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Is a Storage Facility the Key to a Stress-Free Move? Here's How to Decide.

05/04/23 | Dana LaRieal Morales

Discover my step-by-step process for preparing for the arrival of our daughter and getting our house ready for the market in this episode. I discuss the benefits of using a storage facility to simplify the process, and share my personal reasons for choosing this option. Along the way, I provide valuable insights into the pros and cons of using a storage facility and offer practical tips to help you make the most of this solution if you find yourself in a similar situation.

The Move Methods I Use

The move methods I used were developed over time, by using a combination of a few previous life experiences. One such experience is that of growing up as a military brat. We moved around a lot, and although we usually had movers, you learn quickly how to prepare and execute moves. Additionally, in my corporate environment, there were frequent relocations of people to new offices/spaces. Finally, my natural inclination towards organizing things helped me develop a system that works well. I hope you find this information and the method helpful.

Now, as you know, the reason we were putting our house on the market was because I was pregnant and I knew that where we lived was a little small. It was cramped for me and my husband, so to add a baby to it, it was just going to be too much. 

We began looking for a house when I was approximately 5 or 6 months pregnant. Now, I was hoping that our house would sell very quickly because I didn’t want to live in an environment where I was constantly on edge trying to keep the house in show ready state. I also wanted to give myself time to get the house packed, so if I went into early labor my husband wouldn’t be stuck doing it by himself. 

Ultimately, I wanted to be as helpful as possible in the overall process. Truth be told I was hoping we would sell quickly, find our new home and move all before the baby was born.Alas that was not to be, but what we did do helped tremendously.

So, to give you an overall timeline perspective, I began the process in March of packing everything up. April was the main month when I was nesting and getting everything together, but March is when the ideas really started taking shape and the decluttering process started. We obtained the storage facility in early April and began moving things into it during that month and into early May.

The Storage Facility Low Down

The reason I wanted to find a storage facility was because our home was already cramped. We lived in a 1355 square foot condo and we really didn't have any storage since we didn’t have a garage. There was only a little storage room in the back, but it was already filled with holiday decorations, so there was no place to put packed boxes.

One thing I’ve always disliked when looking at a home to purchase, is having to look past all the boxes to see the space.In many cases, there are so many boxes that you can’t really imagine yourself in that environment. It also tends to make the space look smaller than it actually is, so I wanted to avoid that as much as possible. I also knew that staging our home would help the overall resell value. You want to help the buyer imagine what it can be without all of your personal items distracting them. So, this is why I really wanted to declutter before we placed our house on the market and also clear out non-essential items.

As I stated, the process of decluttering our space began in March. I also began looking at storage facilities that were close to our house and could be rented month to month. This would allow us to move items into the facility as we got them packed. Since we were only looking to store items until we moved, our rental agreement was a short-term endeavor. I wouldn’t sign a year lease on a facility. Three months or month to month is ideal.

Where Did We Start?

We began the decluttering process in my daughter's room because, again, we were prepping for her arrival. The baby's room was actually our guest room and office, so there was a lot of stuff already in there. This was an easy place to start because it wasn’t heavily used and most of it could be packed away.There were also some boxes in there that had moved with me from several locations, so I expected the declutter process to be pretty easy. Most of the items were probably things I could just throw away.

Note: I never recommend just picking up a box and throwing it away or donating it without reviewing it unless you know without a shadow of a doubt what’s in it. In my case, I actually found birth certificates and other important documents that I had been searching for all over the house.

It’s inevitable, that you will place important documents and items somewhere for safe keeping and you later forget where that special place is located. This is one of the reasons I encourage the use of your inventory binder during the move process. This is also why you should always check to make sure there aren’t important documents or other irreplaceable things like heirlooms, family photos or jewelry in pockets, small containers or boxes before you pack, discard or donate them.

Categorizing as you go:

As I worked to declutter the condo, I began putting like with like within the room and using that as my guide to pack boxes. For example, I separated all the books in the room into a pile. I then went through them to determine what I was keeping and what I was donating. I then focused on packing up the books I decided to keep. If the box wasn’t full, I left it open to determine if more was discovered later.

Once you have a box full, make sure to label and tag it accordingly. This allowed me to know exactly what was in the box and what room I expected to put them in when I got to our new home. The tagging also helped when it came to storing them in the storage facility. 

The other important thing is to make sure you don’t co-mingle your boxes. If you throw in a bunch of other items it makes it harder to locate them if I were to need them later. If you must co-mingle items, try to pack based on the room they are going into. For example, the box designated for the office or for the guest bedroom. At least then you will have it close to where it will ultimately live.

Get The Right Boxes

Now this may not be a popular idea, but when it came to boxes, I used free liquor store boxes and paper boxes and here is why. First and foremost, they were free and in abundance! I know having boxes that are all the same size seems like a great idea, but I don’t think it’s always practical.Well, it wasn’t for our situation.

When you have boxes of varying sizes it makes it easier to fill the holes you will inevitably have in your truck and storage space. I don’t know if you realize this but box trucks and personal vehicles are not perfectly square. There are always those weird crannies for the wheel well and the overhead compartment. Also, your furniture itself has nooks and crannies. I found that having varying box sizes allowed us to fit things tighter in the truck and the storage facility, much like a puzzle.

If a mover is coordinating your final move, then you may not care as much about fitting boxes in a truck, unless you are paying for a specific truck size or your final destination is still up for debate. If that’s the case, you may need to consider if you will need a storage facility at your destination location. Regardless of your situation, be mindful that the larger your boxes, the bigger moving vehicle and storage facility you may need whether on the front-end, back-end or both.

Get things out the house as soon as possible

As you go through this process, you will inevitably identify donatable items. I recommend you remove them from your space as soon as you can. I removed them at least once a week if not daily.This allowed me to quickly see my space coming together. We also moved items to the storage facility at the same pace. 

If you find a category that should be tackled later or with another group of items in another space, just move those items to that space. Remember, the key is to declutter and pack like with like.The only exception to this rule is if similar items are typically stored in different rooms.Then you’d just need to decide when and how you pack them. 

Certain things like cleaning products, I packed together even if they were earmarked for a specific space. However, bedding and linens were packed based on the room it was earmarked for. Note, this is in alignment with the way I organize my home, so if you don’t organize your space in that way this may not make sense for you. In other words, I store linens and bedding for rooms in those rooms.

Organizing Your Storage Facility

When we got the storage facility, we wanted one that was rented month to month and we also wanted a small unit. We weren’t trying to pack up everything in our home, we just wanted to put the seasonal or unnecessary items into the space. The rest of our belongings were staged around our home.

As we added items to the storage facility, we tried to organize things by color. Remember each color represented a room in our anticipated new home (see additional posts in the move series for more details). We organized the storage space this way so if we ever needed to retrieve something from the storage facility, we could easily find it because of the color-coding and tagging. I knew based on my inventory what items were already at the storage facility and which ones were on site. I also knew the box number to look for based on the inventory.

This decluttering and packing process was all done gradually over several weeks, which allowed us to see our progress.If you're looking to do this, I would recommend making sure your storage facility is as close to the location you are emptying as possible.I would also avoid getting a unit that is too large because you are only removing non-essential items. You might also consider selling items instead of storing them, especially if you don’t plan on keeping them. This will all be dependent on your overall timeline.

Adding the Ability to Pivot

By now, you know the first reason we wanted the storage facility, which was for staging reasons. The other reason was because we didn't know where we were going to end up at the time. Remember I was pregnant at the time so we weren’t sure how everything would align. I knew if I had our daughter early my husband would have to handle getting the house packed. Being the organizer that I am, that gave me a lot of anxiety and I was really looking for a way to eliminate the concern that produced. 

I addition to setting the goal of selling our house within three months, I worked to strategically get the things packed up and out of the condo as easily as possible. The storage facility provided the ability to pivot because regardless of how things progressed with the sell and move, we could easily adjust. We only kept essential items in our home so if my husband had to handle moving the essential items, he could easily do that by himself or with a small team. He then could go back later to retrieve the non-essential items in the storage facility once we were settled. 

The End Result

Overall, the decluttering, packing and moving items to the storage facility took about six to eight weeks. We were able to truly declutter our space before we put it on the market and then we were able to take our time and pack up everything else appropriately. Our home was only on the market approximately two or three weeks (mind you this was before all the craziness of the housing market that is now) during a buyers’ market. We had an offer on it that we accepted and then unfortunately they pulled out of the deal due to a spousal disagreement. So, in total the house was on the market approximately 2 months. 

So, let’s take a step back and remember why we started all this to begin with…yes that’s right my daughter. Well, I had my daughter on July 18th and the weekend that we came home from the hospital I got a call from our realtor. Needless to say we sold our house that day. We were able to easily transition from the condo to the new house because we only had what was in the condo and we didn't have to worry about all the stuff that we had already moved to the storage facility in that particular moment. We ended up retrieving it all at once because my husband had the help, but if we had waited we would have been fine. Ultimately, we had the storage facility for about five months but we got two months free.

The other win for us was when we did finally get into the house, we were able to quickly place boxes in the appropriate locations because of the way they were color-coded. We started unpacking the kitchen first. My parents were helping and we could all easily and quickly see all the red tags that were designated for the kitchen. The inventory allowed me to determine if we had them all or not.

I hope you found this detail helpful. If you are planning to move soon, I definitely recommend that you check out the move series. I go through the inventory, the move and kitchen maps. I still stand by all those things and encourage you to get those set up if you have the time to put them in place prior to your move, it is definitely worth the effort to make your move smoother. 

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The Organized Holistically podcast strives to teach side-hustling solopreneurs how to manage a successful business and life using holistic systems. I help you develop, implement and streamline unique and organic processes and organizing systems.  I do this by helping you identify the right systems and processes so you aren't spending money or time on unnecessary things and instead can spend that time and money focusing on the things that are most important to you, your family.