When the military is in control of your destination, you tend to find yourself in a variety of new and different locations. And accompanying those new and different locations are the new, different, and often inconvenient living situations. Can any military spouses out there give me an “amen?”
Maybe you’re the type with an insatiable sense of adventure, who breaks out her understated compass necklace and “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” t-shirt with each move. But if you’re like me, you shudder when you hear the evil acronyms “PCS,” “TDY,” or, worst of all, “PPM” (the confusing new term for what we used to call a “DITY”).
Regardless of which category you fall into, you’re more than likely familiar with the struggle of getting settled into a new space — an adjustment that’s particularly difficult when you know that new space is very temporary (TDY-en-route, anyone?).
But life is too short to just “make do” in the place that’s supposed to be your home. The following five tips will help you make the most of your short-term living situation and carry “home” with you wherever you go, no matter how long you stay there.
1. Command Hooks
Pardon my Tennessee, but Y’ALL. For a product that’s been around as long as Command Hooks, they sure do not receive enough credit. I, for one, did not show them nearly enough love until I began using them in my classroom as a teacher, and then later on, in the many places I’ve called home as the wife of a soldier.
This is going to sound cheesy, but really and truly, Command Hooks are the number one product that I attribute each new place feeling like my home (and they’re not even paying me to say that). I use them for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
Two little ones to hold our keys by the door? Check. A big one to hold my gigantic, 30-pound purse? Check. Another big one to hang my “Happy Fall Y’all” sign on the front door the second I see a Pumpkin Spice Latte on Instagram? You bet.
The beauty of the Command Hook is that when you’re in a very short-term rental (which will more than likely frown upon having a gazillion holes put in the wall), you can not only make the most of a small space by hanging things that would otherwise have to sit on countertops or on the floor, but you can also decorate to your heart’s content — an important part of making a space feel like it’s yours.
But Command Hooks are useful for more than just hanging wreaths and holding purses. They’re also great for holding window treatments when you can’t drill holes in the wall. No room for a Christmas tree? You can even use Command Hooks to create one on your wall.
For more creative ideas on using Command Hooks check out 14 Brilliant Command Hook Hacks for Your Home. I’m telling you, they make all the difference.
One of the primary things that distinguishes “home” from “everywhere else” is your bed. When have you ever said, “Man, I can’t wait to get home and use my own dishwasher”? No, what you do say is, “I freakin’ cannot wait to go sleep in my own bed.” But sometimes you aren’t lucky enough to get to bring your bed with you. So what do you do then?
When my husband and I went TDY-en-route to Fort Leonard Wood (with 10 days’ notice, not that I’m bitter), we had to find a furnished apartment that we could move into that very same day. And since almost all of our stuff was in storage awaiting shipment to our final destination, all we brought with us was what we could fit in our two small sedans.
So, if you can’t actually haul your mattress to your temporary living space, the next best thing to bring is your pillows. Maybe you have those super expensive, neck-supporting pillows that would’ve gotten you a perfect SAT score if you’d had them 15 years ago … or maybe you got a Mainstays two-pack from WalMart. Either way, the pillow you’re used to sleeping on will instantly make you feel more at home, even if you’re in a foreign bed.
Even better is if you can bring a mattress topper. If your mattress at home has a topper, it will likely be much easier to pack and bring with you than the mattress itself. If it doesn’t, this is something you might want to look into getting. The chances that a pre-furnished living space comes with an uber-comfortable bed are slim, but creating a comfy place to sleep and getting a good night’s rest will go a long way toward making you feel at home and helping you accomplish everything else that needs to be done as you settle into your new space.
3. Picture Frames
Another small way to make your short-term space feel like home is the use of picture frames. If your previous home was decorated with photos, pick a few of your favorites and take them to your new space. Having familiar photos around will give you a sense of comfort and belonging, and if you want to hang them without putting nails in the walls, Command Tape is a perfect alternative (reference my above infatuation with Command products. Still not getting paid).
Even if you’re unable to bring all of your belongings with you on your move, you can still pick a few of your favorite home décor items to pack with you. For example, I packed my “What’s Cookin'” weekly menu sign, the small basket full of decorative balls that I use as a centerpiece for the kitchen table, my favorite curl-up-and-read-all-day throw blanket for the living room and a few of my favorite scented candles.
Having these familiar decorative objects and placing them around my teeny tiny apartment made this foreign space feel like home to me, because it was filled with the objects that I associated with home in the past. It doesn’t take much, but when your space looks like home, there’s a good chance it’ll feel like home too.
5. Sentimental Items
And finally, your sentimental items. Honestly, part of this was that I simply couldn’t stand the idea of my wedding album being in a crusty storage unit for five months, but it turns out that knowing I have access to these sweet memories (even if I rarely actually look at them) is a huge comfort to me.
Another example is our memory box, as we call it, full of small mementos that my husband and I have collected throughout the course of our relationship (movie tickets, wine corks, letters and postcards we’ve written, etc.). Having some of my most precious memories and sentimental items here with me is an important factor in helping me believe that this is my home, even for just a few months.
So, yes — I still miss the rest of my stuff. I miss my mattress, my Tom Hanks DVD collection, and most of all, my KitchenAid stand mixer.
But having the ability to decorate my space and fill it with the things that are most important to me has helped me to stop thinking of our last house as “home,” and to instead focus on enjoying the short time I have here at my new home. Your life and your happiness as a military spouse are too important to just “make do” each time you make a move.
My advice? Figure out what makes your house feel like home, and use these tips to take that essence with you. Happy moving!