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Save Money on your Interstate Move by Packing Your Own Cartons

Updated on May 8, 2012

Packing your own cartons

Although I would highly recommend professional packers to ensure your valuables arrive in fine condition, this can be the most expensive part of your move. Since this is an costly part of your move, this is where you can save the most money by doing it yourself, as long as you have the time and manpower to get the job done before moving day

. If you have a large household recruit a couple of your family or friends and start 2-3 weeks before your moving day. Your family and friends can help a day here and there as their time allows, and you get to spend time talking with all of them before you move away. Start with the things that are not being used; attic, storage, spare bedroom, x-mas decorations, working down to things used everyday just before your move. Use this time to get rid of those things not worth hauling around anymore, give them to charity, neighbors, etc..

The mark-up on the cartons can be 200-300% if supplied by the moving company, so look for used cartons or someone who will sell them below retail.

Some of the larger moving companies will sell used cartons at discount prices or will throw them in free to get the move itself. U-haul and other truck rental companies have sales to get rid of their current over supply of moving cartons. Unless you have stacks of old newspapers to use for packing, don't forget the packing paper. As much as 150-225 lbs. of packing paper can be used to pack an average 3-4 bedroom house, depending on the number of breakables, kitchenware, pictures, etc..

If you had a estimate done for a full-service move with the packing done by the movers, simply use their estimates for the approximate number and sizes of various cartons. If they estimated 100 ctns., add 10-15% overall to the number of cartons. If their est. is for 10 dishpacks and 10 mirrors, you will probably need 150-200 lbs. of packing paper.


  1. This is the first rule of thumb for a good packer, to go heavy on paper! Especially for packing pictures, lamps, dishes, and other fragile items. Use crumpled paper on bottom of cartons and in between every layer of things that are fragile or you don't want scratched, then individually wrap all fragiles in a sheet or two and stand on edge. Keep things tight and fill the carton to the top, even if it's topped off with a towel or more crumpled paper. If the carton rattles when you shake it, it's not full to the brim.* After the move, if most of your cartons appear crushed on the top you didn't take this rule to heart.
  2. Heavy items must be packed into the smallest carton that will accept them. eg. Pack books and papers into a 1.5 cubic ft. carton or liquor box, which when full to the top will weigh 60-75 lbs.* If you fill a 4.5 carton or 10. wardrobe with books or all your Olympic weights it will weigh between 200-350# min. and they will be scattered everywhere when the bottom falls out, not to mention that the movers may leave it at the bottom of the stairs for you to move later.
  3. Heaviest items on the bottom!Always!50-75# of weights in a 1.5 ctn. is plenty cut the sides down to half the height and tape securely.
  4. When setting your carton up to fill it, start by folding opposite sides together on the carton bottom, then the final opposite two sides, follow the seam of meeting edges with no less than three strips of tape that go past the edge and come up the sides three inches on both side of the carton. This is the bottom of the carton and needs to be secure to stay together while it's handled out to the truck, then loaded into a tier (stack) in the truck or trailer, then back into your new location. It helps if the bottoms don't fall out spilling your things all over the truck and your new neighborhood!
  5. Shoes, pots and pans, misc. things can go into 3.0 cu.ft. cartons. Also heavy linens, misc. toys, garage items, toiletries, and pantry items.wt. limit 50#
  6. Clothes, blankets, towels, linens, toys, larger kitchen appliances, stereos or any items that need more room, but keep in mind weight limits listed on the bottom of most moving cartons while still filling with lighter items.wt. limit 50-60#
  7. Lampshades and artificial flower arrangements usually go into 3.-4.5 cu. cartons with plenty of crumpled paper top and bottom to avoid loose shaking, with no other heavy, foreign objects in the same carton. eg. two like lampshades or two that one fits into the other can go together with a layer of flat paper in between, or several light art. flowers can go together to avoid inside movement. Mark top load only and fragile on top and several sides!
  8. Stack same size cartons on each other to save space until 4-5 ft. high, heaviest on the bottom. (No lampshades on the bottom please!)
  9. For kitchen breakables I recommend you use standard dish packs. This is a heavier wall carton made for plates, dishes, glasses, crockpots,etc. Remember to go heavy on the paper! A solid layer of paper wads on the bottom is the way to start. Then put a layer of plates double-wrapped with paper with the plates placed standing on edge!!!!!!! until you fill the bottom of the carton turn a couple sideways to finish off. Another layer off crumpled paper then bowls or smaller plates following the same format. Just keep working your way up with lighter articles, always wrapping in a sheet or two of paper with crumpled paper covering each layer. You can finnish the top 4-8 inches left with cups, glasses, spices, etc, standing up!!!!!!! eg. eggs are packed standing up, not laying down!!!!! Oh my gosh, you've finnished your first dish pack, now you know why they charge so much, it's labor intensive and you use lots of paper. Movers or packing paper runs .50-$1.00 a pound, you probably used 10-15# on that one dish pack.If you didn't, pull it all out and start over, Just kidding, you'll do better on the next one!
  10. Start packing 2-3 weeks before your move, mark your cartons for each room you want them to go to on the side, and the main articles inside.
  11. It's best to get 8-10 cubic wardrobes to pack hanging clothes, coats, etc., you can drop belts, boots, lg. stuffed animals, etc. underneath. No books, weights, or heavy items to fill these wardrobes. (I've pulled back muscles when someone filled the bottom with them.) They also work for x-mas trees and other tall garage and attic items; hockey sticks,various yard tools, camping stuff. Watch weight limit!
  12. Finally, let's pack the large pictures and mirrors in 2-4 part mirror cartons, they tape together so that they accept multiple sizes, wrap the face of each picture in soft, brown paper pads taped firmly in place. Fit into carton again with crumpled paper top, bottom, and in front. Slip cartons together until all sides are covered with cardboard. They get easier with each one. Note! If your large pictures or an ornamental frame are extremely fragile or expensive, this is where I would recommend paying to leave it to professional packers, even if they need to crate it! Anything damaged from improper packing that you pack is not covered under ordinary movers valuation!

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    • slcockerham profile imageAUTHOR

      slcockerham 

      6 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      Hey Pandula77, Thanks for reading and commenting on my hub. I spent too many years moving corporate executives around the US. Hopefully these will tips will serve you well and help to save you some money on your next move!SLC

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 

      6 years ago from Norway

      Hi, these are some great tips! Really valuable for someone like me who moves around due to my research work. Thanks a lot! voted up.

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