Moving? Here’s How to Figure Out How Many Boxes You Need

Barbara Bellesi Zito
Updated December 21, 2021
A father playing with his sons while packing their house
Photo: Seventyfour / Adobe Stock

It’s not the riddle of the Sphinx, but the answer can be just as tricky

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How many boxes do I need to move? The answer to this age-old question doesn’t exactly involve rocket science, but it’s not the easiest calculation, either. 

You’re likely buying packing materials, so you don’t want to waste money on too many extra moving boxes. And if you’re collecting used boxes for your move (bonus points for recycling!) you don’t want to make searching for boxes a competitive sport, either. 

So, how do you figure out just the right amount for a successful moving day? We’ve got you covered.

The Number of Boxes You Need Based on the Size of Your Home

Here is a rough estimate of the number of boxes you will need to move depending on the size of your current home:

  • Studio apartment: 10–20 boxes

  • 1-bedroom apartment: 20–40 boxes

  • 2-bedroom apartment: 40–60 boxes

  • 2-bedroom house: 60–80 boxes

  • 3-bedroom house: 80–100 boxes

  • 4-bedroom house: 100–120 boxes

  • Larger: 120+ boxes

The rough guidelines above are a good start, but they don’t account for the size, shape, or amount of your belongings. Let’s dive into that next.

The Type of Boxes You Need Based on the Type of Your Stuff

What if you live in a four-bedroom home but have adopted a minimalist lifestyle, complete with a capsule wardrobe and all reading materials relegated to a slim tablet? In this case, you might need far fewer boxes than the amount suggested here. 

But what if you live in a tiny studio apartment that just happens to be stacked from floor to ceiling with books? Or vinyl records? Or maybe even those little plastic figures that look like characters from TV and movies? Those things all vary in size and weight, and you’ll have to get the right size and type of box to haul it all to your new place.

When it comes to figuring out the number of boxes you will need for your move, take stock of what you have so you can get the right type of box. For example:

Small boxes (about 1.5 cubic feet)

Small boxes are best for small, heavy things, like stacks of books. Don’t fill a huge box with all your books unless you’ve hired a forklift for moving day.

Medium boxes (1.5 to 3 cubic feet)

These boxes give you more room without making things too unwieldy. You could likely pack up your entire place using medium boxes. 

Pro tip: Fill medium boxes halfway with heavier items like books, then fill the rest with lighter things like towels or sheets.

Large boxes (2.5 to 3.5 cubic feet)

A couple caring moving box in the staircase
Photo: Dragana Gordic / Adobe Stock

This size box is obviously good for larger objects, as well as lots of lighter objects. You could stack shoe boxes in a larger box or fill it with linens and pillows.

Extra-large boxes (3.6+ cubic feet)

Keep these big guys for large or awkwardly shaped items as well as for piling in loads of lightweight things, like blankets. You’ll want to stop and make sure you’re not overfilling these boxes, otherwise you won’t be able to budge them.

Specialty boxes

If you’ve got a lot of one type of item, it pays to get boxes that are expressly made for them:

  • Book boxes: If you’ve got shelves upon shelves of books, go for 12” x 12” boxes (1 cubic foot). Most hardcover and paperback books will fit just fine, and even if you fill up the box, it shouldn’t be too heavy to move.

  • Dish barrel boxes: If you’d rather have your china set arrive in one piece, go with dish barrel boxes. These corrugated boxes are sturdy enough to protect these and other delicate items. Just remember to write “fragile” on it and don’t stack other boxes on top.

  • Wardrobe boxes: Fashion lovers, rejoice: You won’t have to spend precious time folding up all your clothes to stuff in boxes. Sure, you can still do that with sweaters and T-shirts, but items that are still on hangers can go right inside a wardrobe box. These extra-large boxes come with a rod inside them, so all you have to do is hang up your clothes. This will allow you to empty closets in minutes.

Pro tip: Now would be a good time to go through some of your clothing to see if there’s anything you want to donate or sell before you move.

Declutter as You Pack

You don’t want to get to your new place and start unpacking only to find a ton of junk that you already should’ve tossed. You’ll only waste time and money—particularly if you hired professional movers—by bringing unwanted things to your new home. 

Moving is stressful enough without worrying about running out of packing supplies. By taking time to estimate how many boxes you will need based on the items you have, you can pack faster and smarter.

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