Washington, DC: Top Things to Know About Storage

Krista Diamond |

The Basics

There are 16 storage facilities in Washington, DC proper, but that number increases dramatically when you expand your search to areas outside of the city. Unfortunately, because of the scarcity of storage, you can expect to pay a little bit more if you’re really set on having storage in a certain area. You’ll also be facing a lot more competition for space especially if you don’t have much flexibility on the size of your unit. That’s why it’s important to calculate the amount of space you actually need. You might think that you only need a closet’s worth of storage but if you forget to factor in larger pieces of furniture (or how much space your dress collection actually takes up), you might find that a larger unit actually makes more sense. You’ll also want to factor in your disposable income because, let’s face it, a storage unit is going to mean an extra monthly bill. You can always make this bill lower by storing outside of the city or going in on a storage unit with a spouse, a roommate or a friend. DC ranks as the 10th highest concentration of households earning at least $150,000 a year in a large city, and 30% of the job market is made up by typically recession-proof federal jobs and another large amount is accounted for by contracted jobs that are affiliated with the government. The $10.50 an hour wage (which could likely jump to $15 pretty soon) doesn’t hurt either. If like most of us, you’re not a millionaire and your educational credentials still aren’t cutting it for a government job, you can still make pretty decent money in the service industry because, hey, politicians have to drink beer somewhere. The cost of going out to eat is about 50% higher than the national average, so tipped workers are bound to pocket some serious change, meaning that even with the average apartment costing $1,700 a month, your disposable income should still cover a $70 a month 5x5 unit and those weekend cocktails.

Millennials and Storage

A lot of those friendly new faces around DC are recent college graduates, people taking gap years or young professionals. Basically, the kind of people who like technology and almond milk lattes. That’s right: millennials. According to a survey by the Urban Land Institute, people between the ages of 18-35 make up for 38% of the city’s population. If you’re one of these people, your storage needs are going to be different than the needs of your parents or older coworkers. You’re probably living in an apartment, potentially with roommates, meaning that your closet space leaves something to be desired. Your storage unit should have enough space for your seasonal wardrobe and all of those little odds and ends that your roommates or significant other have duplicates of as well as a few pieces of furniture. Unlike your parents, you’d probably rather pay bills online than via old fashioned snail mail, which is why it’s useful to look for a storage facility that offers online bill pay. If you don’t have a car and you anticipate moving at least a few more times over the next few years, you can save yourself a lot of extra stress (and money) by choosing a facility that has its own trucks for rent. It’s also worth considering a place that can provide you with boxes and supplies. Occasionally these features will cost a little extra when you actually use them, but many facilities will offer them up for free.

DC Climate and Storage

DC wasn’t built on a swamp, but it sure feels like one sometimes.The humidity is no joke. If you haven’t spent a summer in the city yet, prepare yourself and the contents of your storage unit for hot weather and heavy, moist air. Just as you’d take care of yourself by staying hydrated (or at least doing your day drinking in a pool), you should take care of everything in your storage unit. Opt for a facility that offers climate control and you won’t have to worry about a thing. Items like photographs and artwork can gather moisture when left in non climate-controlled storage and end up in pretty rough shape by the end of summer. Antique furniture and leather items are susceptible to this as well. Cardboard boxes (or anything made of paper) can wick moisture and suffer damage as well. Another thing that causes moisture in DC is precipitation. You might think to guard the contents of your unit against summer rain, but have you considered the effect of snow? It snows a lot in the winter, and in the spring that snow melts and can seep under your unit if you’re storing in an outside space. If you can’t find or afford indoor storage, take extra precautions against this by stacking items on top of a pallet or something similar. The more delicate, expensive or important an item is to you, the further it should be from the ground. Many facilities, like Security Public Storage offer upper level units, which are a surefire defense against the elements.

You Won’t See the President Everywhere, But You Will Experience the Traffic

DC residents spend about 82 hours a year sitting in traffic, most of which comes from commuters gridlocked on I-95. On top of that, at some point you’ll end up stopped in traffic thanks to the presidential motorcade. The first time, it’ll be super cool, the second time, you’ll wonder why there are so many vehicles involved (Here's the answer.). This will affect your commute to work or your commute home, but it will also affect access to your storage facility if you’re storing at a place that isn’t open 24 hours a day. If you need to access your unit on a regular basis (this especially applies to small business owners), consider the advantages of 24 hour access or at least budget for a few extra hours of time.