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Friends, Online, and Community-Based Sources for Free Moving Boxes

Don’t assume commercial businesses are the only organizations that deal with cardboard boxes in bulk. There are all kinds of neighborhood resources, local connections, and online communities where you can get free moving boxes. Before haggling with a local business owner or trying to get a hold of a floor manager who can approve the release of boxes from the back warehouse, look to these convenient community-based sources.

  • Ask an Insider to Get Boxes for You: Call it the friends, family, neighbor connection. Maybe it’s a grocery store, pharmacy, or big-box store. Maybe it’s someplace less accessible. Factories and warehouses have a tendency to create more than their fair share of boxes and many people know someone with this type of job. Feeling awkward about asking friends and family for the favor? Check out these practical tips.
  • Craigslist and other Online Communities: Aside from Craigslist, The Freecycle Network is another good place to try. We will warn you that some online communities are victims of their own success. When demand is high, you may end up contacting or (less commonly) showing up to a designated location to find the boxes and supplies have already been taken. On the other hand, getting rid of your moving boxes, so long as they’re in decent condition, is usually as easy as logging in, making a quick post, and setting the boxes out in a safe, dry area.
  • College Campuses: Larger university systems in particular are likely to designate a spot where people can deposit their used cardboard boxes for others to pick up for free. This may be done at the beginning and end of the semester or year-round. Contacting the university mailroom is one sure-fire way to determine if there’s such a place at your local college campus.
  • Box Exchange Programs: U-Haul is the big-name source that runs a box exchange program, though you can also find local programs that do this take-one, give-one sort of thing. If you know about a local program, it’s also a great alternative so you don’t have to worry about what to do with extra boxes. Depending on whether you have to make a separate trip to the local U-Haul store, this can be even more eco-friendly than recycling.
  • Hospitals and Medical Supply: Before medical supplies turn into bio-hazardous materials, they arrive to the hospital or medical clinic in strong cardboard boxes. From major medical centers to the local blood bank to specialty medical supply stores, this is a great option that tends to fly under the radar. Just be sure to start at the general information desk, rather than say walking into the ER and asking the charge nurse about double-walled moving boxes.
  • Yard Sales: This is all about timing and recognizing the nature of the yard sale. If someone is selling their stuff as part of their own move, they may be hoarding what boxes they have for themselves. If the person is holding a yard sale as part of cleaning out their attic or basement, you’ll likely have better luck so long as the boxes aren’t too old.