Since the birth of the box truck people have been asking, “How big of a rental truck do I need?” But the same question now goes for the rising trend of renting a self-storage unit. The answer, of course, is no different.

It depends on how much stuff you have.

To help you figure that out, we need to ask one question: how big is your home?

While no two homes are exactly alike, there are some reliable estimates for how much storage space your home requires.

how big should my storage unit be

For example, on the graph above, a heavily-furnished studio apartment (or a lightly-furnished one-bedroom) will require between 50 sq. ft.-75 sq. ft. of storage space, while a two-bedroom house or a three-bedroom apartment is looking at a 150 sq. ft. or more, on average.

To help you get a clearer idea of how much space your stuff might require, check out this cool storage calculator our friends over at PODS have created.

how big should my storage unit be
PODS storage calculator

Protip: Packing your storage unit efficiently saves space and, therefore, money. Hiring moving labor for a couple of hours may save you hundreds in unneeded storage fees.

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Storage Units

How much do storage units cost?

Again, how much storage units cost depends on how much stuff you’ll be storing and for how long.

Our friends over at Sparefoot tell us that a 10’ x 10’ unit averages $95.00 a month.

It may depend on what kind of storage you need for your things. Common types of storage units include:

  • Temperature control
  • Climate control
  • 24-hour access
  • Simple exterior-access garage-like unit

(To some extent, the price will also be impacted by where you live. In short, California costs more than Kansas.)

Packing your storage unit efficiently saves space and, therefore, money. Hiring moving labor for a couple of hours may save you hundreds in unneeded storage fees.

The bad news is that no matter what size unit you rent, storage does not come much cheaper than that. Again, your cost may differ, depending on a variety of factors.

But the good news is self-storage costs actually seem to be decreasing after reaching their peak in 2017.

What can you not put in a storage unit?

Animals, food, soil, and stuff that can catch fire.

Okay, there’s more to it than that, so let’s run down the list.

  • Animals – Alive or dead, a big no-no. (Stuffed animals, like your childhood Snoopy? No problem.) Animal food should also be kept out of storage
  • Food – Only the canned stuff. Some folks will say dry pasta and rice is okay. We take a more cautionary approach. Eat it, give it to your neighbor, or donate it to your local soup kitchen or food bank
  • Flammables – Basically anything that is used for fuel (e.g., propane, gasoline, lighter fluid, camping stove fuel cans), anything meant to be lit (e.g., lamp oil, fireworks, matches), or anything under pressure (spray paint, hair spray, cooking oil, cheez whiz). Paint, paint thinner, fertilizer, motor oil, car batteries, cleaning products, ammonia and bleach will also run you afoul of your self-storage facility guidelines. If you aren’t sure, check!
  • Plants – All of them, along with soil, peat moss, seeds, sprouts, bulbs, even dried flowers. Likewise, check any outdoor/gardening equipment for dirt and moisture. A little leftover water in a watering can or a garden hose can lead to mold, bacteria, and some nasty smells over time
  • Yourself – That’s right. It is absolutely illegal to live in a storage unit, or even work out of one part-time (in case you were wondering)

Protip: (Non-flammable) liquids are often given the okay, but on the off-chance something leaks you’ll decide too late that it wasn’t worth it.

how big should my storage unit be

What size storage unit do I need for a 1-bedroom apartment (or my dorm room)?

~ 5 ft. x 10 ft. Unit. (50 sq. ft.)

As the graphic up top suggests, if you have a studio or a one-bedroom apartment, you’ll also have no problem fitting everything into a hundred square foot unit.

What size storage unit do I need for a 2-bedroom apartment?

~ 10 ft. x 10 ft. unit (100 sq. ft)

Likewise, a 10’ x 10’ unit might accommodate a moderately-furnished two-bedroom apartment.

What size storage unit do I need for a 2- or 3-bedroom house?

~ 10 ft. x 15 ft. unit (150 sq. ft.) OR 10 ft. x 20 ft. unit (200 sq. ft.)

This will depend on the density of your place, which is why you may need to use a calculator to double-check.

Can I make sure how much space I need at home?

Whatever you’re planning on storing, help yourself visualize how all that stuff will fit (or not) by marking off a 10’ x 10’ corner of floor with masking tape.

Then start piling your world into that corner. It’s certainly easier if you’ve already packed up your belongings into boxes and disassembled your bed, but even if you haven’t you can still get a good idea of what a hundred square feet looks like. From there you’ll be able to make a more educated guess.

Note: storage units may vary a bit in height, but your standard 8’ high ceiling makes for a reliable model, giving you an idea how much you can cram into that taped-off corner of your living room or bedroom if you stack stuff up to the ceiling.

If you have a couple of moving pros handling the job, your chances of everything fitting in a 10’x10′ storage unit increases.

A 10’x10′ unit might also be the go-to size for storing all that miscellaneous stuff that won’t stack up nice and neat, like :

  • Bicycles
  • Sporting equipment
  • Weight sets
  • Patio furniture
  • Lawnmower
  • Snow blower
  • Skis and snowboards
  • Golf clubs

Can I fit a car into a 10 x 15 unit?

Well, guess what? It depends. How big is your car?

You probably need around 200 sq. ft.

But does the self-storage facility allow vehicle storage? Most don’t, but there are a few speciality storage companies that may accommodate this. And of course, it’ll likely need to be drained. Do your research on storage businesses near you first.

Are there storage unit discounts?

Self-storage is a highly-competitive industry, and those competing for your business often throw in attractive extras, such as giving you your first month heavily-discounted (if not free), complimentary use of one of their moving vehicles, and off-season specials.

However, there is always fine print. Know what you are actually committing to, and for how long, in exchange for those freebies.

Which is better: Moving Storage Containers or Self-Storage?

how big should my storage unit be

Storage units can be great, but what if all your stuff could exist on your own driveway?

Storage Container Pros

  • Totally portable. A company like PODS will drop your storage container off at your home
  • Extremely convenient access. (Especially if you’re doing an office remodel)
  • Easy to pair with labor. Moving companies work with companies like PODS and 1-800-PACK-RAT all the time and sometimes offer discounts
  • Storage facilities (usually) available. If needed, they can also pick it up when it’s full and drive it away to their own storage facility. (It will probably cost you around seventy-five bucks for the storage fee)

If you have a couple of moving pros handling the job, your chances of everything fitting in a 10’x10′ storage unit increases.

Storage Container Cons

  • Moving costs. Here’s the thing thing though: your PODS unit will ultimately cost a lot more upfront, since you are paying for, well, moving services. If you want to see how much more, check out Moving101 for up-to-the-day storage container prices
  • Space big enough to accommodate that container. If you don’t have a driveway, and can’t get permission to have a container placed curbside or in your building’s parking area, you may be out of luck. Plus, if you opt to keep your things outdoors, the weather may be a variable, depending on where you live

Which is better?

In terms of pure convenience, portable storage is the way to go, especially if you are planning on just leaving it all in there for the duration of your storage contract. If you are storing stuff for a long period of time, and might want to get stuff out from time to time, a self-storage unit will save you money while giving you an extra amount of freedom.

Storage Unit Protips

  • Inquire early during the busy summer months. There’s more available in both numbers of available units and sizes
  • If you’re moving first, load stuff going into storage last (or first) on your rental truck. Besides making sense, having all that stuff in one (neat, tight, safe) pile gives you an idea of how much space it requires meaning you can rent the right size storage unit
  • Leave a little wiggle room if you plan on – or think you might need to – access your stuff while it’s in storage. If you plan on storing everything and leaving it until you move it all out, you can afford to pack it in tight, saving space and possibly money