Being in the military means – more often than not – moving.
Military families move on average once every three years, as noted in a report by the National Military Family Association.
And while transitioning may be a standard requirement, it’s not easy.
“Our last moving experience was very stressful,” noted Sofia A. Aldama, military wife and stay-at-home mom. “I can remember that for three days straight we were busy trying to clean and pack up our government housing while taking care of an 18-month-old and a 3-year-old.”
Along with the tension of shifting households, there were other emotions involved. The move for Aldama and her family, which took place in 2012, consisted of leaving Belgium and heading to the state of Washington. “We had been living in Europe for three years and were excited to come back to the U.S,” explained Aldama.
Read on to find out what Aldama learned along the way, and what you can do to ease anxiety the next time news of an upcoming PCS hits your home.
1. Sort items.
Electronic equipment or transformers that work in one location might not be a good fit in your next spot. “While living overseas we accumulated items that could only be used in Belgium,” noted Aldama.
In addition to holding a yard sale, look for other ways to give the goods you won’t be taking a new home. “Always remember that there are families coming as you are leaving,” added Aldama. You might be able to donate some of your belongings to those who are just arriving – and will appreciate the gesture.
2. Think ahead.
Consider the housing sizes or estimates of space you’ll have in your new location.
“Measure your bigger furniture before you pack out,” advised Kate Horrell, a military finance coach. “This will make it easier to plan your layout at your new house.”
You may find it’s not worthwhile to bring an oversized couch to a location with tight quarters, or you might decide to store extra furniture you won’t need at the new spot.
3. Keep track of the small stuff.
Kitchen utensils, office supplies, and items from junk drawers can be stored in plastic zipper bags. Also pack small toys, games and puzzles in bags.
“Don’t forget to bag spices and any foods that you are moving and might break or spill,” added Horrell.
Find ways to attach small parts to larger items to keep them together. For instance, tape vacuum cleaner attachments to the vacuum. “Use painter’s tape to tape parts to furniture and remotes and cords to electronics,” suggested Horrell.
4. Streamline packing.
“Label boxes with specific colors, matching the same colors to corresponding rooms,” suggested Jaclyn Lambert, outreach specialist at HireAHelper.com.
You might try using different colored washi tape on boxes. On the tape, mark the contents of each box. Then keep a master list which coordinates each color or pattern to a particular room.
“This will help helpers easily navigate where to place boxes as they unload them,” added Lambert.
5. Prepare “Moving Day” essentials.
To keep everyone involved with the move productive, gather items you’ll need for the day you move ahead of time, advised Lambert.
This might include water bottles to stay hydrated, and also trash bags for last-minute cleanup or for items you find under furniture and want to take along. Make sure to have extra moving supplies on hand such as boxes, markers and tape.
6. Separate key documents.
Keep important documents with you at all times, suggested Aldama.
If movers come into your home, designate a spot, such as the laundry room or small closet and mark it as off-limits to the movers. Store documents there, as well as any other items you don’t want loaded on to the truck.
7. Bring in friends for support.
“One of our friends drove us to the airport when we flew to our new destination,” Aldama said.
“A friend of ours let us borrow air mattresses to sleep on the night before we were allowed to sleep in lodging,” she added.
“Without them I don’t know what we would have done. I want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to each and every one of them.”
Top photo courtesy of Penske.