When summertime comes, all military families know PCS season will be in full swing. As I read through the multitude of posts on various military spouse-related Facebook groups, there are several recurring themes: recommendations (hair stylists, medical staff, etc.), links to homes for sale or rent, frustrations about moving, and requests for tips when it comes to preparing for a move, just to name a few.
I’m no expert when it comes to PCSing, but in my 22 years as a Marine Corps spouse, we’ve conquered 12 moves, 15 houses, and 3 OCONUS moves (two of which were back-to-back overseas moves!). I’d say I’ve learned a thing or two about how to make military moves less stressful for me and the movers. Yes, less stressful for me. I didn’t include my family here because they know when I’m in “the zone,” it’s best to wait for me to assign them a task, instead of trying to get involved. There’s a method to my madness; one that has evolved over the years as we progressed from no kids, to one kid, then two kids. And each move is different, not just because of location, but because I am continually tweaking my process.
Our first move was without kids. We lived in a furnished apartment, so labeling the items that were staying and not getting packed up was quite important. The items we would move ourselves (photographs, valuables, and sentimental items) were locked in one of the bathrooms – a trick many use to make sure packers don’t touch the things behind that door. When the packers showed up, I walked them through our apartment and explained what was/was not to be packed and, fortunately, they paid attention. My very first PCS move went very smoothly.
As our family grew and we began to accumulate more and more household items, my process of preparing for moves evolved. My moving essentials became my holy grail, and I still use them for every move. If you’re moving soon, here are my suggestions to make life a little easier. Grab yourself a spiral notebook (I’m up to a 5-subject notebook these days), plastic zipper bags (all sizes–snack size to 2 gallon), duct tape (a variety of colors and patterns), and plastic tubs. And here’s why they’re magical during our PCS moves:
Spiral Notebook: The spiral notebook is for my lists: the to-do list, the take-with-us list, the give-away list, etc. It’s also great for jotting down notes and questions. And since this was before everyone had cell phones, I kept one page strictly for phone numbers—a tip that, surprisingly, is still relevant, even with cell phones!
Plastic Zipper Bags: These bags are lifesavers when it comes to moving! How many times have you unwrapped 10 sheets of paper and discovered one pen? Or a single fork? It’s both frustrating and time-consuming. Place all small or loose items into a bag. This could be your junk drawer items, utensils, small toys, puzzles, and tools. You name it, I put it in a bag! I even place my unmentionables in plastic bags (do you really want the packers touching them?). The bags are reused move after move, saving money and the environment! In fact, I have bags that have made it through at least 10 moves!
Duct Tape: Duct tape is used to mark items not to be taken by the movers (these items are already placed in a box). Red duct tape is my color of choice for “not to be packed” boxes. My daughters each choose a color or pattern for their boxes. And for my husband’s professional gear? Camouflage duct tape, of course!
Plastic Tubs: Holiday decorations, outdoor toys, miscellaneous garage stuff all go into plastic tubs. Just tell the packers to leave them packed and, most times, they’ll just tape around the tubs, and load them up in the truck!
My final, and sometimes most important, tip for making PCS moves go a little smoother, is that I always take the time to organize the house prior to the packers arriving. I place like items together: photographs/wall hangings, books, breakables, electronics, or professional gear. Organizing in this manner cuts down on random items being placed together.
I know what you’re thinking, “Doesn’t doing all this work make it too easy for the packers and movers?” Maybe. But I do it for me. Taking the time to prepare and organize for moves before the packers arrive makes it much less stressful at the other end when it comes time to unpack, which I do myself (but I do delegate!).
And, yes, I do have a particular method for unpacking as well!
What are your go-to items to help ease the stress of PCS moves? Leave us a comment!