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Military spouses have many super powers. At the top of the list is mover-extraordinaire and master of the PCS season. After you’ve scouted out and planned out your new duty station, you’re feeling pretty good. The movers are coming next week to wrap up your life for a little while, now what? You grab your notepad or PCS binder (for the seriously serious mover) and get to work.

All Your Things

The military family will move, on average, every two to four years. There are weight limits based upon your service member’s rank. Knowing what the moving allowance is for your family is the first thing you should do. After that, think about the places you could possibly be moved to and plan for your potential spaces. We’ve never purchased big or expensive pieces of furniture because you could be in a tiny shoebox of a house for one season of your life and a spacious one the next. We’ve watched many friends pay for storage units for their expensive furniture that just wouldn’t fit in their new house.

The PCS purge

It never fails that every PCS season, you’ll see all the social media posts of spouses trying to sell things. The great purge of the year begins around April and lasts through July. Another person’s trash is someone else’s treasure; it’s the best time of year! The purging method is a way you can ensure you are never over your weight limit for your move. Haven’t used something in a year? Goodbye. Purging puts extra cash in your pocket for that epic family road trip and gifts items to people who really needed them, everybody wins.

  • Go through all your clothes - use the one-year method for this, too. If you haven’t worn something in a year, pack it up to be donated to your local shelter. This goes for your service member and children’s clothing, as well.
  • Sort through your children’s toys, make it a project for them. If they haven’t picked a toy up in six months – have them pack it into a box for donation. Empower them to feel good about this by reminding them how much these gently used toys will mean to the next child who gets to play with them.

Organized chaos

Don’t wait for the movers to show up to start packing: this is a rookie mistake that I wouldn’t wish upon a worst enemy. As you sort through your life, begin putting the “can’t lose this or I’ll lose my mind” stuff in a special place. Everyone’s list of what to carry or pack is different, so I’ll detail the things we can’t live without during the PCS that are super important to us:

  1. The PCS binder is your Bible, it should always be at the top of the list. In this, you should have up to 10 copies of your official orders, medical records for the family (including your pets), bills, list of previous addresses, passports, social security cards, and any other pertinent, important personal information.
  2. Air mattresses and the trimmings for them, plus extra blankets for your kids. A rookie military spouse move is to assume your HHG (household goods) will arrive on time and you won’t need them. Always be prepared!
  3. Photo albums that are irreplaceable for those of us born before the age of technology everything.
  4. Enough clothes for up to a month for everyone in your family. Pack for various climates, you never know what you’ll encounter on your move.
  5. Toiletries, diapers, and toilet paper.
  6. The iPads/Tablets for the kids on the road trip. Pack a few DVDs too – just in case. You’ll thank me later.
  7. A coffee pot – I know what kind of person I am without my coffee in the morning.
  8. Things you may need to take care of your pets during the move.
  9. A box of entertainment for your kids including things like crafts, coloring books, etc.
  10. A cleaning kit with things you’ll want to clean the home you are leaving and bring to clean your new home.

Now take all that vital-ness and put it somewhere the movers can’t touch it. My favorite thing to do is use an extra bathroom and post a sign on it that says, “Do Not Pack”. Another tip I have is to buy a box of gallon sized zip locks. Put your forks, knives, and cutlery in them. It keeps them clean while they are being handled and saves you having to rewash them before you put them away. Save a bag from that junk drawer I know you have.

There are many checklists and websites out there to help you through your decision on what to pack for your PCS. In the end, it is a matter of personal preference, so find something that works for you and dive in!

Some of my favorite PCS resources:
Military.Com – Your PCS Guide and Moving Checklist
My Ultimate PCS – Simplifying the way you move
Etsy – PCS Checklists