Steve Fenton

What size boxes should I use to move house?

Despite having moved house quite a few times, it dawned on me that I have never really thought about what size boxes I should use to move house. Back In The Day™ boxes were typically sourced from shops, who couldn’t wait to offload their waste cardboard on home-movers to avoid paying for them to be taken away. It would have seemed odd back then to think that we would end up paying for boxes to be sent out to us in order to pack up our stuff to move home.

So I was sat in front of Amazon comparing boxes. What a Saturday night that was. The problem was, I had no idea what size to buy. Was bigger better? Should I get all the same size, or a pack with an assortment? What if the assorted box suited people with a different lifestyle? Such a simple task, yet such a rabbit-hole to fall down.

So I have run the experiments, talked to the experts and come up with a reasonable guideline for choosing the right boxes.

Your Main Box

For your main boxes, you want to get double-wall strong cardboard boxes that are 18″ x 12″ x 12″. (46cm x 30cm x 30cm). This is a reasonably small size, but it will suit the most things. Books, kitchen-ware, gadgets, laptops, printers, consoles, folders, toys, games, clothes, stuff – it will all fit in there without generating a heavy box or a half-filled box. This is an important tip from the experts…

“Fill all of your boxes right up, because they’ll stack better.”

To follow this rule, small boxes are better than big boxes.

Manual handling guidelines also prefer smaller boxes and lighter weights, but also indicate that evenly balanced loads are safer too, so bear this in mind when filling your boxes – don’t put lots of books on one side and stuffed toys on the other – it will be an awkward box to carry.

So get lots of these smaller boxes (10 to 15 per room) and find a couple of larger boxes or an expanse of bubble-wrap for any items that won’t fit. Don’t get too distracted by larger items. Your TV and furniture aren’t going to fit in a box and your large items aren’t a good indicator for most of the boxes you’ll need.

A side note on the 18″ x 12″ x 12″. (46cm x 30cm x 30cm). It can be really tempting to get nice square-sided boxes – especially for fans of Tetris – but these cubes are not a patch on the beauty of rectangular prisms! If you have the kind of stuff that most people have, you’ll find that it won’t fit in a 12″ x 12″ x 12″ box, and it is hard to fill an 18″ x 18″ x 18″ box to the top without making an unstable heavy load. That’s what I found in my tests.

The 18″ long side makes it possible to fit in folders, laptops and consoles. Most folders that take A4 paper are around 13″ tall and laptops are commonly 14″ to 18″ on their longest side. The 12″ depth means you could fit 12 average laptops in one box, or 8 Psychology text books, or 6 folders full of A4 paper. I’m not saying you have 12 laptops, but you get the idea (and this will be 24 laptops before long given the race to make them thinner and thinner!) Lastly, the 12″ height will fit the same objects – consoles are around 10″, laptops, folders and books are rarely more than 9″ to 11″. Clothes are mostly happy to fit in any size box and get surprisingly heavy if you use larger boxes to fit more clothes in (you can also satisfy that secret pleasure of having a “socks box” and a “t-shirts box” – how very organised).

So the humble 18″ x 12″ x 12″ box is the most versatile moving box you can get your hands on. Easy to pack. Easy to lift. Easy to stack. Get yourself a whole bunch of these.

Written by Steve Fenton on