How to Let Go...of Cardboard
October 15, 2015 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Should I throw out my cardboard moving boxes?

So, I'm in NYC. I used to live in an apartment in one neighborhood for three years. I saved my boxes from my first move and kept them in our apartment under the couch. We didn't have much of a pest problem-- I think we saw, like, one roach ever in those whole three years.

I've recently moved again, to a new apartment in a different neighborhood. I intended on saving the boxes again-- a lot of them were in really good condition, and as I have a lot of books and other heavy stuff, I figured they could come in handy were I to move again (my current lease is for two years but I honestly don't know what will happen after that). I had intended on collapsing them and then sticking them either under the bed or in various closets. Today my roommate told me she was concerned about keeping the boxes around because she was afraid of roaches. The apartment really doesn't have a roach problem-- she says she's seen only one or two in her entire time there-- and when I told her I had them in my previous apartment with no problem, she said she felt better about it and I could keep them. But now I'm paranoid. And also, they're just taking up a ton of space, even if I collapse them.

This probably sounds really weird to even post about, but I'm hesitant to let go of these boxes, in part because getting them for free from liquor stores and grocery stores has always been really hit or miss from me. If push comes to shove, I live near a Staples, so I could just buy them from there or even rent them, since that's apparently a thing now, but to me that seems like a bit of a sunk cost.

So, Hive, what would you do if you were me?
posted by Puck Soppet to Home & Garden (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've been in a purging mood lately, so take that into consideration. But I say you give them away. You're right, who knows what will happen in two years, and you can always get more boxes, even if you have to buy or rent them.
posted by doogan nash at 8:16 AM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

I vote for getting rid of the boxes. Also live in NYC. We didn't keep ours and we own 1000+ books.
posted by Jahaza at 8:17 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's the glue on the boxes that roaches like to eat. But if you kept them from last time, I don't see it as being a problem if you want to keep them this time. I understand your hesitancy about getting rid of them, I do the same thing and I move around a lot. Honestly, it's not the worst thing ever to get new boxes. Recycle them or give them away on craigslist.
posted by Attackpanda at 8:19 AM on October 15, 2015

Give them away. Someone right now who can't afford to buy boxes is looking on Craigslist or Freecycle hoping to find some for their move at the end of the month.

Worry about getting new boxes when you get closer to moving again.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:21 AM on October 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

I have an enormous apartment in Chicago with a whole extra room with a whole extra enormous closet I don't even use, and it is full of collapsed boxes from when I moved. Four years ago. I literally haven't opened that closet door since I threw them all in there. I held onto them thinking "oh, it'll be so easy when I move again, I have all the boxes I need!" They've probably gotten all spidery and terrible in that time and I won't want to use them when I eventually move again, which might not be still for quite a while yet, so at this point they're just closet fillers promising future work full of 8 legged terror. Or worse.

If I lived somewhere where space was at a premium, I would have given them away long ago without even blinking an eye. There will always be more boxes.
posted by phunniemee at 8:21 AM on October 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

I say give them away or recycle them and next time go with a company that rents out rigid plastic boxes for moves. We used one with our last move and it was so much easier than salvaged cardboard.
posted by Julnyes at 8:22 AM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

OTOH, I have had a set of Mayflower moving boxes since 1984. We expect to move next year, so I'm glad we saved them. They're expensive.

I have an attic though.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:23 AM on October 15, 2015

I would get rid of the boxes. They take up space, they collect dust and dirt, they put that dust and dirt in your stuff if you use them again.
posted by jaguar at 8:27 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

In NYC and I had this crisis of, uh, not being able to throw things out after we moved using the expensive moving boxes bought new for this purpose.

Throw them out. You'll feel better for there being less shit in your apartment.
posted by griphus at 8:27 AM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

(Also buying a box of new boxes when we were getting ready to move was the best decision I made after having packed up half of our things in Amazon [etc.] boxes which were half falling apart because they were stored flat for months and I probably spent more on packing tape than I would've on fresh boxes.)
posted by griphus at 8:30 AM on October 15, 2015 [7 favorites]

General rule for happiness in living spaces: always err on the side of throwing things out if it's even remotely in question.
posted by Drastic at 8:33 AM on October 15, 2015 [10 favorites]

I'd go ahead and recycle them. If/when you know you're going to move next time, you'll probably have a few months' notice during which you can save delivery boxes and ask friends to do the same.
posted by mark7570 at 8:36 AM on October 15, 2015

Recycle them. Really.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:36 AM on October 15, 2015

You should probably throw them out or give them away, but that doesn't mean you can't have a nice send off for them.

1) Draw/paint a brick wall pattern on one face of the boxes.
2) While your roommate is in her room, quietly stack up the boxes outside her door, brick pattern facing you.
3) Use a collapsed box to write "OH YEAH!" as a giant word bubble, hang it above/next to the door.
4) Have your camera ready.
5) Yell for your roommate to come quickly.
6) Cherish the memories (and photos).

After that, yeah, recycle them.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:37 AM on October 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

Don't keep them, but don't throw them away.

List them on CL or otherwise give them to someone else.

You'll make someone's day.
posted by anastasiav at 8:42 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Give them to someone in exchange for a piggy bank, mason jar, cookie jar, etc. Every month, at the same time you pay your rent, stick $5 in the jar. At the end of your lease you'll have $120 to treat yourself to fresh new boxes.
posted by mama casserole at 8:49 AM on October 15, 2015 [10 favorites]

If you have tons of storage space, and can break them down and store them easily, go ahead and keep them. You could put them in some large trash bags and tape the bags if roaches are a big concern. Or, give them away on freecycle or craigslist, and get free ones the same way next time you move, which is generally a better choice.
posted by theora55 at 8:51 AM on October 15, 2015

Also, Trader Joe's in my town saves their banana boxes to give away, they are awesome for storage.
posted by theora55 at 8:52 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is really about comparing present and future inconveniences.

Let's say you'll stay four years where you're now. Every day of four years, you'll likely spend some moments thinking of how these collapsed boxes are in the way, collecting dust, etc.
If you instead opt for letting them go they're gone and you'll never have to think of them again--until the day that you
a) try again to get boxes for free, apparently totally doable; takes you perhaps a few days of organising, or
b) buy or rent the boxes from an appropriate place. Money spent on freedom, no worries and no roaches.

Regarding b, if you would spend 100 dollars on boxes (and that seems more than plenty), that's fifty cents in the jar every week during a four-year period. That's some cheap ease-of-mind.

On preview: mama casserole beat me to the piggy bank idea...
posted by Namlit at 9:07 AM on October 15, 2015

If you were anticipating moving again within six months, I'd say go ahead and keep the boxes.

But two years? Dude, they give away boxes for free at the liquor store. Recycle the damn boxes.

Honestly, for that amount of time (especially considering you aren't definitely planning to move in two years, that's just the next potential window), even if free boxes were hard to come by, it would be absolutely fine to just buy boxes. I moved across the country three years ago and had to pay to ship boxes, and those boxes are long since recycled because life is too short and space is too precious to worry about this stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 9:10 AM on October 15, 2015

Recycle or give away. Home depot sells moving boxes on the cheap.
posted by AugustWest at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Give them to me.
posted by andoatnp at 9:15 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not getting rid of cardboard boxes after our last move was the source of our silverfish problem. I do not like our silverfish problem. Get rid of the boxes.
posted by pickingupsticks at 9:18 AM on October 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

I just moved and had to buy boxes when I couldn't salvage enough, I needed more than 200. The moving boxes that I bought are flattened and stacked up in a loft that I can use otherwise. I'm going to wrap them in a cheap plastic drop cloth, $3 to keep the dust out.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:19 AM on October 15, 2015

I say give them away or recycle them and next time go with a company that rents out rigid plastic boxes for moves. We used one with our last move and it was so much easier than salvaged cardboard.

Cannot recommend this strongly enough. It is such an easy way to move. They drop off the plastic crates, you fill them up, they pick them up and deliver them, you unpack them, they pick up the empty crates. It's the best way of moving ever invented outside of having movers come and pack and unpack everything (and with the latter, you don't know where anything is).
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:33 AM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sell them. I sold moving boxes in CL in NYC for like $50 and they were used boxes I'd gotten for free from other people in my old building before my move.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:47 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get rid of them, and get new boxes next time you move. I live in a small space, and like to think of this as paying Staples to store my boxes for me. How much would you pay for that?
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:02 AM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yeah, silverfish. If you can store the boxes sealed up in plastic, ideally with some boric acid or other silverfish poison just in case there are already eggs... Maybe keep them. If you have space.

Silverfish are the scuttling embodiment of horror.
posted by janell at 10:02 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that's a silverfish problem waiting to happen. I had several hundred book boxes from my last move, which I gave away on CL to some nice guy from a charity.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:28 AM on October 15, 2015

Give them away on CL or Freecycle. There's always someone out there who's moving or making crafts, and would love free boxes. And then when YOU move, you'll go on those sites and look for free boxes :)

Speaking of crafts, maybe make stuff out of them?I actually turned some of my moving boxes into small drawers for storing craft supplies, and even a cardboard coffee table, which lasted two years before I decided that it was too unstable for further use. If you're a painter, they make wonderful practice boards when covered with gesso.
posted by curagea at 11:45 AM on October 15, 2015

Put them up on Craigslist or Freecycle. You will make someone - maybe a student or someone on minimum wage who couldn't even think about buying new boxes - really happy.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 12:22 PM on October 15, 2015

I would get rid of them. Moving boxes should only be in one's life a short time and then go back out into the universe so someone else can use them to move. I think that's a much more efficient use of them since between this move and the potential move in 2 years time, dozens of people could have benefited from them.

I used to have the sunk cost mentality but when I was decluttering it really helped to think from the perspective of other people. I can keep this X now, just in case, because it might be useful but if I don't use it it may be ruined in the meantime and basically it's not useful to me right now. But it will be useful to someone else and even on the off chance I have to re-buy then I've at least saved them that purchase.

And if others think this way then when I need it, someone else will be getting rid of it!
posted by kitten magic at 4:36 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm late to the party, and everyone's hit the right points, but as a professional organizer, I can give you the official word.

Yes, unless you've used Bankers' Boxes, let them go. Regular cardboard boxes (and the glues/adhesives that hold them together) attract insects of all sorts (and not just roaches). They also pull moisture, collect dust, and otherwise take up space.

I always advise clients to never store anything in cardboard boxes (especially in attics, basements, garages and crawlspaces) and to use rubber/resin tubs (like Rubbermaid makes) instead. As storage isn't your concern, the advice to pass the boxes along to the next needy person is an even safer bet. As far as keeping them "just in case," you'll certainly be able to find suitable boxes well in advance of a move. Set them free, and you'll set yourself free.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 9:33 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I own several thousand books. I kept my moving boxes for 6 years in my garage. Some of those boxes I had used for 6+ moves over almost 25 years. So there was even sentimental value.

Thank God I have those puppies away. I love having less clutter in the garage!
posted by persona au gratin at 1:58 AM on October 16, 2015

+1000000 to rent the plastic boxes the next time you move within the city. They make it super easy. They don't fall apart. They don't require four hands to hold shut and tape at the same time. They STACK while you're packing and unpacking without that godawful noise of tape dispensers.
posted by barnone at 12:27 PM on October 16, 2015

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