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Boxes for moving house

Updated on March 24, 2011

Moving is all about planning – whether you are shifting some gear to a new room in your house, emigrating half way round the world, you will need to do a lot of organising.  One of the things you will need to consider, is getting hold of a good supply of boxes for moving.

If you have a lot of stuff to transport, such as a houseful, you will really want to start hanging on to sturdy boxes as far in advance as possible.  Look out for them at stores, at friends homes, and in things that get delivered to you mail order.  The ones to watch for are of solid and undamaged construction, generally double-walled cardboard, which is very light and strong.  To store boxes for moving, score along the tape at the joints so they will collapse flat, and can be kept in a loft or basement till needed.  Look out for opportunities to acquire boxes in the run up to your move, you will probably have to buy some, but the more you get donated the better, and you can also keep an eye out for people selling boxes after their own move  - try Craigslist and other local classifieds, you may even find listings that are free on collection. Don’t turn anything down, because somehow you always need more than you think…

You need a range of different boxes for different items in your house.  For valuables and consumer electronics, the best box to move it in is the one it came in, provided that you have the original polystyrene packaging as well – this was designed by the manufacturer to keep the item safe and immobilised for shipping.  It’s a lot less convenient to store the internal packaging, but if you are getting a new TV or something and know that you intend to move house within the next couple of years, it makes a lot of sense to stash it with the box if you can.

For books, you need a lot of small, strong boxes.  It’s a common mistake, to start packing a large box full of books… then to find that you simply cannot lift it once it’s all filled up!  Really boxes for moving books should be no more than around twice the size of a shoebox – you can always carry them stacked if you are superman, but book boxes are the commonest cause of back injury for home-movers!  Books can of course be packed in tightly, with no additional packing material required.

More ornamental or fragile household goods, with less regular shapes, will require protection with tissue paper or bubble wrap. When choosing a box think about overall size, as well as layering the contents so that sturdier items protect those that are more vulnerable.  Again, the weight of contents is important, and even with layers of paper or bubble wrap, items like glass and ceramics are actually surprisingly heavy.  The last thing you want is a box to split open, or a wearied home-mover to drop the lot…

Larger boxes can be used for bedding and fabrics, as these items are low density and can be packed in any order.  But remember to think creatively about how to use soft things like bedding… if you have a big quilt to move, and a plasma TV with no original packaging, use the quilt to protect the TV, or pack cushions in around a delicate ornament.  Seal your boxes thoroughly with packing tape, double-taping the bottom joints especially on heavy stuff like books or file boxes.  If you have a lot of packing to do, one of those tape rollers, with a tear-off blade, is a time-saving investment for sure.

Specialist boxes exist for items like stemware or kitchen appliances.... before you buy a load of these, check them with your actual items, to be sure they are the right size.  Although they are expensive, the items they are designed to protect are usually pretty expensive themselves, so it's a sound investment.

It’s important to keep one box aside to move with you in the car, if your other stuff is going on ahead – make sure this is different and distinct from the rest, so it doesn’t get stashed away.  This is your ‘first arrival’ box – think hard about the contents, what do you need to hand as soon as you open the door… all this will depend on the context of your move, but think of things like keys,  phone charger, cash, cleaning cloths, bottle opener, flashlight, first aid kit, and so on.

Don’t forget to label your moving boxes, clearly and distinctly.  It’s a good idea to mark the contents, to mark which way up the box should remain, and also which room it is destined for in your new place.  If you mark the box on at least 3 sides, there is a possibility that information might even be visible to your movers, depending on how boxes get stacked in their van…

It’s a good idea to also indicate whether the contents of the box are fragile (symbolised with a silhouette of a wine glass), or heavy (marked with metal weight), or both – this might help your belongings survive the trip – and also do either use labels that stick firmly, or write directly on the box itself.  Finding a spare ‘VERY FRAGILE!’ Post-it note in the back of the van is no help to anyone!

Finally, remember that although you can do a great deal to protect your belongings with well-chosen and thoughtfully-packed boxes for moving, there is no substitute for proper insurance.  If you are using professional removers, insure through a different firm rather than their own, otherwise they will surely fight every cent of any claim, and don’t take risks – if you love it enough to pack it up and move it to your next home, protect it!

Boxes for moving, and packing tips


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