Self-Storage 101 For College Students

By    May 20, 2011

Everyone around you is cramming for finals, selling their books and packing up their dorms and apartments. Or maybe all of that already happened weeks ago, and now you’re stranded between leases for the summer with nowhere to put your stuff. No matter how far in advance you plan (or not) for the summer, it’s always a period of transition for students and their possessions. That’s why self-storage is such a popular solution this time of year. The earlier you can book your unit, the better, but even a last-minute move into storage will go smoothly if you know how to prepare and what to expect.

Finding a facility

The instinct of many college students is to look for the most cost-effective deal on everything. So your search for a storage unit should naturally start with a search for student discounts. Many facilities located near universities offer summer specials for students, so do your research on SpareFoot (of course), Craigslist, Uloop and Facebook Marketplace.

Choosing a unit size

So, what size storage unit do you need? Most students opt for 5×5 units, which will hold about as much as a walk-in closet. This size is ideal for storing chairs, cabinets, electronics and boxes. Ceiling heights range from 8 to 12 feet in most units, so think about vertically stacking boxes. But if you only have a few boxes and bags to store, a locker-sized unit could work— these have lower ceilings of about 4 or 5 feet. If you have a couple pieces of furniture too, such as a mattress set, a 5×10 unit might be better.

Some facilities will allow you to share a larger unit with a few friends, but most will only allow one name on the lease. Make sure the financial responsibilities of each storer are determined upfront, as if you were sharing an apartment with roommates. Unlike an apartment lease, self-storage leases are month-to-month so there is no long-term obligation. This means plenty of flexibility for students. Many facilities will even pro-rate the last month,  so you only pay for the days you’re actually using storage.

Understanding amenities

What about all the amenity choices? Unless you’ll need to access your unit often, 24-hour access is not necessary. After all, most student storage customers are leaving town for the summer. But when you’ve got a lot of heavy stuff to move and want to minimize the distance from your car or truck to the unit, drive-up access is ideal.

When it comes to climate control storage, we’ve got our own little SpareFoot rule of thumb— if you would store it in your garage for the summer, you don’t need a climate-controlled unit. Consider the natural climate in your region, too. If it’s going to be brutally hot, you should choose a climate-controlled unit for storing items like wood or leather furniture and high-end electronics.

Preparing your stuff

Certain items require a bit of preparation before they’re ready to be stored for long periods. Remember to de-frost, clean and dry your mini-fridge (refer to our previous post on storing a refrigerator for more tips). Also clean your microwave, to prevent molding. You should never store any food or drink items, no matter how non-perishable they may be— the ants and rats will find them.

Melissa’s tips

Our call center manager, Melissa, has been talking to a lot of students with self-storage questions lately. She’s come up with a few of her own tips that can make the moving storage process a little easier for any customers:

  • When you’re filling out paperwork in the facility office, grab a business card and write your storage unit number and gate access code on the back. Keep it in one of the card slots in your wallet so it will be easy to find whenever you need it.
  • Pack your books in smaller boxes, such as those designed to hold reams of paper. You don’t want to hurt yourself lifting a large box packed with too many books.
  • If you’re not sure about what size storage unit to choose, stack all of your boxes and other items up against a wall at home. Mimic the way you intend to arrange them in the unit, and use a measuring tape to approximate the dimensions of the space you’ve filled. Melissa recommends creating this pile close to the door, since everything will be leaving the room soon.

Do your homework

There are plenty of other resources around our site for first-time storage customers, whether or not you’re a student. So click around and learn how to choose the best locks for self-storage and much more.

Photo courtesy of carthage.edu

Rachel does marketing at SpareFoot. Her favorite movie is The Big Lebowski, favorite color is black, favorite food is cheese, and favorite band is the Pixies. She aspires to make self-storage fun and to make her dog and cat cuddle each other.

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