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If you ask a random person what they have in their storage unit, you’ll get a different answer from every one. The whole point of renting a unit from companies like Storage West is to have a place to keep your stuff — and you get to define which of your stuff belongs in storage.

Well, you almost have free reign. As with any other rental property there are limitations on what you can — or should — store in your unit. Now, you will hear stories about people living in a storage unit or see news stories of fantastic things that were found in a specific unit, but that doesn’t mean you want to follow those examples.

Here’s a quick list of things you should NOT put in a storage unit.

1. Anything Illegal — This includes stolen items and any item that is illegal to possess or use. It’s also a bad idea to conduct illegal activities in a storage unit. So ignore those TV crime shows that depict people using storage units for illegal surgeries, smuggling, or selling stolen goods. Storage units can be seized by the police just like any house, car, or other property.

propane tank2. Toxic or Hazardous Chemicals — Even legal chemicals don’t belong in a storage unit. They aren’t designed with the proper ventilation or temperature controls. Any substance that is explosive, flammable, or hazardous in any way should be properly stored elsewhere. This includes propane, gasoline, fireworks, bio-medical waste or even ammunition. If you have any doubts, check your lease agreement to see what is “hazardous.”

3. Living Things — It bears repeating that humans shouldn’t attempt to live in a storage unit. Likewise, don’t plan on using it as a kennel for your pets or as a holding space for exotic animals. It’s also a bad idea to attempt to keep living plants in storage. See above re: ventilation and air cooled or air conditioning, and think about the lack of water and sewage facilities. And if you collect or work with insects and bugs, please don’t think you can keep them in a storage unit.

4. Food — Many people think they can use their units as an off-site food pantry, however it is important to keep fresh food, such as produce, meat, dairy, etc., out of your unit. Grains, rice, and cereal are also problematic as they can attract pests. Depending on climate, even canned goods can be risky due to the fact that storage units can be much hotter or colder than the outside temperature. Just skip the food, especially if your facility prohibits food storage.

5. Irreplaceable Items — This includes anything you wouldn’t want stolen or destroyed. Passports, cash, family photos, birth certificates, valuable antiques and other one-of-a-kind items. For money and important documents, a home safe or bank safe deposit box are a better option. For family heirlooms, you can rent air cooled or air conditioned units that may protect your items from temperature damage, but you’ll still need insurance for theft, fire, flood, and other damage.

When figuring out what you shouldn’t put in your unit it comes down to two things: what does your lease say is prohibited and what does your common sense say is a bad idea. If it fails either of these tests, don’t put it in storage.

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