As a military spouse one of the things we seem to gain the most experience in is moving. My husband has been a Marine for over 20 years and we have had our fair share of moves over the years. So I thought it would be helpful to give you some of my top 10 tips I have learned from moving:
1. Plan when you get your orders NOT before.
Most of the time we hear the word “orders” and immediately get on the Internet and start looking at homes and researching schools of our potential new duty station. I can’t tell you the countless hours I have spent doing research on a place only to realize months later that we will not be moving there at all. Don’t waste your time! Instead, start planning your move chores for your current home not thinking about a new one. Keep the crazy planning to a minimum until you get the actual orders in hand and know where you need to look. Most of the moving chores cannot be done in a new location until a few months prior to the actual move anyway.
2. Put everything in your home on a diet.
Every home gains weight between moves. So when you hear that you will be moving the first thing you need to do is evaluate what you actually use and what you actually need to keep for your next home. I can’t tell you the number of boxes I have drug around with me over the years filled with random curtains or bed linens thinking I will use it in the next house. In the end, some things I used but most of the time I DID NOT. Instead when I got to a new place I would want to get something new and not use the old stuff I had been dragging around with me. So purge and get organized! When you first hear of a potential move put all your energy and efforts into organizing rooms in your current home. I recommend doing a different room every week or so. This keeps your anxiety levels down and you don’t feel so overwhelmed thinking you need to do a complete overhaul all at once. Go room-by-room cleaning out old toys your kids no longer use, clothes you no longer wear, etc. Place those in a separate area and plan to have a garage sale or donate the items. If you sell them use that money to buy something for your next home.
3. Create a move binder.
With every move comes lots of paperwork. The best way to keep yourself organized is to buy a simple binder and keep all the papers in it you will need for the move. Place items that you don’t want the movers to pack in it such as; military orders, health records, lease/ purchase agreements, insurance documents, etc. As you get ready to travel you can easily move that binder with you and not feel the need to load up the entire filing cabinet.
4. Inventory by camera all your valuable items.
When the movers arrive one of the first things they will do is ask you about any valuable items you need to have moved. It is best for you to have documentation of these items on hand and available and not rely on the movers to document for you. You can easily do your own inventory of things in your home well before the movers show up. Simply take a few pictures of your home to keep as a reference for yourself. If you have items such as paintings or artwork that you cannot replace make sure you have all the appraisal information done in advance and store the information in your move binder. Take pictures of your TVs write down the serial numbers of all your electronic devices. The movers will be doing an inventory for you but it is best to have your own documentation as well.
5. Stock up on ZIPLOC bags.
I can’t tell you how many Ziploc bags I use when preparing for a move. I go to my local Costco and by in bulk both large and small sizes. One of the best moving tips I can share with you is the use of Ziploc bags. It will SAVE YOU SO MUCH TIME when you arrive to your new home by bagging up items in advance. When I tell you that I bag everything…I really mean I bag everything! Packers have a tendency to just roll up whatever you have in a drawer and place in a box. By doing this you will lose something during the moving process, I promise. So as you are purging and organizing rooms use this time to also bag up smaller items. For example, I bag up my silverware, spices and dishtowels in my kitchen. I bag up socks and undies in my bedrooms. I bag up electronic cords, paperclips, staples, scissors, etc. in my office. Anything that will fit in a bag, I DO IT! When I get to my new home and unpack not only can I see what is packed in the bags but this also allows for similar items that you use together to be together and placed back together in your new home.
6. Packers are more important than movers.
When it comes to the ones who are actually handling your things it is the packers. The packers are the ones who typically have worked with a moving company for a lengthy period of time and have professional experience. Movers and truck loaders can sometimes be picked up the day of your move off the streets. There is really not much experience needed to pick up a box and load it. But, a packer on the other hand has to touch your belongings and make sure they are cared for in a way that things don’t get broken. This does take skill and technique. So really take the time to get to know your packing crew and thank them for helping you move. Offer to buy them lunch or give them a small gift of appreciation.
7. Remember you are the one in control – not your movers.
Often times I hear horror stories of friends who have had the most horrible move experiences. They will tell of movers showing up in the middle of the day to work and staying at their homes until midnight or using their bathroom facilities to do things they shouldn’t do. You name the crazy story and I’ve probably heard of someone who has experienced it. My best advice is to remember you are the one responsible for your moving company to be hired. So essentially you are in charge. If you begin to have a bad experience and don’t feel that you can handle it directly you should contact your TMO office representative immediately for help. There are bad employees everywhere and most of the time the moving company may not be aware that their employees are making bad choices. At the end of the day the company does not want to lose business with the government so make sure you remain in control of your move and control how things are handled.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This is probably one of the hardest things to do as a military spouse. We are so used to being in control and capable of doing things on our own when our loved ones are deployed. But, when it comes to a military move sometimes you need help so don’t be afraid to ask for it. If you have kids please hire or obtain a babysitter for your kids. Having packers and movers at your home is hard enough on yourself. Don’t expect kids to be able to sit in a corner out of the way for hours on end. This is unfair to ask and an almost impossible task for them to do. Also, hire a professional cleaning crew when you move out. From experience the last thing I want to do once the movers have left is clean my home. I am ready to get where I am going. Not to mention you are tired from dealing with the move-out process for days on end. Spend the money to hire professionals to take care of things for you. Lastly, if a neighbor offers to help with any of the move process except their help. There will be last minute things that will need to be done after a move such as moving your trashcan back after pick up or trimming the lawn one last time to be ready for the new tenants. Don’t be afraid to ask a neighbor to help you with those simple tasks.
9. Plan to clean and document your new home.
One of the most common mistakes I hear when moving is that there is never enough time at the new place before the movers arrive. I know you will be excited to get there and get settled again. But, be sure you plan for enough time to clean the new place yourself. The previous tenants will have had the home cleaned and ready for sure. But there is nothing like going over the kitchen and baths and knowing it is clean to your own standards. You will need to purchase supplies when you arrive anyway so plan for at least 1 day to be at your new home before the movers arrive. You will also want to document the current conditions of the home. Take pictures without furniture in the home and make notes of any issues you may find. It is much easier to show any concerns when you first arrive than waiting until you have a house full of furniture and try to explain that a stain was already there. So plan your timeline and allow yourself enough time to get things done.
10. Let the movers unpack.
I learned after several moves that the moving company is also paid to unpack your items. Yes, I did say UNPACK. I was shocked when I first learned of this and actually went back and read the fine print of the moving contract to find it there in plain sight. The movers will not tell you this little gem because like you they are tired and not really interested in doing this task. But they do get paid to do it and will do it. You just need to tell them. I admit I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to keeping my things organized and when you get to a new home you will probably not have any idea where you want things to go. So this can be tricky. I recommend having the movers unpack your kitchen items and any wardrobe boxes. The kitchen for me is one of the first places in my home that I will want to use when I first move in. So I always have the movers unpack all those heavy kitchen boxes first. If you have prepped with your Ziploc bags the task to place items in the drawers will not be that difficult. So use their help to unwrap every dish and get it done quickly. You can always go back once you see everything and place it where you want it to be later. I also have the movers hang up all the clothes in wardrobes back in the closets. This limits the number of boxes you will have in a room so you have space to unpack items and get things organized. The movers will take the empty boxes with them when they leave and it will be a whole lot easier for you to finish up the job of unpacking.
No matter how many times I have moved I can say it is never really an easy process. But these simple tips have helped me get it done more quickly and not lose my mind along the way over the years. I hope they will also help you stay organized and easier for your next PCS move. Good luck!