When I was in the military, I made two Permanent Change of Stations (PCS), but each time I moved I followed my husband – who was also active duty – to the next duty station. The first PCS was when he went active duty and the second time he moved, I was still deployed. By the time I arrived, he had done most of the hard work.

RELATED: Why I Left the Air Force for My Kids

When I arrived in Ohio after my deployment, he had left one room full of boxes he didn’t know what to do with and the rest of the house was pretty much put together. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I approached my first PCS as a military spouse.

My First PCS as a Military Spouse

Because I didn’t get to experience a full PCS until after I left the military and was a military spouse, I had a lot of catching up to do. It didn’t help that after our move across the country, my husband headed off to work and left me alone in the house full of boxes and a 1-year-old. It was exhausting, lonely, and a lot more work than I remembered. If you’re facing your first PCS move, here are a few things I learned that may save you some time.

Preparation is Key

My first PCS move as a military spouse was not what I expected. I had PCSed twice in the military, but I had always my followed my husband to the next assignment. But PCSing is a lot more work than I ever expected.

People like to talk about how lucky we are that the military moves our stuff. And yes, we are. The packing of boxes is a lot of work and I’m thankful I don’t have to load or unload them on the truck. But you still have a lot of prep work to make this move happen. Things like washing curtains, grouping like things together, and taking inventory of all of your valuable items.  If you are not prepared for movers, you risk your stuff being damaged or possibly not moved at all. 

Moving is Hard Work

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Packing up your stuff – even watching other people do it – is just one part of the process. After they’re done you have to load your car, clean the house you are leaving, and make arrangements for lodging as you travel across the country to the new place. Once you arrive you have to unpack – quickly making the new place a home by hanging those curtains, making beds, and finding favorite toys that were accidentally packed.

Note: I once asked the packers to unpack a room. They flipped over boxes and left the contents on the floor. 

Packers Make Mistakes

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There are some nuances to PCSing – like when you ask them to unpack boxes for you. They are only required to put the contents on the nearest flat surface. Sometimes you can work this to your advantage, like in the kitchen. You can usually put away the box of dishes before they finish unpacking the next one.

Sometimes the packers put weird things together, which can cause items to be damaged or thought to be lost. These are the moments where you start thinking a DITY may be worth it. Often packers make mistakes trying to get the most out of a box, other times they are truly careless. It’s almost like spinning the Roulette wheel on the packers you get assigned.

PCSing is Lonely

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Military members often have to go to work shortly after you arrive at your new assignment, leaving you to finish up the move. You may not know anyone in your new location. When you add in the fact that your house is a mess and you haven’t even unpacked half of the boxes – you aren’t really looking forward to having people over.

But learning your new city and venturing outside the house is important. Go to the park or find something fun to do. Eventually, the boxes will all be unpacked and your house will feel like a home. Getting connected in your community takes time to and you might as well start to build those relationships sooner than later.

Don’t forget moving can also be emotional. Moving is stressful, even when you have a good plan. You always seem to run out of time to do all the things you need to do. So, start prepping early, prepare for stressful situations, and don’t forget to be flexible. You’ve got this!

Check out What to Expect When You PCS on the Patriot Express


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