My husband Dave and I left Altus last weekend, and traveled 1,800 miles to the Pacific Northwest, to help my sister Nelia move. She and her husband sold their home of the last 9 years, and found a beautiful farmhouse on a couple of acres, with a stunning view of Mount Hood.
Nelia and I were adopted by different families, so we weren’t raised together. As I mentioned in my profile, we were born in the Philippines. It’s only as adults that we’ve been able to get to know each other as friends that look alike, and share interesting similarities. Helping her move was another valuable opportunity to build upon our relationship. Besides which, Dave and I happen to have a lot of experience moving.
That brings us to last Saturday in Boring, Oregon.
While our husbands were unloading household goods, I found myself standing in my sister’s new kitchen trying to help her figure out how to preheat the oven and set the timer. Between the chaos of “What does this button do?” and “Is the beer still cold outside?” I’m aware that at one point, my brother-in-law poked his head into the kitchen.
While watching us slice pizza using cheap plastic cutlery, my exhausted brother-in-law uttered those infamous words we know too well.
“We are never moving again.”
Ah, moving! I feel like moving is one of those things that never gets better with time. No matter how often you’ve packed up your belongings and driven away, it always sucks. This rings true even if you don’t have a lot of stuff. I took a lot less along when I moved to Sweden in 2007, but it was still painful.
For weeks in Stockholm, the communal laundry room in the basement of my apartment building confused me. My strategy was to just buy new underwear, because signing up for a laundry slot and using a washing machine in a foreign language was too much, too soon.
That said, while visiting my sister I was reminded of a few things that I learned during my first PCS experience, from McChord to Charleston. I applied the same lessons to our PCS from Charleston to Altus, and it really did make the move easier.
But first, mayhem…
Quick Moving Tips
Hide your private stuff first. To avoid the awkward situation where your brother-in-law or a total stranger has to sift through your underwear drawer, pack it up well in advance. I tend to dump the contents of my underwear drawer into a plastic garbage bag, and use it to prevent things from shifting around in the car. I’d rather have all my underwear with me anyways, since I have no idea how long I may go without a washing machine or a clean supply. Remember Sweden!
Folding camp chairs are beautiful things. Even if you only really use them during a PCS. We learned the hard way, during our PCS from McChord to Charleston. After the movers packed our household goods, we realized that we had nowhere left to sit, and our dog’s bed started to look unusually appealing to us. For the next move we were prepared with our camp chairs.
Don’t forget common household supplies. You don’t want to run out of paper towels, toilet paper, and soap. I always have Clorox wipes around, but I’m a germaphobe, and even if I hired a professional cleaner, there are some things I need to do myself for my own sanitary reassurance. If you have pets, you may also need pet urine cleaner for those moments that your creature is excitedly exploring their new home. Nothing says ‘home sweet home’ like a dog pissing on the carpet.
Got Too Much Stuff?
Have you found yourself staring at a huge mountain of things that you don’t even remember accumulating? How did it get so bad, so quickly? Why do you keep moving it around? What is that anyways? Have you ever used it? OMG, and it’s still in its original packaging. Think of all the money you could have saved if you hadn’t made these purchases.
Dave had an unused microwave in its original box. It traveled with him from college at ERAU, to his casual duty assignment at MacDill, and was stored during pilot training at Vance and Altus. Then this damn microwave continued on to his first flying assignment at McChord. It spent 3 years in South Carolina until last year, when we brought it with us to Altus. We sold it here for a few bucks. That thing saw more of America than most people.
The stuff sucks.
My personal strategy for getting rid of excess stuff is to immerse myself in our household goods at every arrival. Dave is fond of having the movers do a full unpack at the end of a PCS. They’ll bring your furniture and boxes into each room, as designated, and then unpack everything. EVERYTHING. Every surface of your new house will be covered in your stuff. Then, like a tornado leaving the scene of a tragedy, the movers take all the boxes and leave you alone in your mess.
I love it.
We organized our house in Altus, and turned it into a functional living environment within 72 hours.
This ‘tornado’ approach helps us because:
• We can’t procrastinate for very long on the task of organizing and unpacking.
• We are forced to quickly reevaluate our belongings which means less time to debate if you’ll actually use the empty wine bottle you saved for no obvious reason. There will be more wine…
• We part with about 25% of our stuff, because we have nowhere else to put it.
• Both of us are equally involved in the process, so it actually goes quickly.
• We know where things are, because we just saw it in the other room.
Let The Stuff Go
Did you just PCS? Do you have stuff that is still in pretty good condition? Don’t throw it out. Here are some donation options to explore that also help improve the lives of veterans and servicemembers:
Gently-worn clothing, linens, and accessories.
DonateStuff in support of AMVETS in Illinois, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart in both Houston and Detroit.
Free home pickup is not available in Altus, but they do offer a free prepaid UPS shipping program for clothing, linens, and accessories. Right now they really need winter coats and boots.
Simply complete the form on their website to receive a prepaid UPS mailing label. You will also be able to select which charity will receive your donation.
Books that are in good condition.
Operation Paperback collects gently-used books and sends them to our troops overseas, as well as veterans and military families here at home.
Once you have registered with them, you can login to the Volunteer’s Corner and request addresses of servicemembers overseas, veterans, or military families using their automated system. Input the book genres that you have available on hand, and the system will then generate an address list for you. Label your books and insert the Operation Paperback standard shipping letter (or your own personal note). Then pack and address your box using the names we provide, and mail it.
Old cell phones and tablets.
Mobile devices and tablets donated to Cell Phones For Soldiers are sold either to an electronic refurbisher or a recycler. The proceeds from this process are used to purchase prepaid international calling cards for troops and to provide emergency funding to veterans.
If you’re planning to be in Lawton anyways, you can drop off your old mobile devices at this location:
Liberty Tax Service
60 NW Sheridan Rd