How to Store Important Documents in Self Storage

Jon Fesmire |
Are we in a paperless world yet? Not quite. As long as people still love print books, put up fliers, and file taxes by mail, we’ll need paper. There are certain types of documents that we hold on to forever; think birth and death certificates, adoption papers, medical records, wills, passports, and social security cards. Then there're some documents that you hold on to for at least months or years like credit card bills, paycheck stubs, bank statements, and tax documents. These can become unruly, especially if you run a business with lots of important paperwork. Self storage can help by providing you with a convenient, safe place to keep them. Here’s how to prepare and store your documents.

Sort Your Paperwork

This step may sound dull, and it can take a short, or long, amount of time depending on how much paperwork you have. Once you start, you may find that you enjoy it once you get started, and you’ll feel better once it’s done. Go through your paperwork and see what you need to keep and what you can get rid of. Then, create one pile for things to file, one for papers with sensitive information to shred, and one to recycle. If you don’t have a shredder, you can bring the sensitive documents to a shredding company, and they’ll also recycle those papers for you.

Digitize

Next, scan the documents you plan to keep and store them with your favorite cloud service, such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Dropbox. Name each file appropriately, such as “John Smith Taxes 2020.pdf,” and save them in separate folders. You may have one for taxes, one for bank statements, and so on. In the future, make digitizing your important documents a habit. We recommend going through your new paperwork monthly and scanning new pages, then storing them in the cloud, and filling the physical paperwork in storage.

Filing Your Documents

When it’s time to store your documents, you’ll need something to keep them in. We suggest a filing cabinet or document boxes that allow for hanging file folders. These days you can find metal or wooden cabinets. Both work well. Depending on the sort of box or cabinet you use, you can use hanging folders or large manila envelopes. Whatever you use, label everything, which will make it much easier to find what you need later. You may also consider having shelving installed in your unit. Many self storage facilities do this for an extra charge. That way, instead of piling your boxes, you can put them on shelves, which makes them much easier to access.

Sorting Your Documents

In your boxes or filing cabinet, you’ll want your documents sorted. Yes, you will label them, but by sorting them you won’t have to shuffle through every folder to find what you need. Keep your taxes together and sorted by year. Sort inventory sheets by date and type of items purchased. File insurance policies by type. As for your critical documents, like birth and marriage certificates, keep those somewhere safe at home.

Storage for Inventory or Personal Belongings

Personal and small-business paperwork should fit well in an extra small storage locker or a 5x5 unit. However, you may have more things to put in storage. Our handy size guide can help you figure out how large a unit you should rent. For your business, you may need a unit for both your paperwork and inventory. Whether you use a filing cabinet or boxes on shelves, leave a walkway between your inventory and your papers. The same goes for if you’re storing personal belongings. That walkway will ensure that you can access both your documents and your stuff.

Strongly Consider Climate Control

When it’s available, strongly consider getting a unit with climate control. This will add about 30% to the monthly rent, but it will keep your paperwork and other things in great shape. Storage facilities keep the temperature in their climate-controlled units between 50 and 80 degrees, and sometimes in an even tighter range, and the humidity between 30% and 50%, ideal conditions for most of your stuff. This includes paperwork, electronics, musical instruments, sports equipment, and much more. Finally, go through your stored documents every month. Add new paperwork and remove things you no longer need. As long as you keep up with it, this system will keep your important paperwork organized and easy to access.