Saturday, May 30, 2009

We are Experts on Moving...the Move Checklist! by SueRunyonDesigns

This post came about after some chat on the Homefront forum about moving tips. I thought there ought to be enough experience among the members to help out those who are relatively new to military life. After 21 years of military life and nine moves I have a few tips myself. Enjoy! Sue of Sue Runyon Designs


Mirka of FinnfactorArts suggest starting early: “Eating the pantry empty, going through closets and garages and getting rid of junk that has been sitting there unused and selling or donating it.” Leah of winddancerdesigns says: “Re-organize and de-stash anything you can at least six weeks prior to your packing date. This cuts down on unnecessary stuff going into your new home.”

Mirka also says “Another thing was that we visited our new location a month early and found a place to stay. That way I knew to get rid of some big furniture before the move since it was not going to fit in the new house. Craigslist is a good place to sell unwanted furniture in good condition. I also started a list of places on the fridge door early of places to remember to change our address at. Every time I received a magazine, letter or bill (junk mail excluded), I would know that would be a place to contact for change of address and write it on the list. Then a month before we moved, I just went down the list and changed our address everywhere. Most subscriptions and companies you can just do online.” If moving into base housing you should be able to find floor plans on the installation’s website.

If you have pets and are going to any quarantine areas such as England, Japan and Hawaii (most island locations), get started right away on working through the quarantine regulations. This can take months! In fact, if you have a pet and there is any possibility you may be sent to a quarantine area, you should consider having a microchip implanted during your next vet visit to cut a couple of weeks of waiting time off the process.

Leah also says: “Make contact with the moving company early. This is especially crucial when dealing with military PCS moves. Make friends with your moving company consultant. More than likely this will be a person familiar with military personnel. This is the person who you would contact in the event of any problems with packing, moving or un-packing.” Your consultant can let you know what they will and will not move (such as liquids, plants, batteries, light bulbs or ammo) and answer your questions about what to expect. If doing an overseas move you may have several different moving companies to coordinate. Also note that it is entirely possible that someone from the TMO office will stop by at some point during your moving day(s) for an impromptu inspection of how the movers are doing.

Deal with your paperwork and media. Remember to go through your bank statements, utility bills and the like and shred old documents. Check with an accountant to decide what is necessary to keep. Then set aside important documents to hand carry. I like to keep the last statement for every credit card, bank, utility, insurance, etc so I have account numbers and contact info for everything. Also take with you your passports, marriage license, list of addresses and phone numbers for friends and family, birth certificates, immunization records, appraisals, power of attorneys, last LES, school records, social security cards, pet records, wills, titles, registrations, deeds, copies of orders, drivers licenses, moving documents, checkbooks, medical records, and so on. You should also have copies elsewhere in a safe place such as with a family member. I have copies in my Dad’s safe where I could call him and get them if I needed. They can also be scanned and given to someone on a disk. Video tape the contents of your home (including inside closets and cupboards, patio items, garage, attics, storage units, office space at work for professional gear and garden sheds) and hand carry the tape with you. A few years ago during a PCS they lost all of our household goods for an entire month after the last cut off date they were due to be delivered. If we had never seen any of that stuff again at least we would have had a tape of it all for insurance purposes. Make a backup of all your computer files and hand carry that with you. All of these hand carry items should fit nicely in one accordion style folder. Include a blank pad of stationary and a pen for taking notes, a few envelopes and some stamps. Unless you are just moving locally you’ll be surprise how often these things will come in handy for setting up new accounts, filling out loan documents, enrolling kids in school, licensing pets, adjusting insurance, changing addresses, signing leases, etc. If you are flying to your destination, put this in your carry-on and guard it closely! If driving, take this inside with you every night! Even if you are not PCSing soon, this is something you should have ready to grab as part of your family’s disaster preparedness kit and update it every six months.

The logistics of every move is different, but all moves are difficult and exhausting. Whether you are doing a door to door move across town or a complicated overseas move with fast and slow shipments, storage shipments, airline baggage and mailed items to sort and organize, it pays to plan ahead. Make a comprehensive list of items that are basic to your family’s comfort and that you are likely to need immediately upon arrival. Then figure out how and where things need to be packed (in your vehicle, with the movers, fast overseas shipment, suitcase, etc.). TerryAnn says: Get an express shipment sent that is full of all those “camping out” things. That way you can get into housing as soon as it is available and start living there right away. Hotel living sucks and is expensive! You don’t always get totally reimbursed.” This is especially true if you have pets. Julie from Jubillie writes: “Do not forget to keep stuff to live with/off of until you get your stuff delivered. The closing on our house was backed up by over a month. We did not have clothes or home goods to last us for so long!” If your comfort items must go with your household goods sort them separately and have your packers box them up. Then grab a colorful marker and write “OPEN FIRST” on every side of those boxes so you will be able to find them immediately. Here is a list of some items that may be needed or appreciated right away:

Air mattress(es)
Shower curtain/rings
Bath mat/towels
Toilet paper
Paper towels
Basic kitchen items: pots, frying pan, plastic ware, gallon container for iced tea/drink mixes, Ziploc bags, dish cloths and towels, paper plates, bowls, cups, utensils, knives, can opener, coffee maker, toaster, coffee filters, trash bags, aluminum foil (I have often baked entire meals in aluminum foil packets during a PCS), etc
Cans of soup, cocoa, coffee, tea, drink mixes, sweetener
Pet items including food
Lawn chairs
Small TV
Extra clothing/umbrellas/swimwear/uniforms
Iron (you can iron on a countertop covered with a thick towel)
Phone chargers
Blank cards for thank you notes—often needed for nice welcome gestures from people
Night lights
Magnets for the fridge
Maps and info for your new location
Laptop computer
Camera—handy for documenting moving damage
Baby items: stroller, pac n play, extra diapers, baby food, etc
Box openers
Basic tools
Window coverings if needed right away

TerryAnn says: “Store that extra car or sell it before you leave, it will never just be OK left at the “uncles house” or parked at grandma’s (lessons learned the hard way). Get information from the local Chamber of Commerce at the new place (maps, brochures and coupons for local eateries. It’s a quick way to find your way around and get familiar with your new area.”

Set aside a place for all the items the movers aren’t supposed to take. This can be inside your vehicle, at a neighbor’s house or somewhere in your home. We often find it most convenient to clear out one bathroom and stash all of the stuff that should stay with the home such as the appliance manuals, keys, garage door remotes, homeowner’s association info, phonebooks and paint. Then we put the suitcase items and anything we haven’t yet packed in vehicles in there (along with the cat) when the movers come and we lock the door.

I have handmade quilts and other nice textiles and have to take special care with those items at moving time. Movers will use anything soft like that as extra packing material around other items. If you don’t want your grandmother’s quilt wrapped around your dining room chair as a packing blanket or absorbing acids from the packing box, I suggest you place it inside an old pillow case before the movers arrive.

Items such as dishes, and utensils need to be washed after moving since they’ve been handled and dumped into boxes. It’s often a lot of work to wash all your kitchen items. Other items are small and hard for the movers to pack without them rattling around in the box. I recommend buying some large one or two gallon bags and putting your utensils, small kitchen items, desk drawer items, junk drawer items, pens and pencils, your undies, costume jewelry and other things you don’t want the movers touching or to be loose in a box inside the bags. It will save you a lot of work at the other end.

At some point you will find yourself moving a refrigerator. This can be a huge problem because they can smell horrible inside once you unplug them and put them on a hot truck! At least 24 hours prior to the move you should empty it out and clean it thoroughly. Then spritz it inside with either bleach water or straight white vinegar to kill germs and let it dry with the door open overnight (if you have pets or young children, take care they don’t climb inside). You do not want any moisture left inside. Kristyn of KristynsKreations suggests tying fresh coffee grounds up in a coffee filter (use a rubber band) and putting several inside the fridge and freezer to absorb odors. I have also done this with good results in the past.

If you have items such as antiques or artwork that are of particular value, you should have them appraised by a certified appraiser and contact your insurance company for extra coverage. If your grandmother’s Limoges platter is broken, the movers will just reimburse you the cost of any ole platter from Target and they’ll probably figure in depreciation because it wasn’t brand new.

Call in your favors and be a good friend. If you have a friend who can watch your kids and/or dog during your move ask them—especially on truck loading day. On that day men will be walking backward carrying heavy items so having young children and pets under foot can be dangerous. Also your doors will be wide open for hours. If you have a friend who is moving, offer to help out with child and pet care, a place to stay a few nights, loan of a vacuum or other cleaning supplies, help them clean, or fix a hot meal in your slow cooker for when the movers are done for the night. It is appreciated!


TerryAnn says: “If you are moving locally, move the food first! Then camp out in the new house as you move. This makes sure you are getting things over there as fast as you can. Forward your mail at the post office right away. Don’t wait on this one, the new address will be sure to get your mail and you won’t miss any bills. If you need to hang drapes or blinds, go ahead and do so in the first week, or order them through JCPenneys (they have the best made to order) you can hang them, then take your time about unpacking because the neighbors can’t see the mess!”

Julie says: “Use the packers. Let them pack. I am a control freak and was really opposed to letting someone else pack up my stuff. But the back pain avoided alone was worth letting go of my control.”

Almost everyone gave me this tip in one form or another: WATCH THE MOVERS! Julie says “Watch the packers. Closely. I am not saying that anything was “stolen” but I had two things that did not make it to the new house and several others that were broken. I took as much with me in my own car, the rest I had to just let go.” Leah says “WATCH the packers like a HAWK. Seriously, do not turn your back on them for a moment. I ended up with an open box of baking soda packed into a box with all my wedding china. What a mess!” Beth from TheYarnChick told me they packed an apple in one of her boxes. Yep, imagine the rotten surprise she got at the other end. I’ve also heard of them packing wet towels and trash as well as the drain from the sink that should stay with the house and things like that. Remember to hand carry any small items of particular value such as jewelry, coin collections or your kid’s allowance that is tucked away in the dresser drawer. Kandyce of wastenotwhimsy says to watch how they pack softer items like baskets, photo albums, lampshades and the like. They often do not take care to keep them from being crushed. I have also found this to be true.

You are allowed to write on your own boxes. I’ve had movers label every single kitchen box “pots and pans” regardless of what was in them. I’ve also had boxes labeled in Korean. Don’t write anything like “fine Wedgewood china,” “Grandma’s pearls,” “rare coin collection” or even “Wii” or you are unlikely to see it again. Labels like “flatware,” “stemware,” “Ryan’s winter coats,” and “kid’s books” can be very helpful.

Make sure the movers make detailed notes on your inventory and do not sign it until you look it over carefully. If something is lost or damaged, they won’t reimburse you for a 37” Sony flat screen if it just says TV. Also make them put the serial numbers on the inventory sheet. We save all our appliance boxes for things like TVs and computers and write the serial numbers on the outside of those boxes so the movers can find them easily even if they’ve already sealed the box.

Leah says: “Make sure you have a contact (cell) number for the driver who will be transporting your things. This saved me days of storage time since I was able to keep track of where my stuff was.”

Beth suggested having Ziploc bags and sharpie markers on hand for the movers to use to put hardware in for furniture they take apart. Write on the baggies and have them tape it inside a drawer or somewhere on that furniture or hand carry the hardware yourself. She says that her movers once threw the hardware for all their furniture together in one bag! In 21 years I’ve never had any movers who actually had bags available for hardware. They normally just toss it loose in a drawer or box or tape it on.

If you have packed any boxes yourself, the movers will not claim any responsibility for the items if they are damaged. If you do not seal them and they can inspect the packing job before taping them up, they may.

And what about the movers? They work hard. How should you treat them during the day(s) they are at your home? At the very least you should keep them well supplied with cool drinks and snacks. I usually fill the fridge or cooler with a lot of bottles of water, sports drinks and sodas. I also have donuts in the morning and cookies the rest of the day for them for their breaks. Some people offer them lunch and others do not. That is totally up to you. Truck loading day tends to take a long time at our house so we will normally send out for some dinner for everyone on that day as they stay late to finish. Once again, that is not expected, it’s up to each family. Learn their names and let them know which bathroom they can use so they don’t have to ask. Most companies require them to ask first.

Check the inventory carefully before you sign it and check everywhere in the house for left items. Beth says they left a dishwasher full of dishes once. Be sure to check the top shelves in closets and cupboards and the back of drawers. Make sure they note any damage they have caused to the home while taking out furniture or any damage done to items while packing or loading.AFTER:

One of you should have copies of all the inventory sheets and check off each box or item as they bring it into your home. Do not sign the inventory sheet at the end of the day until all items have been accounted for. Also do not sign it until you have noted down any apparent damage to items or to the home.

After so many moves I’ve come to despise the very sight of brown cardboard boxes. The movers do not like you to know this, but most of them are under contract to unpack ALL boxes and take away the empties on delivery day if you ask them to—check with TMO to be sure. Naturally, they won’t mention it and do not want to do it. But it will save you A LOT of work and they are being paid for it. If you expect them to do this, please let them know UP FRONT. Don’t spring it on them at the end of a hard day when they just want to go home. If you let them know they often send extra people at the end of the day to help out. None of the boxes should be unpacked until all inventory items have been checked off the sheets. At this point, usually my whole family joins in to unpack boxes and help put furniture back together for a while. At some point there is never enough room left in the kitchen to unpack any more boxes so I send them home before those are all done.

If you would rather they did not unpack the boxes you can send the movers on their way. They are usually required to come back and collect the broken down empties if you call them to do it later. However, moving boxes are not cheap—just check the prices on the U-Haul website. You can break down your boxes and list them on Craigslist and get some cash for them if you want to go to the trouble. There are always people looking for used moving boxes.

Leah says: “Unpack and set up beds and make them FIRST once you arrive at your new location. This way you have somewhere to fall once you quit for the day.”

Deb of LilacAve says: “Save the receipts to claim on your taxes if the military will not reimburse you for lost and damaged items.”

Julie writes: “Accept that there are things that will go wrong and you cannot control (this was the hardest for me personally).”

I also found good comprehensive military moving checklists at

I hope this has been helpful to you. Sue (Sue Runyon Designs)


Bubba & Rye said...

Great checklist for our move in 6 days!!!

jacjewelry said...

Very helpful! We are moving in a couple of weeks. Thanks to all!!!

Sue Runyon said...

Thanks everyone for contributing great ideas to this post. You made it a lot easier to write.

Sue Runyon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
terryann said...

thanks for including my tips... I think I am getting ready to move my again myself.

Leah - Wind Dancer Designs said...

Wow, thanks for including my tips...I've only had to PCS once so far...but, boy was that an experience.

Beth said...

Great post!!!!

Lynne said...

TAKE OUT THE TRASH RIGHT BEFORE THEY COME!!! They are paid by weight so they will pack EVERYTHING. I was one who got a trash bag of trash in a box. They set can and all in the box. Imagine the stench.

. Becca . said...

Great list!! I'm moving again in a couple weeks, and there are some excellent tips and reminders in there :)

Thank you!

Beth said...

What a great entry... And no, NEVER leave the car behind. :(
I had to leave my heavily-customized Mustang at my parents' to make my first military-related move. They were going to keep it there for three months, until I could come get it and drive it out to the coast. They waited a month and a half, and then SOLD it! For $1600 - Roughly a third of what it should have gone for, if sold...

eMOM said...

I couldn't resist commenting on the pup photo. Looks just like my first dog "Missy". Love the blog!

ThreadBeaur said...

Wow! I wish I would have found this page before we moved. The thing we learned about our military move (it was our first) is to spend more than a day preparing for the move. IT is a great time to purge. I wish we would have had some chairs to rest on. We went for a long time with no furniture. You forget how nice it is to sit down and put your feet up! LESSON LEARNED.

Jissa said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

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