Packing for a move may be laborious and time-consuming, but unlike other highly complicated aspects of the relocation process (such finding an appropriate new home, for example), it seems like a simple task – all you need to do is put your items in a box, seal it shut, and tape a label on it. And while this is true, of course, you should have already realized that nothing is ever as simple as it seems at first (especially when it comes to moving house).
But what is so special about packing moving boxes? It’s easy to guess – if a box is not packed correctly, it won’t provide good enough protection to your items during transit. Some of your cherished possessions may get broken or damaged only because you failed to pack a moving box the right way. To avoid such undesirable situations and ensure the safety of your belongings during the relocation process, you need to know how to properly pack boxes for moving.
Take a closer look at the packing guidelines below to make sure you don’t miss an important step when packing a box for shipping.
What kind of boxes to use for moving?
New, corrugated cardboard boxes are your best option when it comes to safe, practical, and convenient moving containers. If you want to save on packing materials and use old boxes for your packing needs, at least make sure they are clean and sturdy enough to support their contents without any risk of breaking. Every single box you intend to use for your move has to be rigid and in excellent condition without rips, tears, or damage to the corners.
Standard moving boxes
Different items require different size packing boxes, so you’re going to need an entire collection of cardboard cartons for your relocation:
Small packing boxes are ideal for heavy objects like books and tools or fragile items that should be packed separately (glassware, pieces of art, etc.);
Medium-sized cardboard boxes are good for clothes and shoes, toys and games, small appliances and electronics, cookware, etc.;
Large moving boxes are best for blankets, pillows, linen and other bulky lightweight items.
Specialty moving boxes
Standard cardboard boxes may not be strong enough (or may not have the right shape) to ensure the safety of your more delicate and valuable possessions. That’s where specialty boxes come in handy:
Wardrobe boxes are perfect for transporting clothes;
Dish boxes are very strong and especially designed to protect fragile items;
Mirror/picture boxes are custom-built to fit framed artwork or large mirrors and come with special frame protectors for added safety;
File boxes, lamp boxes, crib boxes and various other kinds of specialty boxes are also available to meet particular packing needs.
How many moving boxes do I need?
The number of moving boxes you’re going to need for your relocation depends on the size of your move, as well as on your ability to optimize the space inside the boxes.
To get an approximate idea of how many moving boxes will be required for your packing needs, you have to make a detailed inventory of the items you intend to take with you. Then, you can use a moving app to calculate the exact number of boxes that will accommodate your stuff – just input the type and number of household items you’re going to relocate and the app will do the math for you.
As a rule of thumb, you should be able to pack the contents of one room in about 10 small boxes, 7-8 medium ones and 5 large ones. However, you are strongly advised to provide some extra packing boxes, just in case (you may decide to pack a few more items in the last minute or you may damage a box or two in the packing process, etc.).
Where to get moving boxes?
Get the moving boxes you need well ahead of time, so that you can start packing as early as possible (not being pressed for time will reduce the moving stress and will allow you to pack at your own pace and with greater attention to the details).
Purchase brand new moving boxes from local moving companies, mail service stores, and office supply outlets or order the packing materials you need online. Make sure you compare the prices and look for special deals, discounts, promotional coupons and other ways to cut down the cost of packing supplies;
Get used cardboard boxes for free from local shops (supermarkets, bookshops, appliances and home electronics shops), copy centers, or recycling centers. It is also a good idea to ask around your neighborhood and use the social media to get in contact with people who have recently moved and have plenty of packing materials they won’t need any more. Popular websites, like Craigslist and Freecycle, can also help you get free cardboard boxes for moving.
Of course, you can also pack your belongings in whatever containers you have in your home (suitcases, crates, bags, buckets, etc.) instead of using professional moving boxes. Have in mind, though, that such improvised packing containers won’t provide the safety and convenience of specialized packing boxes.
How to pack moving boxes?
Now that you are ready to start packing for your move, you need to make sure that you won’t make a rookie mistake and put your cherished possessions at an unnecessary risk. To do so, you have to strictly follow the golden rules of packing and pack each and every box with utmost care and attention. But how to pack a moving box the right way?
1) Reinforce the bottom and the corners of the box with packing tape. This will ensure that the carton won’t break easily under its own weight during transit;
2) Line the bottom of the box with crumpled paper or some bubble wrap to create a protective cushion for your items;
3) Wrap individual items with packing paper or bubble wrap for maximum protection (Any old towels or other soft fabric materials will also do the trick. Avoid using newspaper, though, as the ink may leave stubborn stains on more delicate surfaces);
4) Place larger and heavier items first and lighter ones on top of them;
5) Fill the box to the brim as half-empty boxes may easily cave in or dent during the loading and unloading processes or when they get stacked in the moving truck. Be careful, however, not to overload the moving container as this may also result in damage to your items or make the box too heavy;
6) Provide plenty of cushioning among the items in the box. Use crumpled paper, bubble wrap, foam sheets, packing peanuts, or even old clothes and towels – just make sure there are no empty spaces in the box in order to prevent the items inside from shifting during transportation. Also, don’t forget to line the top of the box for some added protection against caving;
7) Seal the box tightly to make sure that no items will accidentally spill out if the carton gets turned sideways or upside down during the moving process. (Needless to say, there should be no items sticking out of the top!) Use quality packing tape to tape both ends closed and run several circles around the entire box, just to be on the safe side;
8) Label the box with its contents and destination room so that the movers know where to take it when you reach your final destination. (Proper labeling will also make things easier for you when you start unpacking your items.) Don’t forget to write any specific handling instructions, such as FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE, etc., directly on the box as well (make sure you use a permanent marker). It’s advisable to put labels and write your instructions on at least three sides of the box, so that they are clearly visible even when the boxes are stacked.
Good to remember: Always pack heavy items in small boxes – putting weighty objects in large moving boxes will make the containers extremely heavy. (Boxes heavier than 40 pounds (18 kg) are too difficult to lift and carry and very likely to tear or give out at the bottom.)
When packing for moving, have in mind that different items have their own specifics and require different packing approaches. See our expert tips on how to best pack books, dishes, glasses, clothes, shoes, toys, pictures, jewelry, electronics, and furniture for moving.