10 Smart Tips for Storing Furniture in a Storage Unit Without Damage

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated November 29, 2021
Retro furniture in a beautiful living room
Photo: FollowTheFlow / Adobe Stock

Come on; it’ll be fun—like a game of life-sized tetris

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“Seriously, where did all this stuff come from, and why do I have so many things?” said almost every mover ever. If minimalism isn’t quite your style, packing a storage unit will take some effort. With so much stuff to account for, you’ll need to wrangle and finagle furniture in a way that doesn’t damage the goods. Step by step, these tips will help you store your furniture in a storage unit safely and efficiently. We promise not to advise you to throw anything away, either.

1. Pick the Most Secure Storage Facility

The key to safely storing your furniture is choosing the right storage unit in your local area. Inspect the unit’s condition and the facility’s overall security to make sure your belongings will go unharmed. Look for a storage unit with limited exposure to the outside world when it’s properly closed—holes and cracks let in dirt, water, humidity, and rodents.

2. Choose a Climate Controlled Unit

Climate-controlled storage units with dehumidifiers and air conditioning help prevent mold, mildew, and corrosion. It costs more to rent these storage units, but with them, you’re less likely to end up with a moldy sofa fabric and bed frame plagued by dry rot. Talk to the facility manager about how they monitor humidity levels; it should stay between 30% and 50%.

3. Pre-Clean Your Storage Unit and All of Your Items

Thoroughly clean your storage unit as well as the goods you plan to store, so you don’t accidentally import mold, dirt, and rodents. Plus, any smell you put into the unit will only intensify once closed.

To start, vacuum or sweep the unit. Then, wipe down leather and upholstered furniture like sofas and pillows. Do the same thing for your wood, plastic, and metal furniture. Ensure all pieces are completely dry before you pack them away to avoid moldy boxes and tarnished parts upon your return.

4. Disassemble What You Can to Save Space

This step won’t save you time, but it will save you space. Break down your bookshelves, dining room set, and anything else that originated in pieces. Disassembly also saves room in your moving truck, should one be in your future.

For each piece of furniture, put all of the screws, nuts, bolts, or other hardware in a small plastic bag and label each. Store them either in a drawer or tape the bag to the back of the furniture. When it’s time to unpack, you’ll find the matching hardware tucked away right where you left it.

5. Line the Storage Unit Floor To Protect Furniture

Use a thick sheet of plastic to create a protective moisture barrier, especially if you don’t choose a climate-controlled unit. However, do not wrap your furniture in thick plastic because it will only seal moisture into the fabric and wood. Instead, loosely wrap them in moving blankets and old linens to keep dust and dirt away.

Bonus points: those same blankets will also protect your furniture from sharp edges and corners during the actual move.

6. Box, Wrap, and Label Fragile Items

A man pushing a trolley in a self storage unit
Photo: Seventyfour / Adobe Stock

Vindicate your hoarding tendencies by using the original packing to box up fragile items safely. If those are long gone, many home improvement and grocery stores sell moving boxes that will fit just about anything, including TVs and wall mirrors. Stock up on packing materials like bubble wrap and print-free newspapers, then label your items so your movers know what needs to be handled with care.

7. Raise the Floor

Some people find comfort in stacking their boxes and furniture onto wooden pallets or cinder blocks to keep some distance between the items and the floor. The added height could help with flooding and reduce the risk of moisture absorption.

8. Load With Heavier Items First

Organizing isn’t hard, but it is most important. Start by placing the largest, heaviest boxes and furniture on the floor, then layer lighter boxes on top.

  • Don’t stack boxes too high or stack furniture on top of each other, as weight could shift at any time and cause the furniture to fall and leave a trail of collateral damage

  • Leave the doorways clear for the door to close securely

  • If possible, create space for a walkway down the middle for easy access

  • For items you can’t break down like dresser drawers, pack smaller boxes and fragile items in the drawers to save space

9. Install Shelving

Did you know you can install shelving in your storage unit? Purchase hanging shelves and temporarily drill them into the wall, or get large plastic or metal shelves that stand on the ground. This can help organize large or oddly shaped items that won’t fit in boxes.

10. Double Check the Storage Facility’s Do Not Pack List

Before you shut and lock the door, make sure you haven’t packed anything illegal or restricted. Usually, flammable materials and chemicals land on these no-no lists to keep all surrounding storage units safe. Lastly, don’t store food; it’s the quickest way to invite a pest problem.

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