Congratulations. You’ve leased a storage unit to either declutter your life, make room at your house, or store items from your business. That’s great. But you’re only half-done. Now you need to make sure that you document what you have in a detailed way to allow for easy access later. Below are some tips to keeping track of what you have in your storage unit.

man with confused look on his face

Create a List

This is the simplest method of keeping track of what’s in your storage unit. We recommend creating an Excel workbook with a separate spreadsheet (tab) for each box as well as one spreadsheet for miscellaneous items. You can download our sample Storage Unit Inventory Sheet if you don’t want to make one yourself. Once you’ve finished, print out the spreadsheets and put each into its corresponding box. For the Excel workbook, be sure to back the file up off-site in a Dropbox or Google Drive account. Also, print it out and file it with your insurance papers so if something should happen you’ll be able to give it to your insurance company.

giant camera lensTake Photos

While making a spreadsheet is good for outlining the contents of your storage unit, it can sometimes be confusing when you’ve listed “Grandma’s glass vase.” Which glass vase? She had dozens! To give you further documentation of exactly what you have, taking a photo of each item and title it the same as the item listed on the spreadsheet. This will enable you to know exactly the item you’re looking for. Create another column in your box spreadsheet with the title of “Photo Name” so that you can find the picture you’re looking for later on. Again, it’s recommended to upload these images to Dropbox or other cloud storage for safekeeping.

Take a Video

If you really want to be thorough, you might even want to take videos of the contents of your boxes and your storage unit in general. This is just another way to document what you have. After all, the goal is to be able to know what you have in storage at any given time. You may find that videos are easier to scan through then a spreadsheet or photos.

Mark or Label your Boxes

It kind of goes without saying that putting some kind of indicator as to what’s inside your boxes is important. But thinking about how you’ll want to reference this down the road makes sense. Envision all these boxes stacked high in your storage unit. Now picture the box at the very back of the unit. Several boxes are on top of it. Is it easy to figure out what’s in that box? A dull magic marker may not be the best solution. Instead, think about using color-coded stickers or colored packing tape so that you can clearly identify what’s in each box from a distance. If you decide to use stickers, make sure to put one on all sides of your box so that in the event it gets turned around, the sticker will always be visible.

fingers pointing on a mapDraw a Map

If your storage unit is very large, you may have hundreds of boxes and items stored. In this case, creating a detailed diagram of where everything is can help you immensely when it’s time to find the box or item you’re looking for. Picture the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A giant warehouse with thousands of boxes that all look the same. Do you think they had a map to find the box with the ark in it? Of course!

Anyone can put stuff into a storage unit. But the smart ones document what they have for easy retrieval. Make sure you’re one of the smart ones.



About the Author: Derek Hines

About the Author: Derek Hines

Digital Marketing Specialist

Derek is originally from the great state of Wisconsin (go Badgers), but is slowly becoming a Pacific Northwesterner. As part of the Digital Marketing team, he writes extensively on storage, moving and life for West Coast Self-Storage, based in Everett, Washington.