Tips to Help Save Your Sanity During a PCS


PCS season is upon us. For those out there who don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, PCS is another one of the endless military acronyms that stands for Permanent Change of Station, the military term for “you’re moving.” I have no idea why it’s called permanent because it’s not. For us, we usually average 2 years at each duty station. This go-round, we PCSed to Ft. Leavenworth, KS. We lucked out this time as my husband actually got orders months ahead of time, so I actually had some time to plan and managed to avoid another PCS fiasco.

For many new military spouses, PCSing can be extremely hectic and confusing. Heck, even for seasoned military spouses and families, it’s still overwhelming. I find myself in this boat as well, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. Even so, something always goes wrong and all you can do is prepare the best you can and learn to go with the flow. I’ve compiled some key steps and tips to help make your first (or fifth) PCS run a little more smoothly.

  • First things first, as soon as your spouse gets (legit) orders, begin the moving process. Don’t drag your feet or you’ll be sorry. The sooner you get started the better your chances are of assuring you get the moving date you want, especially if it’s during the peak season (summer).

  • If you plan on living on base, call the housing office as soon as possible. There may be a waiting list (especially at bigger installations) and you want to be able to plan accordingly for temporary housing (hello hotel life) until a home becomes available.

  • Clean and organize your home. I love this step simply because I find purging my home of crap I don’t need, cleansing. Go through everything and get rid of or donate old clothes and unused items.  I think we’ve all had that one mystery box that we never unpack that ends up moving from house to house. I read somewhere that if you haven’t used something in a year, you don’t really need it. Plus, the less you have to move, the less you have to unpack.

  • Be honest with your inspector. There will be a moving inspector who comes to your home to gauge how much stuff you have so they can estimate the number of movers and days it will take to pack your things. Make sure you show them EVERYTHING so they get an accurate estimate. If they don’t, you risk the chance of them showing up with not enough manpower, and possibly delaying your moving plans because it took longer than originally thought to pack and move your household goods.

  • Make arrangements for pets and children, if possible. I didn’t have to do this because my son is a newborn but our next PCS he will be a toddler and I’m certain I’m going to need to plan ahead to keep him occupied. As for our cat Loki, the poor furball was banished to the basement after running all over and ultimately, outside! Thankfully I caught him before he was gone for good. So, moral of this rambling is that kids get bored and animals get in the way, so make a plan for both.

  • Always check the inventory list before you sign it. I’ve made the mistake of just assuming they knew what they were doing and ended up with lost items. If you miss something on the list, it doesn’t exist and you won’t be able to put in a claim for it. It is gone for good.

  • Have some sort of folder or binder with all of your important documents (e.g. orders, birth certificates, social security cards, passports, medical records, veterinary records, contact information, power of attorney, etc.) and have it on your person, NOT packed.

  • There is some debate as to whether you should feed your packers. Some people swear that if you feed them, they will treat your belongings with extra special attention. In my opinion (and experience) food isn’t going to guarantee any extra care of your belongings. If people don’t care, they just don’t care, whether you feed them or not, but I still offer because I want them to know they’re appreciated. Sometimes they decline anyway, but in my experience, they always appreciate cold bottles of water. In the end, it’s your personal choice.

  • Don’t forget to pack unmentionables with the things you’re going to take with you in the car/plane. Unless you don’t care that the movers know your bedroom interests.

  • Move everything you don’t want packed into a DO NOT PACK area like a closet or corner of a room and make sure you tell the movers this area is off limits. Make sure you include things you’ll want at your hotel or for your first few days at your new place. Some things I leave out are a small pot and pan or small crockpot for cooking, plastic utensils, paper goods, trash bags and soap.  Also be sure to keep your essentials (e.g. purse, wallet, and car keys) on your person or in the do not pack area so you don’t accidentally pack them.

Our DO NOT PACK corner

A few more tips to help along the way:

  • Check in with the packers throughout the day to assure they’re handling your belongings with care, inventorying it correctly and labeling the boxes properly.

  • When you get to your new duty station ask the movers for a full unpack. This means they unpack everything and take the boxes and paper with them so you’re not stuck trying to get rid of a ton of bulky packing paper.

  • Empty your trashcans. The packers won’t pay any attention if they’re full or not and they WILL pack them, even if they’re full of trash. You can only imagine how that turns out on the other end when you’re unpacking. Freaking gross!

  • Have multiple copies of orders. They will come in handy!

  • Ask your doctor for extra refills of any prescriptions you need to hold you over between providers.

  • If you have drawers with loose odds and ends in them, use Ziploc bags to store them. If you don’t, the movers will just toss it all into a box, and it will be a jumbled mess when unpacking.

  • If you can help it, never rent sight unseen! Why? Read about my PCS Fiasco for that answer.

  • Scrap the bulk liquids. In the months prior to PCSing, use smaller amounts of liquids because you take them with you.

  • Take pictures of your more valuable belongings in case you have to make a claim for missing/damaged goods.

  • Move valuable items yourself if you don’t want to risk them being damaged or lost.

Do you have any extra tips that help you PCS smoothly without going insane? Share them below!

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