Home > Moving Guides > Moving to City Guides and Tips > New York > How to Move into a Walk-up Apartment

How to Move into a Walk-up Apartment

4.0  4.0/5 based on 1 visitor(s)
views  325 Views

How to move into a walk-up apartmentCity life can be fantastic. When times are good, cities provide unmatched access to work, good food, and entertainment. It can also be a tough adjustment for some people – especially when they move into an older apartment in the city.

Whether you’re in New York or Chicago – Seattle or San Francisco, there’s a real possibility that you might move into an apartment without an elevator. These buildings, known as “walk-up apartments” or simply “walk-ups” present unique challenges when you move in or out.

Let’s go through some basic moving tips to make your DIY walk-up move easier.

How to Move into a Walk-up Apartment Without an Elevator

Pack Your Items For a Walk-up

If you haven’t packed up your old place anticipating a walk-up move, then you’re in for a tough move-in. Try to keep boxes light (no 50-pound book boxes, please). But don’t sacrifice weight for efficiency.

If it’s possible to pack pillows and blankets into a good-sized box, then do it. You don’t want to take ten trips with handfuls of lightweight, bulky items.

Get a Good Rental Truck

When loading and unloading for a DIY move, it’s important that you have the right rental vehicle. There are many quality truck and van rental companies that can make life easier. Budget Rental Trucks and U-haul both have good rates and easy-to-understand guidelines to get the right vehicle for your move. Most studio or 1-bedroom walk-up apartments can fit into a 12’ moving truck (unless you have a LOT of things).

Get Some Help Moving

Professional Movers

The easiest way to move is to hire movers. If you can afford it, this is a great option. Even if you choose to move everything but the furniture, a few good movers paid by the hour can save you time and energy. Many labor-only movers will charge by the floor in addition to the standard hourly rate – so keep that in mind.

Friends and Family

If you’re enlisting the help of friends and family, try to have at least three people (including yourself). Having a third person is useful for providing directions when going up stairways, unloading the truck while two people head upstairs. More people can also make stairway-relays easier. This way, you won’t burn out constantly going up 3+ flights of stairs.

Of course, getting family and friends to move heavy furniture should be rewarded somehow. Depending on your relationship dynamic, offer a meal or drink at the very least. Some people give small presents, gift cards, or small cash “thank you” at the end of the move.

Load (and Unload) Your Truck Efficiently

Loading Your Truck

The rule of thumb for truck loading is to place solid, heavy items near the front of the truck. Cover dressers with moving blankets and stack light boxes on top. Think about which items you want to move in first, and place them near the back of the truck. Pack your truck considering where you’ll place fragile items, large mattresses, and boxed art.

Unloading Your Truck


Walk-up apartments are typically on busy streets or crowded side streets. To be efficient with your move-in process, start either early in the day or later in the evening. Avoid peak traffic times – whenever that is for your area.

Talk to your new landlord to check about parking and double-parking regulations to make sure you stay out of trouble. Some places have special rules for moving in and parking.

Carry Your Items

For boxes or bins, it’s pretty straightforward – just go up the stairs until you’re out of boxes. But when you run into 4+ flights of stairs, it might be wise to do a “bucket brigade” style move, where you run boxes up a few stairs before setting it down and returning for a different item. This is where having friends or family to help comes in handy.

Disassemble the Big Stuff

Heavy items like couches or tables should be pared down as much as possible. Remove drawers from dressers (and carry them up – loaded with light items or clothes). Remove pillows from couches if possible. For properly wrapped and packaged furniture, take your time moving upstairs.

Be Safe

For heavy items, take your time. One person should walk backward upstairs, which is difficult. However, the person facing upstairs has to carry more weight. Both jobs are difficult and good communication is key.

The person walking backward cannot easily “pull” an item upstairs when they take steps upwards. It is important that the person carrying the weight also applies enough forward pressure so the mover walking backward doesn’t have to reach down and “pull” a heavy piece of furniture up to their new higher stair level.

Remember to rest on landings when moving heavy items (and even smaller boxes). Moving is not a timed event, and rushing through the process can lead to injuries. So move methodically and lift with your legs.

Having awareness of your surroundings keeps both yourself and others safe. Your neighbors will appreciate it when you don't box their vehicle in or take up the entire stairwell with your "relay" boxes. Courtesy and safety go hand in hand. 

Return Your Moving Truck

Once you’re done with the heavy lifting, make it a point to return your truck ASAP. Many rental companies charge by the day (and some by the hour). City moving is tiresome, but since you’re already at it, take care of the loose ends so you don’t have to pay any late fees or extra charges.

Thank Your Helpers

If you hired help, then you’d probably pay them before dropping off the truck. In that case, a 10-15% tip is considered appropriate. If you had friends or family help, then now is the time to order something to eat, grab a drink and relax a bit. Or give them a $20 and send them on their way – it’s your call. The important part is to show thanks.

Unpack (or don’t)

Now it’s time to unpack! But depending on how long it took you to move, this might not be in the cards. At the very least, get your bed set up and unpack some sheets, pillows, and towels. You might also want to have some kitchen items ready to go for the morning.

Whether you decide to unwind at home, explore the city, or manically unpack and clean-up is really up to you. Enjoy your new place and a successful move!

Myles Compton  Posted by Myles Compton on December 16, 2020

Rate this guide How to Move into a Walk-up Apartment