Moving to a new place is no small task. Weeks before you even start the laborious act of packing, there’s a good chance you consult moving checklists, spreadsheets, and shopping lists ahead of the big day. Near the top of many lists is the most ubiquitous moving tool: cardboard boxes.
Movers short on time often buy sets of boxes—which can fetch up to $2 per box. Savvier movers, though, know they can score boxes for free in a variety of ways. Ahead, find 10 places to get moving boxes free of charge.
- Craigslist. Do a quick search of the site’s free section (found under the “for sale” heading). A recent survey of New York’s Craigslist page showed nearly 20 sources for free boxes.
- Freecycle. Join your local group and put out the word or search to see if anyone is already offering them.
- Liquor stores. Try and ask for boxes with lids (otherwise, contents are bound to fall out in the moving truck). Boxes from a liquor store tend to be small and sturdy—great for books, CDs, and DVDs.
- Bookstores. A perfect place to pick up boxes specifically for moving books.
- Grocery stores. Ask them to save their apple and banana boxes for you to pickup—these freebies are perfect for moving fragile items.
- McDonald’s. Before McDonald’s golden delicious fries find their way into your Happy Meal, they’re shipped to each location frozen—and in sturdy cardboard boxes. These boxes are strong and excellent for hauling heavy items that require a smaller-sized box. Because the original contents of the box are frozen, you won’t have to worry about the boxes being smelly (or greasy). McDonald’s fry boxes also happen to have a Facebook page for fans of their versatility.
- Starbucks. Having worked at Starbucks a long, long time ago, I know from experience that a store will receive anywhere from one to two shipments per week, so there’s a good chance they’ll have boxes available on a weekly basis. Because Starbucks boxes range in size, you’ll want to ask them to hold their larger-sized containers for storing lighter, bulkier items.
- U-Haul Box Exchange. U-Haul has created a message board allowing you to search by location for free boxes in your area.
- Schools. Schools get a ton of deliveries. Try connecting with the janitorial staff and offer to take boxes off their hands and save them the time of breaking them down for recycling.
- Your workplace. If you drive to work, ask your office manager or the folks at the loading dock if they have any clean boxes you can have. If they don’t, tell them your move date and ask them to set some aside for you to pick up another day.
- Facebook. Facebook Marketplace and local Buy Nothing Project groups often have boxes available. Finding them is as easy as typing “cardboard boxes” into the site’s Marketplace section, or joining your local Buy Nothing group and asking.
You’ll probably also need a few things other than boxes—like packing tape (check out the brands professional movers recommend) and other clever packing helpers with a certain je ne sais quoi. And if your problem isn’t really the boxes as so much as it’s the overwhelming amount of stuff, here’s a bibliophile-approved method for purging books and some generally amazing decluttering tips. Good luck!
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