Moving With Storage Containers: Packing, Unpacking Made Easy

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Without a storage container, Cher Woehl's cross-country move would not have been possible. Woehl had just three weeks to pack up her 4,500-square-foot home in California for a move to her fiancé's 2,200 square-foot log cabin Frederick, Md.

While she considered hiring a moving company to pack for her, she wanted a better way to sort and organize her belongings on such a short timetable. The solution: a storage container.

A portable-storage-unit company would drop a storage container at her home the next day, keep another container on reserve and deliver them to her new home across the country.

With a storage container in her front yard, Woehl was able to start taking stuff out of her home, clear it out little-by-little, and make the process of deciding what to take and what to leave a little easier.

"I need to lay everything out, take a look at it and then organize it," Woehl explains. "I knew there would be some things I would be packing up and not unpacking for a while. I needed a way to be in control of the packing process."

Using portable storage containers for moving is a fairly recent trend, says Josh Greene, director of Internet Marketing for 1800PackRat, which has been in business since 2003. He explains that this type of moving service is "midway between do-it-yourself and a full-service moving van, with some unique benefits.

"You can load and unload at your own pace," he said. "If it's helpful to move some things out before you start packing boxes, you can do that. There's just not the pressure to get everything done in one day."

There are many reasons people might want to use portable storage containers as a moving strategy -- "as many different reasons as there are people who store things" -- says Greene. Here are some of those reasons:

1. You can clear out the clutter in your home so you can stage it before a sale.

Storage containers can be delivered to your home as soon as you need them, often within days of calling. And you can decide how long the containers stay there. A lock on the unit keeps everything secure. Many staging professionals will tell you that the less cluttered a room is, the bigger it looks. So, if you can't live without Grandma's rocking chair, but your real estate agent thinks the open house will look better without it, go ahead and stash it in the storage container. Better there than in the musty garage.

2. Your belongings don't have to be unloaded into a warehouse if they need to go into storage.

You can't always time a move out of a home and into a new one the way you would like. For many reasons, you may have to move out of your current home for a month or two before you can get into your new one. If you're going into temporary digs for a while, your belongings can go into temporary quarters in a storage container, as well.

"We have handled all sorts of weird setups," says Greene. While a traditional mover would have to unload a moving van, put belongings into a storage warehouse, then reload the truck once it is ready to be delivered, a portable storage container can stay loaded, and go into storage. "We've had some unique logistical challenges with military moves," he said. "If someone is being deployed, their spouse might move in with family. So they put all their stuff into a storage unit for a year. It just provides a whole lot more flexibility that can't be maintained in a traditional move."

3. You can take take some belongings with you, and put others in storage.

Whether it's a temporary move or a permanent one, sometimes you can't take it all with you. If you are finding it difficult to part with Great Aunt Clara's teacup collection, or you just want to save that baby furniture for the grandchildren, then loading it into the storage container and leaving it there until you need it will help you make light work when you unpack in your new home.

This is also an especially good solution for people who are moving overseas for a few years, said Greene. "If you are going to rent your home while you are away, and want to store most of your belongings, a container gets packed up, and it goes straight to a warehouse. There's no co-mingling with items from another move. Everything stays together."

4. You can unload slowly

Some people can take it all with them, but they want to take their time unpacking. And there are many reasons for that, says Greene. "Sometimes a new homeowner will be remodeling, and the work isn't done by move-in time," he points out. "If you can leave the furniture for that room in a storage container in your driveway, then you can unload as things become ready."

As for Woehl: One month later she is still trying to determine what -- from her extensive Christmas decoration cache and Fiestaware collection -- will make it into her new home. But she has the luxury to take her time and consider all her options. In fact, using storage containers proved to be the right choice for Woehl for another reason, something that she didn't quite foresee.

While she was concerned about the steep driveway at her new home, she had been assured that a truck could negotiate it. While there were some hiccups with the first container -- Woehl admits to overloading it -- the second one made it, and remains in her driveway a month after the move.

"We're slowly rearranging things in the house, figuring what we are going to keep, and what's going into storage," she said. "I don't know what I would have done if a moving van had unloaded everything in one day -- or if it could have even made it up the driveway."

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