I'm sure many of you are wondering what it takes to pick up and move as often as we do. Not only do we have to move our entire house full of stuff, we're also moving Maia, two dogs, and a cat!
Oh…and we're moving halfway around the world!
Luckily the military has a lot of practice and there are many systems in place to make it as painless as possible. (But believe me, it's ALWAYS a pain!!)Anyone who has moved knows it's stressful and exhausting. There's organizing, cleaning, packing, relocating, cleaning, unpacking, organizing…
This is what our apartment looked like in Georgia after the movers came in 2007:
The desk was old and broken, so we were going to get rid of it when we left the apartment. You can imagine that after just one night of sleeping on a hard wood floor we were looking for another option! We checked into a hotel in Columbus, Georgia for a couple nights before we eventually drove to Atlanta for our last couple nights. Innie was MUCH happier in a hotel!! He doesn't normally get to sleep on the bed!
Besides our sleeping bags and the pad for Innie's crate, we had virtually nothing left. (Notice I said, "virtually.") Because once we had everything together, it looked like quite a bit!! Here we are after landing in Frankfurt, Germany:
Our moves as a military family are much more frequent than those of ordinary Americans. Just to give you an idea, the US Census Bureau reports that the average American moves 11.7 times in their lifetime. So if you live to be 90 years old, you move about every 8 years on average. Of those people moving, two-thirds of them are moving within the same county, so the moves are relatively local. The average American military family moves about every 3 years. So in the span of a 20 year career, you would have moved about 6 or 7 times! And those military moves are not usually local. They are generally from state to state or even from country to country, like us!
As overachievers, we don't like to be just "average," so we're ahead of that moving estimate: we've moved 4 times in the past 5 years and we still have our upcoming move to Rhode Island. We'll only be there one year before we move again, so in a little over 6 years, we will have moved 6 times!
Moving certainly has pros and cons and people usually do a lot of research, planning, and preparation before diving into something so complicated and life altering. Military families are told to move, sometimes on short notice. Often we have no say in our next destination - we are sent where we are needed.
Until I met my husband, I had very little idea of how the military functioned. Although family members have served, none were active during my lifetime. I knew virtually nothing and learned quickly the bureaucratic and often frustrating customs, "Alphabet Soup" of acronyms, and procedures present in everyday life.
I thought it would be fun to explain what exactly we'll go through in the next four months as we not only change duty stations, but also move to another continent in the process. While the US Military has YEARS of experience when it comes to relocating families around the globe, it doesn't mean our moves are easy.
Are you ready for a LOT of acronyms?? One of the many joys of being a military spouse is trying to keep up with all of the letters! PCS, TDY, HHG, UA are just a few of the acronyms associated with moving. We call it "Alphabet Soup." :)
It all starts with orders. You need orders every step of the way. They explain in a standardized format who you are, where you're going, how long you'll be here, when you should arrive, who your dependents are and whether or not they are authorized to go with you, who you will register with upon arrival…you get the idea. Everything you need to know about your relocation is listed in your orders.
But your orders aren't always handed to you. In our case, we were notified by phone that my husband had been selected to go to the Naval school. About a week later, his RFO (Request for Orders) was processed and available online. My husband then brought the RFO to someone on post who actually types up the official orders. When she's done, she gives them to us and we can actually start the moving process. (We've received our orders but Maia wasn't on them!! We have to resubmit her birth certificate and wait for the orders to be re-processed…)
Since we are overseas, the move is a lot more complicated than if we were moving state to state. We need LOTS of extra time to allow for all of our possessions to be shipped over the Atlantic. (Since I've never made a military move within the United States, I'm only going to talk about our trans-Atlantic moves.) Here is our timeline:
Household Goods (HHG) - 2-3 months
Unaccompanied baggage (U/A) - 2 weeks
Car - 45 days (East coast)
Hotel stay - maximum of 10 days prior to flight
Household Goods (HHG) is packed and shipped by a moving company and shipped in crates on container ships. There are different weight limits depending on the soldier's rank and whether or not there are dependents. It's great that we don't have to personally wrap and box everything we own, but we are also at the mercy of the movers. We watch them as best we can, but things happen. Every time I unpack I keep a list of everything that is broken or damaged. After I'm done unpacking, we file a claim with the movers for anything that isn't in the same condition anymore.
Unaccompanied baggage (U/A) is shipped on an Air Force flight. It's meant for clothing, bedding, and anything you'll need immediately. Furniture cannot be shipped unaccompanied and you have a relatively low weight limit.
The car is shipped from the military installation here in Germany, but there are only about a dozen pick up locations in the United States. We will be going to Rhode Island, but the closest location to pick up our car will be New Jersey. Once it arrives, it will be up to us to figure out how to get it. Not exactly convenient!! The military also only ships one car. If you have a second car, it is up to you to either sell it before you leave, or make arrangements (and pay) to have it shipped overseas yourself.
Our hotel stay will have to be at our local military installation's hotel. We'll be able to check into the hotel once we have our final check out and inspection of our rental house. And we'll wait there until it's time to make our way to the airport.
The military has a government contracted travel agency on the installations. Once we have our orders, we can work through our timeline and talk to them about booking our flight.
There are a TON of other things we must do before we can leave. We have close our German/American bank account, give notice for our phone and internet service, get our pets vaccinated and their international health certificates within 10 days of entering the United States, etc. My husband will get a checklist to follow and he'll need signatures from each department within the Army before we can leave. Just to give you an idea of how extensive each out-processing is, soldiers are given 10 business days to complete all of the tasks. Generally though, my husband starts as soon as he has the paperwork. There are departments that are not time-sensitive and can be easily completed before "crunch time." Then he doesn't have the pressure of completing everything in that last week.
Based on our timeline, I expect to have our household goods (HHG) picked up sometime at the end of March or beginning of April. (We have to wait for our orders to schedule the pick up…) In the meantime, I have plans to go through everything we own and purge anything we don't use, don't need, or don't want! The beauty of making so many moves over the years is we are constantly going through everything and getting rid of anything unnecessary. There is no point in dragging something across the ocean that we don't even use here!
I'll keep you posted on our timeline and my purge/spring cleaning!
How do YOU prepare for a move? Do you do a yearly spring cleaning? Pin It