A permanent change of station (PCS) can be daunting whether it is your first, your twentieth, or somewhere in between. Along the way the entire family will settle into a system that works for them, but the first few moves can be particularly rocky. The best thing you can do when you are feeling overwhelmed at the idea of packing up your entire home and setting up somewhere new is to take a deep breath, relax, and get started.
Getting started on a PCS means different things to different people. Some people start with lists, creating a binder of important documents they will need throughout the moving process. Other people immediately begin organizing their house, preparing for packing. The best thing you can do for your first move is to gather advice. There are three main places you can seek advice. First, you can head over to the transportation office or personal property office and ask for a relocation briefing. There you will learn about the paperwork required to get you started and how the process works whether you choose to have the military move you, or to move yourself. Next, you should hit up the family service center, both where you are and where you will be going. There you can get budgeting tips, find phone numbers for local resources, and learn a bit about your new location. Finally, ask other service members and their spouses for suggestions. Find a seasoned professional to give you general tips and then try to seek out someone who has been stationed where you will be moving for more specific tips, such as what you will need to bring with you and what can be sold or donated instead.
After gathering enough advice to make you feel completely overwhelmed you should begin to do your own research. Go online and visit move.mil to find out more about the military moving process, and use civilian websites to gather general packing and moving tips. Research your new location and make a decision about whether you will want to live on base or in town, and perhaps make an inquiry about how difficult it is to get into base housing.
Next, it is time to start making decisions. Your biggest decision will probably whether you want to Do-IT-Yourself (DITY) or let the military move you. You should weigh which option will be cheaper, less stressful, and more realistic for your time frame. If you are moving during peak periods on short notice you may have to go with a military move due to a lack of rental trucks available, or may have to do a DITY because the military movers are already booked. Whichever decision you make, be sure to book as soon as possible.
Once you know what type of move you will be doing it is time to start getting organized. There are four main types of organization for a PCS. You must organize your belongings, finances, important paperwork, and commitments. Organizing your belongings involves deciding what you will pack up and move with you and what will stay behind. Every move will surprise you with how much stuff you were able to accumulate in such a short time, so be sure you are taking the things that mean the most with you and getting rid of belongings you feel lukewarm about. You can have a garage sale or make a donation to a local charity to get rid of the things you don’t want to bother moving. To organize your finances you should make a budget, find out what expenses the military will cover, and make sure your bank has a branch at your new location. Important paperwork can pile up quickly for a PCS. It is best to create a PCS binder with a pocket to hold receipts and all of your family’s important paperworks that might be needed during the move. Finally, you should get your affairs in order including informing any committees you are on that you will be leaving, and preparing to shut off your utilities.
Finally, you are ready to get packing. Packing for a move, or preparing to be packed, is a topic of its own, and you will find many resources for it both online and at your family service center. The best piece of advice, as with the whole moving process, is to begin as soon as possible. Preparing your home to move out will inevitably take more time than you think it will, especially if you are doing a DITY. Enlist the help of friends if needed, and give yourself a few more days than you think you will need. Also, try to clean as you pack so that you don’t have as much work once your belongings are out. Once you have the first PCS under your belt, you will be twice as ready to face the next one.