So, you just got news that you’re going to be moving to your next base. Congratulations! Are you excited? Nervous? Overwhelmed? No worries, I can help.
Hi, I’m Alex and I’m writing this in the middle of our move to Guam. My husband just celebrated 19 years in the Air Force, we’ve been married for 14 of them, and Guam will be our 8th assignment. Clearly, like many other military families, we move a lot. We learn a lot from each move and in the next few posts I’ll share with you some tips I’ve gathered over the years to make the whole PCS* process less stressful. Today I’m talking about steps you can take early in the process that will make the rest go much more smoothly.
* (PCS = Permanent Change of Station aka moving to another military base)
Start preparing for moving day as soon as you get news of your next assignment – edit out unnecessary items, take stock of what you decide to keep, and organize it all for easy unpacking.
EDIT OUT THE UNNECESSARY
If you already ruthlessly purge your possessions on a regular basis, good for you! Now step it up. But if editing your stuff has not been a priority lately, or ever, you really want to get started right away. Because if you don’t, you might find yourself in your next home with a lot of extra stuff that doesn’t fit. Not in the house, and not in the much smaller trash bin outside. That’s what happened to us on our second tour in Germany when we decided to live off base. The trash bins were half the size and got picked up only half as often as we were used to. Oh, and bulk pick-up was once a year so good luck with that. Your family may not usually generate much trash (we don’t) but when you’re in full purging mode, even a nice big American trash can fills up really fast so imagine if it’s much smaller.
If you go totally Marie Kondo on your house, awesome! If you prefer to ease into it gently, start by filling up a large bag with items to donate or throw away. Either way, the less you have, the less you have to move, unpack, and put away. And the less likely you are to go over your weight allowance. Going over your weight allowance could cost you money out of your own pocket so just don’t. But the biggest reason to edit is that most of your unnecessary items likely have emotional baggage attached to them – it’s best to get rid of it now and not bring it to your next place. That way you can start fresh, with only the things you love and use often. Or at least regularly – I mean, no one uses their Christmas decorations “often”. Once a year for a month or so is more like it and that’s perfectly okay.
TAKE STOCK OF WHAT YOU’RE KEEPING
When you’re done editing your possessions, take a good look what is left. My favorite way to do this is by grouping like items together to get a good idea of how much space they need and what type of container will work best for them. This could mean all towels or all bed linens together, but in some cases you’ll want to group items by occasion, such as seasonal decorations. Do what makes the most sense to you.
While you’re at it, take pictures of everything in case you ever need to file an insurance claim – they’ll want proof you owned these items. If you are diligent about registering everything with the manufacturer as soon as you buy it, that may be enough proof of ownership, but I like pictures. For anything expensive, like electronics or your beloved sewing machines (no? maybe just me then, hehe), take an overall picture of the front and a close-up of the serial number to keep in your inventory file. I like to combine the two views in one picture in a collage app, complete with rounded corners and everything because that’s how I roll. And don’t forget to email the pictures to yourself or upload them to the cloud or to your insurance company’s website. You want a copy somewhere outside of your phone or iPad just in case.
And now, with your possessions edited and pictures taken for
posterity insurance purposes, decide where everything will go – what’s staying where it was and what needs to go live in another room, drawer, or shelf. There should be plenty of extra space now.
Some things may need to be organized in bins. If you have nice decorative wooden ones, I envy you. I use the large Sterilite plastic totes that every BX* I’ve ever been in carries. If you have large drawers that could benefit from some internal structure, look for spring-loaded drawer dividers at Bed Bath & Beyond or on Amazon – I love the bamboo ones for wide kitchen drawers because they look pretty and keep everything organized so I don’t end up with a junk drawer situation.
* (Base Exchange = military equivalent of a department store)
If sewing or crafting is a large part of your life, smaller plastic bins that latch closed are your friend. They keep your eleventy million small crafty things neatly organized, are quick and easy for movers to pack, and unpacking means you take the bins out of moving boxes, place them on their usual shelf, and you’re done. No mess, no extra paper, easy. Sometimes I look at it all and think yep, this is my life containerized. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. But in the long run, it makes a stressful process easier so it’s definitely worth it.
After all the editing and organizing you did, there will likely be some extra empty space. This is a good thing – it clears your mental space which will come in handy during the move.
Moving is stressful, no way to get around that. So many moving pieces, so much unknown. But there are ways to reduce the stress and you can and should start early. As soon as you find out where you’re going next, start editing what you have, sell/donate or throw away what you won’t take with you, assess and document what you’re keeping, and organize it for easy packing and unpacking. In the next post, I’ll tell you about preparing for the transition to your next base so check back later this week.