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How to Choose the Right Boxes for Storage

The clutter in your house has grown out of control. It’s time to start storing part of your belongings in self-storage or setting up a spot in the garage or attic. What you’re storing your items in is as, if not more important than where you store them. Choosing the right boxes for storage can be the difference between keeping all of your belongings safe and them being ruined.

Don’t know where to start? That’s okay, U-Haul is here to help.

Which is better for storage: Plastic Container or Cardboard Boxes?

The truth is that both plastic containers and cardboard boxes are great for storage. Which is better for you ultimately depends on your needs and your overall situation. Below we've listed the main benefits of both cardboard boxes and plastic containers to help you understand which may be right for you.

Cardboard Boxes for Storage

The major benefit of moving boxes is all the shapes and sizes they come in. When deciding on how to store your belongings, this might be the biggest factor. At U-Haul, we offer our standard boxes that come in four different sizes to fit your needs.

  • Small Moving Box – Fits household items, like books, canned food, small appliances, vinyl records, and more. This box can hold up to 65 pounds with its 16-3/8" x 12-5/8" x 12-5/8" dimensions.
  • Medium Moving Box – The medium box is perfect for toys, lampshades, medium kitchen appliances, craft supplies, and small bathroom and bedroom items. With its 18 1/8” x 18” x 16” dimensions it has become the most popular U-Haul moving box.
  • Large Moving Box – Pack a variety of bulky yet lightweight household goods like stuffed animals, folded clothing, stereo speakers, books, and more in a large moving box (18" x 18" x 24").
  • Extra-Large Moving Box – Items like folded towels, blankets, pillows, comforters, couch cushions, and more. Pack your bulkiest and lightest items in the extra-large moving box (24" x 18" x 24").

Specialty boxes make it even easier to store any item. Think about nearly any item and there is likely a box for it, and even if the box isn’t exactly designed for it, we can find a solution. For example, the Grand Wardrobe Box can fit a large portion of your closet and still allow your clothes to hang on its metal bar. But if you don’t need clothes storage, you can use wardrobe boxes for storing high-top chairs and barstools, or even a hanging chandelier.

There are countless specialty boxes to choose from. TV moving boxes, ideal for packing and moving a TV can also be used to pack and store a holiday wreath. There is also mirror and picture boxes, dish saver and glass pack kits, and plenty more. Each one can serve its primary purpose as dictated by its name or you can get creative with items like using a wardrobe box for high-top chairs.

Heavy-duty boxes are a great choice for storage too. These boxes have two corrugated cardboard layers instead of one. This gives each box twice as much puncture resistance and increased protection from environmental contaminants like moisture, dirt, and dust. These boxes also maintain their strength even if they’re frequently opened – perfect for storing holiday decorations over the years. Double-walled boxes resist crushing better than single as well. All aspects that you want in boxes for storage.

Plastic Containers for Storage

Whether you’re considering self-storage or working on a home renovation project, plastic containers are a great choice. These containers are easy to use and come with several built-in benefits. For one, they’re reusable, which comes in handy if you utilize storage off and on. They’re also easy to clean, stackable, and versatile.

An overlooked advantage to plastic containers is the color. A lot of plastic containers are transparent, which allows you to see what exactly is in the containers. If you don’t like the guessing game that comes from unlabeled cardboard boxes, that might be helpful for you. The containers can come in a variety of colors that can be helpful when organizing your belongings.

Buying multiple plastic containers can get expensive, but they’ll last you a long time and worth the long-term investment. If it’s for short-term storage, U-Haul Ready-To-Go Boxes are a great option. Theses boxes can be rented as long as you need and return them once you’re done. The boxes measure 24 x 20 x 12 inches, providing 2.4 cubic feet of packing area. The boxes are built with a sturdy, single mold base with built-in handles which make them easy to carry. There is also no need for tape as the two lid flaps lock in seamlessly and hold shut. 

Storage Tips for Boxes

No matter if you’re putting your boxes in your garage or renting a storage unit, there are a few general tips to think about.

  • Keep an inventory
  • Plan how to stack your boxes
  • Don’t forget your labels

When putting anything in storage you want to remember what you’re storing. This prevents you searching for your favorite sweater only to realize hours later you stored it for the summer. While you’re packing your boxes for storage write down what goes into each one. This should be a document that can be everlasting and stored safely to keep track of what goes in and out of storage. It’ll also help when planning how to stack the boxes.

Once you do start stacking and storing your boxes, do it with a plan. Larger boxes don’t always need to be on bottom. A box like a wardrobe box can sit upright and generally has lightweight clothes in it. Even with the best edge crush ratings, you don’t want a small box full of heavy books and décor sitting on it. That’s why it’s important to plan with the boxes and various sizes you have. It also makes more sense now to take inventory of your belongings going into storage. It’s also very important to label your boxes properly.

3 Tips for Labeling Your Storage Boxes

1. Be Equipped to Label your Boxes Properly

Using a sticky note as a label is asking for trouble. It may seem silly but using the right items to label will help you out later, especially if these items are going into long-term storage. We recommend using a dark marker and a light-colored tape, such as box paper tape, for the label to stand out. Each box should have a label on the top of the box and at least one side of the box. This allows you to see the label even if the box is underneath another box in storage or if there’s one to the side of it.

2. Color Coding

Think about taking notes in school. There was that one girl who highlighted everything in all sorts of colors, but she also knew everything right? By using different colors, it’s easier to identify what box is for which room or what season it is for. The easiest way to color code your labels is by using moving labels that are already color coded.

3. Don’t be Vague

“Honey, what’s in this box?” “Kitchen.” Based off the label, all you know is this stuff came from the kitchen. Is it plates? Is it the décor that hangs in the kitchen? Is it great grandma’s mixing bowl? You don’t really know, and that might be the difference whether the items inside return home safely. While packing your items for storage, think about words or what’s going inside the box. Include phrases like “fragile,” “handle with care,” “very important,” or even “durable.” You’ll thank yourself later if you write a detailed description about what you’re storing in the box.

If you need moving boxes, moving supplies, or self-storage, U-Haul offers it all. Plus, it is convenient for you. Order online at? pick up or delivery. When you order online, choose from Same Delivery and FREE in-store pickup to ensure you get the moving supplies you need, when you need them. Or, find your nearest?U-Haul location?to buy boxes at the counter or use U-Haul Self-Checkout to skip the line get your moving supplies on your schedule.

We have been serving the do-it-yourself mover since 1945 and we are here to help you get the boxes best suited for your move.