It’s the night before a military move, and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, except you because you are one giant ball of nervous energy. Did I forget anything? (Of course, you did). Will the mover’s arrive on time tomorrow? (Laugh hysterically because you know the answer). Should I have made more lists? (Roll over, get out of bed, and start making more lists).
PCSing always brings about anxiety, but what happens when you add in the extra worry and stress that comes with making a military move WITHOUT your spouse? Reducing the stress of this seemingly monumental task, however, is possible if you plan ahead! Follow these eight easy (okay, helpful, we hope) tips to help you prepare for a military move without your spouse. Hold on tight. You got this!
Enlist help for your military move
Now is not the time to put that super-hero cape to work. We all need help at some point, and PCSing without your spouse absolutely qualifies. Whether it be a friend or family member, ask for help. There should be at least two sets of eyes on the movers when they are in your home. A good approach would be to park that friend in a chair with the clip board and let them check off all the numbers on the boxes so that you can focus on the progress of the pack-out and placement of items in your new home. You may also need help with the kids or your pets during a part of the move. Maybe you need someone to help you get all the stuff you are donating out the door, or simply a friend to help you organize your thoughts and prioritize. Reach out and ask, and then vow to pay it forward in the future.
Copies of POA & orders
First of all, double check to make sure you have the appropriate Power of Attorney documents for your move. Not all companies will accept a general POA and require a special POA for specific services. Then make sure you have copies, and they are kept safe. While you might feel the need to print multiple copies of each, three sets should be more than enough. One copy on your mobile device, one set printed and with you while you travel, and then a backup set because, well, you never know.
Do you have access to all accounts?
Don’t wait until the week of the military move to try and turn off or transfer your utilities and bills. Many companies will let you schedule this in advance, so call ahead to see what they need from you. This is where that POA and copy of orders will come into play. Make sure you can access everything: cable, internet, power, water, sanitation services, etc. Do you have access to all of the credit cards and bank accounts you might need when traveling or setting up new services? Store all of the passwords in a secure location and make sure that your spouse has added you as an authorized user to all accounts well in advance of your move.
Label your rooms
This is one of the easiest and most recommended moving strategies. In theory, it can give the packers and movers a sense of respect for your family. “I’m not just packing a kid’s room. These are little Ruby’s toys.” The labels will also help those that unpack with the placement of items at your new home. Labels or not, make sure to download the PCSgrades’ Movers Notice. Print it out and give it to all the members of your packing and moving team, so they know the while you are looking forward to a positive experience with their company, you do intend to hold them accountable for how they treat your belongings.
Food for thought
Making healthy choices during a military move can be challenging. You and your family need to take breaks for lunch and snacks throughout the day, and it can be tempting to utilize take-out or fast food frequently, leaving you sluggish. Preparing meals and snacks in advance is key. Some suggestions would be frozen lasagna and bagged salad, pre-made sandwiches, and chips, fruit, waters, etc. You can also transport your crockpot or Instant Pot in the car, giving you some no-fuss, healthy dinner options during packing and after you arrive at the new location. These meal options also make great lunches for the packers and movers if you choose to feed them.
Outsource as many services as your family can afford. If you can drop Scout at doggie day care, do it! If you have the means to hire a babysitter or use the CDC hourly care for your kids, do it! You will be under enough stress without having to run around all day saying “Where is the dog? Kids don’t touch that!” Hire someone to take care of the lawn and to do the final cleaning of your home. It will greatly reduce your stress during a solo-move. You can even outsource some of the research involved with your military move by visiting PCSgrades.com. You can read and submit reviews on real estate agents, lenders, neighborhoods and more. The website features a community of active duty, veterans, and military spouses sharing their honest opinions of so many of the services you need when you relocate. Take the guesswork (the Google work) out of getting the real scoop about your new home, register today.
Keeping small children from getting bored during the moving process is important, not only for your sanity but to keep their minds off of what is going on and reduce their anxiety about the process. Have the kids decorate the moving boxes in their rooms with crayons or washable markers. It can provide hours of fun and psychologically speaking, the movers might be more careful with boxes covered in hearts and stick figures, so win-win! Kick everyone out into the back yard to play if the weather permits. This might be a great time to hire a neighborhood teenager to play with the kids. Charge up the laptop or DVD player and have a special movie night on the air mattresses that are now your beds. Wherever the kids go, make sure the animals are there too, so you don’t have to keep tabs on both.
Make lists for your military move
You can never have too many lists, and during a PCS, they can be a lifeline. In addition to helping you remember the many small details that must be taken care of, they can ease your stress and make you feel accomplished when you can check items off that list. Sometimes I even write things on a list that are already finished just so that I can cross them off! It’s a great way to stay organized, and your brain will be going a thousand miles a minute as it is, so write down those “to-do’s” as soon as you think of them and sleep a little bit better tonight. You can check out the PCSgrades Moving Checklist here.
Having to navigate a military move without your spouse presents some challenges, yes. But by asking for help, outsourcing some of the busy work, making lists and doing some much needed prep work before-hand, you can have a successful solo-move that doesn’t leave you stressed, overwhelmed and frustrated.
What tips would you add? How have you successfully navigated a PCS without your spouse?
Jenah Wieczorek is an Army spouse, mother of 2 boys, dental hygienist, and volunteer. Jenah is a two-time recipient of the First Cavalry Division Commander’s Award for Volunteer Excellence, the Department of the Army Award for Patriotic Civilian Service, and is a member of the U.S. Cavalry and Armor Association’s Order of St. Joan D’Arc.