Packed, Cracked and Smashed? How to Save Your PCS

Movers at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, load up a truck with household goods. Jose Ramirez/Air Force
Movers at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, load up a truck with household goods. Jose Ramirez/Air Force

I'm not sure how we did it, but we somehow managed to get off-schedule with our moves. We're Thanksgiving movers. That's right: You're roasting turkeys, hanging stockings, trimming trees, and we're moving out of third-story walk-up apartments in -- inevitably -- the snow.

Big perk: We aren't doing it in 90-degree weather. (Although for our next move, we will be. Thanks, Florida.)

So while the rest of our friends are getting orders and planning their moves, you'd think we'd be sitting pretty. After all, we haven't moved in -- count 'em -- 16 months. We are downright HOMESTEADING.

But here's the sad, sad truth: We are still dealing with our last PCS. It's evident in every room in our home. Because around here, PCS means more than Permanent Change of Station. It means Packed, Cracked and Smashed.

Packed: Everything I own. All of my personal belongings on this Earth. I know those shouldn't matter and it's only the stuff of the heart that counts, etc., etc., etc., but you know what? The people who say that didn't have their coffee maker broken. I need my coffee pot. I need it not broken.

Ditto anything that helps me distract my kids so I can actually finally unpack this one last box that is still staring me in the face every time I enter my bedroom. I'm looking at you, lost box of Beloved Children's Toys that mysteriously vanished. Did anyone accidentally get our box of Play-Doh, alphabet magnets and pool toys? Please, forward it to Florida.

Cracked: Lamps. Chairs. Bookcases. Glasses and plates, de rigueur. Things you actually didn't know were physically capable of GETTING cracked? Those things get cracked, too.

Smashed: So much. So very much. Every single table we own, right along with my completely naive hopes and dreams that we might settle as-seamlessly-as-possible into our new home and new lives. 

Mwah-hah-hah, Murphy laughs. 

But! Your PCS doesn't have to be like that. Seriously. It's possible to come through pretty unscathed. Here's how:

Game plan the packing. Pro tip: Color-coordinating your labels helps a lot.

Get your checklists up and running. Timelines, responsibilities, budgets -- you name it, get it in writing. That way, there are no extra last-minute surprises. (Because there are always last-minute surprises, so let's avoid the ones we can.)

Do not dig yourself into a financial hole. Hint: The PCS may be a great moment for a mid-move vacation, but drive past the Ritz and head straight to La Quinta or someplace else that gives you a military discount. (Plus, La Quinta will let Fido stay, too!) 

In fact, do everything you can to save money during your PCS. There are a lot of free money management tools at your fingertips, and this is the time to start using them.

If you're letting the movers pack you, make sure you do a serious walkthrough before they come. Here, actual military movers tell us what they wish we would do before every move. Hint: It doesn't mean you have to be super organized. In fact, there's some merit in waiting until after the move to organize at all. Just don't let your boxes rot unpacked like I've done mine. ((((cringes at sight of last unpacked box in corner))))

Invest in little Ziplock bags. Use them to corral all the odds and ends of your furniture so you don't find yourself ordering a packet of shelf pins on Amazon a year after you've moved so you can finally re-assemble a bookcase in your kid's room. Definitely not talking from experience here.

Don't try to hide your most valuable possessions in a safe and fail to list them on the valuable items list because you're worried about the movers stealing them. LIST YOUR VALUABLE ITEMS.

Prep the kids. Try to set the right stage, attitude-wise. Your school-age kids will want to know about making new friends, and your toddlers will need their own special help

Avoid the easy oversell to your teenagers. They're like dogs -- they smell fear. Be honest, even when it means "yeah, so, this isn't ideal." Because guess what? You're still doing it. File it under "Things You Can Hate Me for Later." 

Embrace the whole "home is where the military sends you" attitude and find the right way to display it in your home. Daydream about how to make the new home as cozy and just-right as possible. We're very fond of throw pillows.

Whatever you do, don't PCS in a tornado. I mean, not only will your throw pillows not do well, but it could really upset the whole easy-moving-process goal. We know a wife who's done it though -- and she came out unscathed.

I'll take that as proof that there's nothing a PCSing military spouse can't handle.

Sorry, Murphy.

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