If you’re like many Americans, all of your stuff doesn’t fit into your home. Whether you’re drowning in clothes, books or memorabilia, self-storage lets you keep your belongings without sacrificing the roominess of your home.

With self-storage, you rent space, typically on a monthly basis, to stash your property. Unlike full-service storage facilities, where you have limited access to your property and someone else figures out how items are stored, self-storage units give you full control over what’s in your unit and how items are arranged.

One of the biggest advantages of self-storage facilities is their flexibility, said Diane Dozier, manager of AAA Alliance Self Storage in Tempe, AZ.

Rather than waiting for someone to give you access to your belongings, you can enter and exit pretty much whenever you want, Dozier said. You also can remove items from your self-storage unit or add new ones, as long as they fit in the space.

what is self-storage

Why Use Self-Storage?

Here are three reasons why you might want to choose self-storage:

  1. You’re downsizing and need someplace to store your extra possessions.
  2. You’re moving temporarily and don’t want to haul your belongings with you.
  3. You’re a small business owner who needs a place to store inventory that you don’t use every day.

Some families may need more space when a child returns from college or an elderly parent moves into the home. Depending on where you live, it may be less expensive to rent a self-storage unit to keep furniture and appliances than it is to move to a larger home.

Whatever reasons people have for embracing self-storage, the number of Americans who use self-storage facilities is growing. According to the Self Storage Association, a trade group for the self-storage industry, 10 percent of U.S. households rent self-storage units, up from 6 percent in 1995.

Choosing a Self-Storage Facility

When it comes to choosing a self-storage facility, you should consider several things. Ideally, you want to select a self-storage facility that’s close to where you live, Dozier said.

Self-storage units come in a variety of sizes. For example, Rittiman Self-Storage in San Antonio offers 5×10, 10×10 and 10×20 units as of spring 2012.

Some facilities provide climate-controlled units. Others offer video surveillance, alarms and other security features.

The cost of renting a self-storage unit varies based on the unit’s size and location. In a region where real estate is more expensive, the cost of self-storage is likely to be higher. For example, Lock Away Self Storage in Brooklyn, NY, was charging $109 a month in late April 2013 for a 5×5 unit and $259 for a 10×10 unit. On the other hand, The Storage Center in Flowood, MS, was charging $43 a month in late April 2013 for a 5×5 unit and $105 a month for a 10×10 unit. Keep in mind that you may need to pay extra fees, such as charges for electricity and pest control.

Before you rent a self-storage unit, follow these four tips from the Better Business Bureau:

  1. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to see whether any complaints have been filed against facilities you’re looking at.
  2. Compare prices for at least three nearby locations.
  3. Find out whether your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy covers your belongings when they’re in a self-storage unit. If not, you may be able to buy insurance from a self-storage facility or an independent insurer.
  4. Make sure you buy a secure lock to protect your belongings.