.
What fits: Items from two bedrooms (mattresses sets, dressers, nightstands) or an entire family room (sofa, chairs, coffee table, book shelves).

10’x15’ unit

Size: 150 square feet, slightly smaller than the size of a standard one-car garage.
What fits: Items from three bedrooms or other large items like big-screen TVs, couches, pianos, tables or appliances.

10’x20’ unit

Size: 200 square feet, the size of a standard one-car garage.
What fits: Items from a three- or four-bedroom house or apartment, including couches, mattress sets, a dining room set, workout equipment, a refrigerator and washer and dryer.

“I say a small house packed poorly is a 10’x20’. If you’re not good at packing, go a size bigger,” Goodin suggested.

This size is also ideal for your classic car over the winter.

10’x30’ unit

Size: 300 square feet, or the size of a one-and-a-half-car garage so you can store pretty much anything you need including vehicles or boats. It’s the largest unit at most facilities.
What fits: Items from a fully furnished five-bedroom house including mattress sets, dressers, couches, dining room set, entertainment center, major appliances, seasonal items, outdoor equipment and bikes.

“10’x30’s are for a huge family house when all of the kids have full bedrooms,” said Ashley Fish, district training manager for Winter Garden, FL-based iStorage.

Liz Wolf
  • Tobias Armstrong

    I had no idea that there were so many different sizes of storage unit to choose from. Like you noted, 8 feet really is pretty high when you’re talking dimensions, so it’s good to keep in mind that you can stack pretty high if you need to. Most all of these tips are going to come in handy as I start to fill up my own unit this summer, so thanks for sharing! http://www.ChestnutMillStorage.com

    • Kackzie Wackzie

      Tobias, good points. Just wanted to say for the ladies without muscles like your avatar, if you have to reach it, think lower. Don’t let someone pack boxes way over your head that would be difficult for you to get down. Access with storage is the key. I think one of the great things now are units like U-Box at U-Haul, where they can be brought down to you and aren’t that tall, or you can store them at your home or even picked up or brought to your home for unpacking. I like that bunches.

  • Hazel Adams

    It is interesting to learn about different types of self-storage. I think space has a lot to do with it. I appreciate you pointing out different ideas for self-storage. http://aaastoragebuildings.com/

  • Vicky Durrant

    I’m going to be moving in a few months, and I’ve decided to put all of my things into a storage unit during the transition. I’ve never used a storage unit before, though, so I’m happy that I found your post! I like how you made a list of the common storage unit sizes. After reading about all of the different sizes, I think that a 10’x15′ unit will be able to fit all of my things nicely! Thank you for the information! http://www.lakecountystorageunits.com/HowStorageWorks.aspx

  • Nathan Johnson

    My wife and I are planning to move this summer and we will be storing our stuff for a couple months. We are looking into different options but we are still unsure about how much room we need. I appreciate your guidelines about picking the right size. Based on what you said, my family will probably need a 10×15 unit. Thank you for taking the time to explain how to choose a good size. http://www.millstreamselfstorage.com/#!our-rates/c1zu8

  • Kyler Brown

    My wife and I are trying to select a storage facility for some of our belongings. We’ve been trying to figure out what type of size we need so that we don’t overspend. I really liked your point though about how when you are in doubt, you should go big. I guess it’s always better to have more space than not enough. Thanks for sharing this. http://www.countryhillsstorage.com/new_page_5.htm

  • Katie Anderson

    When it comes to self storage I think the main thing you want to pay attention to is how well you will be able to organize. Most people get a locker so they will be able to free up space at home and stay organized there. The same concept applies to your locker as well, you want to make sure you have enough room to stay organized, and get to the things you need quickly. http://www.arcticstorage.com

    • Kackzie Wackzie

      Katie, great point. I learned that the hard way when I first got a unit. I needed something and had to practically unpack half the unstorage unit. A larger unit that allows at least a path between two or three sides would help. Labeling/ numbering boxes and keeping a manifest or simple map would be the next thing to keep, inside the unit near the entrance so if things are in there for awhile, you can locate them readily.

  • Jeff Curtis

    I just moved into a new home, and was left with some extra furniture laying around. I will probably need to get a storage unit, but I have no idea what size. Thanks for providing not only the dimensions. but what they would typically fit in them. I think it helps to understand what kind of size I would need much more than simply stating the dimensions.
    http://1ststopselfstorage.com