How To Keep Track of Boxes When Moving

How To Keep Track of Moving Boxes

It is hard to believe but packing up your house can easily total 50 to 60 boxes. All those brown packing boxes look identical. Whether you are putting them into a moving truck or into storage, organization is vital for actually keeping track of all these boxes.

After almost a dozen moves, I have learned simple labeling on boxes is not enough. Unless you write every item in the box, you will quickly forget what is packed together. When it is time to unpack, boxes will just become mystery boxes that are impossible to deal with.

The method you use for organizing is completely up to you, but pick some form of tracking and organization. For inventory, either write a list down of everything notable in each box. You can also take photos of the boxes before you close them.

For organization, color-coded labeling of the box is a great trick. Packing tape is sold in a variety of colors that you can use. There are also visual labels like stickers you can place on the boxes. Finally, the classic marker will go a long way if you use it correctly.

No matter how you pick to track your boxes when packing, the “you” who unpacks those boxes will be appreciative.

Table of Contents

Mentally Plan How You Will Organize and Pack

Before you begin packing or even buying packing supplies, walk around your home and assess how and what you need to pack. Do you need a special television or art box? Do you need mattress bags? How many boxes do you think you need and what size?

Additionally, pack as many “like” things together as possible. What makes these items similar will vary from item to item. For instance, pack all the items from your television stand in one box. This will make unpacking easy.

Mentally plan the items you will pack together and be wary of how heavily you plan to make the boxes. If you simply cannot lift heavy items, plan for more boxes at lower weights or hire a professional moving company.

Create an Inventory

Inventory List
Making an inventory list may take time, but you’ll save twice as much time being able to find things later.

Keeping track of a running inventory of packed items may seem like one more task you do not have time for in a big move, but you will really appreciate it in the long run. You can find already done inventory templatesOpens in a new tab. online for free.

If you end up when you are away from your possessions for a long period or need to put them in storage, the inventory may just save you.

More than once, I have had to dig through a storage facility looking for one particular box. This task is even worse if you do not know exactly what box the item is in.


One method of keeping an inventory is in list format. Whether you choose to keep a running list on a piece of paper (there are or on your phone, a list of the important items in a box will help. Label the box specifically with either numbers or letters. Next, list the items in that box under the label.

Even if you do not list absolutely everything, noting 50-75% of the items in the box may be enough to spark your memory.


Another method for keeping an inventory is a photo inventory. Before closing the box, take a picture of the contents. It is still best to label the box very specifically so you can correlate the photo and the box.

Just like a list, the photo may not necessarily be a full exhaustive picture of the belongings in the box. However, you will note a vast majority of items.

Label Your Boxes on All Visible Sides

Besides inventory, you will benefit greatly from labeling your boxes once you close them. Everyone thinks they’ll remember what they put in every box. I can promise you this – you won’t.

There are many methods of labeling. The most used method is a marker to write labels on the boxes. However, many experienced movers have learned the benefits of visual labels, like stickers and color-coded tape.

Visual Labels

Visual labels, such as stickers to designate items in your box or what room they belong to, are an excellent labeling choice. Most moving supplies carriers also sell stickers with many words or symbols on them.

If purchasing extra stickers does not seem attractive to you, use a black marker to designate with symbols as you see fit.

Pro Tip: Giving your kids special stickers for their own boxes is a great way to get them involved and excited about the packing process.

Color Codes

One common method for labeling boxes is color-coded tape. In fact, this tape is often sold right alongside moving boxes. You can choose any color code you want for your house if it helps you.

Color coding your boxes makes sorting boxes at your new location easy for everyone involved. Red boxes go to the kitchen and green boxes go to the bedroom.

Word Labels

Label Boxes Fragile
When it comes to labeling boxes fragile, the bigger the better.

Finally, the tried-and-true method of labeling boxes is with words and a marker. In the weeks leading up to a move, I pack slowly. I pretty much carry a permanent marker with me everywhere during that time.

On one side of the box, label the box with a box number (trust me, this will help with inventory), the room it needs to go to, and some of the primary contents. On the remaining sides, re-write the room it needs to go in and its box number. This will help you out if you store your boxes for a while.

Check Your List as You Move Boxes In

As you move boxes into your new home, check your list. Make sure all the boxes make it to their new destination. While this is a lesser issue when you move yourself, you still want to keep track of your belongings.

Related –> What Happens if Movers Lose Your Stuff

Now is the time you use that inventory list. Unpack all your boxes with all the knowledge of what is in the boxes and where they should go.

Keep Track of Boxes You Will Need First

Let’s face it, some of those boxes you are moving are significantly more important than the others. Whether it is sheets for your bed or your favorite pots and pans, label and keep track of the important boxes.

How you label them is up to you. Scribble “IMPORTANT” across them or even “HOT”.

Those brown boxes do little to differentiate themselves from each other, especially after a long day of moving. Use the tools you have at hand ahead of time to transition as easy as possible for you. Keeping an inventory is an absolute must, especially if your boxes will be packed for a long period.

Also, labeling is your most important skill to gain. Use color coding, visual labels, and word labels to distinguish one box from another. Always remember to label important or “first-to-unpack” boxes accordingly.

With some inventory and labeling, you will have no problem finding what you need in each box and moving in quickly.


I've been a college coach for going on 20 years now and that career has led Jen and I on quite the journey. We've lived in 7 different states and have moved a dozen different times. We've learned A LOT over the course of all those moves and we want to pass on our knowledge to help others going through the moving process.

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