Cargo Van Tetris
February 25, 2014 2:33 PM   Subscribe

I have some boxes and some furniture. They need to fit in the back of a van. Is there somewhere on the internet where I can tell it the sizes of my things, and the size of the space they need to fit into, and it tells me how to most efficiently stack my things?

I've seen "moving estimators" and they ask how many boxes you have and whether you have a couch, then they tell you how big a moving truck you need. I'd rather come at it from the other direction: I could keep the couch if it fits in the van, but if it doesn't, I'll sell the couch.

I'm hoping there's something more granular that will let me enter the dimensions of my boxes/couch, then tell me to stack Box 6 on top of Box 12 so there's room for Box 5 next to them, and ideally, "put the couch on its side so Boxes 7 through 11 will fit between the arms".

Even just "Boxes 1-4 and 6-12 will fill the space if you stack them like this, but Box 5 won't fit" would be great.

Does this exist, or should I bust out the graph paper and X-acto knife and build a scale model of my couch?
posted by mgar to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You could do this in Google sketchup pretty easily, but it wouldn't be automated.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:45 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stack (empty!) boxes on your couch. Then measure things. You can treat the couch+boxes as a single unit. Obviously empty boxes will not crush your cushions like full boxes, but that's okay, you'll stack the cushions on top of the full boxes.

After that, put the couch+boxes into the van, virtually speaking, and go from there. Also, be sure to measure vans, so you know how high you can stack the boxes on the couch.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:34 PM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Generally speaking, "packing" (fitting max amount of "items" of various sizes into a "bag" of fixed size) is considered a complicated problem for computers, with no good, easy, or fast solution.

I'd also recommend just using painter's tape in your home and do a mock up of the packing, and see how much fits.
posted by ethidda at 4:03 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you can acquire a bunch of boxes with the exact same dimensions it will be much easier to load the van efficiently. You basically make a wall of boxes across the van first, then fit in your larger items.
posted by ambrosia at 10:44 PM on February 25, 2014

Best answer: Just an anecdote - a reasonably experienced friend helped us move last time. It took 4 hours to load the U-haul while he examined all the spaces and all the boxes and all the odd pieces of furniture/lamps/etc and then he fit it all together exactly like you described it - Tetris. Once we drove to the new place, it only took 15 minutes to unload the van.

It's a really complex problem and I'm not sure you're going to find anything very precise. You could use the moving estimators and run them twice - once with the couch and once without, and see if their van-size suggestions are different, then decide if it's worth it to rent the larger van or sell the couch.
posted by CathyG at 6:13 AM on February 26, 2014

Best answer: ambrosia has a great suggestions - although I'd add that if you need boxes of varying sizes, get them from the same place as they are usually designed to stack (two smalls fit side-by-side on a large, etc).
posted by radioamy at 7:15 AM on February 26, 2014

Best answer: Such things exist.
posted by jayCampbell at 11:14 PM on February 27, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everybody, every answer was very helpful. I figured there must be software because I'm obviously not the only one to have this problem, but I'm kind of relieved to hear it's as complicated as it seems to me. I hadn't thought of sketchup, but that sounds a little easier than my graph paper plan.

I've got masking tape on my floor and wall now, and will definitely do a dry run with empty boxes, which are all the same size Fresh Direct boxes for maximum packing in the "fitting boxes next to each other" sense, not just the "putting stuff in boxes" sense.

The couch's fate is still up in the air, but I'm feeling a lot better now I've got masking tape surrounding it.
posted by mgar at 2:14 PM on March 1, 2014

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