How To Conquer A Military Move

How To Conquer A Military Move

Three long months I waited for the day that the movers would come to carry all of my belongings away. Three months of hoping I packed everything, inventoried everything, and that I didn’t pack anything on the “not allowed” list.

My situation is probably different than yours or the seasoned military spouse. I’m what’s considered to be a deferred spouse. In army terms, this means that I married my husband after he was already assigned a station. Or in other words, he’s been living in Italy for a year or more before I will be arriving. Why does this matter? Well, it means I had to do all the packing, planning, and arranging pick-ups alone. In most cases, movers will come and pack up your house and box everything for you. Except, in my situation, I sold my house and am living in a temporary spot…so I had to pack up all of my things anyways.

Considering this is my first PCS (permanent change of station), I had no idea how to pack or what the rules were…of course there are rules because of duh army. I found THE ultimate guide online from a blogger here that has literally been my saving grace. I printed Highlighted. Underlined. Made notes. Put it in a binder. You name it. Even if I wasn’t doing a military move, and instead just a normal move in general, I would use her methods of packing any day!

Taking Inventory

To start with, I created a Google spreadsheet (that’s the math spreadsheet geek in me) to organize my inventory. Below is a screenshot to give you an idea of what it looked like. There are three types of shipments with the military. HHG = household goods. UB = unaccompanied baggage. NTS = non-temporary storage. HHG travels via ship (that’s why mine is labeled overseas by the way), UB travels via plane, and NTS is what is left behind in a storage container in the US that you don’t want to take overseas. I organized this particular sheet by box number, item, and amount. So as you can see in box #1 there is fall decor, kitchen rags, and candle holders.


Of course, not everything fits into a box so it was added to the end of the list.

Labeling Those Boxes

The whole point of creating a spreadsheet was so that when it comes to needing something, I can easily locate it by its box number. Therefore, the boxes must be labeled. Another tip I found from a seasoned military spouse was to create labels that have the following on them:


This way, if a box gets separated from the pack, it has your information on it. It’s also a good idea to have three different types of labels: HHG, UB, and NTS just as you do in the spreadsheet.

Schedule Your Pack Out Day

Scheduling the pack out day was one of the most stressful parts of the process. The typical time that it takes HHG to reach its destination can vary from 60 to 75 days. Many have received it in less, and many didn’t receive theirs until months later. I scheduled mine for exactly two months before my flight, with the thought that if it took 75 days to get there, I could survive 15 days without these things.

A surveyor came the week prior to my pack out day to take a look at my belongings and determine how many boxes he would need, how many men would be required, and about how heavy my shipment would be. Well, obviously I didn’t need very many boxes because most of my stuff was already boxed up. He started to look through everything to inventory it, and then I mentioned that I had made an inventory sheet of everything if he wanted to look at it…he was shocked and very much appreciated me as I think I saved him a couple hours of exploring through my things. (so thanks, other military wives for the advice!!) He determined that it would take about four hours to pack up my belongings and that it probably weighed around 4,000 pounds…which was okay because our allowed weight limit is 9,000.

Pack Out Day

Finally, the day arrived! I got up bright and early that morning at 6:30 to go get a dozen doughnuts and a pack of water for the movers…because if I can keep them happy, my hopes are that they will be gentle with my belongings and not break anything ha!

“doughnutsIt took the three movers exactly two hours (including the time that they indulged in those yummy doughnuts) to pack everything up into this huge box truck. My stuff didn’t even take up half of it!

“excelOnce they were done, I had to sign the inventory list with the condition of each item listed. This is apparently a sensitive topic among some military families as they want to protest every item and the condition that the movers listed — but hey, nothing on here is irreplaceable and I’m just finally happy to see it start its transit to Italy.  So I signed and watched all of my belongings being driven away!!


So What Now?

I got a lot of questions from family members (thanks, sis!) about what happens next, which helped spark this blog post in general.

Some questions I got were:

Did I have to write down every item? Well no, I didn’t have to. In fact, I did it because I read a blog post that said you should ha! But it ended up helping and the surveyor was only here for 10 minutes that day so I highly recommend it.

Where do the movers take the items now? Some things were too big to fit into any boxes they had in the truck, like our kayaks. So they have to take it back to their warehouse regardless, where they will safely wrap the bigger items. They will also unload it all there to weigh our shipment. Once weighed, it is then loaded into a shipping container. From there it is transported to the ship and departs for Italy!

What happens if the shipment arrives before I do? Well, first I do a little happy dance. But seriously, they will put it into a temporary storage facility for up to 90 days until we have a house. The good news is that our shipment actually weighs 2,360 pounds (I think our surveyor was a LITTLE off) so its estimate is to arrive 14 days earlier!! (happy dancing now)

Will they deliver it to you? Oh yes, a perk of the army is they will deliver AND unpack the boxes for us. Which also means they’ll take all the trash from the boxes and unwrapping that’s left over. No more heavy lifting for this girl!

So there is 2,360 pounds off my shoulders now that I don’t have to worry about! Fingers crossed that everything makes it there on time, in one piece, and doesn’t get lost along the way.

I hope you can use this if you’re a military spouse PCSing soon, or just the average gal moving into a new home. Or maybe you’re a family friend keeping up with my crazy life and now I hope I’ve answered all your questions about how to get our belongings overseas!

Regardless…thanks for reading as always.


Summer Rae

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