What Can (And Can’t) I Store in a Storage Unit?

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on May 24, 2021
5 min read

At a glance

Storage unit companies have strict rules about what you can keep in a storage unit. You can typically store anything that’s not on a list of prohibited items—but those things can vary by company. You obviously can’t use storage units to hide stolen cash or deceased pets, but not all prohibited items are as clear-cut.

Whether you need long-term storage because you’ve lost your home or short-term storage while you wrap up a remodel, double-check to make sure you don’t plan to store any of these items:


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What can you store in a storage unit?

You can store almost anything in a storage unit. As long as it fits inside the storage space and isn’t against the rules, it’s fair game. The most common items in storage units are vehicles and valuables from your home.

A sample list of items you can usually put in a storage container:

  • Artwork
  • Books
  • Boxes
  • Dryers
  • Electronics
  • Furniture
  • Home decor
  • Lamps
  • Mattresses
  • Musical instruments
  • Newspapers
  • Ovens
  • Sports equipment
  • Stoves
  • Tables
  • Washers
  • Wine
Info Box
Can I store it or not?

Storage rules vary from company to company. Some storage unit companies even recommend their facilities for storing items others expressly forbid. Ask your local self-storage site manager if you have questions about commonly prohibited items.


What not to put in a storage unit

Firearms

It’s typically illegal to store firearms in a storage unit. Not only are there potential liability issues (not everyone is diligent about gun safety), but it creates all kinds of problems if your storage space goes up for auction. Storage companies have to wrestle with involving the police and worry about potentially selling weapons to convicted felons. It’s a no-win for the storage facility.

Food

Storage units often disallow perishable items like meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and raw fruits and vegetables. Sometimes they also prohibit containers that once held food. If your belongings would attract mold, mildew, or unwanted pests, you probably can’t put them in a self-storage unit.

A selection of meat, fish, cheese, and eggs displayed on a wooden table

Storage units typically prohibit you from storing perishable items like meat, fish, cheese, and eggs.

Exclamation
What should you not put in a storage unit

Avoid putting items that are illegal, dangerous, or perishable in a storage unit. Storage facilities also have rules against things like plants and animals.

Fur clothing

Some self-storage companies have rules against fur. While it’s a less-common no-no, you should check with your self-storage facility to be sure. Some companies say fur clothing isn’t allowed, while others ask you to keep your comfy status symbols in a climate-controlled storage unit (fur is more likely to molt at high temperatures).

Hazardous materials

Self-storage companies prohibit just about every dangerous substance you can think of. Check your storage unit rules to be sure, but chances are you can’t put any of these items in a storage unit:

  • Acid
  • Compressed gas
  • Fertilizer
  • Fireworks
  • Gasoline
  • Grease
  • Kerosene
  • Narcotics
  • Paint
  • Propane tanks

 

Living (and dead) things

Storage unit rules don’t allow you to put living things in your storage space. Whether it’s a tiny plant or a real-life zombie, if it’s alive—or used to be—it’s not allowed. You can safely assume that it’s illegal to store any of these items in a storage unit:

  • Animals
  • Ashes (human or animal)
  • Dead organisms
  • Flowers
  • People
  • Plants

Money

Many self-storage companies don’t permit you to keep money in your storage unit. It’s enough to crush the spirit of Walter White, meth kingpin from Breaking Bad. TV criminals love hiding cash in storage units, but it’s not a realistic option for the rest of us.

Priceless and irreplaceable items

A storage unit seems like an ideal place for old school assignments and high school yearbooks, but not all self-storage facilities allow items that would pain you to lose. It may have to do with how unlikely items are to sell at an auction (and how upset you’d be to lose precious mementos)—or how difficult it is to assess an insurance value to things you consider priceless.

At the same time, some storage companies take the opposite approach and encourage you to store these valuables. It can be confusing, but there’s a simple way to track down answers.

We recommend contacting your local storage unit company if you want to store any of these items:

  • Antiques
  • Awards and trophies
  • Baby clothes
  • Baby toys
  • Baseball cards (and other sports cards)
  • Family heirlooms
  • Gifts
  • Jewelry
  • Legal documents
  • Medical bills
  • Photo albums
  • School assignments
  • Scrapbooks
  • Silverware
  • Wedding dresses
  • Yearbooks

Additionally, look for a storage unit company with strong security. We recommend finding a clean facility with a gated exterior, interior lighting, individually-alarmed units, video surveillance, and a web page devoted to security features.

Stolen property

You can’t keep stolen property in a storage unit. Period. Whether you’re a small-time thief who made off with your neighbor’s garden hose or the Ocean’s Eleven type with a casino vault, storage units aren’t your friends. We recommend you give the stuff back. You know, karma.

Tires

Tires are so commonly prohibited that they get a category of their own. You can occasionally find a storage company that allows tires, but most places disallow them for two reasons:

  1. Disposal fees. Most states require a tire disposal fee (it’s not cheap). If the storage facility sells your stuff in a storage unit auction because you can’t pay rent, the costs add up. Blacklisting tires is a way to nip the problem in the bud.
  2. Fires. Tire fires are tough to put out—and they’re terrible for the environment. It’s not worth the risk for companies to allow them in storage units.

What can I store in a storage unit FAQ

Can you live in a storage unit?

No, you can’t live in a storage unit. Self-storage companies will evict people who try to live or sleep in their storage facilities. If you have no place to live, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development can connect you with local resources through its Homelessness Assistance Programs.

What are the most common items in storage units?

The most common items in storage units are household items such as boxes, appliances, and seasonal decorations. Storage companies also have climate-controlled storage units commonly used to store sensitive items like electronics, furniture, and clothing.

What happens if you leave stuff in a storage unit?

Your belongings may be sold at a storage auction if you leave stuff in a storage unit and fail to pay your rent. Self-storage facilities don’t like to hold auctions (they lose money and feel like jerks), so contact your site manager to discuss your options before it’s too late.

Can you store a car in a storage unit?

Yes, you can store a car in a storage unit. Car storage is one of the most popular uses for storage spaces. Move.org analyzed more than 2,500 quotes and found that the average monthly cost for vehicle storage is approximately $250.

What are PODS’s prohibited items?

PODS’s prohibited items include hazardous materials, liquids, gas, lawnmowers, and illegal items. Unlike traditional storage unit companies, PODS (a moving container company) doesn’t allow vehicles.

What are Public Storage’s prohibited items?

Public Storage’s prohibited items include drugs, lithium batteries, explosives, live plants and animals, and flammable liquids. Consult your rental agreement for a complete list of prohibited belongings.

Do storage units have outlets?

No, most storage units do not have outlets. However, some companies (like CubeSmart) will install electric outlets for an additional charge. Contact your local self-storage facility for more information.

What can I store in a climate-controlled storage unit?

You can store anything in a climate-controlled storage unit that is allowed in a traditional storage space, such as boxes, household decor, and seasonal items. Climate-controlled storage is ideal for sensitive items like furniture, books, and electronics that don’t hold up well in extreme temperatures or humidity.

What type of furniture can I put in a storage unit?

You can store most furniture in a storage unit, including wood furniture (or wooden furniture), leather furniture, upholstered furniture, and antique furniture pieces. Many companies recommend climate-controlled units for furniture storage because it protects your belongings from heat and humidity.

What fits in a small storage unit?

You can often fit the belongings of one large closet or one small bedroom in a small storage unit. Sizes vary by company, so you should contact your local self-storage facility or read Move.org’s storage unit size guide for more info.


Kurt Manwaring
Written by
Kurt Manwaring
Kurt Manwaring brings nearly a decade’s worth of research experience as a business consultant to the Move.org team. He specializes in taking complicated issues (like moving) and presenting them in a way that everyone can understand. His writing has been featured in hundreds of publications, including USA Today, Martha Stewart Living, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He brings a BS in sociology and an MPA (masters of public administration) to the Move team. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.