Packing a kitchen is one of the trickiest parts of moving. The kitchen is one of the last spaces that you need to be functional in your old home, but on the flip side one of the first that you need to be functional in your new home. That makes the timing of packing, moving, and unpacking a kitchen difficult to get just right.
In addition to there just being a whole lot of stuff that has to get packed up, many of the items are irregularly shaped and/or fragile, plus there tends to be an overwhelming amount of odds and ends that can throw off even the most organised of packers. Heading in to your kitchen without a plan is up there with the major moving mistakes, but with a bit of foresight and ingenuity you can simplify the kitchen packing process and tackle it like a professional. Here’s how to pack a kitchen without losing your mind.
Heading in to your kitchen without a plan is up there with the major moving mistakes.
Use this guide so you’ll be ready to prepare, pack, and unpack your kitchen like a professional. In this guide, we’ll walk you through all the following steps.
Here is our 5 Step guide to packing:
Step One: Get organised
Just as you would for every other room in your home, go through and pull out the items you no longer want or need before starting to pack. Moving is the best time to edit down your belongings and lighten your load, so take a moment to separate out the things that don’t serve a purpose for you. This can be a particularly difficult thing to do in the kitchen, since there’s always that voice saying that even though you’ve never used that crème brulee set before, you might want to use it someday. But if you’ve had it for more than a year and you’ve never even taken it out of the box, chances are you’re not going to.
Kitchen supplies that are in good condition can be donated to friends and family or to a local charity-based secondhand shop like Goodwill. You can also inquire with local food banks or soup kitchens to see if they’d like them.
Step Two: Gather your materials
To pack a kitchen, you’ll need heavy duty boxes in a variety of sizes, as well as packing paper, packing tape, and labeling markers. To make things easier on yourself, you may also want to purchase specialty dividers specifically designed for packing and stacking difficult items like stemware. Pick up some plastic wrap, too (the kind you would use to wrap up leftovers is just fine), which is helpful for keeping stacked items together and preventing them from shifting around.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to acquiring packing supplies for the kitchen is that you’ll probably need more than you think. For a family-sized kitchen, plan on about five small boxes, ten medium boxes, five large boxes, three extra large boxes, and about three rolls of packing paper. You may need to go back to the packing supplier or your mover, but this is a good amount of supplies to get started with.
Step Three: Figure out what essentials you’ll need
You don’t want to pack up your whole kitchen only to realize you didn’t leave yourself any forks for dinner that night. Set aside (or at least make a mental note) of the essential kitchen items that you’ll want to keep on hand right before and right after your move. Each member of your family will need a plate, cup, and a set of flatware, and you should keep out a couple bowls, too. Make sure to also leave yourself a dish towel, dish soap, a sponge (just toss it when you’re moving out), and any appliances you’ll need handy while you pack, such as your coffee maker. These can all be packed separately in a kitchen essentials box on the day that you leave.
Step Four: Start somewhere, anywhere
Each cabinet and drawer in the kitchen presents its own unique difficulties when it comes to packing, but they all have to get done, so just pick one and get started. Clear off an area of your countertop to spread out your packing paper, and get to work.
For pots and pans:
Use a large or medium box, and stack pots and pans with the smaller ones nestled into the larger ones and a small piece of packing paper between them. Make sure to add support around your pots and pans by stuffing paper or dish towels into openings, which will keep them from moving around in transit. Glass lids should be wrapped in packing paper and placed around the pots and pans or in a separate box.
For glasses and stemware:
Your best bet here is to use specialty dividers that fit into standard boxes. Even though your glassware is better protected in dividers than out of them, you’ll still want to wrap each item in packing paper. Don’t stack anything on top of your glassware, even if there’s room in the box. Glass is too fragile to support a lot of additional weight.
For plates and bowls:
Stack plates and bowls for easy packing. If they’re breakable materials, wrap each item before stacking; otherwise, you can just put a piece of packing paper in between them. Keep stacks together by wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap. Use the space around your plates and bowls to pack odds and ends.
For flatware and serving utensils:
For the easiest way to pack flatware, simply use plastic wrap to wrap around the tray and then place it flat inside a box. You can then add additional serving utensils on top, either loose or wrapped in a bit of packing paper (if they’re delicate).
Roll each knife in a full sheet of packing paper and then wrap a dish towel around them and secure the whole thing with a rubber band. Pack knives on their side—never facing up.
For food items:
Tackle the spice cabinet first, using a small box to safely store all of your spices. Put a small bit of packing paper around any spices in glass jars. Then move on to your pantry. Get rid of anything that’s expired, and if you have items that aren’t opened or expired but you no longer want, add them to your donation pile for delivery to a local food bank. For the rest of the items, make sure everything is well sealed and then pack up either in a medium box or in canvas grocery bags. Use a cooler for transporting perishables from the fridge and pantry. If you’re moving long distance, you’ll probably just want to toss any perishables before you leave.
If you have the original boxes for your appliances that’s ideal, but if you don’t, that’s okay, too. For small appliances, pack them in as small of a box as you can. Use packing paper to completely secure them in the box, filling in any gaps around them to prevent shifting. If you’re bringing along your larger appliances too, your moving company will want you to prepare them ahead of time by unplugging them, removing any hoses, and taping all doors shut. Learn more here about moving large appliances.
Pack your other kitchen items like mixing bowls, cookbooks, baking sheets, oven mitts, and food storage containers the same way you would pack items from any other room. Keep like items together to make unpacking a bit easier, and be careful not to make any one box too heavy.
Packing your kitchen takes time, so give yourself at least a couple of days, and ask for a few helping hands if you can. Pack your box of essentials last and label it clearly (even better, bring it with you in the car, not the moving truck) so that you have easy access to those items when you first arrive at your new home. When you’re done, give yourself a pat on the back for getting through it. Only thing left to do now is unpack the kitchen and hope you don’t have to pack it up again anytime soon.
Step Five: Get your new kitchen ready to move in
Before unpacking any boxes, there are some steps you should take to make sure your new kitchen is ready to go.
Even though your new home should have been cleaned prior to your arrival, this is the easiest it will ever be to reach all your cabinets and drawers, so take the time to wipe them down before unpacking.
If you’re planning to. It’ll be much easier to paint the kitchen and cabinets without all your belongings there, so this is the best time to paint if that’s part of your moving plan.
Think about where everything will go
Before opening any boxes, move around the kitchen and envision cooking a meal. See where it feels natural to put things.
Adjust and line shelves and drawers. Lining drawers helps keep them clean over time, so do that now while the drawers are still empty. You can also adjust the height of your shelves to fit your belongings.
PRO TIP: Line the tops of the cabinets with wax paper. Then, when they get grimy from dust and steam, you can just remove the paper and replace it.
Unpack fragile items first
When it’s time to start unpacking, begin with fragile items. The longer they stay packed away, the more opportunity there is for them to break, so putting them away early on will help protect them.
Stay organised while unpacking your kitchen
Try to be orderly while unpacking. Open one box, and then put away everything in it before moving on to another box. If you encounter any items that you aren’t sure where you’ll keep, put them in a designated “unsure” box and come back to them later.
Put items close to where you’ll use them
As you’re putting kitchen items away, put them in the same areas where you’ll likely use them. For example, oven mitts should be near the stove, and cutting boards should be close to the area where you envision doing your prep work before cooking. A well-organised kitchen will be one of the best feelings you can get after moving.
Arrange your kitchen based on how often you use things
Similarly, put things away based on how often you use them. The pots and pans you use every day should be easy to reach and grab, while a small appliance you only use occasionally can live in a less accessible spot, like the back of a cupboard.
Restock the fridge, freezer, and cupboards
If you emptied your fridge, freezer, and pantry with your meal plan before the move, now is the time to restock on pantry essentials, dry goods, and any other food you need.