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Moving and Packing with Used Boxes

Save Money and the Planet by Re-using Packing Supplies


With most of us pinching our pennies right now, finding ways to save on moving costs not only helps keep money in our wallets, but can also help the planet by reusing packing materials and reducing waste.

Where to Find Used Boxes

  • Local Stores. The best place to get used boxes is at your local retailers. Grocery stores usually have a wide range of good-quality boxes, boxes that have been used to move heavy items and to keep items safe during shipping. It is best to speak with a manager about obtaining boxes; some retail stores have a policy about when and how many boxes you can receive. Others have no stipulation, so it's important to check first.

    Wine stores and liquor stores are some of the best sources for obtaining free moving boxes. Not only are the boxes strong and durable, but they are also easy to carry, the right size for moving heavy objects (great for books!) and have cell dividers already in place - perfect for packing fragile items, including drinking glasses, bottles and other breakables.

  • Online and offline bulletin boards. Bulletin boards are great places to find used boxes. Offline spots often include laundry mats, grocery stores, recreation centers and even telephone poles. While finding boxes offline might be slightly challenging, you can always post your own ad and even offer a small monetary amount.

    The best bulletin boards, however, are found online. Craig's List is by far the most organized and best run site available for people wanting to buy and sell items. Just go to your country and city's page and there you'll find listings of things people are looking to give away; quite often they include moving boxes. I once responded to such an ad and not only did the donor offer me their moving boxes, but also the extra tape and packing popcorn they could no longer use. And out of that, grew a friendship that has continued to this day.

FAQs About Used Boxes

Here are some questions I've received from people wanting to pack with used boxes:
  • Is it okay to move with used boxes? Used boxes are perfectly fine to pack with as long as you test their durability before you move. Make sure there are no weak spots, especially if you're using boxes from a grocery store; sometimes products leak and any wetness can deteriorate the quality of the box. Also, as with any box, make sure you don't over pack.
  • What if I can't find used boxes? A great way to save money if you can't find used boxes, is to solicit your friends and family for plastic tote bins. This works well if you're staying in the same region or if you know you can return the bins once you're finished moving. Or if you think you'll be moving often, or even once more, then purchase your own plastic tote bins. They store really easily in between moves.
  • Will a mover provide boxes? No, not usually. A mover will sell you boxes, but they don't usually provide you with boxes to use without charging an extra fee. Another option would be to find a mover who'll rent you plastic bins for the short term. Green movers are known for providing earth-friendly ways to save and reuse packing materials.
  • What do I do with the boxes after I move? A great question! Post an ad in a local paper or on a community bulletin board or online. Offer the boxes for "free"; you'll be amazed at how many responses you'll receive.

    If you would rather donate the boxes directly, ask neighborhood non-profits if they could use them. Often local food banks or charities that ship donations overseas, can use good sturdy boxes to move their goods.

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