There is a fine art to packing belongings into a self storage unit. They should be arranged in such a way that as much is fit into the unit as possible, but also so that the belongings and unit are both protected. If you're getting a self storage unit, here are four tips on how to make the most of your unit and ensure everything remains in great condition.

Create a Map Before Loading Items

Before actually taking belongings to your self storage unit, create a map that details how you plan to fit your stuff into the unit. Use the dimensions of your unit to create a to-scale floor plan of the unit. Draw the walls of the unit, and then begin drawing in where specific items will go. You'll, of course, need to measure items so you can keep the drawing to scale.

Creating a map of your storage unit and where you plan to place items might seem tedious, but it's a lot easier to move items on a map than in an actual unit. Taking the time to draw maps will also ensure you're able to maximize your self storage unit's space, and it may even help you fit everything into a smaller unit -- which would reduce your unit rental costs.

To make the map-creating process as easy as possible, use graph paper and a pencil to draw the map. Each square can represent 1 square foot, and pencil is easy to erase when you're trying to place Tetris with furniture.

Think Outside the Box When Mapping Items

As you're drawing where to place items within your self storage unit, don't be afraid to get creative. For example, storing a couch on its end will free up more floor space for other furniture. Also putting a mattress on top of everything else so that it's by the ceiling may free up room along the walls.

Boxes can be stored in furniture, most furniture can be stowed in different orientations, and small items can be put in little crevices. Think outside the box, and you'll likely come up with some unique approaches that work well.

Keep Items Off the Floor and Away from Walls

While you'll want to use as much of your self storage unit as possible, it's best to keep items from being in direct contact with the floor or walls. Leaving a little gap between walls and belongings lets air circulate and prevents moisture from collecting between your belongings and the wall. If moisture is allowed to collect, it can seep into boxes, or cause mold or mildew to grow. Just a little circulation will eliminate moisture and any potential for damage, mold or mildew.

For these same reasons, you should also leave a gap between your belongings and the floor. Placing used pallets from retailers will elevate your belongings a few inches so air can flow underneath them. Many retailers don't have a use for old pallets and will give them away. Additionally, these pallets are quite strong. A standard pallet can hold 4,600 pounds -- making it plenty strong enough to hold most home furniture.

Use Drop Cloths to Protect Walls and Floors

If you're storing anything that might leak or spill, place drop cloths along the walls and on the floor of your self storage unit. Storage facilities sometimes charge fees if a unit is damaged, including if its walls or floors are discolored by a spilled or leaked liquid. Using drop cloths to protect these surfaces will keep your unit looking good so that you don't have to pay any such fees even if something does spill or seep out.