What size storage unit do I need?

Measure your belongings for the best results

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    Whether you need temporary storage during a move or permanent storage for belongings you just can’t fit in your home; it’s important to get the right size storage unit for your needs. Renting a unit that’s too large might be a waste of money, and renting a unit that’s too small can result in headaches and last-minute panic.

    So, how much storage space do you need? Keep reading to see what storage units work best for different apartment and house sizes and how to calculate what size unit you will need for your belongings.

    Key insights

    • The most accurate way to estimate your needs is to measure your belongings.
    • It’s better to have too much room than too little, so when in doubt, size up.
    • Talk to your storage unit provider about your options if you pick the wrong size.
    • Assess which of your belongings are worth the price of storage.

    How to estimate storage unit size

    There are three main ways to get a decent estimate of what storage unit you need.

    Method 1: Measure the square footage

    The most accurate way to calculate storage size is to stack the things you want to store and measure the space they take up.

    This can be relatively simple if you’ve already boxed up your smaller belongings. Stack the boxes and group your furniture close together, then use measuring tape to get the length and width of the stack. Multiply the length of your combined belongings by the width of the stack to get the square footage you’ll need.

    This number should be enough to estimate the amount of storage space you need while you’re comparing facility options and prices.

    Unfortunately, calculating the square footage of your belongings isn’t the most convenient method if your things aren’t already packed. Visualizing how unpacked items fit together can be difficult, and the further you get from the actual measurements, the less accurate this method becomes.

    Method 2: Calculate based on the number of rooms

    If your household goods are not yet packed up and ready to measure, you can take an educated guess based on the size of your home or the room you’re trying to clear out.

    Check out the chart below for a rough estimate of how common storage unit sizes correspond to domestic spaces.

    Method 3: Use an inventory calculator

    Suppose you want an estimate based on a more detailed breakdown of your belongings. In that case, some storage companies offer calculators on their websites to help you take inventory of your things and find a corresponding storage unit. However, these calculators have limitations, and sometimes even asking your storage facility might not be enough to get an accurate estimate.

    What if your estimate is wrong?

    If you’ve taken inventory but still aren’t sure what size storage unit you need, it’s worth talking to your storage provider about your options. Find a facility with a range of units available and ask ahead of time whether you’ll be able to scale up or down if needed.

    If you’re unsure what size storage unit you need, it’s typically better to choose one that might be larger than you need.

    Susan, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from North Carolina, was able to transfer to a smaller unit “with little effort.” However, not everyone is so lucky. Jacob, a reviewer on our site from Massachusetts, had a different experience when their storage unit wasn’t large enough.

    “We were told by the size of our home that we would only need two 16 foot PODS,” Jacob said. “I acknowledge that it all depends on the size of the furniture. However, we don’t have ‘large’ furniture or a lot of pieces. In reality, our belongings did not fit into two PODS and we had to rent a moving truck, hire another team to load it, and drive it halfway across the U.S. and hire someone to unload it.”

    This is why it’s always a good idea to get a storage unit that’s a little bigger than you think you need. You may end up paying more, but you’re less likely to be stuck scrambling to find a last-minute solution when you realize your belongings won’t fit in your rented unit.

    » MORE: How to pack for a move

    How much storage do I need for my things?

    While the most accurate way to calculate storage is to measure the belongings that are going into the storage unit, you can get a rough estimate of how much footage you need by looking at the size of the space you’re expecting to store.

    What size storage unit would hold the contents of a closet?
    Many households keep small storage units year-round for odds and ends. These units can be useful for storing yard equipment and off-season items, such as winter clothing and holiday decorations. The smallest units commonly available, usually 5 feet by 5 feet, work well for this.

    “Small units, like a 5 feet by 5 feet, are about the size of a small walk-in closet,” said Tanya Churchill of Storage of America, a chain of self-storage facilities in the Midwest. “These are the perfect size if you just want to store smaller items like clothes or some boxes.”

    What size storage unit do I need for a studio or dorm room?
    A 5-foot-by-10-foot storage unit is enough to hold about a room’s worth of belongings, so it’s a good option if you’re looking into storage for a dorm room or studio apartment. According to Churchill, a 50-square-foot unit is about the size of a large outdoor storage shed.
    What size storage unit do I need for a one-bedroom apartment?
    A one-bedroom apartment is a step up in size from a studio. If you’re trying to pack away all of your belongings, you’ll have the contents of both a bedroom and living room to store, plus kitchenware and stuff from a closet or two. This means you’ll likely require the next largest storage unit, which is usually a 10-foot-by-10-foot unit.
    What size storage unit do I need for a one- or two-bedroom house?
    A small house will have one or two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a laundry room and possibly a small dining area. There may also be a garage, a patio or an outdoor shed with additional belongings to house. To store belongings from a house this size, including its large household furniture and appliances, you should plan to rent a 10-foot-by-15-foot storage unit.
    What size storage unit do I need for a three-bedroom house?
    If you have a larger house, you’ll probably need to step up to a 10-foot-by-20-foot unit.

    “A 10-by-20 is about the size of a small garage,” said Churchill. “And can fit the contents of a two- or three-bedroom house.”

    What size storage unit do I need for a four- or five-bedroom house?
    If you’re moving the contents of a large house, you need the largest commonly available storage unit. Most storage facilities nationwide have large 10-foot-by-30-foot storage units, and Churchill confirmed that these could store the contents of a four- or five-bedroom house.

    In addition to having more bedrooms, a house this size will usually have more bathrooms, walk-in closets and “flex” rooms, such as a bonus room, family room, den or home office. This can require a significant increase in square footage for proper storage.

    How can I reduce my storage space needs?

    Storing outdated electronics or worn-out furniture isn’t worth the increased cost you pay each month.

    Lowering the amount of space needed can save you money since larger units cost more. To reduce the needed amount of square footage, Ross Sapir, founder and president of Roadway Moving, suggested disassembling furniture, utilizing vertical space through stacking, using vacuum-sealed bags, storing items in furniture cavities and avoiding boxes that are too large.

    Before storing your items, perform an assessment of your possessions, decluttering and downsizing when needed.

    “Low-value items that may not be worth the cost of storage include outdated electronics, worn-out furniture, low-value clothing, duplicates or excess items, and perishable or hazardous materials,” Sapir said.

    While many low-value items have sentimental meaning that makes the cost of storage well worth the price, it’s a good idea to throw some items away.

    “Evaluating the practicality and replacement cost can help determine if it is more cost-effective to let go of these items rather than paying for their storage,” Sapir said.

    » MORE: How much do storage units cost?

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      Can you fit a couch in a 5-by-7 storage unit?

      The average couch is about 7 feet (84 inches) long, so that might just fit. However, sofas come in a variety of sizes, ranging from small love seats (about 52 inches long) to large sectionals (often more than 100 inches long). So, be sure to measure your sofa before you commit to a 5-foot-by-7-foot storage unit.

      If you’re on a budget and hoping to fit everything in a 5-foot-by-7-foot storage unit, ask how tall the unit’s ceiling is. You may be able to store the sofa standing on end for a short stay. Try not to store your couch this way long term — vertical storage can warp your couch.

      Can you fit a queen-size bed in a 5-by-10 storage unit?

      A queen-size mattress is 5 feet by 6 feet, 8 inches (60 by 80 inches), so it should easily fit in a 5-foot-by-10-foot storage unit.

      A king-size mattress is 6 feet, 4 inches by 6 feet, 8 inches (76 by 80 inches), so one of these should also fit in a 5-foot-by-10-foot unit if you store it on its side.

      What can I do to lower the cost of my unit?

      Most people move in the summer months, so you can usually find storage facilities offering promotions in the offseason. Before signing up for a unit, check the company’s website for promo codes and ask the facility if they are currently offering any specials or discounts. Many storage facilities also extend discounts to active military and college students.

      Do I need a climate-controlled unit?

      If you’re storing delicate items like film, vinyl records or antique furniture, make sure your unit is climate controlled. Other items that do best in climate-controlled facilities include wooden or leather furniture, appliances, instruments, artwork and photos.

      What red flags should I watch out for while picking a storage facility?

      “Customers should be cautious of storage companies with poor security measures, unfavorable contract terms, negative customer reviews and poorly maintained facilities,” said Sapir, the founder of Roadway Moving.

      Look for cameras around your unit. Check with staff to make sure they are actually filming and ask how long they store the footage. You should also ask about pest control measures.

      “Many storage companies can’t control what clients will store in their facility,” Sapir said. This can become an issue if clients store perishable items, attracting pests that damage wood, clothing and other items.

      Are there storage units for vehicles and boats?

      There are storage units for almost all kinds of vehicles, from motorcycles to recreational vehicles (RVs). However, be sure to account for any unique dimensions your vehicle may require. For example, a storage unit that’s 7 feet wide might be wide enough to fit your car but not wide enough for you to get out after you drive it in.

      Bottom line

      Most nationwide storage companies offer a range of storage unit sizes, so you have a variety of options to choose from. You can estimate what size storage unit you’ll need in a number of different ways, but if you want to be certain, you might want to try multiple methods and compare results.

      When getting quotes from storage facilities, ask if you can scale up or down if you find you’ve miscalculated. If you find yourself trying to decide between two sizes, it’s always safest to size up.

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