girl in white t-shirt packing books

The Ultimate Guide on How to Pack Books for Moving and Storage

You’re moving house, doing home repairs, or freeing up a corner of space, and find yourself sizing up your beloved book collection. It’s got you wondering how to ensure your books remain safe and undamaged in storage or in transit from point A to point B. Following the right tips and techniques can see to it that all spines (yours and theirs) remain intact, while making the whole process easier and faster. Here are some practical tips and expert guidance for the best way to pack books for moving and storage.

Jump to section

Declutter Your Book Shelves

Every move or change brings a welcome opportunity to take inventory of our stuff and take a step towards filling our life and space with what we need and love. While you might be tempted to sell it all and start anew, decluttering and flexing your decision making muscles are going to be so worth it! 

Book lovers who have lugged a haul back from the local bookstore or library know that these suckers are heavy. So take a deep breath and systematically work your way through the process. It will help you minimize, lighten your load, and can make your move and storage more efficient and cheaper

Evaluate your book collection: This is the ‘take stock’ step. Size up what you have and start sorting using the keep, sell, donate method. Fill your keep pile with books you genuinely love and those that you’re likely to read again. Be honest with yourself about the books that are just taking up space and those you’re willing to part with. But remember – there’s no shame in keeping those sentimental childhood favorites!

Sell or donate unwanted books: For the books you’ve decided to part with, you can try to make a little extra cash by selling them in secondhand marketplaces, or you can go ahead and donate the lot. Donations may be readily accepted by your local library, thrift shops or fellow bookworms. 

Create a sorting system: Take a moment to decide on a sorting system for the keepers. Sorting by size can make packing easier, and classifying essentials can make them easier to find and access in storage and post move. Create an inventory to know exactly what you have and ensure that nothing gets lost or left behind.

Pro tip: Consider digitizing: Struggling to downsize your collection? Digital options can be particularly useful for bulky reference books. E-books give you anytime access to the info you need, while freeing up more physical space. 

Interior of townhouse with books in library
Image credit: sirtravelalot

Back to Top

Pick the Right Materials For Packing Books

Now that you’re through the weeding process, it’s time to collect supplies, pack them up and get them safely to their destination. Since choosing the right packing supplies is essential to keeping your books in good condition through a move or in long-term book storage, here’s a quick materials guide to get you started.

Packing Boxes: When it comes to boxes, size and strength matters. Master Movers estimate that moving boxes should weigh 50 pounds or less, and suggest using ‘book boxes’ measuring 1.5 cubic feet. Choose double-walled cardboard boxes, which are sturdier and offer more protection than single-walled boxes. Similarly sized plastic bins are a more expensive, but suitable alternative, and for easier moves, rolling carry-on suitcases can be a back-friendly option. 

Packing Paper: To ensure your books are secure, use packing paper, unprinted newspaper or acid-free tissue paper, which prevents the paper from yellowing and deteriorating over time. Despite it being cheap and accessible, avoid using newspapers as the ink can transfer to your books. 

Bubble Wrap: Valuable or delicate books can be wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and bubble wrap for extra protection. 

Packing Tape: Choose a strong packing tape that is at least two inches wide. Don’t choose masking tape or duct tape because they won’t provide enough support for the job. 

Permanent Marker: Label each box for quick reference and easy access.

Just a few choice supplies to pick up, but how much should you buy? It all depends on the size, value and amount of books you have in your collection. A typical book box holds around 20 paperback or average-sized hardcover books, and about 10-15 larger hardcover books. One roll of packing paper or a package of sheets will cover most home libraries with some to spare, but it all depends on what you’re working with!

Back to Top

How to Pack Books in Boxes for Moving

The time has come to box up your books! Here are the do’s and don’ts on how to pack books in boxes for moving and storage.

DO pack upright or flat: Pack average-size hardcover books upright, the same position they would be in on a shelf, in two rows with their spines in the center. If a third row fits in the box, separate rows with packing paper.
Paperbacks and large hardcover books are often best packed flat in stacks. 

DON’T pack spine up and spine down: Packing books spine up or down can cause them to warp and damage their bindings, and is particularly hard on books with rounded spines.

DO be generous with the packing paper: Create a cushioning layer of packing paper on the bottom, fill all gaps thoroughly to prevent any shifting, and add an extra top layer to have additional protection from dust and damage.

DON’T leave excess space: Leaving excess space around the books can cause them to shift, which can lead to book damage and back injuries.

DO individually wrap: Special editions, valuable or delicate books should be individually wrapped in packing paper and bubble wrap, and secured with tape.

DON’T cram ‘em in: Don’t pack your books in so tight that you cause damage to their covers and spines.

DO secure the box with tape: Double tape the bottom seam with packing tape for added durability and make sure that all seams of the box are secured with tape.

DON’T over pack: Keep that weight to 50 pounds or less, even if that means less books and more packing paper.

DO properly label your boxes: Choose a labeling system that works for you and then consistently label each box. This can be a color coded system for easy unpacking, where each color denotes a different room, or a numbered system that’s paired with a full inventory sheet, offering easy access to specific books when putting them in storage. And, remember to note fragile contents and which side’s up.

DON’T forget to label your boxes: Even if you don’t label the individual contents, remember to note that the box contains books and may be heavy.

To see the process in action, head here!

Back to Top

How to Store Books

Is the best way to pack books for moving also the best way to pack books for storage? For the most part, yes. 

While your attic or basement may seem like convenient storage spaces, books require special care, so you should opt for climate-controlled storage. You must always pay attention to temperature and humidity as mildew is their number one enemy. You may want to wrap every book individually in acid-free tissue paper and opt for plastic bins with tight-fitting lids to prevent moisture and pests from getting in and causing damage. Add a few moisture-absorbing desiccant packs to keep the air in your bins dry. 

Should you store books in plastic containers or boxes?

Cardboard boxes are ideal for moving but are more susceptible to humidity long-term. Plastic containers help better protect books from mildew, bugs, and mice. Also, use pallets or shelves to keep the boxes or bins off the floor where they’re more likely to encounter water damage.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to label your storage bins with their contents, the date it was stored, and any other relevant information. This can help you keep track of your items and make it easier to locate what you need, when you need it!

Whether your collection is off to a new pad or a storage facility, place your boxes of books on the floor of the truck or van and stack them with the heaviest boxes on the bottom. Use ratchet straps or bungee cords to secure the boxes to the walls of the vehicle, giving them added protection during transport.

Back to Top

Choose the Right Storage Unit for Your Book Collection

Now that you know what harms books and how to protect them, it is time to choose a storage space for all those books you want to keep but do not need to access on a regular basis. Your best bet will be a storage unit with climate control because of all the potential issues with humidity and mildew. Thankfully, there are plenty of climate controlled facilities near you to choose from and you can rest assured that your book collection will live on unharmed.

Onto the Next Chapter

Following these useful tips on how to pick and pack your books for a move or storage ensures that you keep your home library in great condition and carry on with your TBR stack down the road!

Back to Top

Categories Moving Storage