I'm moving across continents. My employer is paying for shipping 50 cubic feet of cargo over sea. There are no restrictions on weight. It results in a 2 level problem. First, I have to buy cartons of appropriate size. Cartons for heavy objects like books need to be small (otherwise they will break). But if I buy too many cartons, I'm wasting money and also some space. All these cartons must fit in a 40X48X45 inch (50 cubic feet) container. Second, I have to fill these cartons optimally. I have freedom to put an object inside another one in order to save space (a camera inside my shoe, for example).

Any heuristics, rules of thumb, special tricks or optimal solutions learned from your past moves are most welcome. My objective is to maximize the value of goods I can take with me.

asked 23 May '12, 13:39

ashutosh%20mahajan's gravatar image

ashutosh mah...
accept rate: 0%


Best. Practical. Question. Ever.

(23 May '12, 13:44) fbahr ♦

Clarified my answer with some more thoughts.

(24 May '12, 11:25) Samik R.

Having done a move like that here, some more info about your problem:

1) Your constraint is more complex than you think. You might pack a lot of stuff into your container, but you also have to pack it so that is does not break. So you have to add wrapping material. Squeezing things in usually causes damage.

2) Having a wife (with all her stuff) makes this problem A LOT harder.

3) If you pack a container yourself, many times you lose insurance coverage. To get insurance, you often need professinals pack your boxes and the container.

The practical non-OR solution to this:

Get an employer who pays for the move as a total (including packing) or gives a lump sum. Not having the problem is the best solution in this case.


answered 25 May '12, 09:12

Philipp%20Christophel's gravatar image

Philipp Chri...
accept rate: 22%

To piggy back this answer, if your employer pays, do not go min cost (alternatively, be OK with a binding budget constraint). The variance in quality of movers is high, as is the pricing. Pay (or have your employer pay) for the good movers who won't lose or break your stuff!

(16 May '14, 21:02) Paul

Heuristics for solving bin-packing problems of course come to mind. Since the size of the boxes can vary, aren't you also be considering minimizing the number of boxes, with some weight restrictions put in as constraints?

Thinking about this some more, it seems to me that the crux of this problem is not the modeling and solving of an OR model, but collecting the necessary data needed to get a reasonable answer. That is a common trait among lot of practical OR problems, as anyone in industry would agree (I am missing A.L. from the sci.op-research group here). At a minimum, you need a reasonably large database of a list of things you want to take to, and for each item in the list, you need to assign a value (considering that, the value may not be the price that you paid for it), it's weight and volume. Assuming that you have enough time in your hand to create such a list, write a script to collect the volume and weight of each item in that list (e.g., using an Amazon API, since Amazon pages of most products give dimension and weight), you will still need to assign the perceived value of each item (and possibly reconcile the value with your family member ;-).

The unaffordable burden of data collection, IMHO is the reason why, even though, many practical problems from day-to-day life can be modeled and solved using OR, are not done that way.

You are probably aware, but for another forum having discussions on these moves on sea, you can see here. Note: this other forum site has nothing to do with optimization the way you mean in your post (but, can be argued, is geared towards an optimum experience in general :-). Best of luck on your move.


answered 23 May '12, 14:17

Samik%20R.'s gravatar image

Samik R.
accept rate: 2%

edited 24 May '12, 11:24

this forum has nothing to do with optimization??

(23 May '12, 15:02) Marco Luebbecke ♦

Not this forum, the forum that I mentioned through the link. Clarified the post.

(23 May '12, 15:37) Samik R.

I'd say the problem is actually simpler. At least the OR part of it. I agree with @Philipp Christophel on the non-OR parts.

Here is the crux of the matter: If you are given the size of the container, then you can make your instance very simple by picking boxes that will provide you with a perfect packing. Since your container is 40x48x45, you could choose, for instance, 24x20x15 boxes. Since the box size is not given, the problem is relatively simple.

Another practical consideration is to ship your books as media, which will be very cheap. Except for Combinatorial Optimization, Cook, Cunningham, Pulleyblank and Schrijver. That one you need on your person at all times.


answered 13 May '14, 22:47

Leo's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%

edited 14 May '14, 04:06

fbahr's gravatar image

fbahr ♦


I'm also suggesting you the same thing. Go for those who are experienced trust-worthy as well as experienced package & moving company. They will guide & guide you about packing tricks.


answered 12 May '14, 03:56

AdahKhan's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

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Asked: 23 May '12, 13:39

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Last updated: 16 May '14, 21:02

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