Spring cleaning is something that non-nomads are urged to do each spring, and I love the idea of giving everything a good annual clean also. However military families engage in PCS (Permanent Change of Station) cleanings regardless of season. Sometimes the PCS cleanings happen every 10 months, maybe every four years -it all depends on the active duty member’s career.
The big question though: Is it better to deep clean before or after the PCS? Neither?
Today I want to talk about the benefits of these options, and how I maintain control of all of the stuff without getting too overwhelmed. This article is part of my PCS Series.
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Deep Cleaning Before a PCS
When you clean before packing there are some immediate thoughts:
- Pro = Move less junk overall
- Con = Use new cleaning supplies once
Moving less junk is good (especially if you’re doing a full DITY; without hiring movers) so this is a huge pro. Being active now makes things easier for your future self when you are unpacking in your new home.
If you deep clean before the packing crew arrives then you can spread out the cleaning. Clean the refrigerator seal one day, dust shelves before vacuuming, etc. You can be thoughtful and dust any exposed bulbs early in the morning before they’re too hot to handle.
If you wait to deep clean on the way out then you can access all of the baseboards and dust the fan blades without much hassle. Be advised that the packers aren’t supposed to pack liquids, but they often do -depending on the packer and the liquid. So there’s a 50/50 chance that your cleaning supplies will be packed and that you will need to buy fresh products that will only be used once. You might be able to take them with you, you may not -this depends on your personal transportation situation. Be prepared to leave those new things in the old house or give them away.
Deep Clean After a PCS (in your new home)
Cleaning a new-to-you house also has its ups and downs:
- Pro = You can toss junk in the boxes that the movers remove
- Con = You may not have the time to sort out junk while movers are present
I often leave things in the mover’s boxes and let them take it. It’s quick and easy. I do it for small things. Example, did one of your packers pack up an pile of t-shirt rags…aka trash? It happens. When you can toss obvious junk right away it’s as if the government never paid to move it in the first place.
But there are some immediate cons, like earlier I mentioned that you may not have time to find and toss obvious trash. I’ve even heard stories of crews refusing to take back boxes (which is often contrary to their contract. If box removal was agreed upon, you need to get on the phone with your coordinator right away).
My biggest problem is letting things stay in a box, and not properly purging at all. For example I was looking for something and I opened a box that had an oil filter. What? How did that get into one of my boxes and why have I moved a single oil filter from (California? to) Texas to Arkansas to Kansas?! Nobody knows.
Maybe we need to respect a third option.
Year-Round PCS Cleaning
Cleaning constantly is time consuming, but worth it maybe?
- Pro = Enjoy living in a cleaner home all together
- Con = Every season is Spring
I think this is the best option, at least, it seems to be the best for me. Even when I try to purge as much as I can before PCSing, I still find things that shouldn’t have moved at all. So far I have been using this idea to help me not drown in Amazon boxes. I always keep a box in the laundry room so that I can make sure that our donated clothes are freshly clean, this really works for me. Other boxes are used for general donations.
Tip: if you also re-use Amazon boxes for donations peel off the shipping label before you open the box; the glue is more pliable when fresh so the label comes off easier.
This method of constantly donating goods forces you to really think about what you have. I used to watch a little Hoarders to motivate myself, because after a good segment I would suddenly be ready to GET RID OF ALL OF THE THINGS.
Okay, so maybe now you’re thinking a little more about which PCS Cleaning would work best for you: Before, After, or Year-Round. Maybe you got used to panicking each PCS, I know I did. But I also realized that when things don’t go as I intend I freeze up and can’t be flexible. Year-Round cleaning has helped me retain control over these worldly possessions and it helps me relax because instead of having a huge chore in the future I just have a few small tasks each week.
Maybe you need a different PCS Cleaning option for each move. This makes sense because if you need to dispose of a lot of things you will be bound by your area’s solid waste disposal rules. Let’s say that your family has one trash bin that is picked up each week, then you may not be able to toss large quantities often -this depends on if you fill your bin each week or not. Maybe you live in Leavenworth, Kansas where the city picks up anything on the street -sans bins- this is great because there are very few restrictions. Or maybe you live in a city that uses a Pay-as-You-Throw model. How you manage PCS cleanings is very reliant on your local municipality. This is one of the reasons that we donate as much as we can; it’s less wasteful overall, and I am a firm believer that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Don’t forget the value of the ol’ “Free” sign on items in the driveway! This works great when you live on a well trafficked street. Otherwise you can always post about free things for pick up on Craigslist, Nextdoor, or local garage sale pages on Facebook. The upside is that the items are removed with little effort. The downside is that others know where you live. Use wisely.
In the end we all have the same goal. We want to have a good PCS, and we don’t want to be stressed out by the process or the material goods. Minimalism has it’s upsides, but so does maximalism -we’re all different and that’s amazing.
When do you prefer to do your big PCS cleans? What restrictions do you face?
I am writing a PCS series and if this article 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 more in-depth information on a PCS topic, please email me. I have several posts drafted and if you need one that I am working on I will happily bring it forward. I can be reached at email@example.com.