Category Archives: Military Life

Lessons Learned from Our Worst Move Yet

Over the past few months, I have casually mentioned our move this past summer to southern California wasn’t our “best” ever. In fact, now that the dust has settled for us, Greg and I consider it our worst move yet. Over the course of Greg’s 12-year (so far) military career, our 6 previous moves have been pretty standard with no major frustrations, loss, or damage. We’ve been both well prepared AND lucky. But because of some silly and stupid mis-steps on OUR part, we had all three this time around. I want to be clear that we have known and heard much, much worse than what we’ve been through in last few months. But for a family who pride themselves on being “moving masters,” we’ve been caught a bit off-guard on how big we goofed this time. I guess it shows that no matter how many times you do this or how much of a “pro” you feel like, moving is a hard, busy, complicated process…and lots of things can fall through the cracks without proper planning and diligence. So this post is not only to share our lessons learned with any one getting ready to move, but also a reminder to us how important proper planning is….for our stuff, our sanity, and our bank accounts!

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

Pre-Move Preparations Really Are SO Important

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

The last time I really talked about our move here on the blog was waaaay back in April when I outlined the 10 Things You Should Do in the Months Before a Move. Remember how I shard that I was struggling to get motivated and that post was supposed to kick me into gear to start working away on our usual preparations? Well….it didn’t. For a multitude of reasons, Greg and I just were not “in the mood” to move this time around, and as such delayed (or just didn’t do) a lot of our usual pre-move prep. It was the end of a one-year school assignment (one year moves are the worst!), I was in my first trimester, I was suffering from major blog/creative burnout (making me not want to do ANYTHING!), and as silly as it sounds, I just didn’t feel like being a grown up and doing what needed to get done. We kept saying: “We need to update our spreadsheet and get working on it,” but we never did. “We should start getting ready this weekend,” but each weekend would pass without any preparations. We never opened our spreadsheet, I never printed out my handy worksheets. I didn’t do any neighborhood research, school research, doctor research, etc. I was kind of in denial about moving and kept saying “One way or another, it and we will all get to California. We know what we’re doing. It will work out.” Well…we and (most of) our stuff did indeed make it to California; we found a great house and a great doctor and a great school. But EVERYTHING felt haphazard and stressful; and as such, a lot of things slipped through the cracks or were done by the skin of our teeth. Instead of feeling on top of our moving game, it felt like we were putting out fires and dealing with things as they occurred. By the time we got to California and our stuff actually arrived in our house, we were frazzled and exhausted.

LESSON LEARNED: Having now lived through several well organized/planned moves and one not-even-remotely planned move, I can say that proper preparation is KEY to reducing stress, closing timing gaps, and keeping out-of-pocket costs down. Yes…in a military move at least…everything and everyone will make it to the new location in tact whether you plan ahead and get organized or not. But your stress level will be a different story. Greg and I have come up with systems that work for us as a family, and we should have known better than to abandon them and just wing it. Next time around…because there will always be a next time…we will refer to all the things I outlined in THIS post and use the tools and systems we’ve created to execute a smoother move!

NOTE: As you will see, most everything else that happened during this move did so because we skipped our usual pre-move prep that I discussed above. Had we done what we usually we do, we could have avoided MOST of the following!

Don’t Leave All The Prep Until the Final Weekend

Because we weren’t following our usual timeline AND knew we didn’t have walls to paint or do a whole lot of work to restore the house to its original condition, we left ALL of our pre-move prep until the very last weekend before the packers came. Taking things off of walls, emptying out food containers, separating pack/no-pack items, packing the car, bagging and boxing up loose items/valuables, categorize like items that should be packed together for new house, unhooking electronics, writing down serial numbers, etc was all saved for the final 48 hours. Years ago, that was plenty of time. Now…we have more stuff to work through; and one weekend is just not enough time to get it all done. Because we waited too long, the final weekend was beyond busy and stressful as we tore through the house trying to get it ready. Tempers flared, exhaustion peeked, and there ultimately wasn’t enough time to do all the things we like to do. As such, our stuff was not packed up as organized as we typically like…meaning things came OUT of boxes on the other side in more of a disarray than we like (like thumb tacks all over the bottom of a box!)…meaning it took us MUCH longer to get unpacked and settled in our new home.

LESSON LEARNED: Yes..the professional packers pack up our boxes, but we’ve learned that how smooth unpacking goes on the other end is very much affected by how organized and categorized items are on the front end. A single weekend is not enough time to get everything we have as organized as it needs to be to guarantee a smooth unpack on the other side. So while it isn’t very much fun to live with a house pulled apart for a few weeks, allowing a few weekends of prep time is worth it in the end!

Put Clear Signs on the No Pack Pile

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

If there is one tip I give people who are moving for the first time (especially if using professional packers) is to CLEARLY mark a “no pack” zone. Professional packers come in and often move very quickly to get everything into boxes. You can’t be everywhere at once to make sure certain items aren’t be packed up, so it really is best to have rooms or zones dedicated as “no pack.” This time around, we designated our master bathroom as “no pack” and just shut the doors and told the packers not to go in there. However, there were also things in the garage that were set aside as “no pack” that we didn’t feel like dragging into the upstairs bathroom (like maintenance items that belonged with the house, luggage, etc). So, we just set these items aside in a pile and told the head packer to leave them be. Well…sometimes instructions aren’t fully communicated to the entire pack team…and then when you throw a tornado warning and torrential rain and wind in the middle of your load…all hell breaks loose and everything gets thrown on the truck in haste anyway. This meant that snow shovels and brooms (that belonged to the house), my luggage (that we needed for our cross-country trip), and a few other things were packed when they shouldn’t have been. Guess who had to buy new luggage for our trip even though she had very good luggage on the moving truck heading to California?!? This girl 🙁

LESSON LEARNED: Setting aside “no pack” areas is often sufficient, but you just never know what’s going to happen during a load. CLEARLY mark and label items that shouldn’t be packed up, and even consider putting items in your car or utility closet to avoid last-minute confusion!

Re-Label Boxes For Destination

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

When using professional movers, they box, tag and “inventory” everything. But their inventorying and labeling is often void of specifics and details; usually, boxes just say “toys” or “craft supplies” and then which room they were packed in at origin. However, these basic descriptors don’t help much when it’s been weeks since you’ve seen your stuff AND you are going to have a somewhat different layout on the other end. I know other military families who go through and re-label boxes after the packers leave to 1) make the descriptions more specific and 2) re-designate which rooms they should go in at the destination. I’ve NEVER understood the reason for this until we moved in here. As boxes came off the truck, the descriptions were so vague, we had no idea what was in each box and therefor had no idea where to instruct the movers to place them. All of Greg’s office supplies ended up in my office because they were labeled “Office;” all of Henry’s play art supplies ended up in my craft room because they said “Crafts.” It’s not a huge deal, but when you are trying to get settled, it helps to at least have the right boxes int he right room.

LESSON LEARNED: While everything (what’s in the boxes and what room they started in) is still fresh in your mind, go back and re-label boxes with descriptions that will help you unload easier. Also, if you know where items are going to go in the “new” house…label them with their destination room rather than their origin room. I just discovered THIS tape, and I am totally using it next time!

Ensure ALL High-Inventory Items are Documented

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

In addition to the standard inventory, the packers also fill out a “High Value Inventory” of any and all items you deem “high value.” Not only are these items tracked on a special sheet, but more details are recorded (like serial numbers, quantity, and condition) and you often sign special seals on the boxes containing these items. Because we were not prepared enough, we did not set aside (or have our own list) of all our high-inventory items. It was mid-pack and even after the fact that we were all “Oh shoot…the XXXXX should have been marked high inventory” on several items. We thought we eventually caught and recorded them all, but it turns out we didn’t. After getting fully unpacked and settled, we discovered that both my Apple laptop and high quality camera lens were both missing. Not only were they missing from our things (packers fault), but they were not written anywhere on our inventory sheets (our fault). Guess what? If it’s not recorded in detail on the inventory sheets, you will not receive financial compensation to replace them. Major.Ouch.

LESSON LEARNED: Before the packers even arrive, go through your entire house and set aside, inventory, and write down the serial numbers of ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you deem high value. Beyond your own inventory, ensure ALL of that information is on the official inventory sheets completed by the movers. Even if the packers don’t want to do it, require them to document the high-value items. Make copies of your forms and take pictures of your items. We’ve NEVER had anything high-value missing in our 6 previous moves. We’re now completely out a laptop and lens because WE didn’t prepare and ensure they were documented right.

Don’t Pay for a House Until It’s Ready

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

When we arrived in San Diego (with no plan, no research) we hit the ground running to find a house…admittedly with a bit of urgency (we had been living in a hotel for 3+ weeks and without our stuff for 5+ at this point). We were ecstatic to find the house we did, in a neighborhood and school district we loved, so quickly. And because of my anxious personality, people-pleaser tendencies, and the desire to just be in a house, I (not Greg) agreed to move in and therefor start paying rent on the house BEFORE it was truly ready for us. However, the house still needed some painting, cleanings, and final repairs; all of which were inconvenient enough that we elected to stay in the hotel until they were done. This meant we were paying rent AND hotel fees for about 4 days. This isn’t typically a huge deal, but it added up to extra money (for the hotel) that we shouldn’t/didn’t need to spend since we were paying rent on the house.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t pay for a house that isn’t fully ready. We easily could have asked for the lease to start the day the maintenance items were complete, saving ourselves several hundred dollars in an already very expensive move.

When They Ask You To Pick Paint Colors, Just Do It

We're moving into our 7th home in 11 years! Come tour this "blank slate" of a house...our home for the next few years!

This is a mistake that I feel like will haunt me for our entire time here. As I mentioned above, several of the rooms (the kitchen, office, and two kid bedrooms upstairs) were going to be repainted because they were really strong, intense colors. Instead of painting them back to the neutral color already throughout the house, the owner was happy to let us pick the colors as long as we painted to the neutral color upon move out. Seriously. I’ve never been allowed to pick my colors!!!! But you guys….whether because of pregnancy brain, moving exhaustion, or total overwhelm, I didn’t know what to do. We had to make a decision somewhat quickly, and I had NO plan what I wanted to do in this house. Heck…we were still trying to figure out what was going to go where. I was very sensitive to the open-concept and flow of the house and worried if I picked random colors in haste, the whole house would feel really choppy and potentially not work with the light and our stuff. Somewhat in panic, I told them just to paint everything to the neutral beige color. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!?! Honestly, in a big, empty house with all the windows open, the brown walls didn’t look that bad, and I thought having everything consistent throughout the house would be better. Little did I realize how dark and dreary the paint color feels with our stuff in the house and with the blinds pulled (because it is SO hot here!). Not a day goes by that I say to myself “I can’t believe I didn’t just have them paint the rooms white.” Henry’s room, the nursery and my office would have still worked with the rest of the house AND with our stuff AND made me feel better in this house if they were just painted bright white. I honestly don’t even know why that didn’t occur to me.

LESSON LEARNED: Paint is not the end of the world. But at the end of an expensive and complicated move (and being pregnant!) I just don’t have my usual excitement and willingness to paint every single room..especially when we had the chance to get it done for FREE!!!!! (Can you tell that I am still reeling?!?!) We just got permission to paint the master and nursery, but that is now hassle and money we didn’t really have to deal with. If I could turn back the clocks, I’d have them paint the rooms bright white because it still works with the trim/ceilings of the house but works better with our style and palette. I still don’t know why it didn’t occur to me. So the lesson here…if they ask you for paint colors, put your big girl/guy pants on and just make some decisions. And when you just don’t know…paint it white!

Because of our very poor planning and overall unwillingness to just embrace the move and do what needed to be done, this move was our worst one yet. However, we know it could be so much worse: we have friends who have lost more; dealt with mold, re-locations, un-safe homes, etc; and had sentimental items lost or broken. While it was a VERY stressful and haphazard move and we lost some high-value items, we are safe, happy, and healthy in our new home. Maybe we needed a move like this to prove to ourselves that our systems do work and shouldn’t be abandoned just because we’re not in the mood to move. Moving is part of our lifestyle and never easy or fun. But proper planning can sure make an already crazy time a little more manageable…which when you do it so much…means everything!

I hope you guys enjoyed this deeper look into our summer move that was! I know a lot of my readers have moved a lot and I would love to hear some of the tips and tricks you’ve discovered are worth the hassle! Next up on Thursday…nursery progress! See you then!

Megan Signature

Taking the Long Way Around | Our Summer Adventures to Our New Home

You all have been so patient with me as I wrap up the posts and projects from our Kansas house and even take some unexpected breaks over the last few months. But I am so excited to report that it is finally time to start catching you up on everything we’ve been up to in recent months, including our latest cross-country travels, our new home, and even some fun surprises. So much has happened in the months since we left Kansas, and I’ve had so many thoughts and news that I’ve been wanting to share with you. Now that we’re a little more settled and life is slowing down for the first time in months (!!!!), get ready for a slew of personal posts and life updates coming your way in the next few weeks!  Last week I showed you our final Kansas home tour, as well as the start of pulling the entire house apart. Today, we’re hitting the road and you get to ride along as we make our way across country…again! But be forewarned: this time we are taking the (very!) long way around to our next home!

Taking the Long Way Around | Our Family Summer Adventure

On May 26th, we anxiously looked on as every last one of our belongings was packed up and loaded onto a truck…in the middle of a tornado. Seriously. We’d gone pretty much the entire year in Kansas without a legitimate tornado threat. I guess Mother Nature was saving the best for last 😉 There we were: Henry and I hunkered down in our “safe place,” while the local guys never once paused during the thunder, sirens, winds, and torrential rain; they just kept loading the truck. In the 7 times we’ve packed out, we’ve never experienced anything quite like it! While there is always a sense of “Will I ever see my stuff again?” as the truck pulls off, this time around I couldn’t help but wonder “How wet will our stuff be when we see it again? Will it all be covered in mold? Is this an omen of what’s to come?!?”

Loading Day!

We spent the Friday before Memorial Day weekend cleaning the house and packing up the cars and then set off on our first stop of many this summer:

Lake of the Ozarks, MO

Our house was empty AND spotless, and we were all set to move into a local hotel for a few weeks (Greg didn’t graduate until June 9). At the last minute, we took advantage of a cancelation to go out to the military recreational facility at Lake of the Ozarks for a Memorial Day weekend getaway. After weeks of getting ready to move, farewell to friends, dealing with packers and cleaning the house in preparation for check out, it was so wonderful to literally escape for a few days. We hiked, canoed, swam and basically soaked up every minute of no stuff, no connectivity, and no responsibility that we could!

Taking the Long Way Around | Lake of the Ozarks, MO

Taking the Long Way Around | Lake of the Ozarks, MO

Taking the Long Way Around | Lake of the Ozarks, MO

We returned to Leavenworth, Kansas after a great getaway and lived for 10 days in a local hotel while Greg finished up school. We used this time to visit every last Kansas City spot we hadn’t yet made it to, including water parks, a baseball game and more! After Greg graduated from his military school on June 9th, we hit the road for an epic family road trip!

Lincoln, NE

From Kansas City we drove to Lincoln, Nebraska and stayed a single night in the city. Who knew Lincoln was such a COOL place, especially when the drive in every direction pretty much looks like this:

Taking the Long Way Around | Kansas

Cheyenne, WY

From Lincoln, Nebraska, we drove on to Cheyenne, Wyoming and spent an afternoon exploring the charming little town. It was here that Henry and I shared the best steak I have ever, ever had!

Taking the Long Way Around | Cheyenne, WY

Yellowstone National Park, WY

From Cheyenne, we finally made our way into one of our first major destinations: Yellowstone National Park! We spent three days and three nights camping, hiking, touring, eating, and animal watching our way through the park. Henry loved every single minute of camping (even during the 38 degree nights!!!) and showed us that he is quite the willing adventurer! From spotting wildlife (yes, we did see a bear!!!) to full day hikes…this kid loves the great outdoors!

Taking the Long Way Around | Yellowstone National Park

Taking the Long Way Around | Yellowstone National Park

Taking the Long Way Around | Yellowstone National Park

Taking the Long Way Around | Yellowstone National Park

Salt Lake City, UT

After three days of camping (read: no showers), it was time for some city life! We traveled through Grand Tetons National Park (which I LOVED and really want to go back to explore more!) on our way to Salt Lake City, UT. There, we city dwelled and hit up museums, restaurants, public transportation (Henry’s favorite!) and other downtown gems.

Taking the Long Way Around | Salt Lake City, UT

Taking the Long Way Around | Salt Lake City, UT

Taking the Long Way Around | Salt Lake City, UT

Zion National Park, UT

After the three days of explronig, rest, showers, and laundry in Salt Lake City, we traveled onto one of our favorite stops of the entire trip: Zion National Park. Greg and I love National Parks and hiking (if you couldn’t yet tell), and Zion has long been on our list of places to visit. The scenery, hiking, and amenities were beyond our expectations, and we loved every minute of it. We stayed in a hotel this time (which suits me much better than our tent camping in Yellowstone 😉 and ventured into the park for two full days of hiking and adventuring. Henry yet again rose to every challenge we gave him…even wading quite a ways into the world-famous Narrows! He is STILL talking about how fun it was to hike through the water with our shoes on!

Taking the Long Way Around | Zion National Park

Taking the Long Way Around | Zion National Park

Taking the Long Way Around | Zion National Park

Taking the Long Way Around | Zion National Park

Las Vegas, NV

After a few days in Zion, we were ready for another break from the great outdoors and made our way to our next stop: Las Vegas! Vegas isn’t the most kid-friendly of locations, so after 2 weeks on the road, we were more than happy to stick near the pool, play, relax, nap, visit the dolphins and take in a show. We had near-freezing temps while in Yellowstone and arrived to 112 degrees in Vegas – we really experienced quite the gamut of climates and experiences!

Taking the Long Way Around | Las Vegas

Taking the Long Way Around | Las Vegas

And then onto…

From Las Vegas, we made one more drive into our “new” home town to begin the long process of finding a house and getting settled. But that story is for another day 😉 I am not yet going to tell you where it is, but I’d love to hear your guesses!! And don’t worry…you don’t have to wait too long. Meet me back here on Thursday for the reveal of our “new” home town and “new”/next house!

There are a lot of things I hate about moving, but one of the things I love most is taking advantage of the relocation to see and explore new and unknown parts of this great country! Over the course of 13 days, 6 states, 2400+ miles, 3 National Parks (and 1 Vegas show!), we got to see and experience some truly awesome, beautiful and wonderful things as a family. These moments in between homes are just as much a part of our military adventure as our years stationed in one place, and boy do we try to make the most of it. It was a trip and a summer our little family will never forget!

Megan Signature

Thriving & Surviving Military Life | 10 Things You Should Do In the Month Before a Move

Do you have a move or PCS coming up? Check out these 10 things to do in the weeks before your move!

We’re moving soon. Like…really soon. Seriously. I haven’t talked about it much here on the blog, because honestly, I haven’t done much to get ready for it. For those of you that know me or have been reading this blog for a while, you know that’s totally not like me. Usually Greg and I are running around with our checklists and are researching schools and neighborhoods and looking up houses and making arrangements. But for some reason, we are having a tough time getting ourselves in motion to do the things that need to happen before a move. It’s not that I’m not excited. I’m actually thrilled about our next duty station…and am yearning for the settledness that will come with a longer assignment. Life will be good when we get there…I’m just not in the mood to move.

That sounds so silly because really…is anyone ever in the “mood” to move? After three years at a duty station, I am usually SO ready to go that I am sauntering around the house, pulling things down, and excitedly making plans. But this time…I’m tired. The memory of our move last summer is still so fresh, and I just don’t feel like going through it all again so soon. I wish I could close my eyes and then open them to find it all over. But move we must, and move we shall…and so this is my official kick in the pants to get on it already. I’ve shared a bunch of moving prep posts over the last year, but here are my top 10 things to do in the month leading up to a move. Things you maybe didn’t think about…and the things I’ll be diving in to starting today!

  1. Make a list of things to get done. Last year, I did several posts talking about the various resources we use to plan and organize our moves. Our Smooth Move Binder printables and downloadable Excel spreadsheet have been a huge hit with readers facing an upcoming move (especially military families!), and I think part of the reason I am dragging my feet a bit is because we have a pretty systematic way of getting ourselves and the house ready to move…once we actually start. Our Master Spreadsheet includes every single task we need to get done in order to get our family from point A to point B…from the large (find a house) to the small (put phone chargers in the cars) and everything in between. The clocks a’ticking, so it’s time for us to sit down and assign who, when, and how each item will get done.
  2. Start researching. A lot of the basic and nitty gritty prep work that needs to happen before the moving trucks arrive is captured in the spreadsheets/printables mentioned above. However, I think it’s helpful to call this task out specifically. While it’s true that a lot of things can’t happen until you arrive in your new location, you’ll be able to really hit the ground running if you’ve done some research ahead of time. Narrowing down neighborhoods, school districts, medical/dental offices, and more will help you make decisions and get settled faster on the other side. I am the type of person that usually needs to see things before I commit, but arriving in a new place with a vetted list of options and possibilities helps immensely. Google and curated review sites are a great place to start, but we’ve also found private Facebook groups and friends (more on that below) are the best source of good-quality information!
  3. Reach out to friends/family at next location. We are getting to a point where we’ve been doing this long enough that we now know people at a lot of the bases we might be stationed. Even if our research yields a pretty good understanding of housing, schools, neighborhoods, shopping and other nuances, we find the best and most reliable information comes from those who currently live in our next city/town. Reaching out to friends and family not only gives you the true insider scoop, but also re-connects you to those who might be able to offer you shelter (when you’re tired of living in a hotel), meals (when you’re tired of eating in restaurants), friends for your kids to play with, and items to sustain you before your stuff arrives. The month before you move is a perfect time to reach out, re-establish communication, and make plans to get together once you arrive!
  4. Make a final list of fun things to do in current location. When we move to a new place, we (almost always) arrive with excitement and high motivation to see and experience everything our new town has to offer. But after a few weeks/months, life settles in and our urgency to go out and do things dies down. Then without fail, we find ourselves in the last few months with dozens of things “we meant to do” but never got around to. In the last 6-8 weeks before you move, sit down as a family and decide what places and events you still really want to check out before moving. Get them on the calendar so you’ll be sure to make time for them amidst the busyness!
  5. Eat up your pantry and freezer foods. We’re moving very soon, but by the looks our our pantry and freezer, you sure wouldn’t know it! We still have a solid supply of pantry staples, snacks, condiments and freezer items that need to get eaten before we move. So that we don’t have to dump a ton of good food (or secretly stash it so the movers will pack it #ssshhh), this is the time to start baking (to use up that flour, oil, sugar, etc!) and planning meals that specifically use the items you already have. We like to use up a bunch of our pantry items by making freezable meals that we can eat in the final days (when items are boxed up or we’re too tired to cook); just make sure you freeze foods in disposable containers! Now is also a time to curtail your usual grocery shopping habits: instead of buying the large mustard, buy the small bottle; instead of buying a pack of 20 chicken breasts, buy 5; instead of buying…you get the idea! With some planning and forethought, you can really limit how much has to be thrown out at the very end!
  6. Use up propane (and other hazardous supplies). In the same way that you should start proactively eating up your food, the month+ before a move is also a good time to start using up your propane (grill up all your frozen meats!!!), gasoline, cleaning supplies and other hazardous items that can’t be moved and are tough to get rid of. Sure, you can give, sell and trash these items, but by using them up, you’ll get your money out of the products and be less wasteful!
  7. Schedule final outings with friends. Whether we’ve lived somewhere for one year or three, we always make good friends that we don’t want to say goodbye to. And while saying goodbye is never fun, it’s even worse to leave town WITHOUT saying goodbye. I often think I’ll see someone one more time for one last hangout and hug. But the final few days before pulling out of town are BUUUZZAAAY, and all-too-often we end up leaving without saying goodbye. I am learning that it’s really helpful to start scheduling final hang out times with my favorite people in the weeks before things get too crazy. And I suggest going a step further…say and acknowledge that it might very well be the last time you’ll see each other for a while and get your hugs and tears out of the way. Don’t book yourself up too tight near the end, and don’t promise to squeeze in one last visit with someone you’ve already said goodbye to. Those of us that move a lot know that it’s never personal. There’s just too much to get done and sometimes a lot of people to say goodbye to! Say your goodbyes early so you can focus on getting your family out of town at the very end.
  8. Prepare family/home/business for being without stuff. Eeeepp – this is where I REALLY need to get my act together. We’re heading into a situation where we have no idea how long we will be without our stuff. While this is one of the most stressful aspects of moving, we’ve nailed down just what we need as a family to “survive.” (I shared our “must have essentials” for living without your things here!). When you work or run a business however, it can be hard to keep things going during a move. By properly planning ahead of time, it is possible to maintain your online/business presence as necessary. In the month+ before a move, start to talk to your employer/business partners/coworkers/readers(!) about your move. Set expectations for what you can realistically achieve leading up to, during, and right after a move and do as much as you possibly can ahead of time so the business can run along “as usual” while you are moving/unpacking. I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to how to keep this little ol’ (but growing!) blog afloat in the coming months….more on that below!
  9. Purge out unwanted items. I am a really strong believer in purging and getting rid of unwanted things on BOTH sides of a move (before and after). You can read more on my thoughts on the matter here, but this is why in a nutshell. There are certain things in your current home that you may not love or even use right now, but might perfectly fill a certain spot/need/function in the next home. I suggest keeping these items and getting rid of them on the other side if/when you determine you don’t really need them. That said, there are likely certain things in your home right now that no matter how big a home you have on the other end, you just won’t want/need/use them again. These are the things you should get rid of before you move. If you are packing, hauling and loading things yourself, then you certainly don’t need to waste your energy on items you don’t want. But even for those of us whose moves are paid for and packed for us, it is still a waste: a waste of your time, a waste of the packers time, and a waste of money (for whoever is paying for it!). It’s too hard to purge when you’re filling boxes or the movers are knocking on your door…so give yourself plenty of time (like 4-6 weeks) to start going room by room and getting rid of the excess and unwanted clutter.
  10. Hold a garage sale. There are all sorts of ways to get rid of the items you no longer want, but I suggest having a yard sale right before you move, and this is why. Moving is SO expensive. From supplies and hotel fees to gas and new things for the new home, it often feels like you bleed money for a good few weeks before, during and after a move. We like to hold yard sales before and after moves to help ease the burden of all the excess costs. A few extra hundred dollars can pay for meals on the road or paint for your next home, etc. Yes…moving is a busy and stressful time…but if you can swing the stress and work of a yard sale to make a few extra bucks, I highly recommend it! (Get my best yard sale tips here!)

Phew…now I really feel behind!

I wanted to write this post, this week, for a few reasons. One, I haven’t done a Thriving and Surviving Military Life post in a while and moving is yet again on the forefront of our minds; and two…the reality that we are mere weeks away from a move is starting to sink in. I’ve been pouring so much of my time into the blog, new projects, and the Conquer Your Kitchen Crash Course in recent weeks, that we are woefully behind on all the things I have listed out here. Additionally, I really don’t want to the blog to come to a screeching halt the minute they take my computer and craft supplies away. All this to say I am taking my own advice and starting to plan and set expectations now!

Over the next few weeks (while I still have my stuff), I am going to be working super hard to make, photograph and prepare content that I will be able to trickle out over the course of our move. I LOVE and have been working SUPER hard to bring you three posts a week, but I don’t want to run out of content while we move/wait for our stuff. As such, I am going to cut back my posting schedule (temporarily) to just two days a week. This will not only give me a few more hours a week to get ready for our move, but also help me build up some content for you all so we don’t have a big and sudden drought here on the blog! This coming Saturday will be my last Saturday post for a while; I’m going to stick to a Tuesday/Thursday posting for as long and as best I can!!! As always, be sure to check in frequently, stay linked in to social media, and subscribe to my newsletters so you don’t miss any news, content or updates!

For those of you facing a move, I hope you found these tips and insights helpful. For my wonderful and dedicated readers…thanks for sticking with me through this busy time! And for my fellow military spouses or frequent movers, please share other tips and tricks you’ve learned in the comments below! I’ll see you back here on Saturday for our first “final” room reveal posts!

Megan Signature

Thriving and Surviving Military Life: How Do You Tell Your Military Journey?

Military Thriving and Surviving - How Do You Tell Your Military Journey

As most of you regular readers know, we are facing yet another move in a mere 3ish months. Yes, you read that right. Yes, we just moved into our current home last summer…yes, we are getting ready to move again. And no…we have no idea where we’re going. Humph. However, in this Thriving and Surviving Military Life post, I am not going to lament how frustrated and anxious I am about our upcoming move. (In fact, I wrote a post almost exactly one year ago about what it’s like waiting for orders…and if you’re curious about how I’m holding up these days, just read that post. It’s all pretty much true right now too!) As you might expect, our life is currently consumed with where we are headed, when we will go, and everything we have to do to get ready. And while I’m certainly stressed about the uncertainly and work that lies ahead of us, this time is always filled with some excitement too…because it’s fun and exciting thing think about what kind of life awaits us next!

In the 12 years Greg has been in the Marine Corps and we’ve been living the military life, we’ve been blessed to live in some amazing places…5 of them to be exact! We’ve made some amazing friends, seen and experienced wonderful things, and learned about the world in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if we stayed in our home town. Our perspective has always been to see as much of the world/country as we can before we have to pick a place and settle down for good. As such, we try (as much as possible) to live in a new place each time. As much as moving and setting up a new life every few years is challenging (#hugeunderstatement), we do take a lot of pride in our military journey. It’s part of who we are, what we do, and what we, as a family, believe in.

There’s a saying that the things in your home should tell your story. That when visitors come into your home, the things you have displayed should speak about you as a person, your likes, your passions, your faith…your journey. We have always tried to share our military journey with the things in our home. Today, I thought it would be fun to show you the various ways we’ve told our story over the years…as well as share a few more ideas that you who move frequently might want to try too!


One of the most obvious ways to tell your journey and show the places you’ve been and lived is through photos. Both in California and Virginia, we displayed oversized photos of all the places we traveled in the previous years. No, these images are not the places we lived, but this idea could easily be adapted to show favorite memories of each place you’ve lived, the house at each place, a landmark from each place, etc.

Quantico Living Room

State Artwork

As most of you long-time readers know, I’m partial to sharing our journey through state artwork. In our last house, we displayed our journey like this:

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

…and I improved upon this concept (and added our current location!) when we moved into this house last summer. (You can read how I made these State Silhouettes here!) Both in our last home and this one, these prints are some of the most commented on and asked about items in our home. They instantly tell our journey and usually spark great conversations! There are so many great ways to adapt this idea and I’ve included a mini roundup down below!

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey


Greg and I have one more way that we like to commemorate our military story…and it’s probably my most favorite. It’s not something we display for all to see, but it is my best collection of all: my charm bracelet. My Mom, who was also a Marine spouse, had a charm bracelet and I remember looking at it as a kid. Each time Dad went away, he would bring her home a charm; and they would also collect charms of the places they went together. The year Greg joined the Marine Corps, he gave me a charm bracelet (on Dad’s recommendation, of course!) Ever since, we have filled that bracelet (and started a new one) with all the places he’s been on military-related trips and deployments, as well as the locations we’ve been together. As you can see, I need to get some of them attached and there are actually so many more (these are just our military ones). But gosh, we LOVE pulling out my bracelets and charms and looking through our journey. Some charms represent bases we’ve lived at, others represent deployments (I have quite a few camels from the Middle East ;)…but we both know what each and every one represents. Aside from the miniature representations of real life places…what I love most is that without fail, Greg always remembers. He always comes home with a charm, and I always look forward to seeing it. I don’t need rugs or fancy jewelry from exotic places, but I do love my charms. I don’t wear it often, but these sure bring me so much joy and pride! What a life we’ve had already!

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

Other Ideas for Telling Your Story

From Christmas ornaments to collages, there are SO many fun and creative ways to tell your story! Here are some other ideas to try!

(Please pin from original source!)

Engraved State Home Coasters via Make It and Love It

(via Make It and Love It)

Home State Scrap Wood Art via Make It and Love It

(via Make It and Love It)

Map Decor via Made From Pinterest

(via Made From Pinterest)

Signs from LL Bean

(via LL Bean)

Map With Pictures via Cut Craft Create

(via Cut Craft Create)

State Photo Collages via Minted

(via Minted)

DIY State Ornament via Artzy Creations

(via Artzy Creations)

These Military Life posts often spark some of the best conversation in the comments! So tell me, if you’re a frequent mover, do you tell your story somehow? Do you collect and/or display things from each place you’ve lived? Do you have a creative way of sharing your journey? I’d love to get more ideas, so share in the comments below!

Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

I hope you all have a great weekend! I’m hoping to do some significant blog maintenance that will hopefully solve my site loading/cacheing issues for good. I should be back here on Tuesday like usual, but if not, know it’s because I’m working out a few things behind the scenes! See you soon!

Megan Signature

Thriving & Surviving Military Life: Dealing With Stuff That Doesn’t Fit In the New House!

Military Thriving and Surviving Life | Dealing with Stuff That Doesn't Fit in the New House!

In my Thriving and Surviving Military life posts over the last year, I had a tendency to focus (mostly) on the emotional toll this life takes on spouses. These are absolutely valuable posts (and they generate some of the best interaction with you guys!), but they take a lot out of me to write, and I have to wait until I’m ready to dive into certain topics. My hope with this series has always been to not only give a glimpse into the various challenges, opportunities, highs and lows of military life…but also to provide tips and tricks for weathering it all. It recently occurred to me that there are also some lighter, even comical, topics I can talk about too. Today’s topic came from a Reader Survey response, and is actually something I’ve wanted to talk about too: what to do with all the stuff you love but just doesn’t fit into the new house. I hinted on Thursday that I’d be sharing a dirty little secret with you today…are you ready to see it? Get your pin buttons ready folks…and take a peek at my Pile o’ Stuff!

Military Thriving and Surviving Life | Dealing with Stuff That Doesn't Fit in the New House!

(Hanging head in shame.)

I can’t believe I am posting these pictures on the Internet for all to see. I constantly tout that I hate clutter, I hate piles, I hate full garages, and I firmly believe in the power of regular purging. And all these things are true. But there is something else that is true for those of us that move a lot: sometimes things just don’t fit right, but it doesn’t make sense to get rid of it all every time either. And so…I would venture a guess that most of us military families have a pile like this sitting somewhere in our garage, basement, storage unit, etc. (Please tell me I’m not alone here!)

What all is in my Pile o’ Stuff, you ask? Oh! All sorts of things! To start there are the usual things many of you probably have stored too…baby clothes and furniture we’d love to be able to use again and random project items waiting for inspiration to strike. But what is mostly in this pile are good-quality, usable, functional items that we’ve used in homes in the past to meet particular needs, but we just don’t have space or place for them now. These things include drawer organizers, frames, floating shelves, lamps/lighting, bins/baskets, and decorative items.

Military Thriving and Surviving Life | Dealing with Stuff That Doesn't Fit in the New House!

It’s a pain to move stuff from house to house and never use it. It’s a pain to find storage places for these things (especially when base housing tends to be low on storage!). So if we don’t have a use/places for these items, then why keep them? The answer is a simple one: because we MIGHT need them in the next house or maybe even in the house after that.

Military Thriving and Surviving Life | Dealing with Stuff That Doesn't Fit in the New House!

If you’re a long-time reader of the blog, then you know I am passionate about making a house work perfectly for you during the time you live there. I thrive in brainstorming solutions, finding the right pieces to fill awkward nooks, and creating ultimate function where there is none. I don’t like cramming things in that don’t fit, and I really don’t like wasted space. And while some items translate from one space to the next, this approach often requires hunting down and/or creating new, tailored items specifically for that home. I certainly don’t believe in carrying around everything we’ve ever bought from house to house (we did have 4 garage sales last year, remember?!?), but it can be costly and wasteful to buy and sell off and buy and sell off with every single move. Because I am a purger and like to have clutter-free spaces, I have been guilty of selling things off (usually at garage sales) only to re-buy it years later because the need arises yet again. This is the frustrating (and sometimes costly) reality that military families face. Get rid of it and possibly have to re-buy it down the road, or carry it around from home to home…state to state…country to country…and maybe never use it again. It’s a fine line to walk and not an easy situation to wrap up into a clean little solution. And while I am certainly not perfect at it (do you see that big pile in our garage?!?), I do want to share a few tips that might help you keep a bit of control on the stuff you do keep and help you decide what to do with the stuff that just doesn’t fit next time you move!

Before You Move

I’m a big advocate of purging both before AND after a move, and this is why: there are things you just don’t want anymore no matter how much space or money you have…so don’t even bother moving them! On the other hand, there are items you may not love but they can fill a need in the new place until you find just the right thing. I say bring them along, and then get rid of them on the other side if/when you no longer need them. Before the moving trucks even arrive, I recommend the following:

  • Get rid of any items that you really, really don’t like
  • Get rid of any items that are broken or severely damaged
  • Get rid of any items that you know you are going to replace on the other side and you won’t need in the meantime
  • Get rid of items that will not survive a move in tact
  • Get rid of any items you absolutely won’t need again

When You Move In

For most of us (I think), a majority of our belongings are things we love and will make the “final cut.” Move everything you love and absolutely want/need in your home into places first. As you identify storage and/or decorative needs, visit that pile of things you don’t absolutely love and see if you can tweak/alter them to make it work in your new space. Depending on how badly you need to solve a functional or decorative problem (as well as how long you will be there and your budget constraints), then go shopping for items to make your new home work just right.

After You’re Moved In

Once you are moved in, everything you love has been given the right place inside the house, and you’ve solved a majority of your functional and decorative situations, you are most likely still left with a slew of stuff that didn’t make the final cut (see my pile above). What do you do now? Again, the answer is not a one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re going to be living in the new home for a while, I tend to suggest that most things can probably go (unless it’s something super special or a family heirloom you just don’t have space for). Three years is a long time to keep items stored, and if you really loved or needed said item you probably would have found a place for it. However, if you’re going to be re-locating fairly quickly (within 18 months), I suggest keeping a reasonable number of items that might be useful in the next home.

What to Keep

I’m a purger (and a shopper), so I try to get rid of a lot with each move. Here are things I tend to always keep from home to home:

  • Storage solutions: good quality bins, baskets, containers, organizers, and drawer dividers. You just never know what kind of cabinets and closets you’ll encounter!
  • Furniture: it must be in good shape, has solid future potential, can be easily stored/protected, and/or can serve multiple functions.
  • Shelves: we find that both floating and cubby shelves are worth keeping. Not only can they usually be used from home to home, they are also easy to store. You can even use the shelves to store other items you choose to keep/store!
  • Lamps: lamps are expensive and when you find some you love, I say keep them. Since each room and each house has a different lighting story, it’s worth holding onto good lamps for the next space.

All that said, I do try to corral what I keep into a single, defined area. It can be easy to keep anything and everything, but then you may be left with a garage or basement you can’t use. Give yourself a defined amount of space to keep what you want/need, and stick to it. Get rid of the rest.

My #1 Tip

Re-evaluate everything with each and every move. It can be really easy to keep dragging items from home to home and never use them. It is also easy to never unpack certain boxes and just keep moving them along. Because many of us have a tendency to buy at least a few new things for each new house, things can really start to pile up if you don’t take the time to re-assess every few years. You don’t have to do a major purge and overhaul every single time, but try to be intentional about what gets moved and what ultimately stays in your life home after home!

Ha! I thought this would be a short and sweet post! I think this post is somewhat driven by guilt, because I do hate that pile of stuff in our garage so much. But I also know that since we are literally moving into another home in 5 short months, it would be silly to get rid of things that could fill certain needs in the next house. My goal for our next home, which we should be in for three years, is to not have such a pile but to be more intentional and committed to the things in our home. That said, it’s a reality that there will ALWAYs be a pile, it’s just a matter of how big 😉

Military friends or frequent movers, tell me your best tips for making decisions on what stays and what goes. And how do store it all? How do you make sure not to be wasteful but not keep too much? Share in the comments below!

Happy weekend friends! See you back here Tuesday with the next FREE printable!Megan Signature