How to Move Your Small Kitchen from One Apartment to Another While Eating Well and Staying Sane

Packing a Small Kitchen with FlatRate Moving

You’d think that a move between two apartments two blocks apart would be easy. But the distance from apartment #1 to #2 turns out to matter a whole lot less than the number of years you’ve hoarded kitchen equipment in the old place (four) and the sum of stair flights to be climbed between the pair of Brooklyn walk-ups (six and a half). Two blocks can be long indeed. We were going to need some help.

I had heard great reviews of FlatRate Moving (the sponsor of this post), and from the moment I got in touch with a rep there, I had the sense I was dealing with pros, people whose organizational prowess put mine to shame a million times over. Before emailing a quote, FlatRate sends an estimator over to your place to look through all your stuff and assess the timing and pricing of your move–at a rate that doesn’t change once you’ve signed the contract. The company sells boxes directly; confirms appointments, always; and crafts a custom inventory and move plan.

As moving day approached, I found myself less and less nervous instead of more and more. And so two days before my birthday (aka lease day), the three FlatRate movers arrived at apartment #1 at 9am, and starting at that moment, the experience was seamless. After emptying apartment #1 in no time, they drove the two blocks–passing, I noticed, another FlatRate truck on our block–and got ready to unload.

While I speed-walked the three minutes to the new place and got started wiping and lining the cabinets, the movers carried boxes and furniture up our new four long flights, leaving not a scratch on the wall. I started unpacking kitchen boxes while they hauled; unasked, the movers broke down and disposed of all the boxes I was clearing, immediately reducing the clutter in our new space. Wow. 

I think you get it: this was an efficient two-block, six-and-a-half-story move, a lighthearted version of a task that’s normally stuff-your-face-with-chips stressful. Since I was free and easy, the logistics and muscle out of my hands, I had the time and energy to focus on collecting the best practices for packing a small kitchen. Not least among the bullet points of my new knowledge is the fact that a seemingly small kitchen’s stuff easily crams a dozen boxes.

Here’s how to move your small kitchen:

Pare down your pantry. You know this already. Start early, clearing cabinets and asking yourself again and again: “Do I need/want/use this?” Donate food and equipment that doesn’t meet your criterion, and try to to finish off pantry staples in the weeks leading up to your move. Lentil-Barley Soup with Mushrooms does a good job of cleaning out the grain and bean stash.

In the meantime, consolidate: If you find two containers of masa harina, do whatever it takes to make them one, being sure to label any ingredients you store in unbranded containers (I used marker on strips of electric tape).

On the flip side, don’t go overboard and toss full or almost-full condiments that you actually like and use–you’ll just have to spend money to replace them in your future kitchen. Tape tops down so nothing leaks, and designate any boxes that should go right from one refrigerator to the other.

Put things in other things. Hone your talent for estimating volumes, then find small objects that fit into bigger ones, like spice jars in storage containers. And, while you’re repurposing your possessions as packing material, know that dish towels, wrapped and tapped around breakables, will protect fragile edges and fill the spaces in loosely packed boxes to make them more structurally stable.

Eat decent meals while you’re packing. I don’t mean anything fancy or involved–though if you do like to cook, whipping up the one-pan special (steak, sautéed spinach, and fried bread) is a welcome distraction–but you are going to get hungry, cranky, and bored of take-out if you don’t have any edibles on hand. Besides a pizza made from a long-forgotten frozen pizza crust, we subsisted on toast with almond butter and homemade peach jam for at least five meals during the move. All we needed to make this excellent breakfast or lunch was a cutting board and butter knife, and fancying up the PB&J just slightly went a long way.

Have a last/first bag.
 In a big tote, stow away the kitchen necessities you’ll want the last morning in your old place and the first moment in your new one. Coffee, olive oil, pasta, salt, and our almond butter and jam went in here while we were packing up the rest of the kitchen. In particular, this system meant that we never spaced out and stuffed our essentials into regular boxes, losing track of our coffee and decimating our productivity. We gave the last/first bag to the movers right before we vacated apartment #1 and made sure we’d located it in the first few loads at apartment #2.

Turn wine into boxes. Alex had the idea to reuse boxes from the wine store up the block, and the proprietor happily donated us dozens for our books. During one hand-off, he also gave us some of the cardboard dividers that once prevented wine bottles from crashing into each other in transit. We fitted the separators into the boxes and used the compartments to pack our own alcohol collection and all the oil, vinegar, and condiment bottles in the pantry.

Eat decent meals while you’re unpacking. A reprise tip, for the first few meals at our new apartment. To sustain us, we had a fresh loaf of bread, the olive oil found in the first/last bag, and a dozen eggs. Fried eggs and toast were the thing to fuel preliminary rounds of unpacking.

This post is sponsored by FlatRate Moving. As usual, all opinions and text are mine. Check out FlatRate for local and long-distance moves in New York City, Newark, Miami, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, DC, and London. I can’t thank you enough for supporting the sponsors that keep Big Girls, Small Kitchen delicious.

Posted in: How To, Sponsored
  • Caitlin

    Congrats on the new place!

  • April A.

    Glad the move went well for you! Great tips — organization and planning makes a big difference!

  • Megan

    Congrats! Every move brings new opportunities! It is nice that you are thinking of healthy meals during a move! Most of our clients just eat pizza and hamburgers and it is understandable. Lovely post thanks! Good luck!

  • BGSK

    Thanks for the comment – good luck with your move!

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