Happy man lifting woman in new house

Sixteen Unexpected PCS Secrets

Once upon a time I had a really expensive, custom-molded bleach tray for my teeth. Then one day, I assumed that my very first permanent change of station move as a military spouse didn’t require my supervision. That was the last time I saw my bleach tray. Now, nearly six years later, I’m calling off the search, but I’m not relinquishing my bitterness. I learned quite a bit during that first PCS process (emphasis on the dreadfully long word, process).

Much of the information you need to be a successful PCS-er is – for some reason – not widely discussed. You have to know what questions to ask in order to get the answers you need, which is a situation I’ve never excelled at. Just like the times my second grade teacher would tell me to look up a word in the dictionary if I didn’t know how to spell it, my response is, “That makes no sense.” For what it’s worth, I’m still a terrible speller, so instead of committing to a lifetime of being equally bad at moving, here are my PCS secrets:

  1. No one starts planning as early as you will. If I had a superpower, it would be to make orders appear whenever I’m ready. This way we would have plenty of viable house-hunting and job-hunting months.
  2. Your family won’t understand the holdup either. Moms, dads, grandmas and great-aunts will begin asking you years in advance if you know where you’re going. Have your statement prepared.
  3. You won’t like something where you’re going if you don’t love it now. If you haven’t worn or used it lately, let it go.
  4. Packers won’t handle anything plugged in, hanging on the wall or containing batteries or liquid, but they’ll box up your full trash can.  Spend some quality time unplugging, disposing of liquids, pulling down decorations and emptying trash cans the day before the packers arrive.
  5. Annoyance pays off in every stage of your PCS. Start calling early and call often to follow up with reservations, equipment rentals, moving services, shipment delivery dates and more.
  6. You won’t use up the rest of the food in your fridge or pantry. I always think I’ll use up the ketchup or that five-pound bag of flour. For one, you won’t have your usual kitchen supplies, and your ingredients rarely add up to anything appetizing – case and point, flour topped with ketchup. Trash them, pawn them off on neighbors or prepare to carry them with you.
  7. Inflatable mattresses are useless without pillows or blankets. Enjoy the first night in your new home with the complete makeshift bedding set.
  8. Items that movers disassemble or pack, they can reassemble and unpack, but you have to ask. You aren’t obligated to use this service; we never do. I like to give the new house a good scrub before unpacking.
  9. Movers can also take care of the truckload of boxes and packing paper if they unpack your goods. Again, just ask. If they won’t, your community may have a recycling center or offer a bulk pick-up service.
  10. Cars fill up quickly; be selective with your carry-along items. If you can get by without something for a few days, pack it up so you aren’t traveling across the country in a sardine can.
  11. Cleaning supplies might not be some of your favorite things, but keep them with you. You’ll use them to clean before move out and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to clean your new home, sweet, home before you let anyone touch anything.
  12. Presents and presence are my favorite tips for interacting with the packers and movers. Be friendly and be around to answer questions. Keep them comfortable with water and possibly snacks or a meal if you’re interested.
  13. You will only need important documents if you don’t have them, so beat the system and carry everything from birth certificates to multiple copies of your orders with you as you travel.
  14. A perfectly packed car means nothing if it’s inconvenient when you stop for the night. Pack the things you’ll need for an en route, overnight hotel stay where it’s easily accessible (meaning it isn’t packed under all of your kid’s toys or your box of cleaning supplies). Also remember that your car or truck will be in a parking lot all night, so keep your belongings locked up and secure.
  15. Kids expect to be entertained on your PCS “adventure.” We used valuable car space to tote half of my son’s toys with us on our last PCS. Now with two kids, I fear we’ll need a bigger car for next year’s PCS. Plan fun stops along the way to break up the trip. Check out the Best Kept Secrets or theme parks offering free or discounted military admission and find those along your route.
  16. You will get frustrated, but remember everyone in your family is working with you not against you. Hours in the car followed by hours “sleeping” in a one-room hotel with the noisiest kids in the world turns me into one cranky mommy. I often have to remind myself that it isn’t always about the destination, but making the most of the trip.

Put your PCS fails behind you (farewell, beloved bleach tray), and move on to the next wiser and better prepared. If you have your own PCS secrets, please share them below so we can all get the answers we really need to the questions we didn’t know we needed to ask.

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine 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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  • Miranda Sanchez says:

    I really enjoy your writing. 🙂

  • Danielle N. says:

    One of my biggest tips would be to keep a close eye on the packers. Things have a tendency to disappear when you are not watching them.