Military families know summertime is the time for the next military moving experience. Whether you are watching someone else load up a huge truck or doing it all yourself in a DITY move, we need everything to go smoothly. Our eight tips for moving yourself will help service members and military spouses get all those ducks in a row for the next PCS moving adventure.
Whether you are doing a personally procured move (PPM), a full DITY move (do it yourself), or a partial DITY move (where some of it goes on the big moving truck and some of it is weighed in your personal vehicle or U-haul), you need to know how to organize your household goods, pack everything carefully and come out on the other side with all of your belongings intact.
As military members ourselves, we know that moving is stressful and difficult without the added stress of a messy move. Use this as a checklist for the most efficient move possible.
Get Rid of All That Stuff
One of the biggest benefits of frequent ppm moves is cleaning out the junk in your home very thoroughly. I was talking over moving tips with my family tonight in preparation for writing this post. My husband repeatedly mentioned this: “You gotta talk about getting rid of stuff.” I finally had to explain that I have written three posts on that topic already!
Let me tell you this: Getting rid of stuff has been a ginormous benefit of moving so many times. We often talk about how freeing it has been to “purge” the junk every few years. I can never figure out why we keep so many broken, torn, or useless things! We usually find at least three or four bags of junk mail and random papers stuffed in desk drawers, cabinets, and shelves mixed in with other stuff. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t let anyone pack up that junk and move it with you! It bears repeating – get rid of stuff. Give it away or throw it away. Rinse and repeat.
Take the Most Important Stuff with You
If you are choosing to do a partial DITY move (now called a PPM), choose what’s going with you on the move, and what will be going on the regular truck. We have some suggestions based on 25 years of experience moving with the military. Take your valuables and electronics with you. Take your financial records with you. Take expensive tools with you. Pack a box of kitchen supplies and spices to cook with while you wait for your household goods to show up! Fill the rest with heavy stuff like books so your cost is covered, and the DITY move is worth your time.
Basically, if it’s super important, pack it yourself. Oh – and don’t forget those stuffed animals that don’t make the “must-go-in-the-car-with-me” list and instead make the must-go with us and not go in storage list. One of the most important jobs we have as military parents is making sure our kids have the least upheaval possible.
One excellent option is to use some a POD service where you fill a big metal box yourself, and it is loaded onto a truck and moved by a company. This is great — I love this option because I can “pack.it.myself” and not worry about the things in the pod getting lost in transit. But I don’t have to drive a big truck. And you don’t tear out the transmission on said big truck. (Not that I’m saying that ever happened. Ahem.) And you still save money with all the benefits of a DITY move.
Use Consistently-Sized Boxes
Loading is so much easier when your boxes can be stacked neatly and safely on each other, and you aren’t trying to hodge-podge a bunch of “free” grocery boxes together into a perfectly rectangular space. Free isn’t really free if it costs you time and frustration. Consistently sized moving boxes are a necessity. If you cannot or will not buy boxes, look on free sites like Craigslist, local Buy Nothing Groups, Next Door, or Freecycle because people are constantly posting when they unpack and stack all their moving boxes on the curb.
Pack Carefully for a DITY move.
If you are packing something heavy, you must be careful because each box needs to be light enough that you and your help can lift and carry the box even after you’ve lifted and carried 30 or 40 boxes. An extra big box of books is pretty heavy and annoying at the end of a long day, no matter how strong you are. So pack the books in the smaller “book boxes” and use the bigger boxes for lighter-weight items.
Since you won’t have movers pack the things that go with you, use packing material like paper and bubble wrap to protect delicate items. It’s worth the cost and effort to wrap items individually and add padding like moving blankets or shrink wrap around pieces of good furniture.
Put All the Little Stuff in Baggies
Don’t judge, keep reading. This one tip changed my world as a frequent mover. And a special thanks to my friend Jennifer for telling me about this. I didn’t even know about this trick until the last move – but let me tell you, it is AWESOME.
A friend of mine explained this, and even after she explained it, and I bought into it, I had no idea how much this would help us. Take every loose thing and put it into plastic zipper bags BEFORE you put it into a box. Every kitchen drawer gets a zipper bag or two bags. All the forks go into a gallon size bag. All dinner knives go in their own gallon size bag. Every bathroom drawer gets a bag or two.
In fact, I sorted my bathroom drawers and cabinets by type of item like combs in one bag, pedicure/manicure stuff in one bag, ponytail/hair ties in one bag, etc. Desk drawers get bagged up too. Every little thing, including toys like marbles, game pieces, little people, LEGO® bricks. Bagging everything up doesn’t take nearly as much time as you think, and gives you one more opportunity to find and discard random junk. I think we used a total of three boxes of zipper bags for a total of 120 bags.
The big dividends on this pay off when you unpack at your new location and can literally dump the contents of the bag into their drawers and bins. You don’t have to worry about washing your silverware on the back end – they’ve been sealed in a bag. And you don’t have to stand there unwrapping the packing paper only to watch as the tiny contents of a Polly Pockets set are dumped all over the floor.
Buy a Dolly
Speaking of heavy books, one of the best investments we ever made was when we purchased a heavy-duty hand truck. So handy! We bought two, and we have used them countless times to help load our boxes and move furniture and move refrigerators across a room, even when buying furniture on Craigslist and when helping friends move. If you plan on moving often, you will not regret this purchase. If this is your only move ever, you can rent them where you would get a rental truck. Otherwise it pays to purchase a hand truck and a furniture dolly or two. We have two of each, plus a folding hand truck.
Label Everything by Room and Label the Rooms
When you are going to be unloading on your own and with friends, it is really nice to have boxes already labeled for the new house (not the old house) with the room names REALLY BIG. Then, put a REALLY BIG sign on each room with a matching name at the new house. This way everyone helping you can look at the box and go directly to the room it goes in based on the door signs. This makes moving in so much easier on the move “director,” a.k.a. Mom.
Pack a Kitchen Box and Label it BIG
I don’t know about you, but by the time we arrive at our new home, we are SICK of eating out. The first thing we want to do is cook something real but typically we are still waiting on hhg. And unless we’ve packed a kitchen box and taken it with us, we can’t cook. So this is one of our absolutes. In this box, we put our most used skillet and most used pot. We pack a cutting board and my husband’s chef knives. We pack our most used kitchen utensils. We pack a couple of mixing bowls and measuring cups, and measuring spoons. We pack a handheld can opener. We pack our spices. (Spices are expensive to replace – so we never throw them out!) We pack a couple of potholders and something to bake in.
And you want to be able to find that box first thing – even if it is the only thing you carry in on the first night you arrive. So you will want to label it BIG. Put a great big star on the box, use fancy colors, let the kids decorate it. Put it in last so that it can come out first.
Come Up with a Plan for Financial Logistics
When will you weigh your personal vehicle or rental truck for an empty weight, and when do the scales close? Where will you keep your weight ticket so you can find it later?
You will need to keep track of moving expenses like receipts for tolls, supplies, lodging, certified weight tickets, rental vehicle, pods, fees, and anything else related to the move. We like to get a three ring PCS binder to keep all things related to moving. A large plastic envelope made to go in this binder is perfect for receipts. This binder is also where we keep travel orders, printed maps of our planned route, anything needed for check in at the new duty station, a phone number for the personal property office, anything we need to prove dislocation allowance or reimbursements due. Basically, if it is paper and it relates to our move and will be needed at any time during the moving process we put it in the binder.
While we are talking about moving logistics, make sure to check each business to see if they have a military discount. This includes hotels, rental places, storage units, — if you will save the receipt, check and see if there is a discount.
What are your best DITY Moving Tips?
I’m still learning, and we are still moving, and I’d love to know the secret sauce that made your last move amazing. Please share with us!