Practical Moving Tips for PCS Season

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Traditional PCS moving season is upon us.  I”ve moved 5 times cross country.  Just like every deployment is different, no two moves go exactly the same.  There are a few tips that will make any move go more smoothly.  I’m not going to tell you to visit your relocation assistance office (which you definitely should do anyway), or how to find out what money and allowances you’re eligible for, etc.  These are REAL tips, useful and practical no matter if it’s a cross state or cross country or cross ocean move.

1.  Declutter.

As soon as you get orders, start decluttering.  I like to go room by room, closet by closet, with goals on the calendar for when each space will be done.  This includes your kitchen cabinets too!  Make sure your pots and pans and dishes are very clean.  Remove anything that is open and set it aside or give it away; most packers won’t pack it for you and it’s just better to buy it new then make a mess in a box during the move.

As you declutter think about whether you really want to unpack it and find somewhere to put it in your new home. One of the great things about moving is the opportunity to purge your material things.

2.  Organize.

Rearrange like things together so they will be packed together.  DVDs, miscellaneous seasonal items, video games, and so on.

3.  Mark boxes. 

The packers will mark the boxes for you and make a list of all of the boxes with the sticker number that’s on the box.  When you arrive at your new duty station the unloaders will shout out box numbers and you’ll be telling them which room to put it in…and often they just don’t put it in the room  you said to…they just set it anywhere and then you end up inundated with open, half-unpacked boxes sitting everywhere and making little head way.  Or, at the very least you become overwhelmed with 2 or 3 different people calling out numbers while you try to find it on the checklist and mark it off.

My best tip is to mark each family member’s boxes with a specific color of duct tape when it’s packed up at your old house.  My son is blue, oldest daughter is orange and youngest is red.  Master bedroom is green.  Then, place a piece of tape with the correct color over the doorway of the corresponding bedroom and then the movers will know to put that box in the orange room and so on.

4.  Make a first night box.

All the things you need for the first night in your new house.  Toilet paper, paper towels, a cheap shower curtain and hooks, some trash bags, a couple of towels…you get the idea.  My advice is to first set up the beds and unpack the kitchen.  With clean towels and a shower curtain in your “first night” box, the ability to take a shower in your new home and sleep in your own bed your first night will be a huge boost.   In case you don’t  get around to unpacking and setting up your linens and towels and shower curtains after a long day of watching your things be schlepped into the house, the first night box will bring you peace of mind.

5.  Do a partial DITY move. 

There are quite a few things we always bring with us when we do a PCS move…expensive items, our computer/laptop, a fireproof box with important papers and documents, DVDs, uniform items, etc.  If you request a partial Do-It-Yourself move, you’ll be paid based on the weight of the goods you take with you and since you’re taking it with you anyway, might as well get the cash, right?

6.  Be nice to your movers.  I always make sure there is water and maybe Gatorade and some sodas for the movers and packers to enjoy.  They have your belongings in their hands…some extra courtesy can make the difference between how careful they are with your things.  I usually offer to get lunch too, usually pizza or sandwiches.  If you don’t want to spend the money, you’re not at all obligated to, it’s a courtesy that’s often overlooked.

7.  Get your friends to help.  If you have a large home or lots of stuff, having a second person at the house with you to sort of supervise the packers is really helpful.  It’s really ideal if at the very least you can get a friend to watch your kids and pets while the packers and loaders are there.

I’m sure many of us have heard horror stories about moves gone bad, and fellow military spouse blogger Seasoned Air Force Wife thinks these stories get around and families start off the process with a bad attitude.  She says when asked, the movers told her horror stories of treatment by military families.  The important thing to remember is that though maybe you’ve  heard bad stories about  PCS moves, each moving experience is different.  With some planning and organization and anticipating of the snafus you can have a successful, mostly stress-less move.   Do you have any other tips you’d like to share?  Comment below so we can all learn from each other!

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  1. #1 by Heidi on 05/12/2011 - 6:44 AM

    Thanks for the tips! A lot of them are common sense you just overlook because there is so much going on! We’ve done 1 DITY and 1 navy-move, and neither have been exactly easy… but we’ll still take the government move any day… for now. 🙂 I think regardless of how great your move goes, you’ll ALWAYS have at least one horror story. It’s what makes the PCS interesting. hehe

  2. #2 by Sarah Hill on 05/26/2011 - 11:51 AM

    These are great tips! One additional tip that I’d like to offer is for military families with kids. Sit down with your kids and explain why you’re moving, all the great things about their new place, and help them set goals of what they’d like to accomplish in their new place. The point is to get them excited about it. Good luck to everyone relocating right now!

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