Little boxes, little boxes...
April 2, 2008 2:32 PM   Subscribe

I live in Brooklyn, and I'm moving. I need boxes! The usual liquor store route is failing me, utterly. Grocery boxes always seem wet and/or greasy. Anyone know any great secrets, or the best places to buy cardboard in bulk?

And I mean BULK. I have so many books it's embarassing.
posted by nevercalm to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Copy paper boxes are the best moving boxes - they're sturdy and don't require taping. Ask everyone you know who works in an office (and has access to them) to start saving them for you. I've tried asking places like OfficeMax in the past, but they usually either say "no" outright, or something vague like "you can try asking sometime" and then they never have any.

Or, if you plan on using a moving company, you can either get boxes from them, or have them pack your stuff for you, thereby saving you the time and effort as well.
posted by boomchicka at 2:35 PM on April 2, 2008

I got lots of used moving boxes through a local freecycle website.
posted by fish tick at 2:35 PM on April 2, 2008

Go to Walmart in the wee hours of the morning, when they're doing their restocking.
posted by chrisamiller at 2:36 PM on April 2, 2008

There are usually tons of people on Craigslist giving away proper moving boxes.
posted by zsazsa at 2:36 PM on April 2, 2008

We've had luck at the local Barnes and Noble bookstore (and if it's books you want to box, boxes from books make sense). They may have a policy in place now that would keep this from working, though -- so call first.
posted by amtho at 2:39 PM on April 2, 2008

2nding Barnes and Noble. As i recall they get their shipment in the afternoon, then have boxes around 4 or 5. If you call, they'll hold onto em. (this the b&n on 7th ave in ps)
posted by alkupe at 2:41 PM on April 2, 2008

If you don't mind paying for uniformity and quality, there are 2 routes you can go:

An office supply store like Office Max will have flat-fold filing boxes with separate lids. The standard ones are a little smaller than a copier paper box, but on the plus side, they fold together without needing tape, and they have holes in the sides for handles. They come with a lid, which you also fold together. There is usually no need to tape the lids on, unless you have something unruly inside, like an iguana. (Yes, I moved an iguana once.)

A printer's supply company that specializes in paper will have new boxes that have to be folded and taped, but they come in various sizes and are probably stronger than the ones described above. The down side is that some of these kinds of places won't sell to you without an account. If you are friendly with a local printer, maybe they can order them for you and let you pay them back.

You might try asking a local printer for some boxes, but they actually have less available than you might think. All the paper they get in boxes ends up going back out in boxes. So, even though you might see a stack of 50 boxes, they might still say they don't have any to spare, because the job they are running will fill them back up for delivery.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 2:47 PM on April 2, 2008

Mention that you're moving to everyone you even remotely know--it's pretty likely that someone has moved recently and will offer you their boxes.
posted by Polychrome at 2:49 PM on April 2, 2008

I've had great success and no success calling up an office supply store like Staples or Office Depot. You might have to call ahead, ask politely, maybe mention all the times you've used them and see spare boxes sometimes) and them to put some aside, and let them know when you'll be by to pick them up (stick to this strictly, or they'll toss them out). Seconding the copy/paper boxes - good sized, often have handles.

And of course, seconding Craigslist!
posted by raztaj at 2:51 PM on April 2, 2008

Thirding bookstores.
posted by scody at 2:52 PM on April 2, 2008

McDonald's fries boxes have worked for me in the past - the fries are all in plastic bags, so the boxes tend to be fine.
posted by djgh at 2:52 PM on April 2, 2008

posted by rhizome at 2:54 PM on April 2, 2008

Both Sam's and Costco have boxes in bulk. They're in the office supply section.
posted by Ostara at 2:54 PM on April 2, 2008

I am a fellow Brooklynite and have had to deal with this problem. In NYC, fishing around alleys and dumpsters for big boxes just don't work the way it does on the West Coast. I broke down and ordered a kit of boxes from and haven't looked back. Saving yourself the stress and aggravation is totally worth the money.

You get new, clean boxes, in sizes you can actually use. And you can use the box the boxes come in to pack your framed pictures and posters!
posted by Brian James at 2:57 PM on April 2, 2008

Yeah I always raid the bookstore's recycling dumpster. It's astonishing how many boxes they generate how quickly.

Some places have taken to keeping them inside but it seems to depend on the location. The Barnes & Noble near me - no go. 10 miles out? Box heaven.
posted by phearlez at 3:03 PM on April 2, 2008

I use boxes from uline for business-related shipping. They come in all sizes, and have moving boxes, too; however, the specific moving boxes are much more expensive than shipping boxes of the same size. They are really cheap and typically have next-day delivery (even when it is shipped via UPS ground).
posted by necessitas at 3:15 PM on April 2, 2008

If you have any friends who live in a large apartment building, you could ask them to do a nightly hunt for Fresh Direct boxes on each floor's laundry chute room. The people in my building always leave them unbroken-down right in the little rooms, and they're always in pristine condition. When a friend was moving, after trolling my 7-floor building for 3 nights, I'd gathered about 30 boxes for her.

Also, as an alternative to calling Staples/Office Max, my mom used to work at a Barnes & Noble. She could always grab a ton of good boxes on the days the got a shipment in, so you might try calling one of their larger operations in the city in the hopes of hitting a mother-lode.
posted by acorn1515 at 3:26 PM on April 2, 2008

If you live near a university, try the copy services people in the library. Or the acquisitions people for real, high quality book boxes. They're so good, I've kept mine and used them 4 times.
posted by fiercekitten at 3:39 PM on April 2, 2008

U-Haul sells boxes all over Brooklyn. And they have a special little 1' sq size for books, since even grocery-size boxes get way heavy if you fill them with books...
posted by nicwolff at 3:42 PM on April 2, 2008

When Craigslist fails for moving boxes, turn to the U-Haul Free Box Exchange Forum.
posted by majick at 3:45 PM on April 2, 2008

When I moved away from Brooklyn (sigh), I got all my boxes from the Yoga place near my loft. They sell so many water bottles, that there were always boxes a'plenty stacked up outside, very clean and sturdy. The manager was always delighted to see me cart them away! In fact, if you're moving from Williamsburg, it was Bikram Yoga at 108 North 7th Street. Good luck!
posted by polyester.lumberjack at 4:26 PM on April 2, 2008

Nthing the B&N option. I worked in the receiving department of a B&N once and even though it was a small store, we would get 50 to 100 boxes worth of books a day. Some of those boxes got re-used in order to ship out returns, but most of them got tossed into a cardboard-only dumpster.

Try independent bookstores, as well. A lot of them get their stock from the same distributor. Consider calling or dumpster diving any other media store (got a video store or those super shifty DVD-in-neon stores around?), as well.

The Atlantic Ave. Target might have a cardboard-only dumpster, although a lot of box stores use plastic re-usable boxes for their nightly shipments. Still, there's gotta be some store in that mall that's tossing boxes.

Bring a hand-truck/friends/spacious cab! Flattened boxes are a pain in the ass to cart around.
posted by greenland at 4:49 PM on April 2, 2008

In one move, I took advantage of the fact that I worked in a comic book store and the fact that there were Diamond boxes galore from deliveries. They're small and sturdy - perfect for packing full of books while remaining a reasonable weight.

Shipments (at least in 2002) to comic book stores happen every Wednesday morning. If you head over to your local shop and ask if they'll let you take them off of their hands, I'd bet they'd be willing to let you have them.
posted by oreonax at 5:02 PM on April 2, 2008

If you have any friends who work in IT, they may have tons of unused boxes filling up rooms. Or at least, where I work they do. These are usually large, very sturdy boxes used to ship very expensive equipment.
posted by rabbitsnake at 5:18 PM on April 2, 2008

The best boxes I have used for moving are balikbayan boxes, you can find them at any Filipino store.

Filipinos use them to send all kind of stuff back home, and they come in at least three "strengths", the lighter and cheaper ones are good for light items, IME the stronger ones can be filled with more than 100 pounds of books and they will hold.
posted by Dr. Curare at 5:42 PM on April 2, 2008

I've moved many, many times using the same set of legal boxes from Staples (I think).
posted by bdk3clash at 5:47 PM on April 2, 2008

Wow you guys pay for boxes? Jeeze. Wal-Mart gives you boxes? Wow. They actually have their "company cost" printed on them so the employees won't give them away. Best source? Go to your recycling center. There should be a ginormous pile, probably several thousand pounds all at once. Normally they don't care if you go bogart a couple.

Heck, I've got this weeks supply in my receiving area right now, probably 200lbs or so of boxes. Come get some.
posted by TomMelee at 6:54 PM on April 2, 2008

Don't overlook your local delis. They usually keep the boxes in the basement and are thrilled to get rid of them.
posted by cestmoi15 at 2:38 PM on April 4, 2008

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