self storage

According to figures, there are now more than 70,000 self-storage units in South Africa across more than 120 facilities. The industry is growing fast and attracting more customers every year looking for convenience. 

With that said, there is some confusion about how the service works. Many people still aren’t used to using it and have a lot of questions. 

Fortunately, this post provides some answers. We discuss how to pay for storage, things you shouldn’t put in a storage unit, and the best ways to use the space you rent. Learn all this and more below. 


How does paying for storage work?

Most storage unit companies charge monthly rent, similar to a landlord. You sign a contract agreeing to pay regular fees, and the storage unit company gives you space to put your possessions in return. For instance, when you approach a storage company to rent a 20-square-metre unit, they might charge 400 rands per month. 

However, the analogy with landlords isn’t perfect. While residential property investors ask tenants to sign up for a minimum period (such as 12 months), most storage facilities are flexible. If you decide you no longer need your storage unit, you can remove your possessions and stop paying the following month.

Monthly or weekly storage unit prices vary with size. The larger the unit, the more you will pay. 

In some cases, you can get discounts if you agree to rent for longer or pay cash upfront for your rental. Storage firms may offer savings as an incentive to encourage and reward customers who decide to use their services long-term. 

How you pay for storage depends on the vendor. First, you will need to book your unit (and check availability). In the past, calling or showing up at the self-storage facility’s reception desk was the only option, but today, you can book online. 

The next step is to decide whether you want to pay now or later. Paying now reserves your unit from your chosen date so nobody else can use it. Paying later shifts the cost to the future, but you risk losing your spot. 

The self-storage firm will then debit your account for the requested dates, giving you exclusive access to the space for that period.


What should you not put in a storage unit?

There are plenty of items that you can put in a storage unit. But there are also those that you shouldn’t.

Humans and animals are, of course, both obvious no-nos. Storage units are not habitable structures. But there are many other items that you shouldn’t store in them. 

  • Perishables: Flowers, food items, drinks, and other natural products decay and break down over time. Therefore, they are unsuitable for long-term storage. 
  • Firearms, explosives and other weapons: Self-storage companies usually have policies forbidding these items because they require special storage conditions. Firearms, for instance, should be kept in secure safes while explosives should never enter a self-storage facility. 
  • Illegal items: Naturally, self-storage facilities also forbid people from storing banned items. Do not use them for drugs or other contraband.
  • Bullion, money and securities: You should also avoid storing currency or financial assets in self-storage facilities. They are not substitutes for safes and vaults. 
  • Chemical or radioactive compounds: If you have a personal stash of plutonium, don’t keep it in self-storage facilities. Don’t use self-storage for any other chemical or substance that could cause harm. 
  • Flammable materials: Do not use self-storage facilities to keep fuel or other highly combustible substances. 

For the most part, figuring out what you can and can’t keep in your self-storage unit requires applying common sense. If in doubt, consult the facility’s rules and regulations. 


Will clothes get ruined in a storage unit?

Clothes are among the more significant sources of clutter in the home. Most people feel they have too many clothes but don’t want to throw them out. Putting them into storage is the obvious solution. But is it safe? 

Many people worry that putting their clothes into long-term storage will ruin them. The honest answer is that it can. However, you can avoid disaster if you prepare your clothes properly in advance.

  1. Wash your clothes: First, wash your clothes. Dirty clothes can attract pests and degrade the fibres over time, leaving them looking and feeling tatty when you remove them. Dry your clothes: Next, make sure that your clothes are bone dry before you put them into storage. Any wetness will attract mould that will rot the fabric while stowed.
  2. Put clothes into sturdy tubs: Next, fold your clothes and put them into sturdy, plastic tubs with sealable lids. This way, you will avoid stretching your garments and avoid pests accessing them.

Don’t vacuum-pack your clothes. While that might be okay for travelling overseas, it doesn’t work long-term. The absence of air eventually damages the fibres, leaving your clothes and shadow of their former selves once you finally unzip them. 


How do you use a storage unit?

Using a storage unit is easy. Most self-storage firms let you access units as often as you like during opening hours. That means you can add stuff, take stuff away, or simply rearrange what you already have in storage to make it more accessible. 

To rent a storage unit, you’ll usually need to present some form of identification. This ensures that you are the legitimate and sole user of the space. 

Access options vary from one self-storage company to another. Some offer conventional keys, though these are rare because of security concerns. Others have rotating door codes on units, and others use cards. 

Ideally, you should organise your self-storage unit like a room in your house. It should have gangways and racks for storing items. 

Most self-storage unit users place items inside cardboard boxes and use protective packaging materials, such as bubble wrap, to keep their belongings safe. S-shaped hooks and bungee cords are great for hanging bulky outdoor equipment, such as kayaks and bicycles.