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Upcoming PCS

Our 2-year olds wrestling on a hotel room couch last PCS ;)

I wrote a blog post before titled, "PCSing tips from a Navy wife and mother of three." We have a PCS coming up in the next couple months and so I wanted to write another blog post about how we start preparing several months before an upcoming PCS.

Move Notebook

The most important aspect to a smooth PCS is organizing all your paperwork which is why the move notebook is so important. I wrote a blog post called "Write it all down" where I explain how I organize our move notebook. The other day I spent the morning getting our move notebook ready for our next move: throwing out and filing paperwork from our last PCS, printing off new note taking pages, adding sections for our new kitten and baby #4. Move notebook: ready.

Donating HHG

The next step {and one you can never start too early-- seriously} is going through your household goods (HHG). One of the difficult aspects of being a Navy family is you never know where your next PCS will be. We will find out roughly 2 weeks before we PCS where we are going. I don't want to donate our winter coats because 1.) I don't know where our next move will be and 2.) I don't know where we are going after that. When we lived in Hawaii, our hall closet was stuffed with winter jackets from living in New Hampshire/Maine. Our storage unit in North Carolina was lined with boogie boards from Hawaii, that we then used here in South Carolina. I know everyone manages their HHG differently, but, man, I hate rebuying things every time we PCS. So, while keeping in mind that while we might not need our boogie boards/swim suits or scarves/winter coats at our next PCS, I still follow a few rules when combing through our HHG:
  • When you last lived in that climate, did you actually use those items?
    I just went through my closet and found a whole bin of hideous scarves and hats. I never wore them in New Hampshire, I never wore them on the cold days in North Carolina, and I definitely don't plan on wearing them in the future. Some things that never were in style will definitely never be in style again. If you find beach toys that you never took to the beach when you lived 10 minutes from it, get rid of them.
  • Follow the rules of fashion: if you haven't worn them in 2 seasons, out they go.
    If you have gone through 2 seasons with your fall wardrobe and haven't pulled out an entire drawer of sweaters, pare them down. If you have skipped over certain items for 2 seasons, you will never wear that item again. If you need help going through your closet with a critical eye, I highly recommend Tim Gunn's Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style. Tim Gunn has all the answers.
  • Most important question: how easy is that item to replace?
    Being a moving military family, this is the most important question to me when looking at an item and weighing whether it should stay or go. I don't like donating items that I immediately need to replace when arriving from a PCS (moving is expensive enough already without creating expenses). My husband hates one of the end tables in our family room. I agree with him that it isn't a quality piece of furniture. However, I do not want to move to our next house missing end tables; I need somewhere to put my coffee. That is an item that I would keep and replace... eventually {probably never-- haha!}. Our winter jackets also fall in that category. My husband and I both have very nice winter jackets; our children's winter jackets have all only seen a season or two, meaning our younger sons have quality hand-me-down jackets. It would cost more for me to throw them all out then keep them and hand them down to our younger children. Several things that didn't make the cut: surplus outdoor toys, a large quantity of toys from our playroom, a whole bin of spare picture frames, cookbooks that I rarely-- if ever-- use, etc.
Going through your HHG is something that takes time. We did spend the couple weeks after baby #4 was born going through every drawer and closet in our house, tossing out the junk, organizing all our paper files. That was very productive, but, since then, we have gone through even more stuff. We keep a donate box in our garage so that we can continuously add to it. Yesterday alone I found literally 20 pounds of things to donate in our office, a room that we have already combed through. I look at it this way: when you first walk into a room like our playroom, it is hard to discern what we truly need to keep. The first wave is the most obvious for removing junk. The second wave is when we start picking through and really organizing. The third wave we can go through with a fine tooth comb and eliminate almost all of the junk.

Use up your liquids
This is a really helpful blog post on PCSing, "Army Wife Network: PCS Guide." It states:
Be aware that most moving companies will not transport candles, batteries, live plants, and liquids.  They will however pack non-perishables.  If you have any of these items you will have to make other arrangements to get them to your new home or give them away.
Sounds simple enough, but take a close look at how many liquids you have in your home, starting in the kitchen: oils, condiments, vinegars, alcohol, dressings, jars of pickled products, etc. Move to the bathroom: lotions, hair products, shave products, bath and body products, etc. Move to the garage: paint, finishes, aerosol cans, gas, cleaning products, etc. This is obviously not a process that you should start the week before you pack out.

Some people get really frustrated that those items won't be packed out. I agree.. It is hard to throw those all away each and every time you move. On the flip side, how would you feel PCSing from Hawaii and having your household goods packed in a crate with someone else's household goods and one of their boxes exploded, leaking 409 all over your couch for 2 months? Or a bottle of olive oil saturating a box of books? When we left Hawaii, one of our movers left a bag of individually wrapped chocolates on our couch. 3 months later when our couch was delivered to North Carolina in July, we had an epic mess on our hand that literally coated our small living room in our apartment. (The chocolate had coated the couch and the paper that the couch was wrapped in, spreading all over the carpet, the couch cushions... It was a mess.) So I understand why these items aren't moved. I also am excited when some of these items accidentally do get packed and survive in one piece-- "Score! A box of household cleaners that I don't need to go out and buy!"

I 100% agree with passing out things you can't move to your friends-- freezer items, cleaning products, hair products, any and everything. I believe in paying it forward. I believe in donating things you don't need anymore or can't use. I also believe in cutting down on waste and using what you own. It is still so frustrating throwing out so much waste every time we move. No matter what we pass out to friends, we still end up with waste each and every time. Some moves it can't be helped. We found out we were moving in 2 months when we left Hawaii, fast forwarding our move date by over a year. My husband was underway while I was setting up our move and we had a lot of ducks to get in a row for the STA-21 program. I'm not sure we used up much of our perishables before we moved. I remember boxes of cleaning products I handed out and throwing away so much food, even after passing out so much food.

Here are my tips on using up your liquids:
  • Take inventory
    What items do you own that actually cannot be moved? Check your freezer. Check your pantry. Check your bathrooms. Check your garage. Figure out what you have and what you need to use up. Write a list if it helps. Figure out how to use up the cleaning products you own and, if you run out before your PCS, buy multi-purpose cleaning products that will be easier to consume before your move date. Make meals that use your perishables.
  • Start early
    I have found that, for our family, the last month before we move is not a good time for us to use up our products. We are busy cleaning. Our friends want to go out to eat with us. I am spending time setting up the move, confirming dates, refiguring everything when I get a call that the pack out is moved by a week or two, etc. That last month never goes as planned and our freezer suffers for it. Plan early-- start 3 months ahead truly consuming what you already own. Make it a goal. With 3 months before you move, pull out those perishable items from your pantry that must be consumed-- condiments, dressings, etc-- and get creative. In your bathrooms, set out the liquids that cannot move and start using them! Make a point of using these things.
  • Figure out what you won't use
    Despite our best efforts, there will still be things that we will not use. For instance, my husband has lots of finishes and paints in our garage. He will not be completing any more woodworking projects before we move. I have lots of shampoos and conditioners that I will most likely not use. Make a game plan for those items. Since I plan on visiting my parents, I know that I can bring our unopened condiments, bath and body products, etc, to their house and I know what will get used there. For the other things, we plan on passing those things off to our friends, especially in the last month when it is obvious we will not be using them. A big note is do not wait to hand it all out the week before you PCS. As well-meaning as people are, everyone is busy. You may have a free afternoon to hand out your household cleaners and bath and beauty products, but your friend has school pick up/drop off and doctor's appointments. Don't wait until the last minute when your only option is to throw it away.
Make reservations
I'm not sure how well it comes across in my blog, but I'm a planner. I like making lists, schedules, keeping notes, hanging reminders. I like having a game plan. PCSing can be really hard because moving plans are contingent on all the other parts of the move: the pack out date, when HHG are picked up, etc. If you have a moment, I'll take you on a little walk through my over-planning mind.
  • Set up the outgoing hotel:

    I am a huge fan of booking directly through companies. I never use third party sites, such as Travelocity or Kayak or whatever. My favorite hotel companies for PCSing are Marriot and Hyatt {both have military rates}. As soon as I have an idea of when we might possibly have a good chance of maybe PCSing, I book our hotel. Why? Because I familiarize myself with the hotel's cancellation policy. Marriot and Hyatt give you 24 hours before your check-in time to cancel a reservation.

    How do I make this work for me? Let's say that I think we are PCSing at the end of November (which we aren't). I would go on the computer now, compare rates, book an outgoing hotel reservation for 2 weeks at the hotel of my choice, and then continue to monitor hotel prices. When PCSing with pets and children, sometimes it costs far less to stay at a hotel that does not accept pets and board the animals than it does to stay at a hotel with a pet deposit and a pet fee each night; sometimes it isn't. It also takes some planning to figure out if it would be more convenient to board the animals or keep them with us-- where is the pet boarder located in relation to our hotel and home? How much will it cost to board our pet? What is the pet fee/pet deposit at our hotel?

    I also like to call local military hotels, such as Navy Lodge or any hotels on base. Many of those hotels have deposits that you pay when you make the reservation, but they also usually have a similar cancellation policy as the larger chain hotels. I like to check out those hotels because they are usually less expensive, generally centrally located, and often pet friendly. The downside to the military hotels is that they are quite often just hotel rooms whereas with a Residence Inn I can get a 2-bedroom suite that comfortably accommodates the whole family or a Hyatt Place room with somewhat divided spaces that works well for a short stay.

    And here is why I never use third party sites: as the move gets closer, I adjust our reservation when our dates become firmer. I never cut down the length of our stay. I always make sure to make our reservation at least 2-3 days past when I think I will need it. {When PCSing with a family, don't make it more difficult by setting it up so you have to change rooms in the middle of a hotel stay.} I carefully mark my calendar as to where I have made reservations and the cancellation dates. This makes it much easier for me to guarantee lower fares, comfortable accommodations during a PCS, and a convenient location {I like an included breakfast, lunch and dinner within walking distance, and centrally located to the other aspects of our move}. With third party sites, they often do not allow cancellations or adjusting the stay. It is often very difficult to do this as well, resulting in long phone calls through automated systems (my nemesis).

    It is much easier to book our outgoing hotel in advance. I generally have to wait until the month before our PCS to book our incoming hotel. We do not like to stay at our home once our pack out begins because it is often dangerous keeping track of the kids with moving boxes, etc. Our outgoing hotel begins the day of our pack out and ends when we leave town, usually right after our final walk through. {I love when we can book our final walk through in the evening the night before we check out of our hotel-- that is perfect PCS timing.} The incoming hotel is contingent on when we are actually moving to our next duty station-- when our household goods will be delivered, my husband's report date, etc. That I have to wait on until we have a firmer idea of when things will take place, but I book that as soon as we have an inkling as well.

I hear a lot as we get ready to move that "it will all work out." We had a really crappy situation when PCSing from North Carolina to South Carolina (read "Living on borrowed time"), but it worked out. It always does. It's stressful to not know where the next move is or when exactly we are moving or being able to look up housing at our next place {my fingers are itching to start searching Zillow}. For now I'm content channeling my energy into these tasks. Eventually the  move will hit and I'll earn more PCSing gray hairs. For now there is no stress-- no dates to keep track of, nothing broken in a move, no overbooked hotels, no missing POAs, no housing wait lists... Just a looming move.
What are your pre-PCSing tips? How do you get ready for an upcoming PCS?


Thanks for sharing this information I really appreciate this post. I really enjoy this and waiting for new update.
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Kimber said…
Thank you for your comment! Here is the link to my update:
PC Suppliers said…
Nice Blog Post !

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