8 Tips for Moving When You Have a Ton of Books

While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Monday, January 5th.

This post originally ran July 21, 2014.
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Being a mobile book hoarder can be a challenge. In the last 10 years I’ve moved 12 times, and my boyfriend and I are currently gearing up for move number 13. My family is, thankfully, always up to help, but they’ve started to balk at moving my library.

Although getting my books from one place to another is one of the most daunting parts of any move, it’s also one of the most satisfying. In the stress of setting up a new place, organizing my bookshelves always makes me feel calm and makes a new space start to feel like home. And after a decade of moves, I’ve got some well-honed (and simple) strategies for moving a ton a books.

1. Cull your shelves

One of the best things about moving is that it provides the perfect motivation to clear some of those books that have been lingering on your shelves. Beginning a month or two before your planned move, take a few runs through your bookshelves and ask yourself whether you really want to carry this book (among all the other books) to a new place. More often than not the answer will be a resounding no. Once you’ve pulled a book to giveaway, don’t look at it again – take the bags straight to a used bookstore or Goodwill to sell or donate and get them out of your hair.

2. Use small boxes

This seems fairly obvious, but it’s a mistake I always make. The small (16″ x 12″ x 12″) box from Home Depot looks reasonable, but it gets heavy when filled with hardcovers. I’ve found that liquor store boxes, banana boxes, and old shipping boxes (from all of the books I ordered online…) work well for books. If you do use bigger boxes, only fill them about 75 percent with books. Use the rest for clothes, office supplies or other light-weight objects. You can also fill the tops of boxes with paper or bubble wrap to protect the books.

3. Think creatively about packing options

If your move is a short one, reusable grocery bags (especially the $1 cheapies at the grocery store), storage baskets and even brown paper bags work well for packing books. Another Rioter suggested using suitcases with wheels to move books and putting your clothes (much lighter!) in boxes. Whatever you use, make sure the bottom is sturdy – books hurt when they fall on your feet.

4. Pack strategically and label judiciously

When you get ready to pack your books, pack strategically. Keep books that are shelved together in the same boxes so you’re not digging around for books that go together while you’re unpacking. And take some time to label your boxes in a way that makes sense to you. I generally write the genre and read/unread on the box, since that’s how I have my shelves arranged. This will save you time and frustration later. If you like the way your shelves are arranged, take photos so you have a reminder of where books generally go.

5. Box the books early

While it’s tempting to wait on boxing up books, I’ve found it’s best to deal with them early in the packing process. Having the boxes sitting around can be cumbersome, but packing them early means I’m still motivated to pack carefully, I still have good boxes to use, and I can cull a few extra titles as I’m filling boxes.

6. Pack carefully

If your books will be in storage before or after your move, pack the books spine down to protect them. You can also lay books flat or pack them standing up. I tend to use a mix of methods in each box. Just be sure none of the books are packed at an angle or bent in a strange way – they’ll be warped when you take them out.

7. Remember your emergency reading materials

Don’t pack all of your books! Make sure you leave out a few options to read just before and after your move, especially if you’ll be without your full library for any length of time. Put these books in the same box you put all of your other “emergency” supplies like contact information, medication, and cell phone chargers. Being without a good book would be a disaster.

8. Unpack the books first-ish (or get them out of the way)

I generally live in small houses, so having 20 boxes of books sitting around is a problem. Once the furniture is in place, the bed is made, and I’ve had some food, I take some time to unpack my books. Nothing makes me feel more settled than having my books on my shelves and, as a bonus, getting the books in place makes the entire house feel less cluttered. If you have a dedicated space for books (a spare bedroom or *swoon* a library) tuck the boxes away and deal with them in a reasonable time frame.

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