Why You Should Always Label Moving Boxes


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To misquote Hemingway, moving happens in two ways: gradually, then suddenly. Every time I move, I make grand plans to do just a little bit every day for the three months leading up to the end of my lease. I’ll stop grocery shopping, I tell myself, and use up everything in my pantry so I’m not left packing cans of soup into boxes. I will, at long last, donate all of the old undergarments still taking up room in my drawers to a textile recycling organization. I’ll declutter, keep only what sparks joy, shred unimportant paperwork, and live among a neatly stacked tower of boxes for the final week in my apartment. During my most recent move from Boston to New York, I told myself this was the time I was finally going to bring these brilliant plans to fruition. 

Here’s what actually happened: I threw a going away party in an almost completely intact apartment just three days before I had to move out. I scrambled to pack over the next few days until finally making a whirlwind drive down to New York the same day I moved out. Needless to say, packing did not go as planned. Unfortunately, all’s well that ends well, so I’m not sure I learned my lesson. Who needs to spend weeks packing when you can just not sleep for 48 hours? There is one moving mistake, though, that I will never make again — and that is neglecting to label my moving boxes

I started out scrupulously labeling the boxes with my handy Sharpie, but in all the flurry of taping boxes together and shoving everything I own into them, I lost my way and cast the marker aside. That may not have been a major issue if I had packed sensically, but by the time I neared the finish line, it was chaos. I was tossing half-used bottles of dry shampoo in with pots and pans, candlesticks in with the canned beans I didn’t use up. 

Typically, I am a diligent labeler. I won’t simply write “breakable dishes” or “housewares” — I’ll write “IKEA glasses, coffee mugs, and pink bowl-plates” and “living room wall art, magazine rack, and picture frames.” I don’t just write “kitchen” — I jot down a detailed log of the specific items. It takes a few extra seconds to make note of what you’re adding to the box as you carefully load it up, and it saves so much time and confusion on the other side of the move. It may seem like something to do only if you have the luxury of time, but especially if you’re moving in a hurry, it’s actually the one thing you should make sure to do. Sure, the boxes I packed mere hours before I left my apartment for good were like a weird trail mix of belongings, but if I had noted what was inside right on the box, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. 

Alas, it’s been weeks since my move, and I’m still finding things in bizarre places (a lightbulb in a sock in a backpack, of course! It makes so much sense!) and realizing that I left some things behind unintentionally, in unlabeled boxes I didn’t bring with me. So let my failings be your cautionary tale. If you do one thing for yourself in your next move, label your boxes. No matter how rushed the process or haphazardly packed the vessels, you’ll have that one crucial piece of order working in your favor.


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