Tis the season to be PCSing and whether you're feeling super ambitious and flying solo with a DITY move or you've lined up some questionably trained movers to come pack up your life, we want to make this move your easiest.
Take it from someone whose movers packed the leftover Chinese food from the night before that was in a plastic bag next to the door to take to the trash chute (super fun to unpack that nastiness in Guam three months later), packing is essential.
Here are five of our best packing hacks to help you live your best PCS life.
Day one box
Imagine all the things you really need on your first day. Thinking you might want to actually cook a meal after days of takeout? Put a pan in there with some paper plates, silverware and paper towels. Maybe you like pillows and sheets on your bed? Check, check. Do you generally prefer that your shower has a curtain in it? Yep, grab that.
Spend a few days taking stock of the things you actually need in your life and put those together for a "day one box." Make sure it's labeled as such so you can easily identify it, and once you're at your new location you'll be able to get through the first day with just that bad boy and a cocktail or two.
Sort your stuff
Take a page from the Marie Condo book and sort all your things. There's nothing more frustrating than opening 27 boxes and finding six books in each one. It's like a horrible birthday surprise that just keeps on giving. We can promise present you that future you will be so grateful you took the time to sort your things.
What does this look like? Put all your clothes in the same room. All your books in a pile. All your tools. The obscene amount of Christmas decorations. Your crafts. Baseball cards. Any grouping you can make, do it. Sort, my friend. It will make unpacking so much easier on the other side. Plus, we imagine that once you see the unreasonable amount of stuff you have, you're going to want to donate at least half of it. So, you're welcome.
Anything that needs to be taken apart to fit in the truck will be, and we can more or less guarantee you that the screws needed for that one bookshelf in your office will somehow end up with your forks.
Save yourself a giant headache and 19 trips to the hardware store at your next duty station by taking apart anything that can be, ahead of time. Then, put the hardware in a labeled plastic bag so you know what it goes to. You can either duct tape that plastic bag to that piece of furniture, or store all of your hardware together in a tackle box to put in your "day one box."
While you should be taking pictures of everything you own before it goes onto that black hole that is your moving truck, we also recommend taking pictures of how the assembled furniture is supposed to look once it's put back together for easy reference.
Speaking of taking pictures, this moving hack will save you hours of frustration, Googling and potentially electrocution. Take a picture of the back of your television, appliances, electronics… really anything with multiple wires.
Sure, you think you know know that the red cord goes in the plug on the left, but wait until you've spent six days in a car with toddlers asking every five minutes when you're going to be there. You're not going to remember your middle name, let alone where the cords go. Save yourself the headache and take a picture of anything that's hooked up for easy reference of how to re-hook-it-up (technical term).
Egg carton jewelry
Your jewelry somehow survived the trip without finding its way into a pocket or spilled on a sidewalk, and now you have the next five hours of your life that you'll never get back to spend on untangling it.
Or, skip the hassle and put necklaces and bracelets into the compartments of an egg carton. Bonus points for the fact they'll have a nice little cushion. If eggs can make the trip from the farm to the grocery store, so can strands of pearls.
Moving is hard enough as it is. Packing doesn't need to be. Use our five hacks and visit PCSgrades to learn how to simplify your PCS life. From how to move to how to find a realtor and everything in betwee, PCSgrades has you covered.
This post is sponsored by PCSgrades.
In military life, there is really nothing more stressful than a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Deployments are a close second, but a PCS takes the cake. Combine a PCS with a deployment and not only do you want to eat all of the proverbial cake, you want to guzzle copious amounts of wine, too. We see you. Cheers.
One company, PCSgrades, is trying to make the PCS process feel more like a three-letter acronym than a four-letter expletive. Founded by veteran Todd Ernst, PCSgrades is the epitome of the military community taking care of its own. "PCSing has an emotional connotation," said Ernst. "We use it as an adverb, adjective, a noun and even as a cuss word."
Ernst started PCSgrades in 2015 after seeing friends struggle with unethical real estate agents and being taken advantage of by moving companies who knew DoD would be a paying customer no matter how poorly the companies treated their clients - us.
Here are 4 resources PCSgrades provides that you need to make moving easier:
1. Housing reviews
Does it get any more stressful than finding out where you're going to be stationed, Googling base housing at that station and getting results from 15 years ago (if you find anything, at all)? Nope, no it doesn't.
PCSgrades is changing the game on that by having military families who live in an area provide honest, candid reviews of their housing so incoming families can benefit. With reviews of both on and off base locations, families can finally get the truth about housing, whether it has black mold or the best views in town.
2. Moving company reviews
Great, you've figured out where to live; that's half the battle. The other, larger, more complex half? Figuring out how your stuff is going to get there. Knowing someone else will be handling your personal property and driving away with it for the foreseeable future is stressful enough. But not knowing what that company's background is, well that's a whole different ball game.
PCSgrades has countless reviews of moving companies provided by military families who have used them. Let's be honest: You wouldn't try a new Chinese delivery place without looking at reviews … why should picking a moving company be any different?
3. Area guides
The giant Google machine can only get you so far in life when you're researching your new duty station. We know you're busy and you want one-stop shopping on the interwebs. What you really need is aggregate data of things like schools to attend, restaurants to try, day trips to take and neighborhoods to avoid.
Introducing Area Guides, which offer exactly that: a holistic view of where you're moving and what to do once you get there. The best part? These are written by military families who have done it, for military families who are doing it.
4. Network of realtors and resources
PCSgrades has a nationwide network of A-graded realtors who know and understand the military and veteran lifestyle. Many of the realtors are veterans or spouses themselves, which takes the empathy to a whole new level. Having a realtor who gets the pressures of PCSing and the challenges of a military move is key to finding the right home for your family.
"I have friends who are hundreds of thousands of dollars upside down after bad home choices," Ernst said. "Housing choices can be pretty limited. Our moves are way more expensive than the typical civilian move." This is why Ernst created a way to alleviate the pain points for military families through PCSgrades.
In addition to a network of realtors, PCSgrades partners with "HomeScout," which allows you to search up-to-date home listings nationwide. Simply create an account with PCSgrades and the realty world is your oyster.
Whether you're looking for a new neighborhood, trying to find a vetted realtor, need a PCS checklist (let's be honest, is it on your radar to look at the expiration date of your military ID card two months before you PCS? Yeah, we know the truth; download the checklists here), or you're just wanting to know more about where you're heading, PCSgrades is making moving easier for every military family. Pay it forward by leaving reviews and be sure to take advantage of their excellent resources, today.
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
Yeah! You got orders to (insert foreign country overseas)! You can already picture your kids in the international school, speaking with cute little accents and wearing local garments. Adorbs. You've got your housing picked out, adventures planned and passport photos taken. You're ready for your epic move ... except for that 13 hour plane ride. Have you wrapped your head around that yet? Before you grab for a paper bag and start hyperventilating, use our travel hacks to help make the emotional turbulence you're experiencing a little lighter.
We've all said it: "We'll drive. It won't be that bad." We picture the adventure, the memories, the nostalgia of car trips when we were younger.
But if we're really being honest with ourselves, think back to those car trips. Someone was crying. Someone was puking. Someone was whining. That person very well may have been your poor mother. True story, my mom once got out and walked along the highway when all six of us kids wouldn't stop fighting. A long car trip can be daunting, but with our tips and tricks they don't need to be.
WE ALL HAVE OUR SHARE OF HORROR STORIES WHEN IT COMES TO MILITARY MOVING!
Name the most disgusting item erroneously packed by your movers… for me it was used coffee grounds and of course, trash. For others, I've heard everything from wet towels to dirty diapers. I've caught movers raiding my fridge, lounging on my mattress in my front yard, and throwing out items that they've broken. Raise your hand (or have a drink) if you ever had packers show up late (or not at all). Ever had packers get into a shouting match among themselves as they were packing your china? Or have you caught your movers throwing boxes down the stairs to the basement? That would be me!
With each military move, there are "lessons learned". For instance, I won't go into great detail but let's just say after watching one packer go directly from using the restroom back to packing my kitchen without washing his hands, we now use gigantic ziplock bags to "pre-pack" all my kitchen utensils. A packers' bare flesh has never again touched one of my kitchen utensils.
My family's last military move was by far the shortest, only 1½ miles up the road. We were moving from a rental to a home we purchased. It was by far the worst in terms of damage and overall angst. I think because we were only "moving up the road" the pack job left a lot to be desired. I found one box of dishes which had not one piece of wrapping paper! Instead two throw pillows from my family room were used as a buffer! Amazingly, nothing was broken! Go figure!
When I heard glass shatter in the moving truck, I asked one of the guys what shattered.
There are any number of reasons why in a given situation renting might be better than buying or vice versa. For military families, it might make more sense to buy at one duty station and then rent at the next. Up for consideration with each PCS is whether to buy or rent, to stay on-base or off. In making these decisions, there are numerous pros and cons to consider.
PROS TO BUYING
- Purchasing the right home can be a great financial investment that can grow in value over time.
- Tax deductions such as mortgage interest and property taxes can greatly reduce your overall income tax burden if you itemize.
- Being a homeowner can give you pride of ownership and a sense of stability, rare in the military life which can seem nomadic at times.
- A mortgage payment that is lower than your BAH can result in a boost to your savings.
- You can decorate however you want! Goodbye white walls! Hello, Color!
- Anyone can stay with you at any time. So it is not a problem when your Mom or sister comes for an extended stay during a deployment or following a PCS.
- You can do (almost) whatever you want….host a late night party, plant a garden, knock a wall down!
- There are no security or pet deposits when you buy a home.
- You have the opportunity to become a landlord when military orders arrive and you have to move. Your home can become an investment property, providing a source of income which can partially or totally offset your mortgage, taxes, and insurance payments.