As every military family knows – a PCS can be challenging and stress inducing. (Hey, wait… P-C-S: Personally Challenging and Stress inducing. Well that makes a lot of sense now!) Thankfully as the military community continues to network and grow in personal relationships and through social media, we have a plethora of resources at our hands to help plan, conquer and divide (quite literally). Whether you are planning your very first PCS or your fourteenth, there are always new ideas out there to help the process go smoothly.
As an Army spouse, I’ve moved 8 times in the past 12 years, and have done everything from watch in horror as my newlywed lingerie collection came tumbling down the staircase; to sitting in a hot, empty German house and breastfeeding a 7 day old baby as odiferous German moving men meandered around me. By honorable mention, I have made an epic 20 hour drive with a 3 year old from the East Coast to the armpit of Hell (Fort Polk, Louisiana) – by myself and arrived at our new rental house that had sat vacant for 6 weeks amidst the sweltering Louisiana summer. Close yours eye for a moment and envision black widow dens in the living room, mold growth in the fridge worthy of hazmat suits, and a swarm of maggoty fruit flies moving around inside the microwave.
I kid you not, this was my arrival party. Someone should have thrown a Cottonmouth snake into the bathtub just for good measure. If it hadn’t been for my supportive sister who traveled the last leg with me, I’d probably still be curled up in the fetal position rocking myself and repeating several cliché mantras at once, “Home is Where the Army Sends You, Put Your Big Girl Panties on and Deal with it, Keep Calm and Carry On. “ (that may or may not have happened, I’ll never tell).
In the true resilient and adaptive spirit that Army families embrace, I’ve tried to make the best of these experiences and learn from them, in hopes to make the next transition, if not easier, at least something else to grow from. So as to not appear to be playing the “hurry up and wait Army game” – here are my five tips for easing the PCS experience.
- Buy Baggies. LOTS of them. While I normally strive to be eco- friendly and limit plastic waste, each PCS is just a lapse of environmental awareness that I’ll continually forgive myself for. As movers often don’t really care for your personal goods or the order they find them in, I’ve found that pre-bagging everything from silverware drawers, toys and craft items, saves me a lot of time on the unpacking side and also assists in the time the movers spend in my house. (Disclaimer: I don’t like strange people all up in my space).
Drinks on the House:
- Stock your fridge with water and pop (sorry, raised in Iowa, I still call it pop. Aka: soda, soft drink beverage, Coke). Let the movers know they can help themselves to the drinks whenever they need. Helps boost morale for the mission at hand. We’ve also provided coffee and donuts in the morning or a pizza at lunch. Really, whatever was most convenient and affordable for us at that particular time. I’ve just found that just offering something sets the tone for the relationship, as they man handle every single one of your personal items for the next 2-3 days. (Disclaimer reminder: I don’t like strange people touching my things).
- Choose one room in your house that is easy to clear out before the movers show up (often a master bathroom or small office). Move everything out of that space and use it to store the items you DON’T want packed. The items you’ll need as you travel and spending those final days in an empty house: essential paperwork, car top carrier, dog kennel, pack n play, wine, suitcases, toys, wine, cleaning supplies, wine, etc… (They won’t pack the wine, so you might as well use it while you can). The day the movers come, tape a sign to the door that says “DO NOT ENTER. DO NOT PACK THIS ROOM.” And then lock it from the inside. Seriously. This is the only way to be sure that what you need when you need it, will still be there.
What’s Behind Door #1:
- Label the rooms in your house. Put up a sign on the master bedroom door that says “Master Bedroom”. Label your kids’ rooms as “Thing 1” and “Thing 2”. I have found this very helpful for movers, so as they pack up a room they can label the boxes with the corresponding room. Place the same signs on the doors of the rooms when the boxes are delivered, even though the guys delivering the items will be different, the labels will match up with the rooms and (most) everything should make it to right location. Saves a lot of time, explanations and confusion when unloading.
Vacuums: The Last Frontier:
- Set your vacuum aside and tell the movers it’ll be the last item to pack up and load into the truck. I do this for various reasons. Dirt, crumbs, toddlers, dogs, boots, tape, boxes – just to name a few. There is always some foreign debris situation going on in the house, so it’s handy to have the vacuum accessible. On the loading day, I’ll even vacuum in rooms behind the movers as they’ve cleared them out and take that opportunity to check that everything has been packed up and moved out. (No hidden GI Joes stuck in closet door jams or precious long last pearl earrings hiding out in the crease between the carpet and floorboards). In my mind, a vacuumed room is mission complete!
I am pretty sure there are entire self help books written for the PCS adventure alone, so I by no means intend to encapsulate all the tips, ideas, and ways that military families make it work. Please feel free to send us your ideas and tips, there is always the opportunity to share more. In one final word of PCS encouragement: It’s a transition and things will settle down!
Erica is the Call Dibs Brand Manager, full time Army wife, and mom of two boys (8 yrs and 3 yrs.) She is an Army spouse of 12 years and has been stationed at Fort Rucker, Germany, Fort Riley, Fort Polk. NPS Monterey, Fort Lee, and headed back to Fort Polk this summer. That’s 8 PCS moves in 12 years. She is an experienced Child Development Specialist and has worked with Army families for 10 years through Family Readiness Groups and Army Child, Youth, and School Services.