Written outline of the plan ending with “Plan, Clean, Organize.”

My PCS Game Plan

Word has officially arrived, we got movers! This big detail that dictates so much has been weighing on my mind for months now. First, we found out our request for orders was under review to learn if the medical requirements for our family member with special needs could be met in the new location. That alone almost sent me into panic mode. Next, we got our orders late — wish I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not. Finally, we weren’t sure if we were going to get movers. But here we are! We are moving in two months EXACTLY to the day. Do you want to know what I have been doing all day so far? You guessed it, planning and organizing. My itch to start purging, cleaning and organizing has been present for several weeks now; but I haven’t had the time or confirmation of orders to do it. Alas, everything is a go. And I can’t wait to share my game plan with you.

  1. Kids room. My first order of business is the kids room. For the sake of space, our two kids are sharing a room. And you know what that means: double toys, double dirty clothes, double shoes, and mostly, double mess! I know once this room gets done, I will feel better mentally. So, I’m starting here. This is not a room I want to leave till the last minute. I still have a lot of energy because I’m just beginning, but I know if I wait the overwhelming nature of children’s rooms chaos will be more daunting. And honestly, I would probably procrastinate. So, I take the opportunity to go through all their clothes and toys and make a donate pile and a list of things (mostly clothing) that they might need before moving. All the while they are recruited to be my assistants and help do little things that would slow me down during the process.
  2. Closets. Next, I move on to smaller projects like storage closets, the pantry, laundry room, office space and then bedroom closets. This is a great time to purge and simplify your life. It is also great to see what you might need more of in the next house — things you’ve been low on, like towels or sheets or storage bins for paper. I like to keep a running list of things I come across that we need more of so I can be prepared financially and so I don’t forget. I’ll wait until we are settled in our new house before buying any of that. Also, make a plan for all your food in your pantry. Make sure to take stock and come up with a plan to use it all before you move. I also like to find a neighbor or friend that I’ll keep on standby for any useful, used items or products I don’t want to move with or throw away, like cleaning products or food.
  3. Bedrooms. If you have already done the kids room, then this will leave you with the guest room and master. I would couple a playroom with kids rooms. We don’t keep a lot of stuff in our bedroom and guest room. But this is when I evaluate our furniture. Is there anything we need? Or anything we can get rid of? Do we need to get rid of stuff because the next house is smaller? Is there anything we need to buy before we move? And I like to go through our sentimental items, too. I want to make sure everything is organized and stored properly before we move. This is also where important papers get organized and checked.
  4. Kitchen and living room. We have a simple living room (no toys allowed!) so besides going through the furniture and seeing if there’s anything to purge, it will be an easy task. Of course, kitchens are a big project. I’ll start with my junkier drawers: get them organized, try to downsize items. And then I’ll move on to every cabinet and drawer, purging duplicates, mismatched items and older items that haven’t been used once in this house. I’ll also wipe down all the drawers and cabinets, so it is one less thing to worry about when it comes to cleaning time after the movers. I’ll also start stashing items we want to bring with us to have before our goods are delivered.
  5. Garage, attic and yard. This is my least favorite one. And it is so time-consuming. But I know it is the biggest project that has been weighing on me. I will work on this project a little at a time on the weekends leading up to the move. I also tend to buy a lot of storage containers during this stage because I know it will be easier to organize on the back end when as much as possible is stored in clear tubs. I also mark all my tubs with genres and put an index card on every side and top, but from the inside so they won’t be torn off in transit. I keep a donation pile in the garage for anything I find that I need to get rid of. If the pile becomes too big, then I’ll have a garage sale.
  6. Bathrooms. I like to go through all my makeup and skincare to look for expired stuff so I can just get rid of that. As I’m going through the bathrooms, I will store things differently back into the cabinets and drawers. I’ll separate it based on what I need to bring with me when we move, as in, in my car with me, and things that can be boxed up and transported. I feel like most of our bathroom stuff tends to stick around with us.

This is my personal game plan. Once I’ve gone through the whole process of purging, organizing and cleaning, the movers can come in and start boxing up each room! I will already have everything I need to take with me in our vehicles before they show up, so we don’t run the risk of accidentally packing up something that wasn’t supposed to be packed up. Keep in mind that there are likely to be long delays in deliveries of goods and make sure to think through everything you might need (consider accessing loan closets for stuff to have while you wait for your stuff). I plan on packing up enough stuff to live for a month without our household goods. I have heard stories recently of families having to wait four months for stuff and it wasn’t even an overseas PCS!

Alas, the last thing I must mention is that it’s a good idea to make a PCS binder to keep all of your moving paperwork, pictures of valuable items and condition of furniture as a reference point just in case. Fingers crossed I won’t need them, and you won’t either!

A keyboard with glasses and a pen laying on it.

Uncomplicating the MilSpouse Resume

If you’ve never run an internet search for the phrase “military spouse resume,” give it a go. You’ll be swimming in articles offering tips for a winning military spouse resume. Now, if you are a janitor’s spouse, a CPA’s spouse, a biologist’s spouse, or —heck — even just a single person, and you search for resume help, you’ll probably come up short. To my knowledge, military spouses are the only group receiving specific resume guidance just because of their spouse’s career.

Except, we aren’t. Ever read one of those articles promising the tips for a winning military spouse resume? The advice is not remotely exclusive to military spouses. We aren’t the only population with resume gaps, we aren’t the first to include volunteer work on a professional resume, and we certainly aren’t the only ones changing jobs every few years (though we might have the best excuse).

Resume writing (and job hunting in general) is zero out of five stars for everyone, regardless of their partner’s profession. It’s part personal history test, part strategy — writing for what you think the hiring authority wants to see.

But somewhere between the white gloves and military spouse employment revolution, someone cast the military spouse resume as complicated. We were told not to disclose our status as military spouses because it could lead to hiring discrimination. I mean, who would want to hire the qualified military spouse knowing they’d just leave in three years, when you could hire the average applicant who will never leave? (Please tell me you sensed the sarcasm in that last sentence.)

Flash forward to 2022. We now have a federal military spouse hiring preference, employment partnerships, spouse license reciprocity legislation, and — cherry on top — COVID-19 showed all the skeptics that personal and professional lives can actually coexist. Cannot thank all the children in the background of office Zoom calls enough for humanizing employment at every level. We can now safely say there is no need to mask your status as a military spouse on your resume. And if you’re like me, you’re thinking, “Thank goodness!” Because I couldn’t hide it if I tried.

The great John Steinbeck once said, “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” “Good” in this case means allowing ourselves to be strong candidates on paper based on all our accomplishments whether or not they give away your military spouse status, especially in those occasional employment gaps. Let’s get into it:

The Resume Gap: I said it before, but it’s worth repeating. We don’t own the resume gap. Anyone who has ever left the office to be a stay-at-home parent or start a business or to wanderlust across the globe has a resume gap. Anyone who has ever been laid off has a resume gap. It is not unique to military spouses. Don’t let it intimidate you into not pursuing a fulfilling career (and, on the flip side, don’t let it intimidate you into taking a job that isn’t fulfilling just to avoid the gap).

No matter the why behind the gap, find an experience to fill the void — it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment either. Volunteer somewhere that can be connected back to your lane of expertise. Take a class. Sit on a board for something.

Obviously, this isn’t helpful if you’re looking back at a resume gap. If that’s the case, let the experience around the gap show the skills and experience needed for the job you’re after.

The Spouse Club or Base Organization: Should you include the spouse club on your resume? It depends. Did you just join for Bunco? If so, probably not going to help your employment chances. But did you hold a leadership position in the club? Did you manage people or finances or plan major events? Were there any major accomplishments during your term? And do they apply to what you’re applying for? If yes, then include it!

The Volunteer: I reviewed a resume recently for a friend, and she had not included any volunteer work at all. Contrast that with my resume that is 50% philanthropic work. I know not every resume reviewer and prospective employer will agree with me on this, but experience is experience. Including philanthropic work not only shows that you give back to your community, but it also shows that you don’t just work for a paycheck — you do a job because you genuinely care about the cause. List current and relevant volunteer experience — period.

The Haiku: We all started somewhere. I’m pretty sure I included my high school job of ice cream scooper on my resume for my first “real” job post-college just for the sake of reaching the end of the page. And that’s OK. When you need to demonstrate that you possess certain skills for a job, include whatever you need to from your career thus far (paid or unpaid) to show you’re qualified. Did that job as an ice cream scooper in a tourist hot spot during the summer prepare me for my first job? You better believe it. Communication skills, performing under pressure (that post-dinner rush that had a line out the door was no joke), customer service, money management and so much more.

It’s awkward to brag on ourselves — one of the many reasons why resume writing is hard. But you have to draw out the applicable skills in order to successfully promote yourself to potential employers.

The Novel: To be clear, I no longer list my job from 20 years ago (gasp, gulp, palm sweat … 20 years?!) as an ice cream scooper on my resume. In fact, I’ve worked long enough in the content management, public affairs and legislative affairs lanes that I no longer even list my former middle school teaching jobs — not because they weren’t challenging (because they were absolutely the hardest jobs I’ve ever had), but because I have more targeted and recent experience to say what I need to say on paper. When you have more experience, be more selective.

The Hodgepodge: Ever look at your resume and wonder what you’re trying to accomplish? Like the theme is that there is no theme? That is OK, my friends. It’s OK because the job title and the employer are just two parts of what you’re going to include about the job. You are also going to list what your responsibilities were, what skills you used and any accomplishments. In the same way the short resume is temporary, the “little bit of everything” resume is temporary too. Eventually, you’re going to see a trend, and in the meantime, pull out the key components that will connect you to the job you’re seeking.

The Point: The absolute most important rule of resume writing is tailoring it for the job you want. You do this by reading the job description of the job you’re applying for. Print it out. Highlight the job expectations and required skills. Then, think back in your professional past (to be clear this is education, philanthropic and paid experience). Match what you’ve done to what the employer is looking for. Make sure the experience you list clearly demonstrates that you check those boxes.

If you can do that, your qualifications will speak for themselves — which is the whole point of the resume after all, since you aren’t there to explain in person. Focus on what you’ve done and drop that undue stress of your military spouse status. If the reviewer can piece it together because you’ve only worked in small base towns no one has ever heard of, good for him. If you get passed over for an interview simply because they suspect you’re a military spouse, you don’t want to work there anyway. And, if you get offered a job, it will be — and should be — because of your own qualifications, not your marital status.

Lizann and her husband at a military ball.

Unique Ways To Celebrate Military Anniversaries

Being married to a service member means you won’t always be able to celebrate your wedding anniversary the way you would like to. Sometimes, your spouse may be training at another duty station, or deployed around the world! Your family might be in the middle of a PCS move, or just getting settled in a brand-new state.

No matter what challenges military life throws your way, you can still find sweet, romantic ways to celebrate your anniversary. You just have to be patient and a little creative.

If you’re celebrating your anniversary long-distance:

  • Plan a video date. If your service member has access to the internet at their location, you can plan a virtual video date for your anniversary. There are apps that let you watch a movie together, no matter what the time zone difference is between you. It’s the long-distance version of dinner and a movie! You get bonus points if you can still wear the wedding dress for the occasion.
  • Dream and plan together. Married life should have shared dreams and goals. Discuss somewhere you want to go or activities you want to do together once you see each other again. Did you get to take a honeymoon trip? If not, have fun talking about what your ideal “rain-check” honeymoon would look like, or plan a big bucket-list trip together.

Make long-term plans about where you want to be on your next anniversary, where you want to live after the military, future vacations, etc. If you had to do a quick courthouse wedding before, talk about the “big wedding” or vow renewal ceremony you want to do someday.

  • Mail a personalized gift. Did you know there are themes for anniversary gifts, depending on how long you have been married? One year is paper, third anniversary is leather, and five years is wood, etc. Think of small but meaningful gifts to send your loved one that have your wedding date, a special memory or symbolize your relationship. There are endless personalization options online!

You can get special gifts shipped directly from online retailers directly to deployment locations, so you don’t have to pay for shipping twice. Just check if the merchant accepts APO or FPO addresses.

Lizann and her husband outside of a castle before the Marine Corps ball.

If you can’t communicate on your anniversary:

  • Send an anniversary care package. Send cake-in-a-jar (bonus if it’s the same flavors as your wedding cake!), something bubbly (like sparkling water, since you can’t ship alcohol), and of course a sweet note or a card. Maybe you want to include some photos of yourself — either now or from your wedding day — for your spouse to enjoy.

If they don’t have much space or aren’t able to receive gifts where they are located, then include some hints or an IOU of a special anniversary present you want to give them when they return.

  • Write “open when” letters. If you won’t be able to celebrate with a phone call or video call on your anniversary, then prepare some love notes in advance! Before they leave, write some letters for your spouse to “open when it’s our anniversary.” You can share your favorite wedding memory, some photos, the lyrics of your song, or any sweet message that will make them smile.

If you’re able, tuck these letters along with others for any type of “open when” occasion — into your spouse’s bags before they leave. Or mail a big bundle in the next care package. It will certainly make the time go faster if they can read an encouraging message from you when they need it! You can find additional “open when” letter topics here.

Lizann with a bouquet of flowers.

If your anniversary falls during a move:

  • Make a date out of your PCS travel. Yes, it’s difficult to celebrate during the stress of a move, but if it is a PCS, you will receive a per diem for hotel stays and restaurant food. Research somewhere unique to visit along your PCS travels and decide what would be a fun way to celebrate as a family. Consider paying a sum above the per diem to make the anniversary memorable. After days of camping out in hotels and eating fast food, even a small upgrade will make for a fun memory!
  • Unpack the wedding gifts. If you are just settling into a new home on your anniversary, you can regift your wedding items … to yourself! You probably have some lesser-used china, collectibles or breakable items that you initially received as wedding gifts but are now living in cardboard boxes. Enlist your spouse’s help with unwrapping them and finding a suitable place to display them in your new home. Unwrap them together, talk about the people who gifted you each item, and enjoy laughing and reminiscing together.
  • Explore your new town. Whether you are stationed in small-town America, or a totally new city overseas, your anniversary is a great reason to make date night memories at a new favorite location. Research to find your favorite cuisine or activities nearby or ask for recommendations on the local Spouses Facebook page. Maybe you’ll start a new date night tradition!

It’s difficult to spend your anniversary apart, but military spouses learn how to creatively adapt to difficult situations. However you choose to celebrate, we congratulate you both and wish you a happy anniversary!

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