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Americans love our stuff. We love our stuff so much we’re willing to rent small rooms far away from our homes just to store all the stuff that won’t fit anywhere else—about 20% of the U.S. is paying for a storage unit. Most of those people are using their storage units exactly as intended—they’ve packed them with furniture, boxes of stuff, and even larger items like vehicles or appliances.

But a storage unit can be much more than just a place to dump all that junk you can’t squeeze into your tiny dwelling. In fact, a storage unit can be the ideal place to do a lot of other things. They’re secure, climate-controlled, and relatively private. Not to mention cheap: They cost an average of $185 per month. As long as you familiarize yourself with your local laws and read your rental agreement carefully, a storage unit can be a cost-effective place to do a lot more than store things.

What the laws allow

First things first: There are a lot of laws covering storage units and what they can and can’t be used for. These will vary from area to area, but there are a few constants. For one, you absolutely, positively cannot live in a storage unit—so don’t imagine you can throw down a rug and a futon and crash there every night. You also can’t use a storage unit as an office in the sense of literally running a business out of it (although you can use it for a business, as we’ll see).

And if you read a storage facility’s agreement, you’re also probably prohibited from storing food or animals in there. There may be a lot of other restrictions, so if you’re contemplating a storage unit as anything but a dumping ground, you should read the rental agreement carefully—violating it could get you evicted.

Create a personal gym

If you’d rather not go to a gym every month and get sweaty in front of total strangers, or if you have a bunch of great exercise equipment you can’t fit comfortably in your current home, a storage unit can be a terrific place to set up a small personal gym. It gets all that equipment out of the house and gives you a quiet, private space to work out.

Not every storage facility will allow this—local zoning laws may prohibit it. But a lot of facilities won’t object as long as you’re not staying there overnight or trying to store gym snacks in there. Your best bet is to speak directly to the facility’s management before renting the unit to make sure it’s legal and that they have no objection.

Use it as a meeting room

You can’t run a business out of a storage unit in the sense of sitting at a desk and listing the unit’s address as your business address. But you can use that storage unit as a place to get stuff done. Whether as space where you conduct phone calls or video meetings in perfect privacy (as opposed to sitting in a coffee shop with your laptop balanced on your knees while you scream over the crowd) or just a place where you bring your laptop every day to work in peace (most storage facilities offer complimentary wifi), a storage unit can help you present a calm, professional face to existing or potential customers and clients.

Manage your inventory

Another way a storage unit can help your business is by using it as a warehouse. As long as the stuff you’re storing there doesn’t violate your rental agreement (if you need to store food products in there, this won’t work) you can avoid having your inventory piled up in your house. This is ideal for folks who sell stuff through Amazon or eBay, Etsy, or other online portals, but any business can benefit from having a place to store spare parts or supplies.

A storage unit is also a great place to store your business’s documents and unused equipment. If it’s a seasonal business like landscaping, for example, a storage unit might be a cheap and safe way to mothball your lawn equipment during the winter months.

Do your art

Storage units are just boxes of empty space. Within legal limits, you can really use that space in any way you like—as long as the rental agreement allows it. One great way to use one is as an art or music studio or rehearsal space.

You’ll need to check with the facility to ensure there are no objections, but a storage unit can be an ideal place to paint, sculpt, dance, or practice (or even record) music in a private, secure, climate-controlled area for less than $200 a month. You could also use your storage unit as a workshop—even a mechanical workshop where you work on smaller vehicles. There are some limitations here depending on how much power you need and the use of flammable or hazardous materials in your work (again, a conversation with the facility’s management is probably a great idea), but in general, you could be using your storage unit as a creative space very effectively.

Practice yoga

A storage space can be a surprisingly calm and meditative area. If you’ve ever dreamed of having a zen zone where you can meditate or simply be, or a place where you can spread out your yoga mat, put on some soothing sounds, and flow through your favorite poses to your heart’s content, a storage unit is a great alternative space if you don’t have a spare room in your home for it. A personal yoga studio is a natural use for a storage unit in a lot of ways, available any time that works with your schedule.

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