By: Julie Atlas, Army wife

First of all, let’s all be honest, moving is never easy. I am sure that many of you have been told, “You have it easy, at least they pack the stuff for you.” While packing a house yourself is no picnic in the park, having movers come and pack you isn’t either. There are however some things that you can do to make the move go more smoothly and to help protect yourself from devastating loss in the process. I am writing this article while sitting on my couch, watching the movers pack-up my entire house for the seventh time in eight years.

Every move will have things broken during the process; even the most careful of packers can have that happen. Insurance claims are inevitable. As is trying to get them to compensate you fairly for your loss. Here is a list of some of the things that I have found to be the most helpful during a PCS move.

1. Take the Class

I know that there are a lot of things that the military asks us to do, and taking classes is no exception. The moving class is important to take, even if you move a lot. It will give you the new updated set of rules so that you can maximize the benefits that you are entitled to during your move. Make sure to print out the book so that you can reference it during your move if you have to.

One benefit that many military families don’t always use is the benefit of a full unpack. Many families don’t realize that a full unpack is jus that, a full unpack. It is more than just unloading the boxes from the truck. The moving company gets paid to fully pack, transport, and unpack your entire house. You get a one-time placement, anywhere you tell them to put it one time. Then they are required to take the boxes and paper with them when they go. If you choose to unpack all the boxes yourself then you are responsible for paying for the disposal of all the boxes, our last move had over 200 boxes and there is no way that I would have wanted to take all of them to the recycle center myself. It also speeds things up in the kitchen when I just have to put things away. Many of the moving companies try to complain about doing it, so tell them early and in writing that you want your full unpack. It has cut about a week of unpacking off of my plate. And no, they are not allowed to just be retaliatory and put your stuff wherever they want, one item at a time all over the floor. Stand there with them and direct traffic.

2. Take pictures

Moves are super busy to say the least, but taking pictures is crucial. There is no way to prove that the scratch that they claim was there that was a minor cat scratch and now looks like the Grand Canyon isn’t the same scratch without proof. Pictures offer that proof.

Pictures are also important if the movers lose your shipment. It is very difficult to remember every item that you had to make a claim and even more difficult to prove it without pictures. I have had friends lose their entire house of goods. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen and when it does you need proof!

Make sure that you take your pictures with you! Or you can download them to a site for safekeeping.

3. Label

Take the time to label closets, rooms, etc. Don’t label them with the current room that they are in, but rather with the room names that you want them to go to when you get there. It really makes the load out go a lot smoother. And it helps with your inventory sheets.

4. Keep receipts

When you buy big-ticket items, keep the receipts. Having a receipt doesn’t guarantee that you will get reimbursed what you paid for it, but you sure have a better chance of making that happen if you do. Also make sure to take the receipts with you in the car.

5. Take the most sentimental items with you

If there is something that will devastate you if it breaks or gets lost, make room in the car for it or carry it on the airplane with you. I would be furious if my cake topper were to be crushed, so I wrap it up and take it with me.

I also take all of my jewelry with me. One story I read was about a wife that was moving home after her husband was KIA; she forgot to take her husband’s wedding band out of the jewelry box. The movers stole it. That was one sentimental item that meant the most to her and the loss was profound.

6. Stay in Contact with the Moving Company

The old adage, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Stay in contact with the moving company, if something is not going right, let them know right away. They cannot fix a problem that they don’t know about. Make sure to keep the telephone numbers in a safe place so that you can reach out if you need to.

7. Talk to a supervisor when necessary

Don’t be afraid to contact a supervisor if you need to. Use the chain of command if you need to. There is a chain of command in moving companies as well as in the military. Once we had the worst un-packers in the world. To be more specific, one young man did about $10,000 worth of damage to our household goods in a matter of 30 unsupervised minutes. When I found the destructive individual, I promptly kicked him out of my house until his supervisor could be found and then I escalated the situation up to corporate. We had painters to our house and upholstery people and woodworking people in a matter of days. The key was, I took pictures of everything and contacted their supervisor.

While these things probably won’t make for a completely stress-free move, they will help to maximize your time during the move.

About the Author

Military Spouse Advocacy Network provides the resources and support that Military Spouses need to face any challenge. Their volunteers’ devotion to help other Military Families is what is improving the support system they receive at their installation; their advocates are making a great difference in the Military Family and spousal community!

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