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Whether you’re in the process of downsizing or simply looking to open up your home a bit (without saying goodbye to your belongings for good), self-storage units offer a practical solution to the issue surrounding lack of space homeowners are faced with on a day-to-day basis.

While factors such as security, cleanliness, temperature control, customer service and price will likely play a large role in determining which self-storage unit best fits your needs, the process doesn’t end there. In fact, much like packing to move from one house to another, maximizing the space within your self-storage unit begins with having a plan in place.

  1. Be Prepared. Once you’ve made the decision to rent a storage unit, even if it’s a short-term solution, it’s important to come up with a plan before you begin haphazardly shoving items into the space. While this may save time on the front end, it will undoubtedly work against you when it comes time to clear the unit out.
  1. Use the Space Wisely. If you’re storing bigger items—or anything that’s awkwardly shaped—take the time to break them down (if possible) in order to get the most use out of the space. This means disassembling tables, workout equipment, kitchen carts, etc.
  1. Take Inventory. Good memory or not, you’re bound to forget every last item stored in the unit. Even if it only makes an appearance once every few years, you’ll want to remember where your fine china from Great Aunt Gertrude is when she comes calling.
  1. Label Everything. If you plan to fill your storage unit up with boxes, be sure to label them so that you can quickly and easily identify what’s inside. It’s also important to make sure all labels are facing the same way.
  1. Map It Out. In addition to making note of everything that’s stored in your storage unit, it’s a good idea to map out where everything is located. This way you can easily grab something when needed.
  1. Place Items Strategically. Keeping like items together (or packing things according to which room or family member they belong to) is a simple way to add a level of organization to the process.
  1. Leave a Walkway. For those renting a large self-storage unit, don’t forget to leave a walkway down the middle when filling the space with your belongings. Not only will this make it easy to grab things when you need them, it will keep you from having to climb over boxes and other items when you need to grab something from the back of the unit.

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at paige@rismedia.com.

This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Visit the blog daily for housing and real estate tips and trends. Like Housecall on Facebook and follow @HousecallBlog on Twitter.