13 Tips for a Successful PCS Part 2

Thank you to Melody from Global Family Treks for sharing these tips on Marrying the Army. Melody is a friend and a retired Naval officer who’s now married to an Army officer. Her suggestions come from 20+ years of experience with military relocations, so I’m glad to share her experience here on Marrying the Army.

(7) PARTNER UP (Or have friends help you)

When the movers come to pack  or to unpack, have a plan with your buddy or your spouse (if she or he’s there) on who’s directing the guys outside where to bring the boxes as they come off the truck (this is the person with the checklist working with the lead guy on the moving team). The movers will want to get done quickly so this phase can be overwhelming. You both share a common goal: get the truck unloaded and your stuff in your home. It’s the HOW that can be daunting.

The other person needs to be inside directing where the boxes will go to be unpacked (each mover needs a fair amount of workspace to unpack, especially in the kitchen), what’s going to be unpacked/what won’t be unpacked, & where everything will be placed. This is part of their contract.

Suggestion: Whoever is checking off the list with the moving team when your delivery arrives at your new home, have a large black permanent marker, 2 different colored pens/pencils, a highlighter, and a stack of sticky notes in your back pocket.  Have your cellphone in the other. The pens/pencils and highlighter are for you to quickly check off as the boxes get tossed (!) out the truck onto your driveway or front lawn and are unpacked. There’s a small moving company sticker that is as individual to each company as bulk purchased moving stickers can be. If you’re familiar with your forms, you’ll know what numbers go with which rooms or boxes.

What about that black marker? You can go around and label each box “where” you want it in your new home. Or you can be really super-organized and make or buy preprinted labels. The sticky notes are so you always have paper on you, just in case you need to write something down.

(8) Have the transportation (household goods) contact name and number on speed dial, just in case.

They should also contact you at some point soon after the day is done. Good ones will actually visit your home while the movers are still there. If something is broken during a move (i.e. a light fixture), you’ll also have to sign paperwork so that the repairs can get made or damages reimbursed to you (or your landlord).

(9) Have food and drinks for a midday meal for your movers.

They will appreciate the gesture, even if they brought their own meals. Discuss this with them before they start unpacking. Usually their contract will require a lunch break. (For my German movers, I had typical lunch fare and they bent over backwards for us. American and German cheese and cold cuts, fresh rolls from the local bakery, American sodas–they can’t get Dr. Pepper here, American chips in single serving bags. In Japan, I did the same but I had our local Japanese Pizza Hut deliver. In the States, I got local pizza from our favorite pizzeria and canned drinks. When we moved to Germany, it was Christmas and since we couldn’t take our alcohol collection, they also each got a bottle of liquor or wine from our collection at the end of the day to take home. You need not be this generous!

(10) Watch them seal the crates and sign the tape.

If you have a lot of crates, they will do this as the day progresses. One of you should be there to witness how each crate is stacked.

Speaking of crates: If you have bicycles or motorbikes or expensive antique furniture, are they in separate, specially built crates? Or is there a box of who-knows-what stacked precariously atop your expensive Harley Davidson handlebars? (Yes I’ve heard that happened to a friend who only moved cross-country).

(11) Don’t let them pack your trash/bin or your plants.

I’m speaking from personal experience: they packed my kitchen trashcan in San Diego and I finally got it, and the trash still inside, when I got to Maryland. I’ve also opened a box from our dining room in Japan that had a dried up cactus, safely wrapped in layers upon layers of packing paper.

(12) Be considerate.

Block off street space for the moving truck to load and unload. If your street is narrow, let your moving company know right away. They can plan to send a smaller truck. By the way, if you need to get your car out, it helps to put it on the street.

While you’re at it, definitely let your neighbors know what’s going to happen and for how long (all day x # days). In the States, this may require some prep (i.e. no parking signs in our Texas neighborhood that the city provided). In our German neighborhood, one moving truck blocks the driveway for 5 households including ours. Your neighbors need to know if they should park their cars somewhere else.

(13) Make a lot of copies of your PCS orders.

Personally, you’ll really only need the sheet that has your name and where you’re going. This is usually just the first page, although I’ve had it run to the 2nd page too. Slip one of these sheets with your boxes. You can give them to each packer and they will do it for you. I’ve never lost a box but I’ve had someone else’s stuff get unpacked with ours. We couldn’t identify “whose” shelf it was, not the bookcase, just the shelf. My gut says definitely add a copy of your orders to your boxes in these cases:

  • You’re moving overseas and this is your smaller shipment that will be air-freighted. These boxes will probably not be in a sealed and signed crate when the truck leaves your  home.
  • You don’t have a lot of “stuff” and your belongings are not the ONLY ones in the moving truck. If you’re not the only stop on the moving team’s list that day and you’re sharing space with another family’s boxes, it’s reassuring to have your orders inside your boxes.
  • If you have oversized furniture, like a king size mattress that’s wrapped and securely hanging on the outside of the truck because it won’t fit in the smaller truck they sent for your neighborhood.
Boxes all over the place!  This is during a break on "unpacking" day.

Boxes all over the place! This is during a break on “unpacking” day.

Can you tell I’ve moved a lot? As far as frequency of moves and PCSing, this happens more often in the services when you’re more junior in rank, whether enlisted or officer. It’s during those initial years of constant training and continuing development, checking the professional boxes. I’ve noticed the moves slow down a bit around year 10 for some mid grade officers and enlisted, when jobs might have a 2-3 year time period. It’s something to look forward to.

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