How to Pack a Kitchen

For many people, the kitchen is the most important room in the house. It’s where we prepare meals, gather at the end of the day, and chat with our loved ones. And when it’s time to move, it’s easily the most challenging room to pack. 

Many people who embark on the moving experience encounter the same obstacle: How can you pack up items you use every day, like dinnerware or cooking utensils? What do you do with breakable glassware, delicate china, or perishable foods? And how can you ensure everything you pack stays handy for the first meal in the new house? 

If packing the kitchen has you pulling out your hair, we can help. With over 90 years of moving experience, North American Van Lines can make packing and moving your kitchen simple and stress-free. 

Here’s everything you need to know about how to pack a kitchen for moving.

Step 1 - Downsize and Get Organized

Even the most dedicated minimalists collect extra stuff over time, and a household move is the perfect opportunity to pare down your belongings. Therefore, the first step of packing your kitchen is to downsize your collection of cookware, cups, and other items. 

Which kitchen items should you keep? The answer varies for every household, but most have items that don’t need to make the move. Do you have some extra dishes you never use? A bundt pan you haven’t touched in over a decade? Go through all your cupboards and sort your items into three categories: those you’ll keep, those you’ll donate (or give to friends), and those you’ll throw away. 

Once you’re down to your kitchen essentials, organize them into the following categories:

  • Pots and pans
  • Dishes and bowls
  • Fragiles
  • Mugs and Cups
  • Silverware
  • Appliances
  • Cookbooks
  • Miscellaneous

Each of these categories has its own packing rules (we’ll go over those later), so it’s important to separate them accordingly. This organizational step will help ensure your belongings are safely packed for their journey to your new home, whether you load the truck yourself or get professional moving help

Step 2 - Gather Your Materials

Once you’ve downsized and organized your kitchen items, it’s time to bust out some moving boxes!

Learning how to pack a kitchen is all about having the right tools at your disposal. Remember, many of the items in your kitchen are breakable. While you may be able to get away with reusing old delivery boxes for many of your household belongings, it’s best to invest in high-quality packing materials for your kitchen items. 

North American Van Lines makes it easy. We offer a wide selection of moving essentials, including tough boxes of all shapes and sizes, tape, packing peanuts, and more! We even offer valuable packing tips so you can get help from the pros as you pack.

Start with the Basics

It isn’t easy to estimate what packing materials you’ll need before you start. Fortunately, we have some experience in this area! To make things simpler, we’ve put together a list of the materials most households need to pack up their kitchens safely.

  • 5 large boxes (18 x 18 x 24): These are ideal for lightweight items like plastic dishes, countertop dish racks, and baking tins. You can even pack small appliances like toasters or blenders in these boxes.
  • 10 medium boxes (18 x 18 x 16): These boxes are best suited for heavier items like pots and pans, silverware, or cookbooks (though you may want to invest in cartons for your books). 
  • 5 heavy-duty boxes (18 x 18 x 28): These double-walled boxes provide extra protection for fragile items like glasses, stemware, and wine bottles. 
  • 5 lbs of unprinted newsprint paper: This is vital for packing fragile items like china or glassware.
  • 5 cell kits: These can protect anything from stemware to flower vases. 
  • Packing tape
  • Markers
  • Labels

You may need more or fewer boxes depending on the size of your kitchen, but the list above will give you a very workable starting point.

Step 3 - Get Packing!

Even if you cook every day, the kitchen is one room you can start packing as soon as you know your moving date.

Once you’ve organized your cupboards and gathered your supplies, set aside the dishes and cutlery you use daily, as well as your pots and pans, so you can keep cooking as the moving day approaches. Then, begin by packing up those items you rarely use: seasonal items, small appliances, bakeware you know you won’t need before the move, and other seldom-used items. Boxing up these items early on will save you the headache of last-minute packing and make the moving process much easier overall.

Save some space or a few boxes for the items you’ve kept handy. You can pack those the week of the move. Not only does this allow you to keep cooking until the last minute, but it also ensures your most-used kitchen items are the first off the truck in your new home.

How to Pack Kitchen Items

Packing similar items together is an efficient way to ensure the transition goes smoothly. Here are our best moving tips for how to pack the kitchen, down to the smallest utensil.

How to Pack Pots and Pans

Most frying pans, sauce pots, and skillets fit well in our medium or large-sized moving cartons. If they’re heavy (like a cast iron pan or ceramic Dutch oven), place them on the bottom layer of the box, with lighter frying pans on top. Once you’ve packed everything, label the box with the room and contents. 

Of course, there are always one or two pots and pans that see more use than the others. These are the “commonly used” items we recommend setting aside with your everyday dishes.

Keep these items out and use them until the last week before your move. At that point, it’s best to pack the remaining kitchenware and use disposable plates, cups, and cutlery for the last few days. (Because who has time to wash dishes when you’re packing, anyway?)

How to Pack China and Glassware

Fragile items often have extra sentimental value. Whether it’s fine china you inherited from a loved one or high-end glassware you received as a wedding gift, delicate kitchenware must be packed very carefully to ensure it arrives at your new home in one piece. 

Each piece of china or glassware should be individually wrapped in clean paper. Use several sheets and start wrapping diagonally from the corner, tucking the ends of the paper as you go. If you need more wrapping, use newsprint for the outside layer. Include lots of crumpled paper as padding and label the carton “FRAGILE - THIS END UP.” Label the room and contents of the box as well.

Pack these items in a china carton or heavy-duty box. Start by laying down padding in the bottom of the box, then pack your larger flat items, such as dinner plates and platters, first. Next, place each individually wrapped item into the box in bundles of three, with an outer layer of newsprint to prevent jostling. These items should be placed horizontally, with wadded paper or cardboard dividers between layers. Fill any empty space in the box with more crumpled paper and label the box with the room and contents. 

How to Pack Cups, Mugs and Stemware

You might be tempted to load your glass or ceramic cups into boxes the same way you do in the kitchen cupboard. Take it from us: don’t! Even if you’re using a special dish carton (also known as a cell kit), there’s a certain way to pack cups to ensure they remain safe in transit. 

Wrap each cup in tissue paper first, using a separate piece to wrap the handle or stem (if there is one). Insert the cup upside down into the cellular divider or, if you’re not using a cell kit, onto the top layer of a china carton or heavy-duty box. Make sure the handles of the cups all face the same direction, fill any empty space with wadded paper, and label the box with the room and contents. 

How to Pack Silverware and Flatware

Sterling silver can tarnish during a move, so be sure to wrap each piece in plastic wrap or newsprint. This includes bowls, tea sets, and silver flatware.

If your sterling flatware is in a chest, you should still wrap the individual pieces to prevent tarnishing and fill the empty spaces in the chest with crumpled paper for padding. Wrap the chest itself in a bath towel or small throw blanket for extra protection. Individual flatware pieces that don’t fit in the flatware chest can be individually wrapped in plastic wrap, placed in a padded box (like a gift box, if you have one), and taped securely closed. Finally, label the box with the room and contents. 

Packing Appliances

Most kitchens are filled with small appliances like toasters, air fryers, coffee machines, and blenders. Before packing these items, make sure to wipe them down to remove any crumbs, oils, or dust they may have collected. Use large or medium boxes, depending on the items’ weight and size. Asymmetrical appliances may leave extra room in the box, perfect for plastic dishware, food thermometers, silverware trays, and other items that don’t need their own packaging.

Wrap electrical cords in paper or plastic and tape them to the appliance. Do this whether the cord disconnects or not; this will help ensure the plug doesn’t scratch or damage other items. Empty all water from kettles, coffee makers, steam irons, and similar appliances and allow them to dry before packing. Once you’ve packed everything, label the box with the room and contents.

Packing Miscellaneous Kitchen Items

As you organize your kitchen items, you’ll probably come across pieces that don’t belong to any particular category. Pack these miscellaneous items according to the materials they’re made of. 

For example, items such as the glass carousel from the microwave, glass coffee pots, and ceramic slow cooker liners should be packed with other glass/breakable items rather than with the appliances they belong to. This will ensure these pieces stay safe and secure throughout their journey to your new place. And of course, once you’ve packed everything, label the box with the room and contents.

Packing Cookbooks

Pack cookbooks of similar size together in book cartons, laying the books flat or with the spines on the bottom of the carton. This is very important, as packing your cookbooks spine-upwards can weaken the glue and make them fall apart more quickly. 

It’s not necessary to wrap your cookbooks in paper before packing, but of course, you may if they’re old, rare, or have sentimental value. Finish up by labeling the box!

Make Moving Easy with North American Van Lines

Packing the contents of your kitchen for a move is a big task, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful one if you follow these simple steps. Of course, just because you know how to pack a kitchen for moving doesn’t mean you necessarily want to. Let us pack it for you! North American Van Lines offers full-service packing by experienced movers. Our team will work quickly and professionally so you can focus on other parts of your move — or put your feet up and take a well-deserved break.

Contact North American today to get a free estimate for your relocation. Or, if you want to DIY your move, check out our moving guides and mover checklists for more expert advice that will make the process simple and stress-free.