Box-Packing Primer


"Large or Linen Box" (4.5 cubic ft.)

"Large or Linen Box" (4.5 cubic ft.)

"Book Box" (1.5 cubic ft.)

"Book Box" (1.5 cubic ft.)

"Medium Box" (3.0 cubic ft.)

"Medium Box" (3.0 cubic ft.)

"Extra Large Box" (6.0 cubic ft.)

"Extra Large Box" (6.0 cubic ft.)

"Dish Pack Box" (5.1 cubic ft.)
"Picture Box"

"Picture Box"

“Dish Pack Box” (5.1 cubic ft.)
"Wardrobe Box"

"Wardrobe Box"


You may think it is worthwhile to pick up old grocery or liquor store boxes, but it’s not. Grocery boxes are designed for seperating food in the truck and warehouse. Moving boxes are much heavier-duty and designed for protection of your home items and for ease of handling by you and the Movers.

If you are box-packing a whole house properly, you will most likely use all of the seven moving box types above, plus the paper pads. Like there are many different kitchen tools, each box is sized and designed for a specific purpose.

“Book Box:” (1.5 cubic feet): Heavier items, but not fragile kitchen items.

  • Living Room: Books, CDs, Albums (if you have those old things), small lamp shades
  • Office: Files, heavier items, small lamp shades
  • Kitchen: Bottles and cans

“Medium Box” (3.0 cubic feet):

  • Living Room: Stereo and TV components
  • Kitchen: Small Appliances: Coffee Maker, Cuisinart, Electric Can Opener
  • Bath: Toiletries in cabinet under sink and in shower, medium lamp shades
  • Office: Electronic components
  • Bedroom: Child’s small toys, games, medium lamp shades

“Large or Linen Box” (4.5 cubic feet):

  • Living Room: Very large lamp shades
  • Bath: Towels
  • Bedroom: Linens, Sheets, Folded Clothes, Shoes
  • Dining Room: Table Clothes and Soft Items from Buffet

“Extra Large” (6.0 cubic feet): Certain boxy-shaped items are too tall for the 4.5 cubic foot box, but not fragile items meant for the Dishpack box (Big computer monitors, other large fragile items that need to be boxed)

Picture Box:” They come in one piece, 2 piece, and 4-piece sizes. The 4 piece sizes are more flexible and expandable. Used for expensive fragile mirrors and paintings and pictures. Usually you will want to wrap the mirror or picture with a paper pad before inserting it into the picture box.(Just use one picture per box)

Tape Along the Open Seams to Strengthen the Box

Tape Along the Open Seams to Strengthen the Box

“Dish Pack Box” (5.1 cubic feet) (its walls are double-thick):

  • Kitchen: Pots and Pans, Fragile Dishes and Glass Items (pack the heavier items on the bottom, and pack successively lighter but fragile items as you go higher in the box). Pack dishes and china on their EDGE, NOT FLAT IN THE BOX! This is a very common error. And use plenty of newsprint, and use bubble wrap for extra-fragile pieces.
  • Living Room: Vases, Fragile Knick Knacks; Fragile lamp bases (make sure the top of the lamps bases (name?) are not jammed in there. They bend and are easily damaged. If the lamps are too tall for the dishpack box, use a a taller box—even a wardrobe box if that’s the next taller size you have.

“Wardrobe” (14.0 cubic feet): Hanging clothes, items too tall for any other box—tall lamps
“Mirror/Picture Boxes” (approx. 3.0 cubic feet):

“Georgetown of Atlanta”

3069 Colonial Way, Atlanta, GA 30341

Georgetown of Atlanta: 3069 Colonial Way, Atlanta, GA 30341

We moved a woman out of “Georgetown of Atlanta” this morning. They are relatively small, inexpensive condos, and townhouses along the east side of Interstate 85, north of Shallowford, and south of Chamblee Tucker Rd.

Our customer has an old, professional-quality exercise treadmill from the 1980s! She said she paid $6000 for it! On most treadmills designed for the home, the vertical portion will fold so you can move it. With this one, the vertical portion was fixed, and we had to use maneuvering tricks and most of the strength of three men to get it down the stairs. Our crew did it though, and with no damage to either the floor or walls.

We put all the stuff in storage for her at Safeguard Storage on Chestnut Road. Later we hope to be able to help her move it to Florida.

“Bass Lofts” in “Little Five Points”

Grooving with the Frieks in Little Five Points

Grooving with the Frieks in Little Five Points

We moved a customer into the ”
Bass Lofts
” today on Euclid Ave. It is the old “William Bass Junior High School” which was built in the 1920s. Our customer had us go in from the south side of the building. There is a parking lot with a “Circle” at the end. A sign says “No Parking in the Circle,” but there were about seven cars parked there.  With the cars parked there, you can still drive a car around the circle, but not the Moving Truck.

We made an awkward turn-around and were able to get the truck in a decent place without tearing down too many branches. There was still about a 125 foot walk to the stairs (four stone steps) going up to the double-doors going into the building. This was a small one-bedroom move, and we completed it in two hours, but only because we had three men, and plenty four-wheel dollies and a speed-pack. A speed-pack is a very large box you can put on a four-wheel dolly and load up with small items like chairs and lamps and loose items. You can then roll all those items down the long hallways and into the elevator.

Our customer was pleased and gave us each a tip.  It was neat to see the old building, and the displays with school pictures from the 20s, 30s, and 40s.

Four-Wheel Dolly,
Four-Wheel Dolly, “Chicago” Style

Formula For Planning Your Box-Packing in Preparation For Your Residential Move

If you are packing the boxes yourself, besides actually packing the boxes, you will need to decide what to PURGE and what to RECYCLE. If it takes X hours to pack the required number of boxes, it will take .4X extra to PURGE and RECYCLE.

A) A two bedroom/two bath apartment or condo without a garage may take 15 man-hours of box-packing, 6 hours of recycle and purging – a total of 21 hours.

B) A three-bedroom/two bath house with a garage will be more like 20 hours with 8 hours of recycle and purging—a total of 28 hours

C) A five-bedroom, 4000 square foot place in Alpharetta may be 28 hours of box-packing, 11 hours of recycling and purging—a total of 39 hours

Let’s say you live in the three-bedroom, two bath house with a garage; you’re doing the box-packing yourself and you’re looking at 28 hours of work before the Movers arrive. How are you going to get this done?
The penalty of not being completed in time, and getting rushed—is so severe—that it is worth it to go to extraordinary lengths to give yourself enough time.
My formula is to plan to be completely box-packed A FULL WEEK BEFORE THE MOVERS ARRIVE. It is not that big of a deal to live out of boxes for one week. When you get a surplus of boxes in all the appropriate sixes, you can live out of boxes easily. First you pack everything, and then you start taking stuff out as you use it during that last week. Once you take it out you can leave it out.
After you pack the kitchen you will have several dish pack boxes standing around, a few small boxes and a few medium boxes. You realize you need the toaster, so you take it out of the medium box where you have packed your small kitchen appliances, and then you leave it out until the last day before the Movers arrive.
When you need the laundry detergent, you take it out of the laundry box you have marked as having your laundry detergent. Depending on how often you do laundry during the week, you may even put the laundry detergent back in the box, or else pour the week’s amount or detergent into a Tupperware container.
Your clothes are either hanging in wardrobe boxes, or laying in 4.5 liter size, large boxes, or in luggage like you are going on a week-long trip. Clothes hanging in wardrobe boxes are very easy to access. The wardrobe boxes have a seam where you pull down the side halfway, and you can use them like little portable closets.
Since during a week, you only use a fraction of all the stuff in your house, you will be surprised how little you had to take out for the week. The day before the actual move, you just put the few kitchen items you have used during the week back into the dishpack boxes, and the same with all the other rooms, and boxes. Re-tape the boxes, and now you are ready for the Movers.
But how do you get those 28 hours of moving prep done? You will keep a time record, almost like you’re billing your time (See attached “Self Box-Packing Hour Planning” form. There is a sample form and a blank template). Since you need to be completed 7 days ahead of the Movers, and since in this example you have 28 hours of work to do—if you budget approximately 1 hour per day, and start 35 days ahead, you should be in good shape.
Now let’s talk about how working with the time budget. The first mistake people make is to think, “Oh no problem, I’ll just wait until the last two weekends, and I’ll do 14 hours each weekend. Wrong! Seven hours of box packing on all four prior weekend days is cruel and inhuman punishment, and you simply won’t subject yourself to that kind of torture. Instead you will feel the torture the night before when you are way-behind in box-packing and writhing with anxiety and fatigue.
The second mistake is to get hung up on the one hour per day allocation. This is not like taking your vitamin each day or your blood pressure pill, where you take exactly one pill per day, no more, no less. You are not going to pack exactly one hour each day. It will probably be closer to two hours every other day. But since you are keeping a written record, you will be able to track how close you are to the time budget. 14 days into your 35 day plan, you should have spent approximately 14 hours of purge/recycle/box-packing work.
When you follow this plan, when the Movers arrive you will be aglow with satisfaction and confidence instead of feeling like you’ve just experienced one of the worst days of your life.

Use a Box Designed for Moving, Not One Designed for Bananas




My friend tells me I should get boxes at the grocery store—that I will save a lot of money. Is that true?”

Grocery store boxes are designed to carry groceries. There are lettuce boxes, banana boxes, wine bottle boxes, and many others. The technology of sophisticated packaging is actually an amazing American contribution. Manufacturers design boxes specifically for their product—to maximize the efficiency in their handling. Banana distributors have a box that allows them to get the most bananas on a truck and train boxcar as possible—the same with the lettuce and wine bottle distributors. Distributors of jug-size wine bottles use a taller and thicker box than distributors of lettuce who use a shorter, thinner box.

So back to your friend’s question. The grocery store boxes may be free, but they have limited utility for a household goods move. Remember that a move is laborious and time-consuming. The reason you are reading this in the first place is you are trying to learn how to make the move easier and smoother. Moving boxes are specifically designed for the different categories of items in a household goods move.

“Dishpack” boxes are “double-thickness” because they will contain fragile dishes. They are just the right size so when full, though heavy–they are manageable for the Movers to move around, especially with a hand-truck.

“Book boxes” are small, because books are heavy. When it is full of books, it is a manageable weight for Movers to carry and wheel around on a hand-truck. The book box’s thickness is just right for the weight of books—not too thin, and not too thick.

A “linen box” is wider than a dish-pack, but shorter. It is just the right size for sheets; comforters; sweaters; shirts; pants, shoes etc.

There are several other size boxes—each designed for a certain category of item, based on the size, shape, and relative fragility of that item.

When your household goods are packed in the appropriate boxes, your items are prepared for the maximum efficiency move. Just like a manufacturer
wants to get the most of his products into a truck load—Guess what? You can get more of your items into a truck when they are packed in moving boxes than when they are packed in the all the different assorted boxes you will find at the grocery store.
Remember the last time you used grocery store boxes for your move. They didn’t stack very well in the truck, because you had so many different sizes. And if you had just one size of box—either that size was too small or too big for many items. Have you ever tried to move a large box full of books?

And when you pack dishes in a grocery box, you have a box with cardboard which is way too thin to securely protect the fragile dishes inside. Remember that when a professional mover is moving items that you pack—their liability is very limited for any breakage that might occur. They are not going to compensate you for your broken china when it is packed in a lettuce box.

“Then where should I get my regular Moving Boxes?”

There are generally three ways to purchase boxes—each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Below they are listed:

Option 1) The Mover brings all the required boxes and materials directly to your residence

A) Advantages

i) You don’t have to spend the time to purchase or transport the boxes to your residence. Remember, boxes are space-consuming, even when flat. A full set of boxes and packing material for a 2500 square foot house will not fit in a SUV.

ii) You pay only for the boxes and materials you use (the Mover brings out more boxes and materials than he knows will be required)

iii) If the Mover packs you using their boxes, it is clear they have full liability for any breakage. They cannot say the boxes were deficient or the packing was deficient since they packed you using their boxes.

iv) This is the “Full-Service Option.” The Mover brings the boxes and packing materials and packs your items with no assistance required from you.

B) Disadvantages

i) You pay more per unit this way than you do in the following two options

Option 2) You buy the boxes retail from a place like a retail box store, or a rental truck or storage location, or a major retailer like “Home Depot” or “Ace Hardware.”
A) Advantages

i) Relatively easy access. There is probably one of these stores near you. You may be already going to one of these locations anyway in order to rent a truck or arrange for storage

ii) You see what you are getting

iii) You pay less per unit than you do when you buy directly from the Mover

B) Disadvantages

i) If you are not already at the store anyway, then you have to make a special trip there.

ii) Boxes and packing material are space-consuming. You may have to make multiple trips to get all the stuff home.

iii) Unless the Mover or someone else knowledgeable has determined it for you—you don’t know how much or what to buy? What are all these different types of boxes anyway. What should I buy and how much should I buy. If you buy too much, it is doubtful you can return them for a full refund. If you buy too little, you have to make another trip back.

iv) Not always sure of the quality you are buying. One rental truck company has special engineered boxes that are engineered down, in that their boxes are smaller and thinner than other company’s boxes (more profit for them; more risk and trouble for you)

v) If you’re packing yourself, then the Mover has very limited liability in the event of breakage.


Option 3) Buy from a box wholesaler, and have the boxes and packing material delivered direct to you. You can find these companies in the Yellow Pages under “Boxes” or on the internet.

A) Advantages

i) You pay the lowest per unit of any of the three options

ii) You get free delivery if you order their minimum number of boxes

B) Disadvantages

i) Not economical for a small order since you will have to pay a delivery charge.

ii) You have to coordinate being there at your residence to meet the delivery truck. Like the phone company, they will give you a “time window.” Hopefully it isn’t too wide.

iii) May not order the right amount. The box company will recommend certain quantities based on rough variables like the number of rooms. But they are not at your house, and are not Movers. They are just reading off a chart. You invariably will still either get too much or too little

iv) If you’re packing yourself, then the Mover has very limited liability in the event of breakage.

“So Your Friends or Family Members Are Going to Help You Move?”

1) Who is going to drive the rental truck? What kind of vehicle do they normally drive? Do they have experience driving a big moving truck? If they crash it, who is going to be responsible?

2) Who is going to carry the furniture to the truck? Do they carry a lot of heavy furniture in their spare time? What if they get hurt? Is your client going to pay their medical bills?

3) What if your client’s friends don’t even show up to help him? Which do you think they would rather do—enjoy their Saturday morning off, or help your client move heavy furniture for free? And as for him getting his friends to do this – does he also ask his friends to come over on Saturday morning and change his car’s transmission?

Your clients will be better off with a quality professional mover.

The Physical Strain of Moving Boxes

Last week I booked a job for a couple about 65 years old who are moving close-by.  They want to move all the boxes themselves.

  • I reminded them of the physical strain involved in packing and in moving boxes:
  • First you have to get the items off the shelf.  You have to get down on your hands and knees for the low shelves, and on a stool for the high shelves.
  • Once they are wrapped, you need to place them in the box.
  • Once the box is packed and closed up, you have to get it out of the way.  You have to carry it somewhere and probably stack it on top of other boxes, bending down or stretching up to do it.
  • Then you have to get the stack of boxes to your car–either carrying each box or rolling the stack on a handtruck if you have one.
  • Then you have to place it in the car, and even with SUV’s some bending over is required.

The Problem with “PODS”

P-O-D-S are a very mixed bag.  These are steel boxes, and there are wood versions, which are dropped off at your client’s home, and then the client gets them loaded somehow, and the PODS company comes back and picks them up and delivers them to the destination.

My experience with PODS is they only pay off for the customer IF THE CUSTOMER IS DOING THE LOADING AND LOADING THEMSELVES!  If you were going to put some boxes and garage items and wooden chairs in a pod, and ship it somewhere or store it—Fine.  But when you try to plan a major move, here are the problems:

1) There is no effective insurance {PODS won’t pay for “normal breakage, and the Mover won’t be responsible for items after they are loaded into a POD.}
2) There are very limited ways to tie-down the furniture {No slats and certainly no “E-Track”}
3) There are no decent pads to protect the furniture
4) The PODS are irregular sizes and the PODS incoming sales people frequently underestimate how many you need and then you need to call and order additonal PODS, and get an upcharge once you are already committed. What looked like a good deal renting two PODS, may no longer look so cheap if have to rent four PODS!

PODS and wood crates can help with “sideline storage,” but they are not effective for moving a high-value, high-volume house.

As a Moving Company, we have been called out to unload PODS which someone else unloaded, and when we opened the doors, the furniture was laying broken in a heap in the middle of the POD.

Even if we made the customer sign a waiver, before loading the PODS, we do not want to be associated with unhappy customers. So we could not take on the job of Loading the PODS in the situation of a high-value, high volume load.

But PODS are effective with smaller, lower volume loads. And we don’t have a problem with unloading PODS because the customer then doesn’t think us responsible or hold us responsible for damage. We have a customer who works for Coca-Cola and moves around the country, and uses a single POD each time. She has it loaded “to the gills” and then leaves whatever doesn’t fit. If you can fill the POD to the brim, then you can often get away with not tying down the load. But on a big load which requires three and one-half PODS, what do you do about the last POD which is only half full? You don’t want the customer at destination to open it up and find everything in a heap!


The “Book Box”

The humble “book box.”  Also known as the “1.5” because its volume is 1.5 cubic feet.  Besides books, we use this to pack the smaller heavier items throughout the house. From the kitchen we would take the canned goods, and the food bottles like for Olive Oil and Worshesthire Sauce.  For a local move where we are actually transporting food from the refrigerator, we could put some food from the refrigerator in this box.

From the bar, we would pack the liquor bottles, but not the glasses.  From the home office, besides the books, we would pack the files, and some small, heavy things like UPS’s with battery backup.

This box’s smaller size makes it easier to carry close to your body, so it is not as hard on your back.  And they stack up really nicely three or four high on a handtruck or 4-wheel dolly.

The “Dishpack” Box

You’ve seen this box, the Dishpack box.  Many people are confused by its large size.  They ask, when it’s packed with dishes, won’t it be too heavy?  The dishpack box has a different strategy than the smaller boxes you have seen.  The smaller boxes can be hand-carried a ways.  The dishpack box is designed for very minimal hand-carrying or lifting.  It is designed to be rolled on a box hand-truck from the kitchen to the truck, and then maybe only lifted on top of another dishpack box when it is placed into a tier on the truck.

The real identifying characteristic of the dishpack box is its thickness.  Its cardboard is double-thick.  When packing fragile kitchen items in this box—properly and with lots of newsprint and bubble-wrap, it is almost impossible to break them.

In fifteen years of moving, I’ve experienced all types of claims, but we have never had a claim for a broken dish or glass which we packed in a dishpack box.
If your clients want to learn more about dishpack boxes, or how we can make their moves easier, have them call us.