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How Many Boxes Do You Need?

A new beginnings: House moving inspires changes in life
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Planning ahead for your move includes a lot of factors: finding a new home, booking movers, and, of course, packing. If you’re wondering, “How many boxes do I need?” then you’ve come to the right place.

For the ultimate planners, knowing from the outset how many moving boxes the move will require provides some peace of mind. While it’s tough to know an exact number before you start — many factors go into this — there are some ballpark estimates based on the size of your home.

What do you have?

  • Square footage of current home: The larger your home, the more boxes it will require to pack it up. Packing up a mansion takes much more work than packing an efficiency studio. It’s difficult to provide a certain number of boxes per square foot of your house because it depends greatly on how you’re using the square footage.
  • The number of bedrooms/residents: Each room in the house requires roughly 40-50 boxes. It sounds like a lot, but once you start putting your belongings in boxes, you’ll see how quickly they fill. Consider the amount of boxes per person living in the house for a starting point in what you’ll need.
  • How long you’ve lived there: Chances are, the longer you’ve lived in your home, the more things you have. If you’ve been living in the same place for many years, think about how much stuff you’ve accumulated. Either start getting rid of it before you move, or invest in more boxes to take it to the new place.
  • Your lifestyle: If you’re a minimalist, you can knock off a few boxes from these counts we’re offering. If you have hoarding or sentimental tendencies, then add a few more.

Types of packing boxes

You’ll typically find moving boxes in three standard sizes and sometimes four: small, medium, large, and extra large. Extra large boxes are less common, but if you need them, they do exist.

Small boxes

  • Best for: Wine bottles, books, jewelry, toiletries
  • Dimensions: 16″ x 12″ x 12″
  • Size: 4.1 shoe boxes
  • Weight capacity: 60 lbs

Small boxes are great for small items, books (so the box doesn’t end up too heavy), or fragile items like wine bottles. These typically measure around 16″ x 12″ x 12″ and can hold about 60 lbs.

Medium boxes

  • Best for: Dishes, shoes, office supplies, toys, small appliances
  • Dimensions: 18 x 18″ x 16″
  • Size: 9.3 shoe boxes
  • Weight capacity: 65 lbs

Medium boxes are the next size up and measure around 18 x 18″ x 16″. These are a good standard-size box for just about anything, including dishes that need wrapped up, several pairs of shoes, and odds and ends. Medium boxes are bigger than you’d expect, so you might be tempted to overpack them with heavy items, but try to avoid that so the boxes aren’t so heavy that they’ll break.

Large boxes

  • Best for: Clothes, shoes, pillows, speakers, small lamps
  • Dimensions: 18″ x 18″ x 24″
  • Size: 13.9 shoe boxes
  • Weight capacity: 65 lbs

Large boxes are usually anywhere from 18″ x 18″ x 24″ or a little more. Because these boxes are so big, they’re good for packing lighter items (due to the same note as the medium boxes). If you aren’t packing your clothes in suitcases or trash bags, they’re a good candidate for the large box. You can also fit a large portion of your shoe collection in one box (depending on how many pairs you own): A large box can probably fit 12-15 pairs of shoes.

Extra large boxes

  • Best for: Comforters, blankets, pillows, towels, winter clothes
  • Dimensions: 24″ x 18″ x 24″
  • Size: 18.5 shoe boxes
  • Weight capacity: 65 lbs

Should you need extra large boxes, they usually run 24″ x 18″ x 24″ or larger, so you can pack things like pillows and blankets and other light things in there. This is the right size box to pack up all the bedding for your bed.

Once you have your answer (or close to it) for the dreaded, “How many boxes do I need?” next you have to actually get the boxes. As for where to find moving boxes, you have plenty of options. You can score free moving boxes from friends or local businesses that don’t need them, or you can buy moving boxes directly from moving companies or even regular stores. Office supply stores sell eco-friendly packing supplies, as do some of your favorite catch-all stores.

How many boxes do I need for my home type?

Obviously, the number of boxes you’ll need will depend on how much stuff you have, but this is a rough guide for what you can expect for a home with an average amount of belongings:

BoxesOne-bedroomTwo-bedroomThree-bedroom or more
Small (fits 4.1 shoe boxes)102530
Medium (fits 9.3 shoe boxes)103540
Large (fits 13.9 shoe boxes)101520
Extra large (fits 18.5 shoe boxes)234

“Every time I’ve moved, I’ve always ended up needing more boxes than I expected,” said MYMOVE senior writer Joe Supan. “If you end up with more than you need, you can always pay it forward by offering them up for free on Nextdoor or Craigslist.”

The bottom line

The primary thing you have to remember is that there’s no hard and fast rule for how many boxes you need, because it really depends on how much stuff you have. So you can ask yourself, “How many boxes do I need?” but don’t feel too pressured to have the exact answer. Your best bet is to get a collection of boxes and other moving supplies from the store (or free somewhere) and start the packing process. If you need more, you can always get more later, but these guidelines will at least give you a starting point.

Frequently asked questions

  • You can get moving boxes from local businesses that are getting rid of them, from friends or neighbors who have extras, or buy them from moving companies or office supply stores.

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