Acquiring and purging moving boxes

When you move you usually spend a bunch of time tracking down boxes to transport all of your stuff. My wife and I have hit up grocery stores and other local retailers for boxes that they would otherwise crush and throw away.

U-Haul offers a box exchange resource for prospective movers. It is a simple forum that is split up geographically to help you trade new or used boxes. So rather than running around to retailers you can check the forums for your area and see if there are any boxes available in your vicinity.

After you move, rather than throwing away your boxes, you can post a message to the board and give them to someone who can use them again. If you can’t find boxes via the U-Haul forums, you can also try FreeCycle, an Unclutterer favorite.

17 Comments for “Acquiring and purging moving boxes”

  1. posted by heather on

    I have moved several times and found all the boxes I needed on Craigslist for free. Then, when I was done with them, I listed them myself and they were gone within 12 hours.

  2. posted by Kim on

    Um…might want to edit that to “prospective movers” rather than “perspective movers” which makes me think they are like MC Escher and have a thing about perspectives and such.

    Otherwise, the blog is always great and this is a useful tip!

  3. posted by Mssr.Pants on

    Another source of boxes is liquor stores, which are a good place to visit around a move anyway. In Virginia, all the liquor stores are state run, and they seem pretty used to peopel asking for these in more densely populated areas. They are all smaller than bankers boxes and may need a little extra tape, but they were designed to hold a bunch of glass bottles full of liquid, so they usually hold up pretty well.

  4. posted by Lorie Marrero on

    My friend Genevieve Auguste, who owns the company “Art of Moving,” says you need to remember that getting used boxes may mean that you also get an insect infestation from the boxes’ previous owners! Also produce boxes contain a lot of chemicals… so consider that as well. — Lorie Marrero,

  5. posted by Sandra Carroll on

    As a professional organizer, I really enjoy this blog. Here is an online source for gently used boxes to buy and to return. They deliver and pick up also. Seems like a good deal.

  6. posted by AndreaZak on

    How about simply renting boxes and saving the landfills/recycling costs.
    Currently in SoCal, looking to expand nationwide. You pay to rent crates for your move; the company drops them off at location A and picks them up after your move to location B. is available nationwide. Though its focus seems to be on office moves, it also supplies residential moves with reusable shipping supplies.

  7. posted by Andamom on

    Here are some other moving ideas:

    1) We always stop at the liquor store for their reinforced boxes that they are throwing away. These work well for books.
    2) We’ve used our dresser drawers with newspaper or a towel covering — And if you stick breakable items between layers of clothing, it saves a ton of time.
    3) Tupperware is great for storing small items that you’re afraid might get lost in the move…
    4) Roll up posters in (clean) carpets…
    5) Use your luggage to pack things that you’ll need immediately in your new place — a change of clothes for each person, toiletries, and a few incidental items…

    Of course, ahead of time: Give away, recycle, donate, and throw away as much as you can. Don’t move what you don’t need!

  8. posted by supersocco on

    Call your local Starbucks and ask for boxes. They have loads, and are a convenient size.

  9. posted by Andrea on

    I’d like to second the suggestion for They are great! And after my move I gave them to a friend who was moving.

  10. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    Good suggestions so far – here are a couple more.

    For those of us in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s Bay Area Box Express – very similar concept to

    And when I worked for a Large Corporation, I always likked the boxes that paper for printers and copiers comes in; it’s a good size for books.

  11. posted by Liz on

    We move so often that I never get rid of our boxes. Right now they’re in our off-site storage along with the useful (seriously) things we just can’t fit in our tiny place.

  12. posted by Another Deb on

    School warehouses and school copy centers also have a lot of those computer paper boxes.

  13. posted by Mary Sue on

    After 13 moves in 10 years, I’ve discovered the best thing to move paperback books in is doubled-up paper bags. It makes them a manageable weight (no thrown-out backs!) and once you’re done, you either reuse or recycle.

    I also have six 30-gallon plastic containers, if they fill up and I still have stuff to move, then I start getting rid of things. Then when I get to home, I nest them up, toss an afghan over them, and use ’em as a footstool.

  14. posted by Nick Archer on

    Caution against using boxes from grocery stores! They may contain roaches and other pests and their eggs! I found out from (nasty) experience. Instead try bookstores and liquor stores.

  15. posted by Whyfly on

    With two booklovers in our household, we’ve just flat out bought some cardboard boxes designed for file storage. They stack neatly (important when you’ve got 30+ boxes of books alone), and after the move I just break them down, put them in a heavy duty garbage bag in 10s, and store them. (Luckily the time we lived in a no storage area we could store them in a friend’s attic).

    And I always pack a bag with a week’s worth of clothes and essentials. That way I can focus on unpacking the kitchen, and don’t have to worry about what box has my socks, and if I can get to it.

  16. posted by DaveH on

    Check with the grocery store you usually shop at — do this two weeks before you move and ask them #1) what days they get their deliveries and #2) could they set aside some primo boxes for you.

    They have to pay to have the cardboard “recycled” (I own a grocery store about 30 miles East of Bellingham, WA) so if you show up each delivery day and take all the boxes, they save money and you can get some nice boxes…

  17. posted by WilliamB on

    Following up on DaveH: if you’re lucky and think to ask you can get boxes of the same size, which is a real boon to efficient moving truck packing. The guy to ask is usually the shipping/receiving manager. Your grocery is most likely to help you if you pick up the boxes promptly as their trash storage space is at a premium.

    I have never gotten dirty or infested boxes from a supermarket but there’s certainly a risk. It’s minimized if you take boxes that held package goods (rather than produce, milk, etc) which don’t leak, and pick up the boxes promptly so they don’t have time to pick up bugs.

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