9 Tips for PCSing

9 Tips for PCSingIf you are military you are familiar with the excitement, dread, and general chaos associated with a PCS (permanent change of station). The good news, you’re off to a new location, new experiences, and a new home providing a fresh slate for all your home decor ideas and saved up pinterest projects. The bad news, just as you were probably getting good and settled, you have to pick up your entire life and head off for the unknown. Saying goodbye to friends, and if you’re lucky, family, never gets easier , and the process of living out of a suitcase, sleeping in temporary lodging and hotels, and praying your stuff is actually en route to join you eventually can cause a headache or two.

This is our first PCS, not including our initial move from NC to SD, so I do not consider myself a seasoned veteran by any means, but as a sort of newbie, here are a few thoughts and suggestions I’ve come up with that would have or did make our move more bearable.
Tips for PCSing

  1. Take the time to do a detailed inventory of your household goods (I recommend an excel spreadsheet organized by room, with separate worksheets for each type of shipment – storage, unaccompanied baggage, household goods). This can be a daunting task, and also might seem a little unnecessary given that the movers will be required to create their own inventory that you will have to sign off on, but it can be a lifesaver if something goes missing. Many times the movers aren’t familiar with your things and it’s incredibly easy for them to mislabel things. For instance we had an antique brass coat stand and two antique brass candlesticks from Spain that belonged to Will’s grandparents that were going into storage. The moving person labeled them as a lamp and two lamp poles. If they had gone missing sometime in the two years we will be overseas, we would have had no claim to the very valuable, if not priceless, things we lost. We would be stuck being reimbursed for a lamp and lamp poles…whatever those are. As a bonus, as I created our inventory it helped me really go through our things and weed out anything that was not essential. By the time I was done I felt like I not only had a clear understanding of what all we own, but I also felt confident that everything we had was essential and needed. It’s a great feeling to know you don’t have a bunch of junk cluttering up useful space. 
  2. Separate your shipments into different rooms if possible, and put those plastic storage bins to use. We were told to try to sort our house and separate our things into the three different shipments. We didn’t move furniture pieces, but we did separate everything else. It not only made it much easier for us to make sure everything was going to the right place, but it also majorly helped when the movers arrived because we were able to say, “everything in this room goes to…” We had quite a few plastic storage bins, so I went ahead and packed everything I could into them and labeled the outside accordingly. The movers typically will just verify what is in the bins so they can mark it on their inventory, then they will put the full bin down inside another box to be taped up. This seemed to save the movers quite a bit of time, and will save us time on the backend because our stuff will be sorted the way we had it instead of thrown randomly into boxes, possibly labeled differently than we would have labeled them. We also designated one whole room to things that we would be keeping with us. While the movers were at the house we close that door and made sure to let them know nothing in there was to be packed. It gave us a small sanctuary to escape to to get out of their way, and eased our minds about things getting packed that weren’t supposed to.
  3. Trash or give away all your liquids and aerosols. This is one of the more frustrating rules of using movers. Liquids and aerosols are a big no no,and this includes any home canned foods. In their defense, it’s the only way they can guarantee that nothing will leak out and damage your valuable items (like your TV). However, if you just restocked on your favorite green cleaning product, or replenished your essential oil collection, or loaded up your bar with an assortment of spirits, it hurts to just throw it all away. (Items to think about: colognes/perfumes, lotions, mouthwash, laundry/dish detergent, household cleaners, cooking oils and vinegars, home canned foods, beer/liquor/wine, etc…). We’ve tried to be cognizant that our time was running short and purposefully bought smaller containers of things we needed, but inevitably you will end up with a box or two of things you can’t take with you. Will took our extras to his office and almost everything was taken home by others than could put them to use. 
  4. Find new homes for your beloved plants. Will has an aloe plant that he got when he first started college. The thing has grown into a monster by this point and unfortunately we are unable to take it with us. No plants are allowed in the shipment. We’ve been asking around to find new homes for our plants, and at least know that they are going to people that will appreciate them as much as we have. 
  5. Plan food for the days you will be in transition or homeless, and buy disposable plates, cups and utensils. We had some disposable plates and cups, but I failed on the food front. Had I been more on top of things I would have cooked a few things (in disposable containers) that could be easily reheated and eaten as needed, as well as things like sandwich stuff and snacks. Instead we are relying on eating out for most of our meals, and for us that sucks big time. Another reason this is important is because the movers will need to pack up your kitchen stuff and that includes all your cooking pots and utensils, as well as storage containers. 
  6. Clean as the movers work. If you are renting, chances are you will have a move out cleaning checklist. Ours was pretty daunting, and considering there will only be a few short hours between the movers finishing and our final move out inspection, I didn’t want to save it all for the last second. Instead, as the movers cleared rooms I cleaned right behind them. I also went ahead and cleaned the ceiling fans and lights, scrubbed the showers and toilets, cleaned the oven, and pulled the oven and the refrigerator out and cleaned behind them while I still had all of my cleaning supplies. My hope is that by the time they finish I will only need to empty the fridge, run the vacuum quickly for the carpet cleaners, and wipe down all the counters and laminate flooring. This is also one time we’re totally ok with using disposable cleaning wipes and paper towels. You most likely won’t have the ability to wash your cleaning cloths, and there are a reason those products are so popular…they are extremely convenient. 
  7. Don’t assume your orders are correct. Our orders stated that we were only allowed 25% of the full JFTR weight allowance, which meant only 3,600 lbs instead of the normal 14,500 lbs. In spite of putting a large amount of stuff into storage, and purging anything and everything we could live without, we were still sitting at about 6,000 lbs. The movers told us we would have to pay $2 per pound that we were over, which translated to almost $5,000!!! After doing some serious research, both through inquiring on the Incirlik Spouses Facebook page, and paying a visit to TMO personally, I found out that our orders were wrong. Although I was included on the orders, and they were marked for an accompanied tour, the weight allowance had been set for an unaccompanied tour. Thankfully an easy amendment set the problem straight. TMO explained that even though they were able to show through the instructions for our move that we were allotted the full weight allowance, they are required to go by the orders. So it was imperative that we got them amended and re-uploaded to avoid having to pay that astronomical overage fee. 
  8. Make sure you have all your important documents WITH you. We heard horror stories of people who forgot to get out their passports before everything was packed and shipped, leaving them scrambling to get new passports in time for them to leave the country. More than a week before the movers came I started placing the things we would be keeping with us into a separate room. By the time the movers arrived we had our luggage, the dogs’ crates, and anything we would need completely separated from the rest of the house. The documents we needed were copies of our orders, a full and complete copy of the dogs’ vet records (your base veterinary clinic has a “green file” for each of your pets that is considered your personal property. You are expected to carry it with you from base to base to ensure your pet records are complete throughout your time and travel in the military.), passports, international driver’s licenses, copies of Will’s orders, a copy of my doctor records for the baby, and once the movers were done, copies of our completed inventory so we will be able to check things off once we receive them in Turkey. We also collected all of our hotel receipts along the way in case we need them for reimbursement purposes later. 
  9. Don’t forget to return your internet modem or cable/satellite receivers. The movers were almost done packing our household goods and had started loading them into the big wooden shipping crates when I realized I still hadn’t called to cancel our internet service. Upon calling I also realized we needed to return our modem. It had already been packed, but fortunately the mover who packed it remembered where it was and the box had yet to be sealed. Even though the internet company was willing to work with us on the return time, when I explained it could be 3+ months before we would receive it, they explained weren’t that flexible. 
Our move was spread out over four days, which was pretty long and exhausting, but overall I think we can say it went well. Our attempts to organize for the movers proved to be very helpful in expediting the process, and the inventory was a huge help when the movers provided their copies for us to sign off on. Getting organized, and being proactive in your move seems to be the best way to handle such a massive task. And most important of all was remaining as flexible and relaxed as possible. Everyone is on a deadline so your move WILL get done. Tackle the things you have control of, be assertive and involved when your house is being packed up, and remember you have no choice but to go with the flow. It usually all works out in the end. 

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