How Many Boxes Do I Need to Move?

If you find yourself asking how many boxes you’ll need, first ask how much you have, and how much stuff you’re moving.Depending on your situation, you could use anywhere between 25 and 250.Yeah, it’s not much help is it?

That’s because the number of cardboard boxes you’ll need to move depends on multiple factors.

Thankfully we’re about to take a close look at each.

But first, for safety, convenience, and overall value, we always suggest hiring professional movers to do the packing for you when moving to a new home.

However, if a full-service moving company isn’t an option, you’ll definitely save a few bucks packing boxes yourself.

Just be aware that it requires tons of time and energy.

Quick Links: 

  • The Best Interstate Moving Companies: Hire professional movers to help you load and move your boxes.
  • Moving Cost Calculator: Just enter your destination, home size and date of your move, and get a free moving quote with our moving cost calculator.
  • Where to find moving boxes: Want to know where to find free moving boxes? Check out this list.

How Many Boxes Will I Need to Move?

The figures in the following table are based on moderately furnished homes and apartments of various sizes and number of bedrooms. 

Keep in mind that additional packing material may be needed for homes with attics, garages, basements and sheds.

Due to the variables involved, these numbers should used with caution.

The actual number of boxes needed for your move may be more or less.

Home/ apartment size Small 1.5 cubic feet “book box” Medium 3.0 cubic feet box Large 4.5 cubic feet box Dish carton 5.2 cubic feet Wardrobe carton Mirror carton
Studio, 1-bedroom apt. 10 14 7 4 2 5
2 or 3-bedroom apt. 14 18 11 6 4 8
2-bedroom home 22 28 17 11 6 12
3-bedroom home 31 40 25 13 9 16
4-bedroom home 42 50 34 18 11 20
5-bedroom

home 

53 66 42 23 14 25

For the best moving tips, ask yourself the following questions —

Am I a Minimalist or a Packrat?

Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

In other words, our homes and apartments are moderately furnished.

But for those at opposite ends of the spectrum, the differences can be drastic.

For example –

  • A minimalist living in a 1-bedroom apartment may only need 20 boxes when moving
  • A hoarder may need 100 or more

How Long Have I Been in My Home or Apartment?

Confucius once said –

The longer you live in a home or apartment, the more you accumulate.”

OK, he didn’t say it, but it’s an accurate statement nonetheless.

And the truth is, most of us don’t realize how much “stuff” we have until it’s time to move it.

Remember, whether you’re moving locally or out of state, the more you have the more you’ll pay.

For this and other reasons we recommend downsizing before your move, but don’t wait until the last minute…

Begin discarding, donating, and selling items weeks (or months) before your move date.

Insider’s Tip – Buy Your Packing Material in Stages

Instead of buying boxes, paper and packing tape all at once and hoping you’ve estimated correctly, buy them in stages starting 4 to 6 weeks out. This will reduce overbuying, save money, and your home will be less cluttered while you’re packing.

What are the Standard Sizes for Moving Boxes?

Sizes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but moving boxes generally come in these different sizes –

Small: 1.5 cubic feet

Small cartons are often called “book boxes” because that’s what they’re most commonly used for.

That said, they work well for all heavy items.

Here we’re talking about –

  • Papers, magazines, records, CDs and DVDs
  • Tools and hardware like nuts, bolts and screws
  • Canned goods and pet rocks

Medium: 3 cubic feet

Medium cartons are the “jack of all trades” of moving boxes because they’re the most versatile.

Not surprisingly, of all the boxes you’ll need for your move they’ll probably account for between 40% and 70%.

They’re perfect for –

  • Shoes, t-shirts and linens
  • Arts and craft supplies
  • Sporting goods
  • Lampshades and small pillows
  • Kitchen items like Tupperware, cutting boards and rolling pins

Just remember – the larger the box the lighter the items you should put inside.

Large: 4.5 cubic feet

Large cartons are most commonly used in bedrooms, basements, garages and attics.

They’re great for –

  • Bed pillows, comforters and sheets
  • Sweaters, winter coats and boots
  • Baskets and lampshades
  • Bulky holiday decorations
  • Plastic toys

Extra Large – 6 cubic feet

Movers use extra large boxes frequently, but on DIY packing jobs you’re better off sticking to large (4.5 cubic feet) cartons.

“Dish-packs” or Dish Barrel Boxes – about 5.2 cubic feet

As their name implies, dish cartons are used for breakable and fragile items like dishes and glassware.

Their sides, tops and bottoms are much thicker than those on regular cartons, and they’re recommended for –

  • Small appliances like coffee makers and blenders
  • Electronics and computers
  • Table lamps and clocks
  • Jewelry boxes
  • Trophies
  • Vases

Wardrobes – 10.5 to 16 cubic feet (approximately)

For families with walk-in closets and gobs of hanging clothes, wardrobe boxes are a godsend.

They come in multiple sizes and include metal bars on which clothes are hung.

Remember though, on long distance moves hangers can bounce off the bars leaving pressed clothes in heaps at the bottom of wardrobes.

To avoid this, fasten the hangers to the bar using twine or moving tape.

Insider’s Tip – Fill the Bottom of Wardrobes Too

Most clothes like suits, coats and shirts only hang about halfway to the bottom of the box. To get the most bang for your buck, fill the empty space with pillows or a comforter.

Mirror Cartons

Mirror cartons come in various sizes, though the 4-piece variety are the most versatile.

In addition to mirrors, mirror cartons should be used for pictures, glass and marble tabletops, and any other flat, oversized, breakable items.

Remember to wrap each item in a large paper pad, moving blanket or old sheet before packing it in the box, and always load them upright in the truck – never flat.

How to Determine How Many Boxes You’ll Need

The Square Footage of Your Home or Apartment

Though it’s not an exact science, it is possible to get a “ballpark” estimate of how many boxes you’ll need based on the size of your residence.

Less than 800 square feet

  • 10 to 15 small boxes
  • 10 to 15 medium boxes
  • 4 to 8 large boxes
  • 2 wardrobes
  • 2 mirror cartons
  • 3 dish cartons

801 to 1299 square feet

  • 16 to 25 small boxes
  • 16 to 25 medium boxes
  • 6 to 12 large boxes
  • 5 wardrobes
  • 7 mirror cartons
  • 9 dish cartons

1300 to 1700 square feet

  • 26 to 35 small boxes
  • 21 to 35 medium boxes
  • 11 to 20 large boxes
  • 9 wardrobes
  • 13 mirror cartons
  • 13 dish cartons

More than 1700 square feet

  • 36 to 58 small boxes
  • 36 to 55 medium boxes
  • 21 to 34 large boxes
  • 13 wardrobes
  • 17 mirror cartons
  • 16 dish cartons

Again, these are rough numbers only.

Plan on adjusting your carton count up or down after you start packing.

The Number of Rooms in Your Home or Apartment

You’ll typically need between 12 and 20 boxes of various sizes for each room in your home.

Since room size varies greatly, you’ll need more boxes in some rooms than in others.

The following guide gives the average number of boxes usually needed in each room –

Kitchen

To pack the contents of the average American kitchen, you’ll need about –

  • 4 to 8 small cartons
  • 4 to 8 medium cartons
  • 3 to 6 large boxes
  • 3 to 7 dish boxes

Living room

Living rooms are usually larger than kitchens, but they’re also usually easier to pack.

You’ll probably use –

  • 3 to 5 small boxes
  • 3 to 10 medium boxes
  • 1 or 2 large boxes
  • 2 to 4 dish boxes for lamps, clocks and electronics
  • 4 to 6 mirror cartons

Dining Room

Like kitchens, dining rooms can be tedious to pack.

In most, you’ll need –

  • 2 to 4 small boxes
  • 2 or 3 medium boxes
  • 1 or 2 large boxes
  • 3 to 8 dish cartons
  • 2 to 5 mirror cartons

Master Bedroom

Of all the bedrooms in your home, the master bedroom will require the most boxes.

To pack everything properly, plan on using –

  • 4 to 8 small boxes
  • 5 to 10 medium boxes
  • 4 to 9 large boxes
  • 2 to 5 dish cartons
  • 3 to 6 mirror cartons
  • 4 to 8 wardrobes (more if you have at least one walk-in closet)

Spare and Children’s Bedrooms

Some kid’s rooms have twice as much “stuff” as their parent’s rooms do, but on average they’ll need less boxes.

Count on using about –

  • 2 to 5 small boxes
  • 3 to 8 medium boxes
  • 3 to 6 large boxes
  • 1 or 2 dish cartons
  • 1 or 2 mirror cartons
  • 2 or 3 wardrobes

Bathrooms

Need a break?

If so, relax and pack the bathroom.

You’ll probably only need –

  • 2 to 5 small boxes
  • 2 or 3 medium boxes

Packing bathrooms is a breeze, just remember to save them until last because you’ll need much of what’s inside up until the last minute.

Attics, Garages, Sheds and Basements

There’s really no way to predict how many cartons you’ll need in these areas.

Since many of the items stored here get used least, they’re great places to start packing.

As always, plan on spending more time and using more packing materials than you think you’ll need.

What Additional Packing Supplies and Materials Will I Need?

Packing tape

Imagine this…

After weeks of hard work you’re nearing the finish line.

There are only 6 or 8 boxes left to pack in the office and laundry room then you’re D-O-N-E.

Except at the 9th hour you run out of tape.

It’s not the end of the world, but making another trip to the home improvement center is one more errand you won’t feel like running with all that’s going on.

Instead, err on the high side when buying tape.

Plan on using one roll per room.

You’ll probably have a roll or two left over at the end, but it won’t go to waste.

Paper and bubble wrap

Experienced packers don’t generally need bubble wrap.

In fact, in most cases white packing paper (called newsprint) will do.

Packing paper usually comes in 25, 35 and 50-pound bundles.

Plan on using about 25 pounds per room on average.

If you have lots of breakables like China, crystal, electronics and vases, you may use lots more so buy extra.

Markers

Sharpies and thick markers are great for labeling boxes because they help make keeping track of boxes during a move a breeze.

To ensure that cartons get where they’re supposed to go at delivery, clearly write on each what room it came from, what’s inside, and what number (of the total) it is.

Marked boxes should look something like this –

Master bedroom

Socks, t-shirts, belts, jewelry box

Box 1 of 9

Labels

Tagging boxes with colored stickers isn’t necessary on most moves, but it can speed up delivery on both DIY and full-service moves.

If you do use them, make sure each room gets its own color, and that there’s a corresponding label outside each so your movers or helpers can easily see where boxes are supposed to go.

How Much Does Packing Material Cost?

Packing material can be downright expensive.

On small apartment moves boxes, paper and tape can cost less than $100.

When packing the contents of a multi-room single-family home however, the cost is often between $250 and $600, or more.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many boxes do I need for a 3-bedroom house?

Though it can vary greatly, you’ll generally need between 100 and 150 boxes of various sizes when packing a 3-bedroom home.

How many boxes do I need to move a 4-bedroom house?

Usually between 150 and 200.

How long should it take to pack a 3-bedroom house?

Professional moving crews can pack a 3-bedroom home in a day. For the rest of us with jobs and families it usually takes weeks, so plan ahead and start early.

How many boxes should I buy?

Apartment dwellers may want to buy as few as 20 or 30 boxes initially. However, if you live in a single-family home, you should buy at least 50 before getting started. Just keep in mind that you may need to buy more later.

What is the weight limit for a box?

On DIY moves, boxes should be limited to about 50 pounds.

Are moving box calculators accurate?

They’re great tools when getting started, but always take what they tell you with a grain of salt.

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