How to Survive a PCS Move – Part 1

BugleLots and lots of wine!!!  Oh…and Tylenol!!!  Just Kidding…well sort of.  Moving is a daunting task in general, but for us military folk, it is just a part of the life that we lead.  This move to Hawaii will be our second move this year, and I have learned a few tips and tricks that have made moving seem a little bit easier and just a tad less stressful.

Part 1 will deal with the movers packing and moving your household goods to your next destination.  Part 2 will focus on receiving your household goods at your new destination.

For starters, moving is not a time to be lazy.  Yes, a moving company comes to your house, packs your stuff, brings it to your next house and will even unpack for you, but make life easier on both sides by being proactive and most importantly…organized.

1.)    Make moving a time to purge.  Go through every room, drawer, closet, and cabinet and ask yourself, “do I need this, do I want that, when was the last time the item was used or worn???”  If you have no need or want for the item or haven’t used it since you bought it, maybe it is time to get rid of it.  Sell it, donate it, or even trash it.  Why make people haul around your stuff if you don’t know why you had it in the first place?

2.)    Categorize your stuff.  I’ll admit that I went a little overboard with this one tip during our first move by basically taking everything out and putting it in areas making it hard for the movers to navigate through my house.  You don’t have to go that far, but I do recommend having similar stuff in similar areas.  When I take all of the picture frames down, I will put them along one wall.  I make sure all baby items are in the baby’s room, etc.  The packers will pack as they go.  They will not, however, organize your house as they pack, so if your child’s teddy bear is in the panty, be prepared to have it packed with the olive oil and have it unpacked greasier than the flag bearer from Tonga.

3.)    Make sure everything is clean and put away for packing.  I can’t tell you how many complaints come from the movers telling me that they walk into houses where there were still dirty dishes in the sink, wet towels on the floor and dirty clothes still in the hamper.  Movers are not a code-word for maid service, they will pack it how they find it.  And on a side note, don’t forget to take the trash out before they pack your trashcans.  No one wants to unpack a box of dirty socks, wet towels, and trash a month later…ewww.

4.)    Make a “DO NOT Pack Zone” for the items that you plan on carrying with you.  Some people use their cars, but I just tend to put a sign on a closet and tell them not to go in there.

5.)    Make sure everything you plan to bring with you fits in your car or in your suitcases.  It would really suck to have the movers leave only to realize that half the stuff you decided to keep won’t fit.  If possible beforehand, pre-pack the car or suitcases and just double-check that everything fits.

6.)    Make sure to keep all important papers together and organized.  I like to buy one of those accordion divider folders and label each divider with all of the important documents that our family will need during the move and checking into the next base.  Copies of orders, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, medical files, receipts, POV documents, marriage license, power of attorney, etc.  I have them all organized so that I can easily pull it out when someone asks for it.  And if you want to go the extra mile, have multiple copies of each.

7.)    Receipts!!!  Save your Receipts!!!  A lot of people don’t know this, but the military will reimburse you for just about anything and everything that is related to your move.  Packing supplies, hotel stays, gas for your car, etc.  Save every receipt.  My receipts have their own spot in my accordion folder.  It can’t hurt to ask if they will reimburse for something, you may be surprised, and if they don’t, no big deal.

8.)    Feed the workers.  While it is not required, I like to try and have a good relationship with the packers while they are packing and moving my stuff.  I had read a tip about providing snacks or lunch for the workers, and even a few people mentioned it to me.  Do it people…I know it is their job, but these guys…and girls…spend all day doing manual labor without lunch breaks…or at least the movers I have dealt with don’t take lunch breaks.  Be a doll and buy them some lunch, or at the very least provide them with some water.  It might help motivate them to care more for your items if they know that you care about their empty tummies as your 200lb dresser is hauled down two flights of stairs.

9.)    Try to relax.  I personally stress out about a week or so out from the move, run around like a chicken with its head cut off, bite my fingernails as they come down the stairs with all of my furniture and items, and then sigh as they close the crates up and drive away leaving me with an empty house.  You can only prepare so much before you have to let the movers take the reign.  And look like you trust them, even if you don’t.  I do keep an eye out and will say something if I don’t like the way they are packing an item, but at the end of the day, they are supposed to be the professionals. Worrying about every thump and bump you hear upstairs as you sit on the couch awkwardly watching your stuff walk out the door won’t help anything.  At this point, it is out of your hands and into theirs.

Being proactive and organized will make the packing, and also the receiving end, go so much smoother.  There are so many tips and tricks to surviving a PCS move on the internet.  I probably have read every one of them and they all have helped me.  I also encourage anyone PCSing to read the actual Defense Transportation Regulation – Part IV, “It’s Your Move”…yes lots of exciting rules and regulations for PCS moving.  I know it’s not the entertaining horror stories that are all over the internet, but it is anything and everything that you need to know as far as what the military will move and then some.  Also, if you have any questions about your move, don’t be afraid to call the Transportation Department on your base, or call the Moving Company, they should be more than happy to help…and if not…they get paid to answer your questions anyway.

I hope this helps to make your move a little more stress free.  Stay tuned for Part 2…coming soon to a blog near you.

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