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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ten Essential Steps to Make Your OCONUS PCS Less Stressful

In case you couldn't tell by the title full of acronyms, this one if for my dear sweet military peeps.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people Uncle Sam moves around during the holiday season. As if PCSing isn't stressful enough, now you have to do it right before or right after the holidays? What the heckity-heck!

But anyways, I was buzzing around Kirsten's while the movers were there packing up their HHG and I was trying to be helpful or at least stay out of the way.

And I realized that I had not given her nearly enough information from what I've learned or heard from others to make the move as easy as possible for her. Oops.

While it's too late for her, it's not too late for you! ;-)

Here's the advice I usually offer to friends who are moving:

1. Schedule a babysitter for your kids. For the whole day. I feel like this goes without explaining, but seriously simplify everyone's life and keep the kids out of the house.

2. A few days in advance of the moving day, clear out an entire room of your house, if possible. (If not, then just do your best to have a whole corner of a room for this purpose) This is where you're going to put absolutely EVERYTHING you don't want packed in your HHG. i.e. everything you're taking with you on your trip to the next base, or everything you're giving away or selling. Put a huge sign near the pile or on the door that says PLEASE DO NOT PACK. For extra comic relief, use caution tape. But seriously, this part is a big deal. Because if it's not clearly marked it doesn't matter how many times you tell them what does and does not go... some stuff will get packed that's supposed to stay and visa versa. Think very carefully about what you will need with you when you're without your HHG and make sure you keep it separate from what you want shipped.

3. Since we're talking about piles, you need to get a huge box (or maybe two) in your kitchen and the week before they come, start putting things in the box that they won't ship. You will be either a) throwing this all away or b) giving it away to a friend. (cue PCS generosity... you can't take it but why toss it?) They will not pack most of your open pantry items. So all oils, vinegar, open spices, flour, sugar, etc. go in the box. They also won't ship alcohol, cleaning supplies, or candles. But check with your moving company, because sometimes if you let them know ahead of time you CAN make an alcohol shipment. (Kirsten and Dana did but there was paperwork involved.)

4. Speaking of cleaning supplies, you need to make a pile of those, too. In fact scratch that, put the cleaning supplies in your special "do not pack" room. Because if you'll be cleaning the house yourself, you want to have what you need. So keep a broom behind (they're cheap to replace) and also a vacuum. Now that's not always cheap to replace, but many people living OCONUS are getting rid of their non-110v appliances anyways. Or you can always plan ahead to borrow one. You'll also be wanting some rags or paper towels for the cleaning spree. And a bunch of huge trash bags.

5. Put a few rolls of toilet paper in your "do not pack" room. This was Dana's idea and it was brilliant. Because they knew they'd be in the empty house all weekend cleaning. Way to think ahead D!

6. Make a separate pile somewhere for your high value items. We don't have many, but our examples would include Jesse's guitars, any of my camera gear that I wasn't taking on the plane, and our Steuben decanter set. I believe the general idea is anything over $200 value or anything of irreplaceable sentimental value. You sometimes have to actually sign for these and list out what they are worth, but in the very least you'll want to look the movers in the eye, flash them your best smile, and tell them to please for the love of pretty things be careful with this pile!

7. If possible, find a friend who adds nothing but zen to your life and ask her to come over for at least a few hours the day the movers will be there. She will keep you sane, remind you to sit down and breathe, keep your coffee cup filled, and make sure you eat something. Bonus points if she's the kind of friend who will bring you a bottle of wine for the end of the day ;-)

8. Get a good night’s sleep the day before the movers come. You will be on your feet most of the day as they are going to be packing up your whole house and eventually, all your chairs. Also it’s kind of nerve-wracking to have strangers touching all your stuff. You’re gonna need all your wits about you to battle that inner control-freak.

9. On the day the movers will come to start packing, have a breakfast treat set out for them and be prepared to provide a bottomless pot of coffee. Set out the cream and sugar and mugs (or styrofoam cups) and let them know right away that the refreshments are for them. I like to make muffins ahead of time. You can freeze them and just pull them out to thaw the day before. People who have full tummies and plenty of caffeine will appreciate your generosity and *hopefully* take extra good care when packing your stuff.

10. As the movers are wrapping up, wander through the rooms and check things out. When we moved from Mississippi to Germany, I found a couple of drawers in the bathroom that hadn't been packed. And there is usually a lot of moving debris (empty rolls of tape, papers, etc.) that are technically not your responsibility to clean up. You have enough to do. Just politely ask if they can please grab all the trash before they leave. The movers aren't evil, they're just human. And they're going to cut corners at times. Just make sure they aren't leaving you with too much extra work to do.

*** Bonus Tip *** Try to remember that your stuff is going to be loaded into crates and shipped across the OCEAN. When you get it all back finally, there will be broken things and there will be some damages to furniture. Be realistic and don't get your undies in an uproar about it! Uncle Sam will pay you some damages, especially if it is obvious that it was definitely the movers' fault. But keep in mind that there's only so much you can do when moving things at that distance and over that kind of environment!

Be patient and remember, they're just things. 

Besides that, I hope if you have a good tip I missed you will share it in the comments so future readers can benefit from your experiences!

And if you found this post informative, please share it with a friend who has an upcoming PCS.

Or pin it for yourself, for your next move!

I wish you peace this holiday season, and extra peace if you're PCSing at this time! 


  1. so we pointed out or precious items, and dan's bass was stolen. ugh. then at the next psc we asked them to clean up the tape and paper trash and they stuck it in a box with our stuff. ugh.
    I started packing a month ahead on my own so I could be SURE certain items were done the way I wanted, and so that the movers could get in and out faster. (also a good way to sneak some candles and individually bagged kitchen goods).
    I think it also helped my kids transition, because they could see the house emptying over time instead of all at once. OH and we always had a few crazy things planned for the last days in the empty house (racing matchbox cars across the entire first floor! bubbles galore! flashlight party after dark!)

    1. Ohmygosh Mira those are some seriously awesome ideas! I will definitely remember to plan some really fun stuff for when our house is empty! It will be a huge transition for our girls cause this is the only home they remember so far... what a blast to make our exit exciting ;-) Thanks for commenting!