Tag Archives: PCS

Making a House a Home: Military Family Style

Since ’05, when I first became a military spouse, we’ve lived in 7 different homes. I’ll admit, when I first started this life, I used to be jealous of my friends with their “forever homes.” I’d see their projects around the house, and their renovations and feel a little disappointed by my own four white walls.

As time went on, and I became more comfortable with our lifestyle as a military family, I learned some tricks to help make our house a home, even if that home was a plain “loaner” apartment in Army housing.

Make your house a home

How to Make a House a Home

1. Decorate the Doorway

I read somewhere that the front door is like the “smile” of your house. You want to keep that corner of your home clean and inviting. Wipe off the cobwebs, and put out some decorations. At each duty station, I get a new welcome mat, often in bright colors. You can decorate the door itself with vinyl stickers or washi tape. Depending on housing regulations, you may also be able to put out potted plants, or even a colorful bench.

This way, every time you come home, you’ll be greeted by a doorway that makes you feel happy and at home, and visitors will easily be able to find your house when you invite them over for a meet-and-greet!

2. Dress the Windows

I know it’s cliche, but I really do have a Rubbermaid tote full of drapes and curtains that I made to fit each of our homes. After 10 years, I finally have found what works for me. Personally, I hang floor length drapes around all my windows, because I know I can bring them to any house and make them work. Then, I only have to find a couple odd shaped window coverings.

For rounded windows, you can make curtain rods out of PVC pipe. French windows, or strange windows in bathrooms can be “frosted” with contact paper.

3. Fancy the Walls

You can paint base housing in most areas, but the general rule is you have to be prepared to put it back the way you found it before out-processing housing. Which means priming, and tracking down the exact paint, and spending a good chunk of change.

If you don’t want to do that, you can try using vinyl stickers, or even using fabric and starch to make removable accent wall coverings.

One word of warning with the walls- I always hang pictures and put up decorations and don’t worry too much about using wall anchors and the like… but if you do, you need to be sure you know how to make the proper repairs so it’s back to the way you found it for the final move-out inspection (patching holes, fixing the paint).

4. Paint your Furniture

If decorating the walls isn’t your thing (it’s not mine) you can brighten your space by adding colors and patterns to your furniture itself. A container of chalk paint is not terribly expensive, there are a bunch of colors to choose from, and you can really make your furniture pop with it.

If you learn how to re-finish furniture with paint, you’ll be able to collect beautiful, old pieces from the thrift store and make them look new in your home.

5. Make the Most of Patio Space

You may not be able to have a traditional garden in base housing (check with the housing office), but you can plant container gardens on the patio, or in your yard.

Container gardens can be used to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers- just about anything. Add a small table, and some chairs, and you have the perfect corner to relax in the summer.

6. Maximize Storage Space

When looking for furniture for your home, think storage as well as function. Tables with drawers, beds with drawers, sidebars with extra shelving- in a small house or apartment, you never can have enough storage space.

You can also take advantage of space on doors by hanging organizers, you can add shelving above doors, and take advantage of one of the many “small space hacks” online.

7. Make it Personal

When looking for decorations, don’t settle on just anything. Pick things that sing to you. Pictures that make you happy, knick-nacks that make you feel at home. Personally, I don’t own much that is high value, but I do have a box or two of decor that moves from home to home. These items make me happy, and they are always one of the first boxes I unpack.

The easiest way to get items you love is to make them yourself. You can find tutorials all over Pinterest for DIY crafts. I personally love string art, anything with a map, and anything with ocean glass. Making wreaths is very simple, too! Find a project you want to make, invite some friends over, and get crafting!

Enter to Win!

We’ve teamed up with a handful of military spouse bloggers who are moving pros, and want to share their best tips for making a house a home with you. You can check out their posts here:

The Military Wife and Mom
Jo My Gosh
The Reluctant Landlord
A Semi-Delicate Balance

But before you go, take a moment to enter to win one of five $100 dollar giftcards from JoAnn Fabric and Craft Stores, so you can make some items for your home!

Enter to Win Button

Looking for more resources?

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Check our Facebook page for more PCS tips and tricks designed to help you #OwnYourPCS.

See more ideas for making your house a home on our Pinterest board!

A Tale of Two PCS Movers

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It’s the height of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season, and like many military families, my family recently moved. I’ve always felt fortunate to have packers and movers who pack and move all of our worldly possessions from one location to another, so I try to make them feel comfortable, keep them hydrated and ensure the items they are packing are clean and organized.

When we left our home on the East Coast, the crew of packers who came to our house were amazing–the best ever! They were funny, they were nice, they were polite, and they were actually lots of fun. They even played great music while they filled boxes and emptied our home! Having people pack all of your household goods, and being in your home all day is a very personal experience, uncomfortable, even. But this group made moving feel like a party! I was so grateful for the funny and kind crew filling their truck with all of our stuff.

When we arrived at our new home, I was excited to receive our household goods and get settled in. We had already signed a lease on a new house, but our delivery date meant our items were in storage for a few days. With a quick delivery date, we would have a new team delivering our things. I was sorry I wouldn’t see the first team again, but I was optimistic.

My optimism didn’t last long. The team who arrived at our new home were not excited about their job. They were very slow in unloading the truck, and weren’t very grateful for the soda, water, and Gatorade we provided. One member of the team even asked me what was for lunch…at 10:30 in the morning, when there were, roughly, 10 boxes unloaded. It was a disappointing and uncomfortable day.

I tell this story because customer feedback is really important during the moving process. I was in touch with our moving coordinator, who was wonderful, throughout our move. We spoke so often, she should probably be added to my Christmas card list! I updated her, and the transportation offices at our old and new installations on how the move was going. She reminded how important it is to complete the Customer Satisfaction Survey. This survey helps determine which companies are doing well, and will continue to receive moving contracts to assist other military families, and who will not. The survey is a way to let your voice be heard; if something isn’t going well, or you don’t feel comfortable with the way you or your items are being treated, it is okay to say so. If you are extremely happy, please be sure and voice this too!

Sometimes, the packing and moving process experience is a coin-toss–you’ll never know what you’ll get. Have you had a crazy PCS experience?

Ann HPosted by Ann Hamilton, Volunteer Services Coordinator, South Region

How to PCS with an Infant: 4 Tips You Need to Know!

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It goes without saying that having an infant makes life exciting, yet chaotic. This statement is also true when taking on a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). But the fun really begins when you have a newborn AND you PCS.

A few tips and tricks from our family, to yours:

Request medical records as soon as possible. This was certainly a lesson learned the hard way. When you need to request medical records, they tell you this process takes the military treatment facility at least 30 days. I didn’t believe them because, hey, my daughter was just five months old and couldn’t possibly have that much in her file. I was wrong and was scrambling a day before her six month appointment to piece together her records. So, what I know now is to fill out the request form as soon as you have a new address and keep your own set of records just in case something happens before they arrive.

Stay away on move-in day. This was the best decision we made during our PCS. My husband met the truck with our household goods, while the baby and I bunked with family for an extra day. When your stuff is being unloaded, it’s a hectic, noisy situation not conducive for a baby. If you’re able to stay away and let someone else direct the movers, do it! By the time we arrived the next day, the house was partially unpacked and it was much easier to care for our daughter while settling in.

pcs-with-an-infant-baby-military-pinterestPack the essentials. When you PCS, you know it is going to be at least a week before your washer and dryer are set up, and your family is eating meals at the dining room table. I always pack an “immediate needs” box with essentials that we will need either in a hotel room, or in our empty house. The box includes paper plates, plastic utensils, paper towels, trash bags, etc…you know the drill. Since we were PCSing with an infant, I packed enough diapers and wipes for a week, most of her clothes and blankets, a portable bed, and all her feeding supplies. I purposefully chose things we needed, versus what would be nice to have. For example, I didn’t pack the infant bathtub, but did pack every sleeper she had so I didn’t have to worry about laundry for a few days.

Get local. As soon as we found out our new duty location, I immediately started researching the area. PCSing to a new place is an adventure and I wanted to get started. In addition to finding a new doctor, veterinarian, and hairstylist, I also wanted to know how to entertain and establish my family in our new home. I read local blogs, followed local businesses, and studied a map to know my way around before we even arrived. I also planned some fun excursions as a way to conclude our move.

Moving in the military can be challenging, but add in an infant, and you’ve got a little bit of extra planning to do! Our family managed to pull this off with, surprisingly, very few issues or tears. It was a tremendous learning experience for this military family, and I hope these tips can help your next move!

What would you add to the list? Comment below and tell us!

tomi-schwandt-headshotPosted by Tomi Schwandt, Active Duty Reserve Spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer

We PCS’d to Another Country…in only 22 Days!

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I find that a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) perfectly pairs the excitement and anticipation of the holidays with the stress and apprehension of a root canal.

There’s always so much to do at your current location, and even more waiting for you at your new home. Thankfully, there are great resources available to help you along the way…well, most of the time.

My family and I completed a PCS from Italy to the U.S. in 22 days, flat. It was unexpected, and there was no checklist available to help us perform this feat, but we did it. We shipped a car, packed out our home, took care of medical records, school records, and veterinarian records. All while my husband simultaneously cleared the post. We said our goodbyes and made last trips to some of our favorite sites and restaurants. Just like that, our time in Italy had come to an end.

We boarded the plane to the U.S. with mixed emotions; our first European tour was filled with family adventures, a culture rich in history and beautiful architecture, and delicious food and wine. We touched down it Atlanta, GA on a hot June afternoon. We realized we didn’t have working cell phones and we were hours later than we told our friends (who we were staying with temporarily) we would be. But we piled in the car, and took off to find their home. By evening, we pulled into the driveway and were welcomed ‘home’ in the way friends-who-are-family welcome you.

PCS-in-22-days-military-pinterestWe spent the evening catching up, and jumped into action the next morning. We took care of the cell phones, set up appointments with realtors and began talking about schools for our kids. Typically, we would have started our research in advance, but that was not a luxury we would have this time around. We needed to make decisions and we needed to make them quickly. Jet lag set in and the whirlwind move began taking its toll on all of us. Emotions were running high…and I’m pretty sure I was leading the pack.

Moves are stressful, and we all want to make the right decisions for our families. But none of us are perfect and we can only do our best. Finding the perfect neighborhood, job opportunities, reputable schools, competitive sports programs, welcoming churches, convenient dog parks, quality health care providers (and list goes on and on) can leave your head spinning. Take a breath and know there are very few decisions that cannot be changed. Some may even be changed again…and again.

Several weeks passed before our decisions were final. The excitement mounted as we purchased our new home, school began, the kids joined soccer teams, and eventually our car and household goods arrived. The excitement gave way to a calm that was peaceful and very familiar.

Our military family was home, once again.

Have you experienced a chaotic move, and finally found ‘home’ after it was all said and done? Share it with us in the comments!

kimPosted by Kim Edger, Website Architect

Calling All Bloggers! Share Your Story on Branching Out!

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It’s no secret—military families have collected their fair share of stories, experiences, and traditions throughout their military journeys. We know you’ve got plenty of tips, tricks, pictures, and laughable moments up your sleeve. That’s why we want you to be a guest blogger!

Our blog covers all areas of military life, including PCS moves, raising military kids, spouse employment, military marriage, and the tough stuff—like transition, being a caregiver, and even divorce.

Think you’ve got awesome blogging skills and want to share your journey with other military families? We’d love to hear from you!

What works:
Inspirational stories – we want readers to jump out of their seats because they were moved by your journey. Sharing personal stories, hardships, or humor can be just what someone needs to relate to you. Don’t be afraid to amaze and inspire!
Original content – We will not publish content that has already been published elsewhere on the web. We aim for authentic and unique content!
Well-written content –Your writing should reflect your individual voice! So if you feel excited, let us know! Had a hard time with a recent PCS? Express that in your writing. Great blog posts will grab the reader and keep their attention through awesome details!
Topics about military families or military life – We are 100% military family focused, so make sure your submission is, too! Are you a company looking to share a resource? Great! Use your original content to tie back to the military community, and keep in mind: our subject matter experts will review any resource prior to posting.
Sending your own photos – Pictures are the best! And we want to share yours! Make sure images are appropriate, clear, and don’t violate OPSEC or PERSEC.

What doesn’t work:
Incomplete, unedited articles – Always be sure to proof read your work before submitting it. If you’re unsure if something is well-written, have a friend or family member read over it and give their thoughts!
Inappropriate content – No profanity, graphic, obscene, explicit or racial comments will be accepted. Make sure you aren’t oversharing, or violating OPSEC or PERSEC! If you’re submitting photos, please be sure they are tasteful.
Advertisements – We don’t promote any business or organization we are not in direct partnership with, and we do not offer advertisements on our blog; however, we do have advertising opportunities through our mobile app, MyMilitaryLife. Please email App [at] MyMilitaryLife [dot] org. Please keep external links to a maximum 3 links.

How to Submit:
Email your completed article to Blog [at] MilitaryFamily [dot] org. Because Branching Out is 100% military family focused, we will review each submission to ensure it aligns with our content strategy. If it does, you’ll receive an email from us to let you know your article will be published. Please allow us some time to respond – our little fingers type as fast as possible!

Blog submissions must include:
First and last name
Contact email
Service affiliation and location
250-700 words per post
Headshot or clear photo of yourself

The Fine Print:
Sharing is caring – We want your original content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share the link on your own website after we’ve published your submission! Share like crazy!
Editing and adapting – We reserve the right to edit and adapt your guest blog content as we see fit.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

My PCS has Gone Bad…Now What?

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In the peak of summer, military families are immersed in the chaos of the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) cycle. This process involves so many moving parts; it is amazing that it works as well as it does. Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) is the executive agent for the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Personal Property Program. SDDC recommends diligent planning, attention to detail and flexibility for a smooth move. Our Association even has a fantastic smart phone app, called MyMilitaryLife, that does all the hard work for you! But we all know things go wrong, even with the best planning, and most flexible parties. SDDC’s website is a great starting point for links to everything that follows. Bookmark it, write it down, and make it your friend!

Even though we are on the downswing of peak PCS season, we still get questions on the “rules” about moving. US Transportation Command’s guide can be useful, with information from weight limits, to the hours your packers should be at your home. For questions about what can be moved to how, it is a great guide.

Most people are now moving using the online Defense Personal Property System via Move.mil instead of going through the Personal Property Shipping Office (PPSO, aka PPPO, TMO or TO) to arrange their PCS move, but you can still find your installation PPSO. By using the Move.mil website portal, you can stay informed of where you are in your moving process, along with access to your Transportation Service Provider (TSP). In most cases, you will want to contact your assigned TSP as your first line of defense with any complications that arise. However, you can also email, phone, or submit help tickets directly to SDDC via the Move.mil website portal.

If you are in the middle of the moving process and something goes wrong that costs you extra money (for example, your packers don’t finish in time and the movers are delayed, causing you to incur extra costs because you can’t leave as scheduled) you can file an Inconvenience Claim. This would be done through your TSP via Move.mil. Your claim must be reasonable and the costs must be directly related to the newly created hardship, and you must be able to provide receipts to support your claim. If you have trouble with an inconvenience claim through your TSP, you can contact the PPPO or Military Claims Office to assist in the settlement process. We sometimes hear the claims process can be cumbersome, but there are a lot of resources on the Move.Mil website portal to help you understand the process. Check out their guides and tutorials available.

If your problem is related to your Privately Owned Vehicle (POV), get in touch with the contractor moving your vehicle, International Auto Logistics (IAL). If your vehicle has not been delivered and the Required Delivery Date (RDD) has passed, you are entitled to reimbursement for a rental vehicle. The military will cover up to seven days at a rate limited to $30 per day that expires upon the date the POV is delivered. Any car rental required beyond seven days will have to be submitted to IAL. They will review claims for temporary lodging and rental car expenses due to a missed RDD via their website.

  • For damages to your POV, you need to contact IAL to file a damage claim. 1-800-389-9499 or email claims@ialpov.us.
  • For IAL’s customer service, email customerservice@ialpov.us.
  • For more assistance on POVs, you can reach the USTRANSCOM POV Inspector General Customer Support Team at usarmy.scott.sddc.mbx.pov-ig-reponse@mail.mil.

After your move, you want to make sure to fill out the Customer Satisfaction Survey. The scores you provide help determine whether or not the TSP you used will continue to ship for DoD families. Good or bad, your feedback matters.

Don’t forget that all of these resources and quick links are at the touch of your fingertip through our innovative, perfect-for-your-military-journey, smartphone app, MyMilitaryLife!

Have you used any of these resources? What questions do you have about PCSing? Share them, and your experiences, in the comments!

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

Beat the PCS Summer Time Blues: Keep Your MilKids Connected

keep-military-kids-busy-during-summer

PCS season during the summer months is a blessing and a curse. For military families with school-age kids, moving during the summer break means your kids will be able to finish the school year and say goodbye to friends. Yet, at the same time, it may be difficult for your kids to make new friends at your new duty location during the summer months when school is out.

So how do you keep your military kids connected and engaged during the summer months and help them make friends before the school year starts?

Here are 5 tips that have helped my kids make new friends during the summer months:

Parks: We have made it a mission to visit a new park each Friday afternoon. We have several parks in our new community, and my children love to play on the play equipment and meet new kids. Visit your community’s park and recreation division for a list of neighborhood parks.

Swim lessons: It’s hot during the summer months and swim lessons are a low-cost way to keep cool, learn or practice skills, and meet new friends. My kids have taken lessons at pools on base and in the community. Check with your installation aquatics department, local YMCA, or city’s aquatics program for swim lesson opportunities.

Grab a book: Local libraries and the Department of Defense (DoD) and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) both offer summer reading opportunities and hands-on activities to keep your kids engaged. Read to Rhythm is the 2015 DoD-MWR summer reading program theme.

Pinterest: I’m not a crafty mom, but Pinterest has great tips for keeping kids busy during the summer. To find local activities, try combining the following search terms “your location” + “kids” + “activities.” If a local mom’s group has a Pinterest page, you should be able to find it here.

Follow event calendars: Whether you live on a military installation, or in a civilian community, local summer events are bound to be nearby. Find local event calendars and look for activities to entertain your family. Free summer concerts, movies in the park, or annual rummage sales may be the perfect opportunity to engage in your new community.

How do you help your military kids meet friends and stay busy during the summer months? Share your tips in the comments section!

katie2Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager