How to Conquer Your Next Move with the Right Moving Boxes

Whether you are planning a cross-country relocation or moving across town, there’s one thing fundamental to changing where you live: the moving box. It’s the unofficial symbol of moving—a brown box, taped across the top, its ultimate destination (e.g., “kitchen”) scribbled on with a Sharpie.

From the moment you begin to plan your move, moving boxes become a priority. You may find yourself thinking about where to find them, how many you’ll need, how to pack them efficiently, and what to do with them after you’ve moved and unpacked. Relax… we’ve got you covered with this guide to conquering your next move.

right moving boxes

How many moving boxes will I need?

This moving box calculator will help you estimate the number of boxes you will need. If you are buying boxes, make sure you can return the ones you don’t use; that way, you can buy a few extra, just in case. (You can also purchase “moving kits” that include an assortment of boxes and moving supplies.)

Choosing the right types of moving boxes

The best boxes for your needs will depend on what you’re moving and your budget. Standard moving boxes (like these) are perfect for books, kitchen items, and clothing. For expensive, breakable items, investing in specialty boxes (here’s one for a flat-screen TV) can save money, and heartache, in the long run. Mirrors and framed art require extra protection during a move, and picture moving boxes will do the trick.

Where to find free boxes

When you’re on a tight budget, the best types of moving boxes are the ones that are free! Check out these sources during the weeks leading up to your move:

  • The “free” section on Craigslist;
  • U-Haul’s Customer Connect, an online bulletin board that matches people who have boxes to give away with people who need them;
  • Your local Starbucks (call ahead and ask if you can pick up empty boxes from the store’s daily shipments);
  • Moving companies such as Purple Heart also offer seasonal specials on free moving supplies when asked about.

Big-box stores and retail chains are also good sources of free boxes. The trick is to call ahead, speak with a manager, and ask that some boxes be set aside before they are flattened for recycling. Look for boxes that are clean and heavy, and avoid produce boxes—the last thing you want to do is to bring bugs along on your move.

The best way to pack moving boxes

Now that you have your boxes, it’s time to start packing—and it’s never too early to pack for a move. First, make sure that the bottom of each box is securely taped. Then, follow these simple steps:

  • Pack one room at a time, and don’t mix items from different rooms. This will make it simpler to find what you need later.
  • Follow the same procedure for each box: padding on the bottom, then heaviest to lightest items. The padding on the bottom acts as a shock absorber. Towels, blankets, and sheets make great padding.
  • Keep it light. Spread out heavier items (like books) among boxes.
  • Fill it up. Full boxes keep things from breaking.
  • Label first, tape second. Yes, I learned this one the hard way.

Consider these moving box alternatives

Cardboard boxes aren’t the only game in town. Get a head start on moving by packing up suitcases, duffel bags, garment bags, and plastic totes. If you’re planning to bring these items to your new home, fill them up first.

There’s another alternative to the humble cardboard box and it’s gaining popularity: sturdy reusable plastic boxes that you can rent for your move. ZippGo and BungoBox deliver the boxes to you and then pick them up after your move. This could be the future of “green” moving, especially as more plastic moving boxes are made from recycled materials.

What to do with boxes after the move

Even if you are using alternatives to moving boxes, you’ll likely have some cardboard lying around after the move. There are some amazing things you can do with it:

  • Make a fleet of cardboard cars for the kids in your life
  • Keep the weeds away in your new garden

Create a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem with this DIY laptop cooler

When the moving boxes have been returned, reused, or recycled…

Congratulations are in order! When the last of the moving boxes are no longer in the center of your living room, you can sit back and relax because your move is officially complete.

About Christa Baxter

Christa Baxter
Christa Baxter has worked as an editor for more than seven years. She leads the content team in producing whip-smart moving tips and recs. After relocating four times in the last calendar year, she’s got strong opinions about moving best practices. (Just don’t ever pull a Marie Kondo and suggest she whittle down her personal library.)