Thriving & Surviving Military Life: Our #1 Trick for Getting Settled Fast!

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been dedicating one post per month to sharing snippets, encouragement, tips/tricks and nuances of living a military lifestyle. (You can read my last installments in this series here!) My hope with these posts is not only to share glimpses into our unique lifestyle with all my readers, but also to serve as a resource for my fellow military spouses who read this blog (which is starting to become more and more!!!) who can specifically benefit from my family’s trials, errors and successes. I have coined today’s post a “military thriving and surviving post” because the tips and tricks I’m sharing here specifically apply to a military/professional move. But don’t click away just yet because these ideas can apply to anyone who is trying to get settled after a transition, no matter the distance or how it’s done. Plus, I’m sharing the very first glimpses of our new space with stuff in it! (If you missed our new house tour, catch up here!)

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

Would you believe me if I told you just 5 days after the moving truck arrived at our new home, we were completely unpacked and put away, had no boxes or trash in the house, had done two major shopping trips, and were starting to hang things on the wall? It sounds impossible, but honest to goodness it’s true, and I have pictures to prove it! For those of you who know me personally, you might not be too shocked. When it comes to sorting, organizing, and tackling big messes, I am quite the force to be reckon with. But before you think I have magical move-in powers, let me let you in on our family trick!

See those guys in that picture getting ready to unload our truck? They are the ones who not only brought everything from the truck into our house but also unpacked all our boxes, unwrapped every last dish and frame, broke down all the boxes, and carried away all the trash.

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

If you are a military family, do you know you rate a FULL unpack?!?! Some people know this and some don’t. In our experience, most families “wave” the full unpack and choose to unpack boxes one at at time on their own timeline. We’ve done it that way a few times. But on our last few moves, we opted to have the packers unpack everything, and I don’t think we’ll ever go back to doing it ourselves. To each family their own; but today, I want to show you just why we let the packers do the un-packing.

To be clear, when I say “full unpack,” this simply means that the movers will unpack the boxes and take the trash away. They can’t and won’t put anything away for you, which means the house fills up fast. When one surface is full, they put stuff onto the floor. When the floor is full, they make piles…and then more piles. By the time the packers leave, the boxes are surely gone, but you are left with one heck of a disaster!

After our full unpack, our house looked like this in every.single.room. No rhyme. No reason. Piles and piles of stuff. Some of it is in the right room, some of it isn’t.

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

A full unpack is not for the faint of heart. You have to be okay with the packers touching all of your stuff and with lots and lots and lots of stuff everywhere. At first it will feel overwhelming and awful, and you’ll wonder why you went this route. But in just a matter of days, your house will be put away. Not decorated and not anywhere near “done.” But you will be unpacked and functioning within days. All that time and energy that would be spent tearing boxes apart, unwrapping items, and corralling trash is instead all put toward putting the house back together.

Our movers arrived Friday morning and left Friday evening (with all the boxes and trash in tow) around 5:00pm. I grabbed my camera on the following Thursday to show you just how far we came in the span of one week. These aren’t final shots of our spaces. Nothing here is staged or decorated or really blog-worthy. Things aren’t yet in their final homes; moving in and getting settled must happen before the projects and decorating start. I can’t believe I’m posting these pictures online, but I really want to keep it real for you guys!

One week in… here’s the family room…

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

The dining room…

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

The kitchen…

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

The master bedroom (including a new mattress!)

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

Henry’s room…

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

Greg’s office…

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

Megan’s office…

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

The playroom…

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

I forgot to take pictures of the garage, but it’s in a similar state. Things aren’t quite final out there, but mostly sorted and put away. And just so you don’t think I shoved things in closets just to get them off the floor…our closets are probably in the best shape of all!

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Getting Settled Fast

 

Admittedly, I can be a bit of machine when faced with a big mess. After the packers left, I didn’t really stop moving for almost 48 hours, with just breaks for meals and sleep! I have a knack for quickly identifying where things should go and how, and set right to work making it happen. While the messes really cause me anxiety, I am truly in my element putting everything back into order!

 Our week went something like this:

  • Friday night – Playroom / Half of Kitchen / Master Bedroom Closet
  • Saturday – Rest of Kitchen / Megan’s Office / Henry’s Bedroom
  • Sunday – Family Room / Master Bedroom (loosing steam, but house is very functional at just 48 hours in!)
  • Monday – Errands – no unpacking!
  • Tuesday – Greg’s Office / Garage
  • Wednesday – Errands / Laundry Room
  • Thursday – Hall closets / start hanging things on wall!

A full unpack is our secret to getting settled FAST! We find that we are able to set right to work getting things put away faster, and are able to find the things we need easier because everything is out of their boxes in the open. I realize this way is not for everyone…here’s a few more pros/cons to consider!

Pros to a Full Unpack

  • The trash is gone right away.
  • Time that would be spent breaking down boxes is instead spent putting items away.
  • You can find what you need right away.
  • You are forced to deal with everything right away because the clutter is so bad.
  • You don’t have still-packed boxes sitting in closets/storage months later!
  • You can assess damage right away, which makes filling out claims and paper work with moving company much more efficient.
  • By seeing everything at once, you can quickly assess what will fit/not fit in a particular space; if you need more/less furniture, or what kind of storage you may need to get right away.
  • Life gets back to normal very quickly!

Cons to a Full Unpack

  • It makes a HUGE mess (I really can’t emphasize this enough!)
  • Because of the mess, you sacrifice mobility around the home.
  • Items can get broken – the few times we’ve had damage is because movers were careless as they were unpacking. You may also break/damage things as you move around the very cluttered house.
  • Movers get crabby – they don’t like doing a full unpack because it lengthens their day.
  • It forces you to work quickly and possibly not think through how best to store/put away certain items.
  • All you will do for the first few days is put stuff away. If you have a trip planned or guests coming or activities scheduled, it may be better to leave items in boxes until you have the time to deal with them.
  • If you have little kids, having stuff everywhere may be more hassle than it’s worth. Keep your family dynamics in mind!
Lastly, now having done a full unpack four times, here are a few things to make it go as smoothly as possible!
  • Mentally prepare for the mess. It’s going to be bad. Focus on tackling one pile at a time.
  • Set out extra tables for packers to place breakable items on (such as dishes) so they don’t get put on the floor.
  • Set expectations. Tell the moving crew first thing that you want a full unpack. This alerts them to the length and kind of day to expect.
  • Keep your packers happy. We’ve had packers rough-handle our things because they are grumpy about the full unpack. Snacks, cold drinks, and a friendly attitude go a long way in a making a more pleasant day for everyone!
  • Keep an eye on the trash. Movers move quickly and things can be left behind in all the paper and ultimately swept out the trash. As best you can, makes sure all the paper is empty before leaving the house!
  • Do your part. Help clear trash, put things away and work as a team with the packers to get the unpacking done as quickly as possible.
Whether you have professional packers or not, getting those boxes empty is key to getting settled quickly. Oftentimes we have to re-visit certain closets or rooms to refine or even re-do how the home is organized, but we find getting through the initial round of unpacking quickly helps us return to normal and start on the fun stuff much faster and easier! After the packers left that Friday night, I wondered why we went the full unpack route once again…but when the house was in mostly functioning order by Sunday night…I was so thankful we went for it. With the initial unpacking done, you better bet the projects have started!

 

What do you guys think? I’m curious how many of you opt for a full unpack when you move? Or do you rather unpack one box at a time on your own schedule? Are there any other pros/cons I may have forgotten? 

 

This post marks the end of my moving-related content. It’s time to get back to the decorating! On Friday, I’m going to chat a bit about my plans for this home while we’re here and my own expectations for the year ahead!

See you then!
Megan

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7 Responses to Thriving & Surviving Military Life: Our #1 Trick for Getting Settled Fast!

  1. We do a full unpack too. I usually leave my craft room boxed up but everything else they unpack. This past move I bought different colored duct tape for each room and put a strip around the side of each box and I put a TON of stuff in 2 gallon zip locks, all the toys and stuff in the drawers. Then drew a map of the house and matched the tape to the room so it made it easy for the movers to tell which room stuff went in. By the end of day 1 all my kids had put their own stuff away. I do tell the movers every time I talk to them that I want a full unpack and as soon as they show up that I wanted a full unpack. Then they aren't annoyed at the end of a long day to find out I want stuff unpacked. Our last move they were finished by 3 pm and we have an entire semi truck of stuff.

  2. So glad your move went well and you are getting settled in. While not military, and not having moved more than once since being married, our family did move a lot when I was a kid. I think my mom would have appreciated a full unpack (especially since the last major move my grandparents things were on our truck as well). Great tips!! And agree with Brook, my mom always color coded things.

  3. We always go with a full unpack (we're not military, but do corporate-sponsored moves every two years, so the relocation pacing sounds similar) and I've always loved it – until this month's move. For whatever reason, instead of using floor space they piled things up in places like a bathroom sink (so I had to rescue small items from the drain) and in piles with delicate items on the bottom and heavy items on top – and that was in a room with ample free floor space.

    We'll probably still go with it the next time, but it's soured me a little on the experience enough that we might end up doing it ourselves if we have another U.S. assignment (in all of our Canadian moves, the packers and unpackers were actually separate people from the movers, which I think let them be a little more careful, since they weren't exhausted from carrying furniture).

  4. We don't do a full unpack but while the movers are here, we call ourselves unpacking ninjas and try to get as much stuff out of boxes as we can. That way the movers take away a lot of the boxes and packing paper. Kitchen is the priority but other things get tossed everywhere.

    Then I get like you and I love organizing the big mess. Within about a week we have most things where they need to go, start putting pictures on the walls and start really living in our home. I grew up living in the same house until I went to college so I had no idea this would be something I would kind of enjoy 🙂

  5. I´m glad to hear your move is over and went well! Now you can start enjoying your new home!

    I have only moved four times with my husband. We are not military, live in Finland and did everything ourselves! I always planned how to organize things and furniture in the new place in advance. I keep items in bins, boxes and containers, which made the moves so much easier. I marked in every box where it would go (bedroom, living room etc.) and packed it accordingly! Not everything possible mixed in one box. It was so easy to carry the boxes in specific rooms and start to unpack. It has never taken us many days to unpack mainly because we try to purge our things constantly! The less we have stuff, the easier the moves are. Then we didn´t have a child, a big house or a garage, so things were a little easier 😉 than they would be now 🙂

  6. We've never had a full unpack yet (12 moves in 19 years), but we usually do partials. I still get everything done and put away within a week (excluding picture hanging). I prefer this way because I cannot function at all with everything out everywhere, it just shuts me down! I do a lot to prep for moves so that unpacking is made easier. One critical thing is to know in advance where I want major furniture pieces to go. I spend a lot of time with floor plans and pieces of furniture cut out of post-it notes making sure I've got it down ahead of time.

  7. This is really incredible – 5 days after the move done with everything! My sister is a military wife and she’s preparing for their second move. I’m sure she doesn’t know about the full unpack and she’ll be very thankful to read your post. I’m definitely recommending to my sister, thank you for sharing your experience!

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