Tips and tricks for a military move

I finally learned enough about a military move to be useful, and of course this move was our last.  Since I've been through a fair number of moves in the past few years (seven in the past five years, but who's counting?), I've learned a few tricks and tips along the way.

Here's my wisdom, for what's it's worth (and it doesn't necessarily apply just to military moves).




1.  If you are having packers pack your things, set aside what you want to pack yourself (valuables, sentimental objects, items like medications that you need to be able to get your hands on qucikly) yourself ) .  Stashing these items in your cars ensures that they will definitely make it to the next location!


2.  Buy a bunch of plastic milk crates for loose items that you do not want the packers to touch, preferably all in one color.  I like using these crates because they are easily distinguishable and can be used for organization and storage after the move.  It's easy to say at the beginning of the packing day "Don't worry about any of the pink crates" instead of moving from room to room pointing out what is off limits.


3.  Use post-it notes for large items that need to stay (e.g., appliances, cable modems).


4.  Buy your packers lunch.  Plan something easy and be sure to hold out some paper plates, cups, and utensils.  Let them know where water cups are, or buy water bottles.  We went with pizza and cut up fruit from Costco and sub sandwiches for our packers and movers.


5.  You will need to be around all day for questions (and unfortunately, in some cases, for accountability to ensure that your stuff stays safe).  Be grateful that you are not doing all the work, but know that the move is not exactly a picnic either.


6.  Remember all of the things that packers won't pack (we didn't!): food, liquids or anything that might be in the slightest bit wet, candles, batteries, light bulbs, or anything that otherwise might explode into flames, attract creatures, or make a huge mess.





1.  Keep your spare parts bag in your purse.  The movers will designate a box "spare parts" for screws that hold together furniture, lamps, and other pieces they disassemble, but you will probably encounter more small bits that you want to save.  For example, we save all of our picture hangers and nails from move to move.


2.  Keep extra cleaning products on hand.  As movers clear out each room, clean as much and as quickly as you can.  We had to turn our most recent house over to renters and we weren't paying a cleaning crew to come in behind us, so I needed to make sure that I had a good supply of products on hand that did not get packed.  Chances are, you'll want supplies right away for your new place too, so you can take them with you, or worse case scenario, leave them for the folks that come in behind you.


3.  If you don't want your area rug trampled over, tell them to remove it early in the moving process.  They typically pack rugs last and unload them first, which makes logical sense in terms of furniture placement but is horrible from a cleanliness standpoint.


4.  Lunch.  See number 4 above.  Note that the truck will probably be blocking the driveway, so you're pretty much limited to pizza or another delivery joint unless you're super organized and bought ahead of time (we weren't).


5.  Have a furniture map ready to go, either in your head or on paper.  One person will need to check off each box or furniture items that comes into the new place and can direct the movers to the correct room.  The other person can float between rooms in the house and direct as to wall placement and such.


6.  Whenever you have a spare moment, begin unpackng boxes, even while stuff is still being moved into the house.





1.  My number one tip?  Unpack everything as soon as possible.  Get rid of all. the. boxes.  Military moves include box removal, so ask your movers very nicely to help you unload your stuff after they move the boxes and furniture out of the truck.  Most do not expect you to take advantage of this service, so they may be caught off guard.  Tip generously, and even if it is awkward, remind yourself that one hour of the crew's time saves you days.   Your stuff will be on the floor and every spare surface of the house, sure, but you deal with it right away instead of months from now.  And you don't have to haul your trash away.


2.  KItchen first.  The whole house feels better when the kitchen is up and running.


3.  Do not divide and conquer.  Inevitably, you will be doing a lot of running around, but try to avoid going from room to room aimlessly.  Save miscellany that does not fit the space you are setting up for later.  Tackling one area at a time proves far more time efficient and satisfying.  You'll see progress!


4.  Prop when possible.  Have an idea of where pictures and mirrors will go, but you can prop them against the wall for the time being.  It's easiest to set aside a few hours at the end to hang everything all at once.


5.  Aim for done not perfection.  Your books will get all mixed up and your costume jewelry tangled.  Accept it, and work on simply unpacking books on your shelves and jewelry in your dresser.  Don't get bogged down into the details of organizing until the house is fully unpacked.



Keep a sense of humor, as much as is possible.  You and your spouse (or whoever else you are moving with) will have at least one horrible fight, you will forget the towel that you set aside in order to be sure you could have a hot shower after a long day of manual labor, and something will break (but the piece of furniture gifted to you by your in-laws, the table that you always pray will break, will survive completely unscathed).  


I remind myself that thousands of people move every day.  It's not that extraordinary.  If everyone else can make it through, so can I.


But that doesn't mean it's easy or fun...right?

Emily Rowell Brown