How to Clean Out Your Storage Space

Jon Fesmire |

Just like with any room in your home, over time, if you’re using your self storage space regularly, it can become a little cluttered. Maybe you bring some items home and put others away, or maybe you’ve moved some boxes around in a hurry, either to find something to bring home or while retrieving sales items for your online shop. Eventually, you’ll want to go back and make sure everything there is reorganized.

When you first put your stuff in storage, you may have followed our advice to declutter first and only store things that you need or that have high sentimental value. Yet over time, you may decide that you don’t need some of those things and you’d like to donate or recycle them.

Here are some tips for cleaning out and decluttering your storage space when the need arises. If you do this regularly, it shouldn’t take any more than a few hours and you’ll feel great when you’ve finished the job.

Straightening Up

Dust can gather in storage spaces, and you may have dropped bits of cardboard and such on the floor during previous visits. So, bring a duster, broom, dustpan, and a garbage bag. Before you start going through those boxes, dust and sweep up. Set those things aside, because you’ll want to sweep again after, and you might need the garbage bag for items you decide to throw away.

Head to the Office

First, give yourself enough time to sort through your stuff. Don’t show up a half-hour before the property closes if you can avoid it. Depending on how much you have to go through, you can expect to be in your unit for one to several hours.

After you arrive, go to the office and let them know you’re going to be reorganizing your storage unit. That way, they won’t wonder if you’re loitering. This is good etiquette and the staff will appreciate it.

Going Through Boxes

You may have a good idea of what boxes to go through and which you don’t need to. If so, this can save you time. It’s especially helpful if you already have an inventory listing the contents of every box. If you don’t, however, we suggest you make one as you go. It will include a name for each box matching that box’s label, and a list of everything in it.

This may seem like a lot of work, but with this done, you’ll know exactly what’s in your storage space. Copy the information to an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet later. Then, you can access it from anywhere, on any device.

Alternately, you may need to go through all your boxes. Either way, come prepared with additional boxes or bins, a permanent marker, and packing tape.

If you have taped boxes, open them with one of your keys, breaking the tape. This is a lot safer than using a box knife, and the latter isn’t necessary unless you need to cut the cardboard. Go through each box, one at a time. If you decide to keep everything in a particular box, tape it back up and set it aside. If you remove anything from it, put it in one of the extra boxes or bins. You’re going to bring those back home.

Consider merging boxes as you go. Let’s say you have five boxes of off-season clothes. You decide to get rid of a few items from one box, a few from the next, and so on. When you’ve gone through all five, you can merge what you’re keeping into four boxes, so move the clothes around to fit, tape them back up, and either use the fifth for stuff you’re going to bring home or recycle it.

If you’re creating a new inventory, do so only with the things you’re going to keep in storage. If you’re updating an inventory, take notes about what has changed so you can update the spreadsheet file once you get home.

Finishing Up

When you’ve finished sorting what you’re getting rid of, put the boxes or bins containing it in your car. Then, stack the boxes that you’re leaving in storage neatly. Pick up that broom again, sweep up, and you’re done for the day.

Look, More Room!

Do you have additional space? Is it a little, or a lot? If you’ve cleared out a third to half of your unit, you might switch to a smaller one. Properties should make the transfer process easy. You can do so in the office or even online. Once you’ve selected a smaller space, you can move your stuff into it and pay less in rent per month. Don’t worry, you won’t have to move everything that same day. Instead, give yourself a few days to rest, handle the switch online, then move everything over.

At Home

We understand if you want to take a break after you get home and carry those boxes inside, but don’t take too long. When we leave boxes that need to be sorted through, it’s easy to put aside the work day after day. So, the next day or so, go through them.

This is when you’ll decide what to sell, donate, recycle, and throw out. Unless something is in great condition, selling it can be tough and you may not get much for it, so we suggest putting only the best things up for sale on eBay, Craigslist, or OfferUp. Donate most of the gently used items. The beauty about donating is that, not only are you helping charities, you can list your donations as tax deductions.

You can usually recycle old electronics, papers, plastic bottles, fabrics, and metal items. Stores like Best Buy take old computer items, and most recycling centers take the rest. No one wants to buy these things, but you can help the environment by recycling them. Anything that you can’t sell, donate, or recycle can go in the trash or to the local landfill.

More than Once

Don’t do this only once. We suggest going through this process about every six months. The next time you sort through your storage should go much more quickly.