Wall of books

10 Hacks to Pack Books Like a Moving Pro

Avid readers tend to have a book problem. You don’t think you’re buying an excessive amount of titles until it’s time to move. Packing books is heavy work, and one box doesn’t often cut it. But, book lovers need not worry. You can keep your precious hardcovers and paperbacks safe so all your books go back on the shelves in your new home in perfect condition.

Ready to pack your books easier? Let’s get started.

First whittle down your library

So, the first question to ask yourself is “how many books do I have?” When you answer “a lot,” or “too many,” it’s time to decide what really makes sense to keep. Even if you have quite a collection, chances are you don’t need to keep all the books currently in your possession.

You can set any criteria you like to whittle down your book collection. Maybe you only want to keep titles you’ll read again. Maybe you just keep the books that really spoke to you. However you want to do it, start the packing process by really thinking about the books you want to keep and which you can live without.

Once you’ve made your two piles, you have a few options as to how you pass along the books you don’t need to keep yourself.

  • Sell back your books to a used bookstore
  • Give books away to friends and family who may enjoy specific titles
  • Donate books to a local charity

Charities can include your local library, spreading them out among a few Little Free Libraries in your area or locating a specific organization that’s accepting book donations.

When to start packing

Since you don’t need access to all your books on a regular basis, get those moving boxes out early. Books are a great item to jumpstart packing all together.

Packing boxes full of books early is often not as frustrating as packing clothing or fragile items. There’s not any folding or wrapping in bubble wrap required to pack books (most of the time.) There’s also typically no risk you’ll accidentally pack something you need.

So, get ahead in the packing process and start at least a month out with those book boxes. If you can, pile them up in the corners so the boxes are out of the way as you get everything else ready to move.

Packing books

What’s the best way to pack books in a box?

How you pack your books is as important as the packing materials you use. You need the right box and lots of packing tape.

Use a box made of thick cardboard, with strong sides and corners. Don’t reuse a box that looks like it’s in less-than-perfect condition. Even on a moving truck, boxes can get knocked around and packed books can easily rip a worn box.

Make sure to add reinforcement to any box when you’re using it to store books. To do that, it’s all about packing tape. From the outside, reinforce the bottom of the box by laying an extra layer of tape around all the seams and folds. You should also add a strip of tape across the bottom seam inside the box before you begin packing in the books for increased durability.

A layer or two of packing paper or newspaper in the bottom provides extra cushioning and protects those bottom books that will bear all the weight of the rest of the box.

Once a box is full, reinforce the top by adding extra tape parallel to the seam as you close it up. It helps keep the flaps taped to the box even if the center strip comes off.

1. Watch your weight

To properly pack books for moving, you have to think about weight. Books are heavy in general, and it’s not just because of the actual heavy books — those hardcovers with hundreds of pages.

Starting with small boxes when it comes to moving books will help you keep the weight down. If you’re going to carry these boxes yourself, try to keep the weight at or below 40 pounds. If movers are helping out, they usually have dollies or carts specifically for heavy items, so you can probably max out the weight of your book boxes at 50 pounds.

Even with movers doing the bulk of the heavy lifting, though, you may need to pick up your book boxes once they’re in your new home. Keep that in mind when thinking about the weight of these boxes.

Label the boxes clearly

2. Label clearly

After you’ve packed these heavy boxes, make sure everyone knows there are books inside with a nice big label. Think of it as a way to identify what’s in the box, as well as a warning that there’s something heavy in there.

3. Lift the heavy boxes safely

As you pack books for moving, make sure you’ve refreshed yourself on how best to lift heavy items. General tips are helpful like wearing comfortable clothing that lets you easily bend at the knee, but to move heavy boxes, remember to:

  • Wear closed-toe shoes
  • To lift, face the box and bend at the knee to squat down; don’t hunch over
  • Grip the box at opposite corners
  • Stand slowly and lift with your legs
  • Move slowly and carefully to wherever you’re taking the box

To put the box down, work in reverse, bending at the knee again slowly to set the box down while protecting your back from having to manage all that weight.

How do you pack books so they don’t get damaged?

The essential question when you pack books is how to get them into boxes so they stay safe and remain intact.

There are a few different ways to position books to fill a box, but most will leave you with gaps that could cause books to shift. To protect covers, book spines and even the pages of your favorite reads, use any of these strategies.

1. Sort by size

The first trick to filling book boxes is to sort your books by size. This makes it easier to get even piles as you pack, and decreases the amount of wasted space in a box.

2. Order by weight

Next, you need to group your books, already in their same-size piles, by weight. The heaviest books always go on the bottom of a pile, with the lightest books on top. This also often means your hardcovers are sitting at the base of any given pile. Even if they’re the same size, hardcovers can withstand the weight of all your other books much better, protecting the more delicate books.

Books spine down

3. Find the proper position

There are three safe positions for packing books — flat, vertically and horizontally. Each works depending on the type of book you’re packing.

  • A flat stack of books works best with paperbacks. Putting one on top of another ensures the covers don’t get creased. Make sure stacks are lined up so the spines are all on top of each other.
  • Going vertical means mimicking how books sit on the shelf. This is better positioning for hardcover books, but make sure the spines face the sides of the box.
  • Horizontal positioning really only works for the bottom layer of books in smaller boxes where the second layer of books won’t fit. For this method, lay the books spine down along the bottom, then, layer something lighter on top to protect the pages.

For valuable books, make sure to wrap them in packing paper before positioning them.

No matter which position you pick when you pack books, the spines should always face the box. Whether that means it faces the sides or the bottom varies but putting books spine-to-spine in a line, whether it’s a stack or a line like they sit on a shelf, keeps them safer.

4. Mind the gaps

No box will get perfectly filled with books. There will always be gaps to fill, which means having packing paper on hand. You don’t want books to shift in their boxes during a move, so any open space should get filled with balled-up packing paper.

Resist the urge to put books in at odd angles to fill a space. Doing so can weaken the spine of the book and even lead to a page or two falling out.

Use a suitcase to carry books.

5. Skip boxes altogether

Now that you have all these packing tips for how to get your books into those moving boxes, here’s how to bypass all this effort.

Suitcases make for great book storage, and rolling suitcases means no heavy lifting.

You’re more likely to get more books into a suitcase than one small box anyway, even with some packing paper padding. Plus, you have to move all your luggage anyway, so why not put some of your stuff in them, too? This is a great opportunity to save a little money on packing supplies.

Books on the move

Most likely the heaviest thing you’ll move, furniture aside, your book collection can go with you without being a burden to pack and transport. Following these tips will help, but don’t forget to leave a title or two out to accompany you to your new home. After all, you may decide to unpack your sheets and dishes first, and then, what will you read in your downtime?


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