How Do I Figure Out How Many Boxes I’ll Need?

Get tips for figuring out how many moving boxes you’ll need.

You’re moving. One of the first things you have to figure out is how much stuff do you have, and how many boxes it will take to pack everything. It’s difficult for most people to translate full cabinets, shelves and closet to cubic feet, but you probably have more stuff than you realize, and will probably need more boxes than you think at first.

The first step is to identify what’s going with you and what’s going to resale shops, garage sales or being donated to people you know.  The sooner you can clear all of that out of your house, the easier it will be to figure out how much you’ll need to pack. Be sure to look in all closets, cabinets, and drawers. And don’t forget the basement, attic and garage. Remember, the more you get rid of, the less you’ll have to pack.

Next, count your rooms and family members. The more of you there are, the more stuff you’ll have, and unless you are a hard-core minimalist, the larger your house, the more stuff you’ll have. Take the time to think about what you own, especially when it comes to kitchens and dining rooms, as someone with a well-equipped kitchen and several sets of china will need more medium boxes than a family that only owns the basic kitchen equipment. And if your book collection rivals many libraries, you will need a lot more small boxes than you realize. 

Also count flat screen TVs, large mirrors, and items like large framed artworks for which you’ll want to purchase specialty boxes. And you may want a wardrobe box for each adult family member, as this will allow you to pack hanging clothes without removing them from the hangers.

Also remember that it’s better to pack in smaller boxes, as boxes quickly grow too heavy to move. Whatever your circumstances, you’ll need more small and medium boxes than large ones. As a starting point, here are recommendations based on house size:

For a 1-bedroom home or apartment, we suggest 8-12 small boxes, 8-12 medium boxes, and 2-4 large boxes.

For a 2-3 bedroom home, which is what the typical family has, you’ll want 10-20 small boxes, 15-25 medium boxes, and 8-10 large boxes.

For larger homes and multi-generational families, start with 20-30 small boxes, 20-30 medium boxes, and 15-20 large boxes. 

Many people underestimate how many boxes they will need, or overestimate and end up with too many. It’s better to overestimate than underestimate, as the last thing you want to be doing the night before the movers show up is trying to find additional boxes. A good strategy is to start with the smaller quantity listed, and plan on a second run for boxes when you run out. 

You can use our moving box calculator to get a better idea of how many boxes you’ll need. Your agent can also deliver boxes to you; this has the added advantage that your agent will be better at estimating how many boxes you need than you will.


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