Published on 10 Feb 2021 in moving, organization, packing, tips and techniques by Mark Zappia

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials image

Packing up your house for a big move is stressful, time-consuming, and frequently frustrating. Not only do you need to manage sorting through and packing all of your possessions, you need to protect them so that they reach your new home safely. That means using the right boxes and packing materials, especially for fragile or precious items.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

Free moving boxes can help you pack up many of the items throughout your home. For your more delicate items, however, those free moving boxes might not cut it. Do you know what supplies you really need to have on hand when you're packing for a big move?

Dividing Your Boxes By Size

As you start preparing to pack up your household, consider your boxes. You want to avoid overloading your boxes if at all possible. Too much weight in the box not only makes it difficult to lift, if you don't use enough tape, it could break open at the bottom, spilling your possessions everywhere and, in many cases, leaving you in the position of having to pack them all over again.

Small Boxes, Around 36 Cubic Liters

Small boxes are ideal for books, shoes, and canned goods: items that often have a heavy weight and that you might not want to carry in a larger box. Small boxes may also be the ideal solution for packing small appliances and delicate items that you do not want damaged in a larger box. Remember, the more things you have in a box, the more they can move around in transport, especially if you do not include adequate packing material.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

Medium Boxes, Around 52 Cubic Liters

Medium-sized boxes, those measuring around 52 cubic liters, are your all-purpose moving boxes. They can hold almost anything: the kids' toys, kitchen supplies, collectables, clothing, and more. As you pack your medium-sized boxes, keep weight and distribution in mind. If you're hiring a removalist, their team may take care of most of the heavy lifting for you, but you may still need to move the boxes throughout both your old home and your new one as you decide where things go.

Large Boxes, 150 Cubic Liters or Larger

A box that measures around 150 cubic liters is a big packing box. Large moving boxes may be necessary for some larger items. If the item has considerable weight, however, you may want to consider wrapping it or moving it individually instead. Large boxes may feel more convenient--after all, you can fit more in them--but they're also unwieldy, especially if you fill them with heavy items. Large boxes are best for stuffed animals, pillows, or lightweight blankets: items that take up a lot of space, but don't weigh a lot.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

Specialty Boxes: Which Ones Do You Need?

As you pack up your home, there are some possessions that need extra care. Your dishes, for example, need to be packed carefully so they do not break in transit, leaving you with shards that are incredibly difficult to eat off of. On the other hand, you might not necessarily need all of these specialty boxes, depending on the items that you need to move. If you're moving plastic plates, you won’t need to pack them in a special container.

Mattress Boxes

Your mattress may need special protection in your move. Some people will simply wrap the mattress or even move it bare in a moving truck, but this can lead to additional damage. A mattress box wraps around the full size of your mattress, protecting it against rips, tears, and dirt. A mattress box may be particularly important if you're planning to store your possessions for a while in between locations, since you may need extra protection against dirt sneaking in.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

Dish Boxes

Dish boxes, also known as dishpacks, come with special cell dividers. You can choose dividers for plates, glasses, and stemware. These cells separate each item individually, which means that they won't rattle around against each other during transport. Depending on the fit, you may still need to carefully wrap your dishes; however, dishpacks can keep your glassware much safer during transport.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

Mirror Boxes/Picture Cartons

Mirror boxes or picture cartons are specifically designed to move mirrors and other large, breakable objects. These large, usually thin boxes are often custom-designed or measured to specifically fit your mirrors. You do not want to arrive at your destination to find that the glass in a picture or mirror has shattered. Using a mirror box is a great way to protect those items.

Wardrobe Boxes

Some items of clothing, you will want to move with you--after all, you want to make sure that you have adequate clothing for your journey. Others can go in boxes or get transported inside dresser drawers. If you have special items of clothing like dresses, suits, or costumes, or you want to make sure that your work clothes don't end up wrinkled beyond recognition, you may want to invest in wardrobe boxes. These boxes, specifically designed for clothing on hangers, have a pole across the top, much like a moving closet. Thanks to the convenience of a wardrobe box, you can easily transport your clothing and keep it clean and wrinkle-free--not to mention ensuring that it's easy to find when you reach your destination.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

When Do You Need a Custom Crate?

Sometimes, as you're packing up your home, you may need a custom crate to help transport special items. Custom crates are typically intended for items that do not fit in traditional packing boxes. In general, you need a custom crate for items that:

  • Are larger than a standard-sized packing box, but still need protection.
  • Are particularly fragile and should be moved in their own box.
  • Have an odd shape that does not fit well in a standard packing box.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

Many people use custom crates to move chandeliers, antique items, or special collectables, especially if those items need additional support to protect them during the move. If you need a custom crate, be sure to let your removalist know as soon as possible so they can make those crates according to your specifications. Custom crates are often larger than standard moving boxes and have more support than you would get from a cardboard moving box, which makes them ideal for moving items that need extra attention during the move.

Choosing the Right Packing Materials

Just like it's critical to choose the right boxes to move your possessions, it's equally important to choose the right packing materials. You want packing materials that will cushion and protect delicate items during the move. That does not necessarily mean that you need to go overboard with the packing, especially around relatively stable items, but it does mean that you need the right packing materials to provide support.

Foam Wrap Sheets

Foam wrap sheets, or foam sheeting, are ideal for placing between fragile items. For example, if you have glass or china dishes, you may want to place foam wrap sheets around them before stacking them in a moving box. Even if you plan to use a dish box for your dishes on the move, you may want to use foam wrap sheets around each one to keep them from rattling in their cells, increasing the risk of chipping or damage. Foam wrap sheets are also perfect for many flat collectables, pictures in frames, or artwork.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is the perfect packing solution for many delicate items. You may use bubble wrap to protect your collectables, wrap it around your dishes to help keep them safe in transit, or wrap it around delicate or breakable toys to help protect them. You can layer bubble wrap to provide a thick layer of padding and protection around your possessions. Sometimes, you may choose to use bubble wrap to fill up empty spaces in packing cartons or individual cells of a dish box.

Keep in mind, however, that bubble wrap can quickly get expensive, especially if you intend to use it as padding around many of your possessions. You may, therefore, want to use other materials to provide additional cushioning and save the bubble wrap for specific, important items.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials


Cardboard isn't just for packing boxes. It's also an excellent tool for protecting breakable items. You can use cardboard tubes or sheets of cardboard to provide an extra layer of insulation and protection around delicate items. In some cases, you may want to wrap those delicate items in bubble wrap or foam sheeting, then add cardboard as a shell around the outside of the wrapping to help protect the items inside.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials


If you still take a paper newspaper, or know someone who does, newspaper is an excellent solution for protecting many of your more delicate possessions. Newspaper can be crumpled to provide padding and protection between many delicate items in your boxes. Pay attention, however, to the items in question. Newsprint can leave some black colouring behind, so you don't want to wrap it around items that you cannot easily wash. The transfer of ink can prove particularly problematic if you end up having to move in the rain or if you store your boxes in a damp space, including a basement, for a period of time during transport.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

Packing Paper

Packing paper fills many of the same roles as newspaper, but without the risk of ink transfer. You may want to buy packing paper if you run out of newspaper, if you don't have a newspaper delivered, or if you simply want to add a little extra packing around specific items, but don't want to risk ink from a newspaper getting on those important items.

Packing Peanuts

Packing peanuts come in multiple forms. In general, you can find either Styrofoam or eco-friendly packing peanuts at your local big box store, or contact your removalist to learn more about what they have on hand. Packing peanuts fill the empty space in boxes and cells as you prepare for your move, preventing items from rattling around. They're often inexpensive and easy to work with, which means you can tip them into your boxes with confidence.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials


In addition to packing peanuts, you may want to package particularly breakable items in Styrofoam cut to match the shape of the object. By conforming to all of the object's corners and curves, Styrofoam can provide a strong layer of protection around your item. This solution, however, is neither eco-friendly nor cheap, so it should be reserved for precious collectibles and items that need that extra layer of protection.

Moving Blankets

Most removalists will have their own moving blankets, which come with the truck and help protect your possessions inside it. Moving blankets go around furniture and other bulky items that might not get packed away in a box. A moving blanket thrown around wood furniture can help prevent scratches, scrapes, and dings that could prove incredibly frustrating when you reach your new home. Moving blankets also provide extra padding in the truck. If you have large items going in crates, you may want to use moving blankets inside the crate to help pad them.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

Furniture Wrap

Like moving blankets, furniture wrap can help protect your furniture. Furniture wrap looks like very large, slightly stronger plastic wrap. It can wrap around your couch to hold the cushions in place during transport or go around your dressers or side tables to help keep the drawers in place during the move. Furniture wrap can also help prevent dings during transport, though it doesn't offer the same cushioning effect you might get from a moving blanket.

What Goes Where: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

Using the right materials for your move can help ensure that all of your possessions reach your new home safely. If you have questions about the right materials for your move, or if you want to put together an all-in-one moving deal that includes the packing materials you need, contact an experienced removalist to learn more about available packing materials, boxes, and how they can help make your move a success.