Are your small business and personal documents taking over every inch of unused space in your home? Are they safe and secure or are they shoved in a corner of the attic or basement, vulnerable to fire, theft, and hungry little animals? Do you have to dig through stacks of paper to locate your child’s birth certificate or an important business receipt? It’s a new year – maybe it’s time to find a new way to organize and protect this valuable material. Think “self storage.”
Self storage is a reliable, secure, budget-friendly solution to this problem. Self storage facility security is more reliable today than ever. In addition to perimeter fencing, digital video surveillance, electronic gates with keypad access and enhanced outdoor lighting, many facilities offer individually alarmed units and keyless entry. And, don not minimize the importance of your lock. Choosing the right lock can add another layer of security to your already well-protected storage unit. Additionally, look for a facility with a climate-controlled option.
Once you’ve found a secure self-storage facility to suit your needs, it’s time to get organized. Below, we offer a few tips to help you get started.
Before You Store
Climate-Control is a Must
Climate-controlled self storage prevents extreme temperatures from damaging your paperwork. A climate-controlled unit typically stays between 55 and 80 degrees at all times. This prevents humidity, mold and mildew, which can permanently damage your documents.
Decide What to Keep, Shred, and Recycle
Get started with this project by separating business and personal documents and then each of these categories into three piles: Keep, Shred and Recycle.
- Keep – These are the important documents that you need to keep either permanently or until it’s time to dispose of them.
- Shred – These are sensitive documents and materials that you no longer need, but that should be destroyed to protect privacy.
- Recycle – These are documents that are not sensitive and can be delivered to a recycling facility.
Organize to Prepare for Self Storage
For personal documents, you’ll want to organize by type: legal documents, sentimental items (those little works of art that you want to keep forever) and tax and financial materials. The best way to file most business documents is by year. Once you’re finished organizing, think about filing options that will protect them from getting crushed or wrinkled in storage. Your local business supply store should be able to offer some suggestions.
- Large envelopes – 8.5 x 11 inches or larger
- File organizers – plastic, paper, or metal available in a variety of sizes
Protect Your Documents with Filing Cabinets and Storage Boxes
- Filing cabinets – Vertical cabinets will be more space efficient in a self storage unit, but lateral cabinets may work for your needs. Depending on the sensitivity of your documents, you may want to consider fireproof cabinets. They’re pricey, but may be the best option for you. In any case, be sure your cabinets are durable and able to accommodate your organizers.
- Storage shelves with bins or boxes – Boxes and bins are easier to transport and far less expensive than filing cabinets. You will, of course, have to purchase shelving to store them; and they’re not as effective in preserving your items. If you have only a few critically important documents, you can buy small metal boxes that resemble financial institution safety deposit boxes.
Plan an Organized Layout
Create a general plan of how you’re going to organize the documents in your storage unit. Ideally, anything that you’re going to need to access frequently should be placed in the front of the unit. Leave space in the middle of the unit for easy access.
- Create a master content inventory – Number your filing cabinets and/or boxes and develop a master list that identifies the number and types of stored documents.This sounds tedious, but you’ll be glad you have this list when you’re looking for a specific item or you need to make a damage claim to the self storage insurance company
- Map your unit – Make a map of your boxes and filing cabinets and their contents, place it on a clipboard, and hang it in a visible location in your unit. There’s no need to get too technical, a hand drawn sketch will work. This will make it easy to find the items that are “buried” in the back.
- Multiple users – If more than one person is using the unit, it doesn’t hurt to add an in/out log on a separate clipboard. This way, nothing disappears into the black hole of “I can’t remember.”
As your business grows and your personal documents expand, flexible month-to-month leasing allows you to move to a larger space. If it turns out that you need less space in the future, that same flexibility enables you to downsize. You self storage facility manager is always available for advice.