The BEST Moving Advice From Experienced Military Spouses
“It’s PCS Season!” Say what?!?! Unless you’re a military family (or associated with the military in some way), that phrase probably doesn’t mean much to you. But if you are a military family, it means a whole lot! PCS means “Permanent Change of Station”…which is really just the military’s way of saying “it’s time to move!” Military or not, Spring marks the beginning of moving season. With military families getting orders, college students graduating and getting new jobs, and school years ending (making it an ideal time for families to relocate), you are likely seeing signs up in front of houses and moving trucks around your neighborhood too. As I sit here today, I am 99.9% sure we are not moving this summer (thank the Lord!), but I know many people are. As such, I wanted to round-up the best of the best moving advice to help make it your least stressful and most organized move ever. And want to know something really fun? Instead of just giving you my point-of-view, I asked a bunch of my military spouses friends to chime in on their greatest tips and tricks too! #goldmine I’ve compiled it all for you here today; and let me tell you, this is a post you’ll want to bookmark for reference if a move might ever be your future!
You guys listen to me jibber jabber week-in-and-week-out around here, so I’m going to hand it over to my savvy friends to share their advice first. These tips, tricks, and ideas are in no particular order…just a bunch of nuggets that will certainly prove useful no matter how big, small, near or far a move you might be executing!
Ziplock bags of all sizes are your friend! You can containerize everything from small toys to clothes. The week before we move, we put everything we can in Ziplock bags… legos, pens, utensils, clothes, tools, stuff from the junk drawer…EVERYTHING. This often acts as a final purge as well. And this exercise makes unpacking so much easier!!! ~Alyson in NC, moved 10 times
Pack your sheets and blankets in your suitcases that get packed in the moving truck. They’ll be easy to spot when they’re unloading the truck, and you’ll be able to make the beds for your first night in your new home! Got this idea from a fellow military spouse. 🙂 ~Katie in WA, moved 5 times
Go through every drawer and closet and donate/sell anything you don’t want to unpack at the next home.
If possible, try not to let your HHG (all your stuff) go into storage, even if that means racing the moving truck to your next stop.
Research your future location to be fully prepared.
Do as much as possible at your current location (dentist, doctor appt, etc) so you aren’t rushing around trying to unpack, get settled, and worry about finding new doctors.
Try to focus on the fact that the new location and situation is all temporary. Even if you are stressed or sad or upset about a move, don’t let your kids catch on. Keep it exciting and fun for them, so they won’t dwell on the negatives i.e. missing friends.
And always, just be thankful you aren’t moving to Fort Still, Oklahoma. Ha!!
~Laura in VA, moved 6 times
Compile all of your packing supplies into one caddy or container so you can easily move them from room to room as you pack. I filled a small cardboard box with permanent markers, packing labels, scissors, box cutters, packing tape and packing material. ~Emily in IA, moved 3 times
Ziplock bag EVERYTHING. All the drawers, silverware, toys, clothes. If it fits, it gets a Ziplock bag. They keep the movers hands off your stuff (less cleaning), keeps things organized, and you can save the bags for the next move. Also, don’t stress about organizing/prep. Do what you can. The movers are coming and moving your stuff either way. It may be easier on the other end if you prep, but the move is happening whether you do or not. I had one move where my philosophy was “that’s for the Kim on the other side to deal with”. It was fine. ~Kim in CA, moved 3 times
Definitely start early. This gives you time to organize and purge. Keep camp chairs, blow up mattress and anything essential for basically camping because you’ll be camping out in your new house until your goods arrive! Have lots of wine handy. ~Marissa in CT, moved 7 times
Spend time figuring out what you need for the next three months and pack that. You never know if there will be a hold up getting your things from the movers or with housing, so you want to be prepared. ~Jessica in VA, moved 5 times
Checklists!!! Narrow down the “needs” to the essentials that you and family needs during move and transition period – meaning the length of time you and your stuff are not together. Include important irreplaceable files and papers, chargers for phones and computers. A few special books, toys and a backpack for each child. Pet supplies. Put these items in a separate room like a bathroom that won’t be used if you have movers coming in.
Always do one last back up for hard drives before packing away.
I like to remove art off walls and store hanging hardware so I can reuse and this includes special keys if you have furniture with locks.
If using movers especially, go behind and label boxes with a different color or tape to identify room or bedroom by family member name.
Clean and dry all rugs and roll them up prior to movers coming into house.
I like to pack up my own jewelry and unmentionables because I can’t stand the thought of someone other than me or my husband touching them-ahem.
If it’s a big move-like international-get out the Post It’s with different colors and sort and label by storage, household, and “need first” category like those linens and utensils. If a domestic move, have a box marked for quick identification and put in the odds and ends you need like a pocket knife for opening boxes, TP, paper towels, wipes, bike helmets for kids so they can be riding around in the driveway as you are unpacking and directing.
Take a deep breath, something is always broken or scratched or doesn’t quite fit in the new place.
Save aside extra money- everything costs more than you think 🙂
~Haiden in NC, moved 8 times (3 continents, 3 countries, 4 states)
Create a small parts box that you control (e.g. hardware to put together beds and other furniture). Do NOT allow a moving crew to convince you that its a great idea to leave screws in the furniture as you will inevitably lose them or strip the holes.
Be organized all the time (not just at move time) as this will make for easier and less stressful moves.
~Jennifer in VA, moved 7 times
Do what works for you and your family! Does the thought of a DITY (do it yourself) move stress you out? If so, don’t even consider it. Rather fly than drive? Buy the airline tickets! Would your kids have fun with the packing adventure? By all means, pop up some tents and camp in the living room. Think your kids would be happier with a vacation to the grandparents instead of watching their things go into boxes? Done! We make some choices with our moves that I know wouldn’t work for other families and it’s the same on the other side. You know what’s best for your family and that includes a move.The best laid plan is the one that fits your crew the best! ~Kary in TX, moved 5 times
We like to turn each move (most of ours have been cross-country) into an adventure! Once we had children, we decided multi-room hotel rooms were a must. We now plan our moves to include particular stops and pre-planned hotel reservations. We also select one stop to be a 2-night stop, which has given us not only a new city to add to our family vacation memories, but also a needed recharge before completing the cross-country trek!
Tip: We always talk to the driver of the moving truck. The driver has always given us more detailed information regarding travel time than the company in charge of the move.
~Anna in CA, moved 7 times
Talk to the movers about what you want because they have no idea what your preference is and the person yesterday probably wanted it a different way. I actually shut the door and put tape across that says “Don’t pack” for the rooms I want left alone. I have a little conference with my movers at the beginning of the day and take them on a tour and explain what stuff is going and what is not going.
Empty your trash and the diaper pail before they get there because they will pack it full.
I wash my toilet plungers and wrap them in a plastic bag because they will stick it in a box with your robe and clean towels.
Put your suitcases, important papers, passports anything you don’t want packed in a locked closet labeled with a don’t enter/pack sign or locked in your car.
Ziploc bag and/or garbage bag anything/everything.
I wash all my linens and put them in a big garbage bag with a fresh dryer sheet and set it on the bed. So my bedroom would have my pillows, sheets, quilts all together in a few bags. That way when you get to your new destination you have fresh smelling sheets and they are all together.
I buy gallon Ziplock and really big 2 gallon Ziploc bags and put EVERYTHING in them. Silverware, loose stuff in drawers, cords, kids toys. I just walk around the day before movers come and open a drawer and put stuff in a Ziplock and put back in the drawer. Panties, bras. Anything that has little pieces or I don’t want the movers touching. Some people wash their stuff at their destination but I would rather do Ziplocs.
Hang curtains on hangers and put them in the closet so they end up in a wardrobe box.
I try to put the things I know I will need the first day in a specific spot and after the movers pack those boxes, I put a big star on each side of the boxes so they are easy to spot. Sheets, blankets, some pots and pans, coffee maker, kids toys, shower curtain. Anything you will need the first night. That way when your stuff gets there and the movers leave at 10pm you can find the stuff you need to shower and go to bed!
The night before the movers come, take a video of your entire house room by room. Start each room video with a view of that day’s newspaper. Have your TV on so you can prove it works. I have pictures of all my expensive/most likely to be stolen things. China, tools, guns, electronics with their serial numbers. But nothing beats a video with the newspaper as proof it worked right before the movers showed up.
My biggest tip is to find the stuff you absolutely MUST have and keep track of it, lock it away in the closet or car. Kids, wedding ring, purse, phone, passports, important papers and then just let the movers have at it. Keep the stuff close that will ruin your travel plans and your life if they pack/steal/lose it. Everything else is just stuff and if they break it they will replace it (as long as you have the video…LOL).
Also before packing computers, iPads, any electronics, log out of your accounts and disable the passwords and make a master password for that device so they can’t steal your info if they steal your device.
~Brook in CA, moved 9 times
Start purging and organizing 6 months prior so it’s not overwhelming at the end.
Find a friend who will take all of your remaining food/cleaning products and find a home for them.
Color code boxes with different duct tapes to designate what room they go to.
Don’t forget to empty the water from the iron, take out the trash, and remove batteries.
Keep the TV boxes for repacking.
Put anything you don’t want the movers to pack in the car or a LOCKED room.
Ask for help.
Set aside things that are valuable/precious and let the movers know they matter to you.
If you can’t take jewelry with you, pack it into something like a diaper box.
Last, but not least, pack your own undies!
~Mary in Okinawa, Japan, moved 6 times
Honestly, the best moving advise I can offer is common sense to many. Once you learn of your pack out, start going room by room. Purge what hasn’t been used in the three years you’ve lived in the residence. When movers come, have items segregated by rooms, to help ensure they will be packed together. For us, we don’t like our clothes just thrown in cardboard boxes, so we use the air tight Ziplock bags. ~Erin in Okinawa, Japan, moved 4 times
Organize and declutter BEFORE you move. I’m trying to get better at spending the few months before we move going from drawer to drawer and de cluttering everything. It makes it so much easier to move in to the next place. ~Michelle in UT, moved 5 times
And….I couldn’t help but ask my best friend and partner in all of our moves! Here is what Greg had to say:
Plan with your whole family. Everyone has differing ideas about how a move should go, and getting input from everyone on things like timeline or packup process helps reduce stress and catch details that might get overlooked. Plus, you provide opportunities for your family’s good ideas (e.g., road trip thru some National Parks!) to bubble to the surface. ~Greg in CA, moved 6 times (sorry you had to do that 1 by yourself, Babe!)
And what about my best advice?!? Oh – I’ve written a thing or two, or 23(!!!!!) about moving, so instead of re-hashing it all for you here, click on any post below to read it in more detail!
This post was a lot of fun for me to put together (my girlfriends are too funny and are spot on about so much!!!), and I hope you all found the insights and tips helpful! Obviously, Ziplock bags are a winner (that’s a trick we use too!!); and I’ll quickly add that hot pizza and fresh cookies go a looooong way in keeping your packers/unpackers (professional or not!) happy and helpful! If you have a great moving tip, pretty pretty please share in the comments below. I’d love to keep adding to this post to make it a truly helpful and valuable resource for those undertaking the oh-so-stressful process of a move!
A huge hug and thank you to my savvy friends for chiming in! And just a quick announcement: I’ll be taking next week completely off from the blog and social media. It’s been a really crazy few weeks with the launch of the Toolbox and Greg returning home…and to say we are ALL in need of some serious relaxation and family bonding time would be an understatement! I’ll see you back here on Tuesday, May 15th!
8 Comments on “The BEST Moving Advice From Experienced Military Spouses”
I want to hear about the time your husband had to do the move by himself. 🙂 These are great tips!
All spot on advice! I will add that we designate one room to be for art and tchotchkes. That way you are sorting through a box full of memorabilia looking for bed sheets!
Jen who is in the middle of (literally on the highway right now) her 14th move!
5 states (we repeated a few)
Store your undergarments in plastic shoe boxes – you can take off the kids and they fit perfectly in a dresser and keep you organized. And, when it’s time to move, put on the kids (and secure with some packing tape for good measure).
Before they pack everything up, print out names of each room (you can add the color of the tape/label that coordinated with your moving box labels) and a roll of painters tape. Before the movers arrive at your new location, tape the signs to each room so they won’t have to guess.
My favorite tip is take photos of your existing kitchen drawers and cabinets. Print them out with multiple copies. When you get to your new home, before the movers arrive, you can plan out your kitchen by taping the photos to the cabinets and drawers. Makes the hardest unpacking job super easy (except for all of that packing paper). I also pack drawer liners and slip pads so I can work on lining everything before the truck shows up.
In spite of 4 children, 2 sofa beds and a piano, we were never even close to our weight limit. Therefore, I didn’t do the pre-move purging! I had them pack all the children’s clothes in boxes (we had interchangeable kid furniture – all of it white) so we didn’t always know who would be using what furniture. I didn’t do anything but empty the trash cans – I found after the first 2 times, no matter what, you still have to go through everything!
The overseas move to Germany? (How many pickups WAS that??) Hold baggage, permanent storage, temporary storage, household goods, the stuff you’re traveling with, and shipping the car. That one was particularly heinous.
We moved 12 times, but retired and have been in our current home for almost 21 years. My next move is the cemetery!!
I’m pretty sure I’m not moving, but I loved this post and am definitely saving it, just in case.
WOW! I’m a brand new Marine wife and I know I have SO much to learn! First, thank you for all the wisdom of countless ladies! We are expecting our very first move in November of 2019 or May of 2020 depending on training. I’m so thankful I found your blog!! One of the heartbreaking scares so many wives told me was to get ready for not having a “home” and to get ready to “throw everything away” each move. Your story has given me hope for making a wonderful lovely home where ever my husband and I are stationed! Thank you for the ray of sunshine!
Also, I’ve begun my own little blog to share my own stories with my friends and family. My blog is called “Pearls of History.” I recently posted a fun little article called “Prayer and Craigslist: Making a Home.” This was my first attempt at decorating, budgeting, thrifting, and striving to make us a home!
I look forward to reading more of your tips and tricks! Thanks again and many blessings!
Thanks for reaching out and it’s so nice to “meet” you 🙂 Welcome to the Marine Corps family! I’m glad to hear you found my words encouraging and helpful…this lifestyle can be a crazy ride for sure but there are certainly ways to survive and even thrive!
Good luck with your blog and keep in touch!
I was a military brat and moved 9 times in my dependent and civilian life. As a daughter and a wife. These are some really great ideas and I will be using them when we downsize from our current house to our forever home which is less than half the size! I remember moving from Germany back to the states and unpacking an ashtray with cigarette butts in it and a full kitchen garbage can!!!! Beware, they will pack everything.
I would like to say thank you to all the military spouses for their support to our service men and women and their families. You do so much!