We present a meta-method for initializing (seeding) the $k$-means clustering algorithm called PNN-smoothing. It consists in splitting a given dataset into $J$ random subsets, clustering each of them individually, and merging the resulting clusterings with the pairwise-nearest-neighbor (PNN) method. It is a meta-method in the sense that when clustering the individual subsets any seeding algorithm can be used. If the computational complexity of that seeding algorithm is linear in the size of the data $N$ and the number of clusters $k$, PNN-smoothing is also almost linear with an appropriate choice of $J$, and quite competitive in practice. We show empirically, using several existing seeding methods and testing on several synthetic and real datasets, that this procedure results in systematically better costs. Our implementation is publicly available at https://github.com/carlobaldassi/KMeansPNNSmoothing.jl.