Overwhelmed by stuff and just want to toss it in storage?

Before you do, you might want to thinking about how you plan on keeping track of your stuff once you put it into a self-storage unit. Otherwise you might just end up being overwhelmed by that too.

The best way to keep track of your stored items is to adopt an inventory management system, similar to that used by retail businesses. With this approach you won’t end up forgetting which box you stashed your high school year book in, or whether it is actually in your hallway closet instead.

This can be accomplished with a classic pencil and paper, or a simple spreadsheet. There are also a handful of smartphone apps that you can use to make managing your stored items even easier.

What Should You Store, Anyway?

First of all, people should be selective about what they’re keeping and where they’re keeping it., according to according to professional organizer Linda Rothschild, founder and chief executive organizer at Cross It Off Your List. Rothschild is an organizer to the stars and is an organizing expert for TV personality Heidi Klum.

She says it’s always easier to just dump things in storage—which could be in the garage, the basement, a spare room or renting a space—than to stop and really think it through. There are lots of times when it’s important to keep things, though. There could be family heirlooms, things you’ll use in the future or items you’re keeping for someone else.

Sorting and Packing

For those who do decide to rent a storage unit, make sure to sort and pack the items efficiently. To accomplish this, you should make sure you have the right size space and you set it up properly.

If you plan to be going in and out of your unit on a regular basis, it might be a good idea to put up some shelving for easy access to boxes and other items.

Choose the Right Containers and Labels

Using plastic containers that are airtight is a smart move for storage. Not only do they last longer than cardboard boxes, but they are transparent so you can easily see what is in them.

Whether you are using plastic totes or boxes, labels are useful tool to use for remembering what’s in each container. If you plan on changing out the contents of your containers, consider using self-adhesive index card pockets, so you don’t have to scratch or peel the label off when you reuse the tote.

Keeping Track of Items the Old-Fashioned Way

If you sold a house and your things are going to be there for a year or two until you buy another house, you want a proper home inventory so you really know what you have.

One classic way to do this is to number each box you pack. Write down the number on all four sides with a permanent marker.

Next, use a notebook or Excel spreadsheet to create an inventory. For each numbered box, write down everything that you put in the box. A simple inventory is enough—you wouldn’t necessarily want to write 60 cups and seven plates and have it that detailed, but just know it’s dishes, pots and pans, or glasses.

If possible, consider loading your boxes into your storage unit so that the boxes are loaded consecutively. That way you will always be able to locate box number 32 should the need arise.

Use an Inventory App

If you are running a small business, have a large personal collection of items, or just want to relish in all the advantages technology has to offer, using an app to chronicle the contents of your storage space is the way to go. Here are a few to consider:

Sortly

The Sortly app is built for small businesses but can be used by storage users as well. You can create a visual inventory of items using your smartphone’s camera. You can create folders to organize items by category such as owner, type, or room. With the advanced plan you can even create and print QR code labels that you can scan using the app.

Inventory Now

Inventory Now is more of a small business tool for tracking items for sale. You can create orders and invoices using the app, and use it as a point of sale system.

MyStuff2Pro

This app is perfect for managing large collections of items such books, movies, or vinyl records.

Remember What You Have

The biggest mistake people make is they don’t have a clue what they have in storage, and they’re paying for it month after month after month. With an inventory in hand, you will be able to readily evaluate what you are storing and why.

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Allie Johnson