5 Tips for Creating a Moving Box Inventory List

Barbara Bellesi Zito
Updated February 24, 2022
Family playing with moving boxes
Photo: bernardbodo / Adobe Stock

You don’t want to be surprised each time you open a box on moving day

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Moving is stressful, but it can turn into a downright nightmare if you’re not organized. Here’s the good news: You don’t have to be a natural-born organizer to pull off a move without a hitch. All you need is a plan—or rather, a list. Here’s how to create a successful moving box inventory list.

1. Gather Your Packing Supplies

It’s easy to procrastinate with packing, so when you finally get down to it, you’ll want all of your supplies within easy reach. 

Ensure you have enough moving boxes, packing tape, labels, markers, and materials like bubble wrap or towels to stuff the boxes. That way, you don’t have to hunt for a specific tool in the middle of packing up your kitchen.

2. Create a Coding System

It’s nothing top secret, but you’ll need to create a coding system for your boxes. Simple is best: Assign a letter to each room, then write that letter plus a number on every box that’s headed for that room. For example, your living room might be A, so label your living room boxes A1, A2, and A3.

Some people might prefer to use colors instead of letters for inventory. If so, purchase colored labels to put on the boxes. Be sure to choose bright, distinct colors, so there’s no confusion the day of the move along the lines of, “Does this go in the purple room or the lavender room?” Consult your packing partners about the coding system, ensuring that everyone is on board.

3. Log Your Inventory

It’s all well and good to label your boxes, but you have to keep track of those labels with an inventory list for it to work. You can record it by hand on a piece of paper or digitally on your smartphone or tablet. 

To be safe, record your coding system both ways—it pays to have a backup copy somewhere. Plus, you can share digital copies of your coding system and inventory with your packing partners or professional moving team.

4. Label the Rooms at Your New Place

Aside from the kitchen and bathroom, it might be hard for your movers to determine what each room in your new house is meant to hold. 

Leave the guesswork out of the equation by labeling each room with its corresponding letter on your inventory, and the problem is solved. Each moving box should clearly indicate its final destination.

5. Number Boxes in Order of Importance

Depending on how many boxes you have, it’s unlikely you’ll unpack every single one on the day of your move. That’s why it’s helpful to number the boxes in the order that you (or your movers) should unpack them.

Number your boxes so that the lower numbers are the ones to unpack first, and the higher numbers represent boxes that can remain unpacked until it’s more convenient. Be sure to mark which boxes you should unpack as soon as possible. For example, there might be ten boxes in your living room, but per your inventory list, you know that you only have to open the first four right away.

Other Tasks to Keep Your Boxes Organized

Woman labeling moving boxes
Photo: Seventyfour / Adobe Stock

Whether your boxes feature every letter of the alphabet or every color of the rainbow, there are a few other things you’ll want to do to have an organized moving day.

Write Your Last Name on the Boxes

Your belongings might be sharing space on the moving truck and get mixed up with other customers’ boxes. Or you might accidentally leave one behind in the rental van and need to reclaim it. Either way, it will be much easier to locate an errant box later if it has your name on it.

Mark Delicate Items Accordingly

While professional movers are careful not to toss boxes around, you'll want to make it clear which ones they should be moving with kid gloves. Get the widest tip marker you can find and mark “fragile” on all boxes that contain breakables or antiques. Don’t only write it on one side of the box—mark it on all sides so it’s clear that it needs to be handled gently. 

In case a box gets turned during transit, marking “this side up” will help you unpack at your new place.

Recycle the Empty Boxes

A huge pile of empty cardboard boxes in the corner isn’t a good look for your new space. Whether you flatten them out and bundle them together for the recycling pile or pass them along to someone else who’s moving, have a plan in place to get them out quickly—and not to the landfill.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.