Sometime over nine moves in sixteen years, I learned that I needed to put three strips of tape on the bottom and top of each moving box, a fact that went unquestioned until two days ago when I noticed the tape peeling off of the boxes destined for snackdinner’s new HQ one mile down the road.
Conservatively estimating 100 standard sized small boxes per move, and assuming a three-inch overlap on each side of the box, I’ve used 144 inches of tape per box, which, over 9 moves, means 3,600 yards of tape. That’s over 94 rolls of packing tape, which, assuming I’ve gotten a relatively good price on tape, means about $300 worth of adhesive.
The problem with this spending is that corrugated boxes are strong, a fact I recently accidentally tested by leaving a stack of folded moving boxes on the dining room floor. After the boxes served as an impromptu stage, tumbling mat, and writing desk, they are still in excellent condition.
It’s clear the boxes are doing most of the work, so can I stop using so much tape?
My son spends a fair bit of his time watching unboxing videos on YouTube, so figured it would be a good place to explore boxing. Turns out they have loads of videos about how to tape a box. I told my son he was in for a rare afternoon full of screen time and pulled up the first dozen videos.
We watched a woman tell us about what we called the snowflake method, which made me feel good about my comparatively conservative tape use. We were completely mesmerized by tape wrapping videos for international shipment.
Most of the box-taping videos were made by professional movers who can rip packing tape with their bare hands. Some used my three-strip method. Many used the H method, preferred if your boxes are going to be sitting in storage for a while. There’s also the Power H method, which uses all of the tape of the traditional H method while also allowing bugs or water to get inside your boxes.
After an hour or so spent watching videos, I’m an H convert, as the method makes a better seal and requires slightly less tape than my three-strip method. But if you’re making a quick cross-town move and aren’t worried about making a tight seal, the Diagonal method could reduce your tape costs by about half.
Did these poorly-framed box-taping videos save me enough money to justify the time spent? The internet has made Gilbreths of us all, sure that the next lifehack will make us more efficient and perhaps even better people. But sometimes there just isn’t a “right” or “best” answer. There’s not a single perfect way to close a box, because individual circumstances may vary. One person might favor the security that those H-taped boxes provide. Another more risk-tolerant person might be packing and moving in just a day or two and doesn’t need to worry about pests. Another person might just want to spend less money on tape and more money on Uber Eats.
There’s no right way to pack a box. There is, I recently discovered, a best way to make videos about boxes.
My searches for box taping videos led me to a slickly-produced video comparing different types of packing tape. I’ll assume that most of you dear readers are not in the packaging industry, but don’t let that deter you from Jesse Genet’s Unboxing Things series.
The co-founder and CEO of Lumi makes unboxing videos for grown-ups, specifically, grown-ups who love boxes. The videos, which feature Lumi customers like Thrive Market, Reformation, Brandless, and Billie,(mostly) ignore the products inside the boxes in favor of their packaging.
Even if you never have any packaging or shipping needs, it’s cool to learn how much work goes into the boxes that arrive on your doorstep. And if you’re tired of surprise eggs and marble runs but need to bribe your kids into silence, check out Genet’s video about how boxes are made.