Father and son moving boxes

What to Put in Your First Day Box


I vaguely remember watching, judgmentally, through the opening credits of The Beverly Hillbillies as the Clampett clan loaded up their possessions into one vehicle and headed across the country. I had no moving experience at the time, but I couldn’t help but feel like they were doing it wrong. I’m fairly certain that Jed couldn’t see in his rear-view mirror with that pile of junk blocking his line of vision, and there is no doubt in my mind that strapping Granny into her rocking chair on top of the whole mound of stuff must have been not only dangerous but illegal in at least half the states they drove through.

Fast forward a couple decades and there I was driving my car from south Texas halfway across the country without so much as an inch of free space. I’m not exaggerating; I even had to leave a couple boxes with my parents just so my new husband could ride shotgun, and my rearview mirror was purely decorative since my stuff was piled clear to the ceiling in the back seat. My husband and I had become the modern day version of the Clampetts, and I was so embarrassed to be seen exiting or entering the car, that we only stopped in emergency situations, like an empty gas tank or full bladder.

The good news is that we arrived in one piece or, should I say with all of our pieces, and made it through the gates of our installation without being stopped for a random inspection (whew). The bad news was that I forgot to pack an air mattress. Yep! I had a yoga mat, complete desktop computer system, a box full of cooking spices, a suitcase full of shoes to accommodate any climate, but no air mattress. Rookie mistake.

As usual, I’d learned something the hard way, but the important part was that I’d actually learned something from this disaster. For the next PCS I’m going to be comfortable on the trip and I’m not arriving empty handed because I’m going to make sure the following essentials are all going to be boxed and belted in the car.

Squeaky Clean. When you finally make it to your new house, chances are you’ll want to clean up a bit. These supplies can help you sanitize the notoriously dirty places in your new home, like the bathroom and kitchen, and also keep you smelling as pleasant as you possibly can while you unpack and get settled:

  • toilet paper
  • towels
  • shower curtain and hooks
  • trash bags
  • basic cleaning supplies
  • dishwashing detergent

Organization Central. When it comes to moving, organization is the name of the game. In order for the process to run smoothly, keep a couple key objects on hand to avoid as many hiccups as possible:

  • scissors or box cutter
  • paper and pen
  • batteries
  • chargers for electronics
  • light bulbs
  • night lights
  • basic tools
  • first-aid kit
  • toys to occupy children and pets

Working up an Appetite

  • baby food
  • pet food (and dishes)
  • bottled water
  • disposable cups, plates, and utensils
  • coffee maker, coffee, and filters

Sleep on It

  • air mattresses
  • sheets, blankets, and pillows

You may have noticed that I left out some key items, like a few changes of clothes and toiletries, but I left those out on purpose. I prefer to pack these items in a separate, easily accessible bag so that they’re easy to grab should you have to stay overnight in a hotel before you make it to your new installation.

Obviously there are some things I did not list that you might really need. If you have a unique situation, like flying overseas for a PCS or making stops en route, you may have to tweak this list to better fit your needs. You might also need to be sure to pack medicines or special equipment if you have an ill family member or a family member with special needs. No matter your situation, plan ahead; I can’t stress that enough. In most cases, the items in your first day box will be the last ones you pack, because you may still be using them the day you leave your current home.

The bottom line is that this first day box is meant to simplify the moving process. If you forget something major, like…ahem…the air mattress, it really isn’t the end of the world. We managed to borrow an air mattress from some friends nearby, and all was well. Most likely, anything you forget can be picked up along the way or upon your arrival. Let your first day box be about convenience not stress!

Happy trails from the modern day Clampetts!

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Military Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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