It’s not a secret that military members and their families move… they move A LOT! My family is averaging every three years that we are packing up and heading somewhere new. All of our moves within the last 10 years have been overseas or coming back from overseas. If you think moving stateside is stressful, try packing and moving a world away every three years. Through all of that, I have learned a lot of lessons and have a few PCS tips I want to share with you.
I plan on giving you some tips to help you with your next military move. What is most important is that you stay flexible and learn to laugh stuff off. I promise you that things will GO WRONG! Being able to laugh it off and adjust accordingly will be a life saver.
So here are some of the lessons I’ve learned, mixed in with a few tips along the way.
One of my favorite PCS tips is to PURGE! Every time we learn of new orders I start purging. I pick a room and go through the whole thing. Each room can typically be completed within a couple days. I literally touch everything in our house when I am purging. There are a lot of trips to donate items, many bags of trash and I even sell some things. Doing this every move allows us to ensure we are under our allotted weight limit as well.
Keep your Boxes
Of all the PCS tips, this is one that you hardly hear about. Our garage looks messy, but we literally keep every original box for appliances. We have original boxes for our TVs, gaming systems, computers, kitchen appliances, etc. It’s peace of mind that our big-ticket items are able to be packed in their original boxes. A little tip, my husband and I normally pack these items into their boxes the night before the packers arrive. We do our video of the item working and the serial number and then we pack it away. Some moving companies are picky about this and want to see it working. Just ask them and see what they want. Regardless, it gets packed in the original box and that helps keep it safe.
If you are lucky then you will PCS during off season. Our cycle is right in the middle of the height of PCS season. That means that there are hundreds of military members trying to be packed and moved at the same time. You aren’t able to schedule TMO (movers) until you have hard orders. So as soon as you get those you should schedule everything you can. I am a planner, which is no secret. So I normally already have a calendar laid out with when we need to leave, when the movers need to come, where we are stopping on our trip. I plan it all. The schedule should be a bit flexible, but I highly recommend getting the mover’s date set as soon as possible.
Get Your Records
What I am about to say, I mean this in the nicest way possible. DO NOT trust the military to get any records to our next duty station. Go to your doctor’s office, the school and any other places you need records from. Get a disc of those records and hand carry them. A good place to store them is your “Go Binder” (I’ll provide more on this in a later post). That means you have a backup just in case the military loses them. This is one of those PCS tips no one thinks about until it’s too late.
Check/Get Your Prescriptions
Now more than ever it is important that you have enough of your prescription on hand. You want to have enough for three months. If you can’t have enough on hand then get a paper prescription. COVID restrictions have made it a bit more difficult to be seen by new doctors. You don’t want to be stuck in a bind without enough of your medications.
Have A “Do Not Pack” Room
This is one of the first PCS tips that I learned from another spouse. Before the packers arrive, you should have already gone through and picked out the items that need to go with you and should not be packed by them. I typically move everything from one kid’s room to the other kid’s room and the empty room becomes our “do not pack” room. I put a big “X” on the door with tape and a sign that says, “do not pack”. When the movers arrive, I make sure I tell each one of them that they are to not go in that room at all. I typically start that room about a week before packers arrive so that throughout each day, if I think of something that shouldn’t be packed, I can put it in there.
Plan Out Your Meals
I know, this might sound silly, but you need to start planning each meal out. Start doing this at least a month out from your move. I have no doubt that you have a fully stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Make a list of what ingredients you have in all of those then plan your meals accordingly. This will help you to use up what you have and save you from the dreaded grocery shopping days.
Obviously, you will still have some stuff left over so you can donate that. I like to gather all the left-over items, take a picture then post it to the base yard sale page. Typically, I say “FREE” and then set it on my porch for first come, first serve. It will go very quickly so make sure you do that the last full day you are in the house. This is a great meal planner and it’s digital.
Empty Garbage Cans
Of all the PCS tips, this is the most important! Yes, I said important! So many packers just don’t care and will literally pack your garbage can FULL of trash. We typically empty all of ours and then choose one that can stay out (not get packed). We put that one into the “Do Not Pack” room. That’s the one we use for the rest of the time left in the house. The LAST thing you want is to get to your destination and have bugs or horrid a smell. If you are moving OCONUS then it will be rotting in the crate for 60-90 days. NOT what you want!
Most importantly, understand that moving is stressful. Everyone in the family will react to this stress in a different manner.
Now that my kids are older, they are expressing their emotions in some trying ways. I have had to remind myself and my husband that they are adjusting and learning how to deal with this change just like we are. Since they are not adults, it’s not as easy for them so we must be more understanding and give them a bit more room to react how they feel they need to.
One way we made it easier for our kids to deal with this transition is planning a road trip. We stopped at some of their “bucket list” places and made sure that before leaving stateside we stayed in a hotel with an amazing pool. We took them to Villalobos Rescue Center, went to a Professional Women’s Soccer match, swam in the pool and visited family. Now that we have made it to our destination, we have taken them to the playground daily. Within the first two days they made friends with kids a couple houses down and they play with them every day.
As for my husband and I, we have our own ways for dealing with it as well. My anxiety gets pretty bad during PCS. I have to revert to my coping mechanisms that my therapist has taught me. Those include working out, sleeping when I feel tired and reading just to name a few. My husband is a fixer and anything that he feels will make my kids and I feel better he does.
Figure out what works for you and your family members and do it. That’s the best tip that I can provide you.
PCSing is a complex process so this is just the first post in a series which will provide you with as much information as I can to make the process easier on you and your family. Stay tuned for the next post. While you wait, you can check out my previous post The Basics of an Overseas PCS.