What not to put in a storage unit, and why?

Self-storage has been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the commercial real estate for the last 4 decades. According to the Self Storage Association, out of the 59,500 self-storage facilities in the entire world, 52,500 primary and secondary facilities are located right here in the United States. A recent study shows that roughly 10% of all American households rent a self-storage unit. You do the math.

The huge popularity of self-storage units shouldn’t come as a big surprise. After all, a storage unit can temporarily solve a number of problematic situations for you – when you’re moving to another smaller home (downsizing) or when you’re remodeling your current home and need extra space to store your stuff until you’re done with the project. It’s like having a spare spacious room at your disposal, usually 24/7 – extra space which, in reality, you do get for a monthly fee.

But in order to have the self-storage business work out beautifully for you, you will have to follow some basic and common sense rules. These self-storage rules exist for tenants’ safety, the safety of their personal belongings, and the safety of the entire storage facility as well. And Rule #1 is that there are specific things you are not allowed to put into storage.

Why do public storage restrictions exist?

Some people might argue that as long they keep paying for a storage unit, that rented space becomes their own rented space, and therefore they can store in it anything they wish. Needless to say, that argument is rather weak simply because those people tend to forget something that is of paramount importance: SAFETY. Safety rules are there to protect people and property alike, and without them chaos, anarchy and trouble would follow.

Rules are rules, and the same way you can’t just disregard all road safety rules and traffic regulations simply because you’ve rented a car, you are expected and strongly advised to follow the safety guidelines when renting a self-storage unit. Unless, for some strange reason, you are in the mood for a world of headaches and even possible serious troubles with the law.

Remember: there are things you can’t put into storage because they are not allowed for safety reasons. Simple as that. If anything bad happens due to your negligence and refusal to follow the rules, then you will be liable for any potential damage.

READ ALSO: What to look for when choosing a self-storage facility?

Top 7 things you should never put into a storage unit

Here’s a handy list of things you are not allowed to keep in a self-storage unit, including the very reasons why they are not permitted. Some of these restricted items are pretty obvious, but there are also those items that you don’t automatically consider unfit to be stored in your rented space. So, do read on.

1) Food

This is one of the most frequently overlooked safety rules when using self-storage! Food, including pet food, should never be kept in a storage unit. Just think about it – you leave food in the enclosed space for a long time, it will rot and its smell will attract insects and rodents alike. In turn, those little intruders will probably damage the rest of your stored items by chewing on them and even nesting in them.

Want bigger problems? Infestation is quite possible for the entire self-storage facility. And if, miraculously, no rodents enter your unit for the food, mold and bacteria will appear from the rotting food.

2) Live animals / pets

This one is crazy: who would want to leave a life animal in their storage unit? Yet, there are those who have done it. Leaving a live animal (for example, your poor pet) in a self-storage unit is not only against the public storage restrictions, but it is against the law. Don’t ever do it! If you’re leaving and you can’t take your animal friend with you, then the least you want to do is subject them to darkness, loneliness and without proper cares.

Do you care for your pet at all? If yes, leave them with a family member or a friend you can trust, hire a pet sitter or leave your animal friend with pet caring professionals.

3) Plants

Now that you know never to leave a live animal in your rented space, what not to store in your self-storage unit includes plants as well. As you know well, plants need light, water and fresh air to grow, and these three essentials cannot be found inside in a storage unit.

If you can’t take your plants to your new home or you can’t find space for them in your current residence while the latter is being remodeled, then leave them with friends or give them away. In other words, don’t kill your leafy friends while desperately trying to save them.

4) Stolen items

One of the things you should never put into a storage unit is… drum roll… stolen things! Now that should be common sense right there but hey, you never know.  You’re not allowed to keep items in your self-storage unit if you don’t legally own them or if you don’t have the explicit permission to keep them there by their true owner. Why? Because it is very illegal. If the facility manager senses or suspects that something illegal is going on, then they won’t hesitate to call the police for further investigation.

If it turns out that you’ve placed in storage items have been reported as stolen, then you could be arrested and interrogated. In other words, don’t even think about doing it.

5) Hazardous materials

Speaking of restricted items in a storage unit, hazardous materials do classify as such. By definition and as a rule of thumb, anything that has the potential to create substantial damage if opened or spilled is considered a hazardous material. Corrosive, flammable or explosive materials are strictly forbidden to be put in storage as they pose serious health risks and can cause damage property in seconds!

Examples of such no-no materials include chemicals, aerosol cans, acids, gases, gasoline, propane tanks, lamp or motor oils, pains, paint thinners, cleaners, pesticides, weed killers, car batteries, fireworks, liquor, charcoal, and more. Also, what you shouldn’t put in storage is yard equipment containing fuel. Yes, you can store a lawn mower in your unit but only after you have drained all the fuel and oil from the machine.

And no, you are definitely not allowed to store firearms of any type, ammunition and explosives – look for suitable storage for your weapon at your local gun shop or shooting range.

SEE ALSO: How to pack for storage?

6) Scented or wet items

What not to store in a storage unit include scented or damp items. As mentioned above, strong scents can easily attract pests, insects, rodents or vermin to investigate the source of the overwhelming odors. Trust us, you don’t want any living things crawling or flying around in your rental unit as that will spell out T-R-O-U-B-L-E in no time.

Also, any items that are wet or damp will start producing mold, mildew and spread bacteria in your self-storage unit, and that will likely damage some, most or all of your prized possessions placed in temporary storage. First and foremost, make sure that every single item you plan to store in there is perfectly dry before you pack it up and leave it in your storage unit.

7) Valuables

This safety rule is pretty simple: don’t store any items that have high value for you. Value is measured differently for different people. An expensive piece of jewelry is valuable because it has high monetary value, but a piece of inexpensive clothing or an ordinary painting can have extremely high sentimental value for you.

The security of the whole storage facility can be exceptional but nevertheless, it’s not worth the risk to push your luck and find your valuables stolen or damaged. So, always keep your valuables safe with you.

USEFUL INFO: How to get good deals on storage units?

Bonus self-storage tips: Living space vs. Office space

Finally, here’s one of the most frequently asked questions: Can you live in a storage unit? The answer is hardly surprising: no, you cannot. You cannot work from your storage unit either as it is no office space.

Your rented storage room is meant for household items, not for persons, animals, or plants. Keep in mind that if you get caught sleeping or working in your self-storage unit, the police will be called immediately.

BONUS READ: Is self-storage a bad investment?

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5 thoughts on “What not to put in a storage unit, and why?

  1. I really like your tip to make sure you don’t put any food in a storage unit. I also appreciate what you said about not keeping animals or pets in your storage unit. I’ve heard that there are different things that you can store in a storage unit if it is heated or refrigerated, I’ll have to look more into it though!

  2. This is some really good information about what to not keep in your storage unit. I didn’t realize that it would be bad to store scented things in the unit. I like that you explained that the reason is because a lot of scents attract pest. I would hate to find bugs in my storage unit, so I like that you pointed this out.

  3. I didn’t realize that you couldn’t put a strongly scented item in a storage unit. It makes sense that strong smells might attract pests. I will have to remember that when I fill my storage unit next month. I am going out of the country, so I have to put a lot of my stuff in a storage unit. Hopefully I can keep all the pests out.

  4. I would add not to store anything for longer than three months because if you do you just might end up storing it for 10, 15, or more years. You’re far better off just selling the stuff. If you can’t sell it because nobody wants it, then why are you holding on to it? Haul it to the dump and let them store it for you for a small one time dumping fee.

    Storage rental is kinda like making minimum payments on your credit card. It’s easy and it doesn’t cost much per month so you don’t think about how much its costing in total. Month after month goes by and year after year and before you realize it you have spent more in storage fees than the items that you are storing are worth. That’s even more ridiculous when you consider that you not only could have saved all that money spent on storage, but you could have made some buy selling your crap on the front end instead. Whatever it is that is being stored can’t be that important to you because you’re living just fine without it .

    Of course I’m referring to personal belongings and not business inventory. In the case of storing inventory or other business purposes, then storage units can be a cheap resource input toward making money. So, if it’s not making you money, it’s costing you money.

    Look at the items your storing and mentally calculate what they are worth. Then divide that number by the monthly rental fee. That’s how long you can store them and still get your money back by selling everything at the end of that term. Meaning you will have zero money for the belongings or for your time and effort moving crap around. It makes no sense at all.

    Three months should be your rule…. Just saying. And that’s coming from someone who has spent $54,000 in monthly storage fees on three units for ten years and who is currently in the process of selling off the contents and will be lucky to get $10,000 selling the stuff.

    It’s just crazy…

  5. Thanks for pointing out that we shouldn’t put scented items in storage units. My mother is trying to de-clutter her house by moving some of her things into a storage unit. She has a lot of incense and candles that are heavily scented, so I’ll definitely pass along the tip that she shouldn’t store those things in her unit.

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