By: Jill at Keep Calm & Have a Cosmo 

It’s that time again. We’ve been in California for almost three years. We feel at home in our school, church, and neighborhood. So in true military fashion, it’s time to go. Once you start to feel really cushy in a place, it usually means that Millington will be calling with orders to somewhere new. This will be our 6th Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move with the Navy.

This time we are moving to Colorado. From the sea to the mountains. Surfing to Skiing. Wine to Beer. Lots and lots of change.

But before we can fill up our mugs with hot cocoa and teach our kids what that white stuff called snow is, we need to actually do the move. PCS moves are very complicated with lots of moving parts and different contractors and timelines. It isn’t fun and it isn’t easy.

Moving is hard for EVERYONE. Military and civilians alike. Anyone who has moved from one side of the country to the other knows that the physical part of moving (packing boxes, loading them, unpacking) is NOT THE HARD PART. The hard part is new schools, new homes, new doctors, new sports teams, new dentists, etc. It’s not being able to take your kids to the best pediatrician because, of course, that pediatrician has a waiting list that parents get on at 4 weeks pregnant. It’s moving mid school year and having your kid need to learn a new teaching style and walk through the hard days being the “new kid”. It’s not having a single article of clothing for the climate you are going to **raises hand**. The actual purging, packing, and unpacking is a small fraction of the stress. But since it seems to fascinate some people how “lucky” we are, I wanted to write it up for everyone to see.

I decided to do this Diary series after reading a recent NPR article that tries to illustrate and outline moving costs in the military and how the government isn’t keeping track of what they imply are rising costs ($11,000 average in 2001 and $16,000 average in 2015). Some readers have pointed out that the rise appears to reflect inflation rates since 2001, but I’m not a finance brain so I can’t say whether that is accurate or not. The article also implies that we, as military families, are essentially wasteful hoarders with no motivation to throw anything away because “the government is picking up the tab”. Add this to the common mantra among civilians of “oh, it must be so easy to move if they pack you up, drive it out, and unpack for you” I decided it was time to write a real-time play by play of an average PCS move.

Our packers arrive tomorrow. The plan is that they will pack Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then load the truck Friday. Our family will drive out in early November. [Fun fact: No, the military will not ship cars in the continental United States. We either have to drive both or pay out of pocket to ship one or both.]

My husband and I have been purging for months. While the NPR article states that weight allowances for moves is based on family size and rank, it is actually only based on rank. An O-7 with no kids will have a much higher weight allowance than an E-4 with 5 kids. It’s just the way it goes, like it or not. If you go over you are required to pay per pound the amount you have exceeded your allowance. There absolutely is financial motivation to purge. Also, for anyone that moves a lot, there is a motivation to purge just to remain sane and somewhat organized. To imply that we are all sitting around eating bon bons while our packers break a sweat packing clothes from when our 10-year-old was a toddler is unfair and untrue. Military families work hard to build happy homes for ourselves even in the most foreign of places. Work that requires taking a critical look at items that less transient families probably never have to consider.

So ride along with me over the next few weeks. There will definitely be ups and downs. There will definitely be lost and broken things, hard goodbyes, and sweet surprises. But hopefully, I can give my readers (and some of the civilian journalists that seem to have interest) a real look into an average military move.

*If you’re gearing up for your next PCS like Jill, be sure to download Blue Star Families’ PCS Checklist, and read Part II of the PCS Diaries: The Pack Out here