A woman holding a box full of old clothes

Do’s and Don’ts of Purging to Move

Whenever we get ready to move, I have an overwhelming desire to purge, consolidate and get organized. This summer, we will execute our eleventh Permanent Change of Station, and that doesn’t include the number of times we’ve moved houses during a tour due to a variety of situations.

More than once during one of these moves, I’ve found myself wishing I had kept something I had donated, or wishing I got rid of something we hauled across the country. Here are some thoughts on what to take and what to discard or donate during your next PCS.


  • Furniture. Every house is different, and it’s rare that you will live in more than one house with the same square footage. It’s also rare that you will use your furniture in the same spaces in each house. If you are moving from a large house to a smaller house, store your furniture, even if it means storing it for two or three years and paying the monthly fee. The moral of the story: Storage may be expensive, but replacing furniture is even more expensive.
  • Curtain rods, window coverings and décor. Everyone’s taste changes over time and it’s nice to have new décor and window coverings when you move. It makes the home feel cozy and up-to-date. But I have found myself replacing that set of antique keys that went out of style, or that table lamp I didn’t need anymore, with items that are eerily similar to the original. If you are in the mood for a change, store the window coverings and décor and pull them out at your next duty station. You may find that what is old is new again when you haven’t seen it for a few years.


  • Expired medication, cleaners and pantry items. Ask your installation hospital if they will discard expired medication for you – never toss meds in the trash. If you don’t live near an installation, ask a local pharmacy. Study the expiration dates and discard anything that will expire before you move or while in transit.
  • Open items. Contracted military movers should not move open items, but some will still try. Three guesses on how fun it is to clean up a moving box of pantry items covered in spilled olive oil, powdered sugar, or my personal favorite: chia seeds. I’m just saying.
  • Broken items. Either fix your broken items or kiss them goodbye. Chances are that if it has been sitting at the bottom of your “to-do” list at this duty station, it will still be there at the next one. (Looking at you, 20-year-old broken coffee mug).
  • Alcohol. Contracted military movers are not authorized to move alcohol – so ditch the booze.


  • Clothes. Donate clothes you don’t wear (sorry, skinny jeans) or that are not suitable for your next duty station’s climate. Consider local churches, military thrift stores and nonprofit organizations willing to pick up bulk donations free of charge.
  • Baby items and toys. Most local shelters and some after-school programs will happily accept donations for little guys.
  • Food items. If you have unexpired items that you don’t want to take with you, donate them to the local food bank.

Here’s the truth: Regardless of how much you purge and how much you plan, moving is hard. But getting organized and clearing out the clutter before you arrive at your next duty station will make the transition less stressful. Start organizing folks – your next move will be here before you know it!

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