This post is primarily aimed at a military audience, but it also applies to anybody who hires a moving company to help you move all of those pesky boxes.
Here is some quick vocabulary, for the uninitiated
- HHG = Household Goods
- TMO = Transportation Management Office
- PCS = Permanent Change of Station (which ironically is not permanent at all)
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Hopefully you are reading this before your HHGs arrive…because by unload day, you should have an unpack plan ready. And I wanted to share how we’ve done it to help guide you.
The PCS sequence of events should look like this (if you’re not doing a PPM / DITY)
- Start talking to TMO (the service member gets this ball rolling)
- Decide now if the unpack crew will do a full unpack or just reassemble furniture
- Schedule packing company evaluation (where someone comes to your home and estimates the moving weight, and estimates the packing materials they’ll need)
- Walk evaluator through home & garage
- Movers pack your home (this usually takes a few days for a typical home)
- Movers load boxes onto moving truck (you may be offered crates, this is typical of OCONUS PCSes)
- You make a full unpack plan; decide which boxes will go where in the new location (which you probably have seen by now, but not always)
- Unload crew arrives at your new home with your HHG, yay!
- You set up your home
I’m sure you have questions about how to make an unpack plan – I understand! It’s easy to do reflexively after several moves, so I’m being specific for those of you who need a pinch of guidance (or at least a peek into someone else’s thought process).
When Mr. Jupiter and I PCS’d to Leavenworth, Kansas in June 2017 my plan was simple:
- clearly label rooms for the moving crew
- be available for questions
- stay out of their way
Mister and I declined the full unpack. We just wanted boxes in appropriate rooms, furniture resembled, and any empty boxes removed. I labeled rooms for the moving crew and trusted them to put “guest bedroom” boxes in the room labeled “guest bedroom” while I aggressively unpacked the kitchen.
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We made decisions early; working with the packing crew in our old house -early. We made sure that box locations were clearly marked.
For example, instead of “Closet” we were specific about “Master Closet” versus “Guest Closet.” This early clarification made it easy to locate the same boxes in new house. Timeline-wise, we already saw our next home and I took notes and photos so I knew some details, like that the new house had a dedicated linen closet (unlike the old home). I was able to instruct the packing crew to use “Linen Closet” on some boxes even though we didn’t have a linen closet to pack.
Here’s what we do when HHGs arrive
- Meet the unpacking crew, be nice
- Show them the house and signage (be clear that the signs are to help)
- If you have more than one bathroom, be clear about which one is available for their use (with toilet paper, soap, paper towels, and trashcan ready)
- Provide water and maybe sports drinks, show them where they will be (hydration matters, especially for summer moves)
- Make room in the fridge for them (if you have one, some may bring their own lunch)
- Buy lunch for everybody; don’t expect them to bring their own
- Work WITH your crew
Some families provide lunch and tip, some choose one (like us), and others do neither. There is no wrong way, but I am always willing to provide meals. Your crew will be moving all of your heavy stuff, and the promise of a good lunch has helped several of our fragile boxes remain intact. Not just food though, it’s bundled with kindness and respect.
With this particular HHG arrival, Mister Jupiter went out to Sonic for everybody and we all had burgers, fries, and sodas. This was important for a few reasons.
- The crew was only in the moving truck (there was no secondary vehicle for them to take out for lunch)
- Only the supervisor brought a lunch box; the others weren’t going to eat otherwise
- We all like Sonic!
We didn’t eat together if you’re curious. The crew was content on the big shaded porch, and I enjoyed a private meal upstairs. Otherwise Mister Jupiter and I used their lunch break to empty as many boxes as we could. We watched the clock, but only so we could be out of their way when they clocked back in.
By 6pm, the last furniture legs were being applied. I already had the kitchen unpacked (but not organized – that took another day), and the master bedroom closet was mostly unpacked. Husband had the office and TV room set up. We still had boxes in other rooms, but our practical day-to-day goods were ready by bedtime. Reminder – we declined the full unpack. Mister Jupiter and I emptied boxes as fast as we could while the moving crew was bringing everything in. It was a lot of hard work for all of us. They said that they’ve never seen a couple work as hard as we did – probably an exaggeration, but I was able to cook in my kitchen that night.
A little planning and kindness goes a long way! If I didn’t make signs and was exasperated each time someone asked where a box went it would have been a miserable day for all of us. Besides being a good human in general, keep in mind that these guys and gals are busy during PCS season. They move a lot of military families, and it’s easy to support them.
- Settling in? Let’s talk about mail: How to Stop Receiving Other’s Mail at Your New Home
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!