Stop Buying Moving Boxes for Every Move—Do This Instead

This easy solution makes packing less final, saves money in the long run, and is even good for the environment. (Talk about a triple threat.)

If moving were fun—and that's a pretty big if—no one would need to look up where to buy moving boxes or muddle through moving checklist after checklist. It would be an affordable, low-stress breeze. Alas, moving rarely is actually fun, though there are certain actions one can take to make it less expensive, less stressful, and less hard on the environment.

Following solid advice—including these trusty moving tips—can help, but so can tackling one of the most challenging parts of the process, which is accumulating enough moving boxes to actually make the move possible. Sure, corralling movers and safely transporting everything from one spot to the other is the priority, but none of that can happen if you don't have receptacles for actually transporting everything. You can't even start packing until you have those pesky moving boxes, which cost a surprising amount of money, are typically used once (unless you plan to move again in a very short time), and fill up landfills or recycling facilities afterward in a very non–zero waste manner.

During a move, your priority may not be to reduce the impact your move has on the environment; you might not even care too much about wasting $50 or more on moving supplies you're going to use once. But you probably care about being able to access your belongings if you need to, especially if you have kids. And if you care about all three of those things, you're in luck, because there's a surprisingly simple alternative to traditional cardboard moving boxes.

Moving boxes alternative - buy or rent moving boxes
To save time—and money—when shipping gifts, pick up a variety of free Priority Mail boxes and envelopes from the post office before you wrap your gifts, suggests Donna Smallin, an organizing expert in Michigan. (Or you can even order them at, also for free.) Here are additional tricks from the pros: Keep the size of the gifts small enough to fit into the standard-size boxes. Once the boxes are packed, you can print shipping labels at home on and bypass the post office lines—or even arrange for a free pickup. Getty Images

Ali Wenzke, author of The Art of Happy Moving: How to Declutter, Pack, and Start Over While Maintaining Your Sanity and Finding Happiness (To buy: $14; and a blog of the same name, moved ten times in eleven years in areas across the country, and she doesn't mess around with flimsy, single-use cardboard boxes—at least not as her only moving box option.

"One thing that I do really like are plastic storage containers for moving," Wenzke says. "We use these especially with our children, because oftentimes we pack items and then there's something that they absolutely must have. If we have it in a plastic storage container, it makes it easy for us to find items if we need them."

This alternative to moving boxes is certainly much easier to open and reseal than a taped moving box might be, and once the move is over, instead of making trip after trip to the recycling bin, these plastic moving boxes (truly just storage containers of any size) can lead second lives as storage containers—or even as moving supplies for the next move, too.

"We've ended up reusing those plastic storage containers so often as we've moved," Wenzke says. "They're more expensive up front, but we've been able to use them again and again. We've used them for holiday decorations and other items, too."

So there you have it: Invest a little extra money in your moving boxes to get plastic versions, and you'll have reusable boxes you can use for storage and future moves—plus you'll be doing the environment a huge favor.

If you don't want to buy boxes—say, if you already have your organization plan on lock—there's another option: You can rent moving boxes. Initially a rather niche moving trend, the option to rent plastic moving boxes is becoming more and more popular among both large companies such as U-Haul and smaller companies focused on just providing moving box rentals.

Stop begging friends and family and local stores for free (and not always in-great-shape) boxes—you have (smarter) options when it comes to moving boxes, if you dare to look for them.

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