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    How to Handle a Short-Notice PCS Move

    Sometimes you have months to prepare for a PCS move. Other times, the military acts quickly, leaving you very little time to pack up and get to your new location.

    Last summer, my husband’s orders were modified and we were unexpectedly sent to a new base. We jumped on the housing hot fill list and were lucky to find a home on base we could move into right away.

    The catch? We had less than two weeks to pack up our house, turn in keys, and drive to the new base. That short amount of time seemed impossible, especially since we were not anticipating moving our family of six by ourselves. It was a sweaty whirlwind of activity and cardboard boxes, but I’m proud to say we made our timeline!

    If you're faced with short-notice orders and a quick PCS move, then here are the steps to make it happen.

    How to Handle a Short-Notice PCS Move

    How to Handle a Short Notice PCS Move


    How to Prepare for a PCS Move Before You Have Orders

    Military families don’t have to wait for PCS orders to do spring cleaning or hold a garage sale. The more you keep your home organized ahead of time, the easier the moving process will be.

    1) Cut down on clutter.

    One of the biggest challenges of moving is cleaning out your house. We were lucky that my husband's orders came shortly after a deployment, where I had been systematically going through the house and lightening our load.

    Nevertheless, we still sold furniture, gave away outdoor equipment, and made multiple trips to the dumpster in the week before the move. The less you have, the smoother the packing process will go, so start cleaning out closets now!

    Sorting and getting rid of extra items is a must before PCS.

    2) Organize paperwork.

    Keep all important documents in one place so you won’t have to search for birth certificates, car titles, marriage certificate, or Powers of Attorney after your move. These items should be hand-carried with you, not packed in moving boxes. We kept the children’s school report cards, school projects, and shot records in this file so they could be registered at their new school quickly.

    3) Expect a DITY move.

    If you must move with just a few weeks’ notice, you will likely have to move yourselves, especially if it is during the peak PCS season (late spring and summer). Scheduling support from military moving companies often has a wait list, so the professional movers may not be available. Check into the options, but be ready to face a Do-it-Yourself move.

    How to Do a Quick PCS Move

    1) Prioritize your moving tasks.

    With short-notice orders, there may not be time to do everything you would like to do before a move. Discuss the biggest priorities with your spouse. They probably need to turn in gear and check out from their unit.

    You may need to collect medical records for yourself and the children, fill out moving forms at the post office, and contact the next school. Someone has to pick up moving supplies and get the truck. Focus on the need-to-do tasks first.

    2) Pack like the pros.

    Although the military doesn't reimburse the cost of moving supplies during a DITY move (also called a Personally Procured Move or PPM), it's worth it to invest in boxes, tape, bubble wrap, and packing paper from your local moving truck center.

    Having the right supplies makes the packing go faster. Use a dolly to move heavy furniture or multiple boxes. Purchase the packaging kits to move TV’s and computers. We rented furniture pads to wrap our wooden furniture and we bought several giant rolls of mover’s wrap to put around bookshelves, plastic crates, and furniture.

    Not only did this keep things secure and make them easier to stack in the truck, but it also protected edges from rubbing against other objects. With these strategies, all our goods arrived undamaged!

    Pack like a pro!


    3) Work together.

    A short-notice move can bring tensions to peak levels. Try to focus on accomplishing things as a team. That doesn’t mean you need to do everything together.

    Some tasks will be completed more quickly with the divide-and-conquer approach. Other times you need to lend a helping hand for lifting and moving bulky objects. Enlist friends to help watch the kids, prepare meals, clean the house, or load the truck.

    4) Allow time to load and weigh the moving truck.

    Originally, we gave ourselves one day to load the truck, and we planned to drive to the next base the following day. But to get military reimbursement for a DITY or PPM move, you must weigh your moving truck before and after it is loaded. After checking the times for our local weigh stations, we realized we needed to adjust our schedule—by two days!

    Picking up the truck earlier added stress to the packing schedule, but it was necessary to ensure we were reimbursed. While my husband drove the loaded truck to the weigh station, I focused on cleaning the house and painting over nail holes. Don’t forget to check the cleaning and check-out procedures for your current home to avoid final charges.

    A short-notice PCS move is stressful and challenging, but if you plan your timeline and work together, you can make it happen. I hope your upcoming move goes smoothly and quickly!

    Easy Steps to Prepare for Your PCS

    Lizann Lightfoot


    Lizann Lightfoot

    Lizann Lightfoot has been with her Marine for two decades of military service. Together, they have survived 7 deployments, done 6 PCS moves, had 5 children, lived in 4 time zones, and spent 3 years overseas! As a professional writer, Lizann is the voice of the Seasoned Spouse blog, and has published hundreds of articles in military magazines and on websites supporting the military community. She is the author of the books Welcome to Rota, the Ultimate Deployment Guide, and Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses.

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