Storage is hot. It seems that everyone has accumulated more stuff than they know what to do with, and for many people, storing it in a warehouse or self-storage facility is the answer.

Self storage is so hot that it has spawned two well-watched reality shows in the U.S. that are also seen in Canada. The first show, "Auction Hunters", is now in its third season on the Spike network. It's Spike's highest-rated unscripted series.

A&E's "Storage Wars" is that network's most-watched realty show too, averaging 2.8 million viewers per episode in the U.S. It's now in its second season.

Both of these shows follow people who go to auctions at self-storage facilities. A surprising number of people stop paying the rent for their units and walk away from their stored items, which are then put up for auction. Buyers stand at the door and look inside the units but they can't go in and examine the contents or look in any boxes. Thus, they are never sure what they are bidding on or what treasures they may find.

Storage facility auctions happen in Canada too and you can take part yourself online. Storwell Self Storage in Toronto has storage unit auctions where you can view a brief video of the contents of a unit and then place a bid.

Selfstor, with four locations in Ontario, says there are many types of people who use storage units, ranging from grandparents who are downsizing and saving special items to pass down, to rock bands who need a place to store their equipment and instruments, to students who need a place to store their things in summer while they are not at school.

Selfstor also works with real estate agents and home stagers to help homeowners "declutter" their homes when preparing to sell it.

"The influx of self-storage owners has increased significantly in the past few years, forcing some storage providers to be a little more creative with their business practices," says the company. That has created a wide range of services.

For a low monthly rate, you can rent a storage unit of just about any size and load it yourself. You keep the key, and visit whenever you want. Most self-storage companies also offer boxes and packing materials, and some provide other services such as mailboxes.

There are also companies that will deliver a storage container to your home. You load it yourself on your front lawn or driveway, lock it and the company trucks it away to a warehouse. When you want the stuff back, whether at your current house or a new home, they deliver it there.

Many moving companies also offer storage facilities in warehouses. The movers come and get your goods and store them for as long as required and then bring them back or to your new location. You don't have to lift a finger.

There are also outdoor storage facilities for items like boats, cars and RVs.

When choosing a storage company, the Canadian Association of Movers says you should completely understand the services you are receiving and the liability of the company in case your goods are lost or damaged. Ask about any additional charges, says the association. There may be warehouse wrapping charges if you need your furniture wrapped up with protective materials or if appliances must be serviced to prevent the growth of mildew. There may also be charges for moving your material within the warehouse, such as to the loading dock to be put onto a truck.

Keep a complete inventory list of what you have in storage.

Always visit the storage facility to make sure it is clean, dry and rodent-free. Check out the security features – is someone there at all times? Do they have alarms on each unit? Do they have security cameras? If it's an outdoor lot, is it surrounded by fences in good condition? What is the visitor access protocol?

"It is recommended that consumers who place household goods into storage should purchase depository insurance," says the association. "For full protection, insure your goods to value…If the goods are not insured to full value, you will suffer a penalty in the event of a loss. Regardless, the storage company will not accept responsibility for fragile articles, such as lampshades, ornaments, paintings, china, glassware and books that you pack yourself."

If there are items you are putting into storage that you'll need to remove early, such as sports equipment or winter clothing, make sure it's identified at the outset so the storage people can place it into an easily accessible place.

In self-storage units, you should wrap your furniture with old blankets and sheets to keep the dust off. Don't use plastic to wrap them, says Selfstor, because this could trap humidity and cause condensation.

Selfstor also says you should avoid facilities with sprinkler systems, since a small fire could set off an alarm and destroy your goods.

Make sure your goods are in a facility that is open when you need it.

And finally, don't forget to pay your monthly rent. You don't want to see the contents of your unit showing up a on a reality TV show.

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