How Big of a Storage Unit Do I Need?

Row of yellow storage lockers
Gary S Chapman/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

If you're moving house and you need to rent either long term or short term storage, before you sign a lease agreement, make sure the storage unit is large enough for your things but not too large that you're paying more than you need to for the space.

So, to help, this guide provides details based on an email I received from a woman who asked how much storage she'll need to store all the things from her one-bedroom apartment. She's moving overseas and needs to keep it in a safe place for an undefined time. She also has some items that are valuable and she's concerned about leaving them behind.

Decide What You Need to Store

Before you start looking for a storage facility to keep your things, you need to know what and how much stuff you need to store. The woman who contacted me, needed to store all of your things, including some valued pieces of art that required a storage space that is free from damp and protected against the elements. 

First, take a household inventory to decide what to store and what will move with you. Make a list and for large things, like furniture, take measurements of each item and list the number of boxes and their sizes to ensure your storage space is large enough to hold everything you need to keep.

Next, determine if there are any items that require special storage. If you're storing antiques or furniture or artwork that is valuable, you'll want to invest in a space that is climate-controlled, in particular if you're storing stuff for a longer period of time. Books and paperwork require temperature controlled storage as well. Find out more about climate-controlled storage to help you decide what you need.

How Big Does the Storage Locker Need to Be?

Now that you know what you want to store, let's tackle storage sizes and how much space you need to rent to ensure your things are properly stored. The sizes below are pretty standard for most storage companies. Some companies can accommodate what you need by rearranging movable walls but make sure you ask before you sign any lease agreements. Note: the measurements below are represented as L x W x H in feet.

  • 5 x 5 x 10 = Small items, boxes, books, etc...
  • 5 x 10 x 10 = Small 1 bedroom home
  • 10 x 10 x 10 = 1 bedroom home
  • 10 x 15 x 10 = 2-3 bedroom home
  • 10 x 20 x 10 = 3-4 bedroom home
  • 10 x 30 x 10 = 5-7 bedroom home

Visit the Space

I always recommend that you check out the storage facility in person, ask to see the space then gather as much information as you can. Storage professionals are really good at assessing the size you might need even if you have a hard time judging the space required.  It also gives you a chance to ask questions about the company and to ensure it's the best place to store your things.

Research the Storage Company

Before you decide on which storage facility to use, just like when you hire movers, you need to thoroughly investigate a storage company. Make a list of companies, check their records with the Better Business Bureau, ask friends, colleagues and relatives their experience with storage companies, then conduct your own assessment. Set up a time to inspect the facilities, ask questions, take notes; you can also contact the local police department to see if there have been any reported incidences. I also recommend visiting the storage facility during off hours, for example, on a weekend or in the evenings and talk to staff.

Finally, if possible, ask a friend to check on your things from time to time while you're away. Give them a list of items you're storing, and arrange for them to have access to the storage unit.