When you hear the words “clean out a storage unit,” does it make you want to scream or run far away? Whether you’re cleaning out your own unit or a unit you inherited, we know it’s not a fun job. Fortunately, we’re here to help wash away those storage-unit-cleaning blues! We’ve compiled seven simple steps to make your job as easy as possible.
1. Start an Inventory List
As the first step, visit your storage unit and take pictures of it. Be sure to take photos of every side and angle so that you can see everything that’s in it and look through it when you’re home. Bring a notebook and start writing down what you see. Is it full of old paperwork which requires a shredder? Does it have old electronics that need to be donated or recycled? Is there heirloom furniture that needs to be dispersed amongst family members? Once you have a good handle on what the storage unit contains, you will be able to come up with a plan for how to clean it out.
2. Ask for Help
Don’t do it alone. Many hands make light work as you clean out a storage unit. If you’re sorting through a storage unit you inherited, ask family members to help you empty it, or enlist the help of friends for a day of sorting and decluttering. Treat everyone to dinner afterward or have food delivered by DoorDash as you work. Come prepared with everything you need: large trash bags, boxes to fill with donation items, and bins for things you want to keep. It might take longer than a day to clean it all out. Set realistic goals as you work towards emptying out your unit.
3. Sort Your Belongings Into Categories
As you clean out a storage unit, separate everything into categories, like “keep,” “throw away,” “donate,” and “give to family members/friends.” If you’re keeping your storage unit, create another category of things you want to keep inside your storage unit.
When it comes to getting rid of things, think outside the box to come up with creative alternatives to throwing things away. Donate items to your local Goodwill or to non-profits. Do you have stacks of books in your storage unit? Give them to your local library or a school. Better World Books takes book donations and sells them to raise funds for non-profit literacy organizations. If you have items that would make great props or vintage clothes that would look fabulous on stage, donate them to your local theater. There are many amazing organizations that will take your items, which keeps them from ending up in a landfill and helps others in the process. With a little research, you can find great homes for your belongings.
4. Stay Focused
It can be easy to lose focus as you clean out a storage unit. Staying organized will help you stay on track. Clean out one small section at a time, rather than trying to tackle the entire room at once. Always come with trash bags and boxes for sorting — and bring more than you think you’ll need.
If you’re organizing alone, listen to an audiobook (here’s a roundup of the best audiobooks of 2021) or a podcast (here are some podcast recommendations). Call a friend as you work or blast some music to keep your spirits up. You will get through this, we promise.
5. Organize as You Go
If you’re keeping your storage unit, consider some helpful organization tools. If you’re storing clothes, clothing racks are helpful for keeping them organized. If you have an assortment of small items, clear, stackable containers will keep things visible and more organized than cardboard boxes. Also, consider customizable shelving to keep things organized and neat.
6. Whistle While You Work (and Clean!)
As you clean out a storage unit, clean while you go. Wipe cobwebs away, sweep, and dust your belongings to keep things looking great.
7. Use a Junk Removal Company
Are there outdated items to get rid of in your storage unit? Do you have electronics to recycle? Consider hiring a junk removal company to handle it all, especially if you can’t physically lift things or don’t have help from others.