Ye ol’ PCS. A few years ago we got lucky. Not only did we have a good move to Kansas, but we also knew our next duty station a full six months in advance. While we had a good move overall, there are always small things that can improve a military PCS.
Today I want to share what we should have done, and what I will be doing for our next CONUS PCS. Social parting rituals won’t be fleshed out here, just the logistics of packing the house and getting on to the next adventure. If you’re interested to read about the social aspects please email me and I’ll get a post up: email@example.com.
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The moment you receive orders, or know that you’re definitely moving to X, sit down. Look around your house and your neighborhood. Focus on the things that you love and make it a point to enjoy them while you can. It’s not unusual to hear me mutter “man, I am going to miss this size pantry” or “I love looking out this window, I’m missing it right now.”
☐ Appreciate small things more often
While you enjoy the small things, go ahead and open all of the closets and kitchen cupboards if you can. Do you really love -all- of it? This is the time to purge and start donating like a madman. Hopefully you’ve been at that duty station long enough to know where you can donate items, because unpacking one box of things you love is better than unpacking three boxes of things that are okay. During this prime-purging time (in May 2017) I was finishing my undergraduate degree, then traveling. A bunch of crap was packed because I didn’t have the time to purge more.
☐ Donate household goods
☐ Donate clothes
☐ Recycle or dispose of low quality items
create meals around what I have
While you’re getting things out of the house, don’t neglect your refrigerator, freezer, pantry, and liquor cabinet. I am a super menu planner, so it’s easy to look at my perishables and create meals around what I have. We ate everything edible and threw away old condiments. Good ingredients, like my beloved pistachio oil, were given to civilian friends who love cooking. The liquor cabinet was easy, just host a small party with a two drink minimum. Clubs do it, why not me?
- Related: The MilSO’s Three Different Friends
☐ Eat frozen perishables
☐ Eat refrigerated perishables
☐ Eat pantry foods
☐ Donate or dispose of remaining non-expired condiments
☐ Dispose of all expired or frost bitten foods
items match their manifest
So now your home only contains the things that will get packed up, way to go!
Now you need to make sure all of the jewelry is in one place, and start a High Risk / High Value area. The movers aren’t supposed to move jewelry, so locate those class rings and the things you don’t wear often -these will move with you. Physically putting all of the high value things in the same place helps the packers get it right the first time. Once we pointed out a high value painting to packer #1, but packer #3 boxed up all of the art. They didn’t communicate, and I had to open all of the packed art to locate that one custom piece that wasn’t listed as high value. The lesson learned was don’t expect the packers to communicate to each other. Another nice thing about grouping the high value items is that you can easily photograph everything to be extra sure that the items match their manifest. You can go the extra mile and record models and serial numbers now too.
☐ Consolidate jewelry
☐ Create High Risk + High Value area
…hide in the car
Set up a Do Not Pack area. The kitchen table is ours, but you may need a closet or bedroom. Tell each packer that the area will not be packed. Be kind, but be direct and look them in the eyes. This table has my purse, the house keys, laptops, and the like. Think of the things you want to move with, but don’t need to hide in the car. Yes, hide in the car. I move my high dollar purses & designer pieces myself because I don’t feel like arguing values with a packer who doesn’t understand why that one jacket is a $1,000+ item. Because it’s Yigal Azrouël, that’s why.
☐ Designate a Do Not Pack area
☐ Hide things in your car that don’t need packed
On pack day you just need to be available for the packers in case they have questions, but there’s little they need to ask. Most families require more than two full packing days, so be aware of that if you’re gearing up for your first PCS. What determines the number of packing days depends on how much stuff you have and how many packers you have. This estimate is usually made early in the process, shortly after the service member starts talking with TMO.
☐ Be available for questions
Keeping busy while the packers box up my life is difficult for me. Part of me wants to help, but I know it would be a hinderance. Supervising the pack crew while dealing with post-Tokyo jetlag was difficult. They were working hard and I was spiking my coffee at 9 a.m. trying to keep my eyes open. What I did in the end was browse Amazon and started drafting some reviews. I liked that because I was working too. Meanwhile, provide them some water at least; water bottles are easy to procure and being kind makes a difference. Obviously you can do more, it’s all up to you. I like to provide lunch, but it’s not always guaranteed.
☐ Don’t micromanage the packing crew, let them work
☐ Provide water bottles
ask them to back off
As the packers work, they will label the boxes and and note the contents. Before they leave you will have the opportunity to look over everything. Some people like to rush this because they are ready to leave. Take your time, ask them to back off if they’re being too pushy. This is how I found that custom painting that was not on the high value list. That’s how I changed the description of “Fry Daddy” to “rice cooker”…because we don’t own a Fry Daddy. It’s your stuff, take the time you need to make it right. Also, I found that they accidentally misnumbered an entire sheet, so I caught and corrected that too.
☐ Don’t be rushed to approve
☐ Read the item descriptions
☐ Help the packers correct information as needed
☐Record your lot numbers and sticker colors
When they are all done, your home will be full of boxes, furniture, and whatever is in your Do Not Pack area. They should remove excess boxes, paper, and tape. Sometimes they will leave some of those items, and it’s okay. People are always asking for boxes at the beginning of PCS season. Bid them adieu and thank them for packing up your home.
☐ Say goodbye to the packing crew
Now that everything is packed and labeled, it’s time for the loading crew. Sometimes you’ll have an entire night between crews (you planned to eat out this night, right?!), but you might not. The packers might be working on that last bedroom while the other boxes are getting loaded into the truck. This also happens. As usual, be kind and available. Offer those cool refreshing water bottles. Be available for questions and stay out of their way. This is when I hide more things in my car, like my packed carryon and bag of dog toys -because I would be at a huge loss if either were accidentally loaded. Don’t let that happen. Keep your keys in your pocket, be vigilant, and enjoy not having to move that couch. And heavy desk.
☐ CONSTANT VIGILANCE
This post is part of my PCS Series. If this was meaningful for you, take a moment to see the other posts in the series:
- PCS “Spring” Cleaning
- The Good in Goodbye
- Planning a Smooth HHG Pack Out
- Planning Your HHG Arrival
- How to Navigate a New Duty Station
- New Duty Station Resources You Need
If you’re interested in hearing about our typical non-PCS-season life, you can subscribe to Lady Jupiter Podcast. New episodes typically upload once a week and share the normal and boring side of our military life. Available for free on iTunes!