By Sandi Moynihan
With Memorial Day weekend just around the corner, many military families are putting their summer plans on hold to prepare for one of of the busiest times of the year in the military community: PCS, or moving season. According to a Military.com article, roughly 65 percent of all military moves happen during these warm summer months when children are out of school.
To help military spouses tackle their next PCS - short for permanent change of station - the USO talked to Alexis Miller, the director of social media and digital marketing at MILLIE — a company that helps military families navigate their inevitable next move — to learn about seven ways to ensure a successful move. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Start researching your new duty station ASAP.
There aren’t many things military families or spouses can control about a PCS, but one thing they can always control is how knowledgeable they are about their new home and community before they start planning their move.
According to Miller - an Air Force spouse with two PCS moves on her resume - as soon a military family receives new orders, they should immediately start researching every aspect of the new base. In particular, families should pay special attention to things that directly impact their overall quality of life, like commute times, schools, neighborhood amenities and proximity to grocery stores.
“It’s good to start your research to say, ‘Okay. Where do we want to live? Where is going to be best for our family? Where is going to be best for our service member who has to go to work every day?’” said Miller, who is preparing for her first overseas move.
To help military families with this initial research process, MILLIE created guides for dozens of military bases across the U.S., and is working to create new guides for overseas bases in the coming months. Other resources, like base websites, blogs or Facebook groups can also be excellent places to find similar information.
2. Don’t wait to start the home search and/or selling process.
Once military spouses have their bearings on their new duty station, it is crucial they begin looking for a new home and/or selling a current home immediately. Searching for a new home to rent or buy — on or off base — can take weeks. Selling homes can take even longer.
“We highly recommend you work with someone who is a military spouse or veteran like MILLIE’s AgentHeros because they’re going to get the lingo, they’re going to understand your crazy timeline, and they’re going to understand all of the different factors that make up a military move,” Miller said.
When looking for a new home, Miller also suggests visiting a potential property before making a buying or renting decision. If the logistics of the move make it impossible to visit, she suggests hiring an objective third party like a MILLIE Scout to visit the potential property and report back to you before you move.
“They are hired by you to do the job for you and could care less if you buy [or rent] the home or not, [unlike a real estate agent],” Miller said.
3. Create a PCS budget for your family and stick to it.
It’s no secret that moving is expensive. Even though the military will eventually reimburse families for most of the costs of a move, it’s still important to have and stick to specific a PCS budget and understand the service member’s specific moving benefits.
Miller notes that without setting realistic financial expectations and proper planning, costs like hotels, meals out and other incidentals can quickly add up and cause unneeded financial stress during an already difficult time period.
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4. Embrace your new base.
Inevitably, military families will end up at a less-than-desirable duty station at some point during their service members’ careers.
“A lot of military spouses receive these orders, and it’s to somewhere where they don’t want to be,” Miller said.
She said the key to finding happiness in a new duty station is to find at least one small positive about the new location. For some spouses, it might be a favorite store, a new salon or a favorite restaurant. For others, it might be beautiful nature, a lower cost of living, a USO center or access to a major metropolitan area and its offerings.
Even if its just a nearby favorite coffee shop, any small positive will help ease the sting of an undesirable duty station.
5. Don’t get attached to unnecessary belongings while packing.
When it’s time to start packing up for the move, Miller suggests adopting a very strict, “tough love” approach when deciding whether to keep or pack clothing and household items. She suggests that if the the item is broken, or hasn’t been worn or used in over a year, consider donating or throwing it away.
That being said, military families don’t need to go full KonMari on all their belongings.
“There are things that are helpful to keep [like seasonal clothing] because military life will send you everywhere,” Miller said.
6. Don’t overcommit during a PCS.
Planning and executing a move, even locally, can feel like a full-time job.
“Many spouses try to maintain the normal life they’ve created during a PCS … you just can’t do it,” Miller said.
To avoid burnout, it’s important for military spouses to be mindful of how much time they can commit to others during this busy time. It’s okay to decline to dinner invitations, birthday parties or other normal social activities when PCSing, especially if they will cause unneeded anxiety or stress on a family member or a PCS budget.
7. Control what you can, let go of what you can’t.
Many military spouses know that there are several aspects of PCSing that can easily be controlled. However, the key to having a successful and relativity stress-free moving season is learning to accept and let go of the less-controllable aspects of the move.
“You can’t control where you’re going to PCS most of the time,” she said. “You can’t control whether the movers are going to show up on time. You can’t control how they’re going to treat your items once they are out of sight.
”[But] you can control how much you know about your duty station, where you’re going to live [and] the school your kids are going to end up in.“