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Where to Find Moving Boxes, Cardboard Boxes, and Avoid the Dumpster Dives

moving boxes, shipping boxes, cardboard boxes
cc image courtesy Brian Hart via Flickr

In my collegiate days, I moved a lot. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Maybe it’s something about the transient nature of youth. Maybe it’s the campus real estate blues. Who’s to say. But when you move at least once a year for, cough – five years – cough, you become a professional box collector.

Shipping boxes are rarely kept. Moving boxes are recycled or worse. The hunt for cardboard boxes has taken me to dark alleyways, fluorescent Wal-marts at 4 a.m., and at a low point, a dumpster. You don’t want that. I don’t want that. Here’s where to find cardboard boxes for your next move or LTL shipment:

Grocery Stores, Liquor Stores, and Starbucks – Grocery stores are excellent for finding moving boxes of all shapes and sizes. Just watch out for spiders (nightmare mode…engage), and sticky spills. Liquor stores usually have smaller, but sturdier shipping boxes (great for shipping wine or moving beer LTL).

Starbucks and other restaurants might or might not hand over the cardboard, but remember, the nicer the restaurant the nicer the boxes. Most of these moving boxes should be free of charge or super cheap. What else are they going to do with them?

Craigslist, and other websites – Craigslist often has listings to find cardboard boxes for moving or shipping, but make sure you’re putting “FREE” in the search. Craigslist can be a weird place with weird people, some of them looking for a scam.

Tread carefully. You’ll find websites that offer boxes, but they’re often expensive. If you’re needing a very large quantity of clean and new shipping boxes, then perhaps these sorts of sites are the answer for you.

UPS, Fedex, and other retail stores – You could probably get a better deal for bulk over the Internet, but if time is of the essence, you can always swing by a shipping store. They have different sizes of boxes, and they’ll be new and unfolded. Expect to pay for the convenience, but the bill will always depend on the quantity of the boxes you’re looking for.

U-Haul Customer Exchange – Brought to you by the folks with the orange and white trucks, this is a marketplace where shipping goods are exchanged between users. Think of it as a Craigslist, but exclusively for shipping materials. Location plays a big part with availability, but if your city is big enough, you should be able to find some used or new cardboard moving boxes.

The Dumpster Dive – I don’t recommend this option, but who would? Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do. If you do find yourself contemplating the epic dumpster dive, watch out for unseen garbage juices, police officers and/or irate security guys in golf carts, and remember: Expect nothing, you’re in a dumpster.

Keep in mind that box capacity is always gonna tighten up during the summers and especially during the move-ins and move-outs of your local colleges. For best results, avoid late May and early June, as well as late August and early September. Good luck out there.

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