How to prepare for a PCS in 70 easy steps

People holding up decorated empty boxes
People holding up decorated empty boxes

How to prepare for a PCS in 70 easy steps

by Lizann Lightfoot,
Stripes Japan

PCSing isn’t that complicated. One military spouse shares her "tried and true" PCS checklist. Enjoy!

Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse and offers the following basic steps of any military move:

1.      Get tentative orders, but tell yourself they don’t count until they are hard-copy.

2.      Start researching schools and housing anyway.

3.      Get hard-copy orders to a completely different and unexpected location.

4.      Wail in frustration.

5.      Break the news to the kids.

6.      Deal with their tears and questions.

7.      Break the news to your parents.

8.      Deal with their tears and questions.

9.      Start researching houses and schools at the new location.

10. Calculate how long it will take you, your family, your pets, your vehicles and your furniture to arrive at the new duty station.

11. Search Pinterest for moving tips and consider color-coding moving boxes.

12. Make a PCS folder or binder filled with cute checklists and organized folders.

13. Recklessly stuff it with every important document and receipt related to the move.

14. Announce your move on Facebook and see if you know any friends currently stationed there.

15. For the next two months, expect every casual conversation to start with, “So I hear you guys are moving. . .”

16. Join the spouse Facebook page for your new duty station and ask a million questions. Brace yourself for trolling. 

17. Call the new school and interview a principal over the phone.

18. Give your 30 days notice to vacate your house.

19. Schedule dates to disconnect your utilities and Internet.

20. Start going through your house exclaiming, “We have so much stuff!”

21. Clean out one closet.

22. Feel satisfied and accomplished for three seconds.

23. Look in the garage and feel completely overwhelmed.

24. Give away clothes, toys, and furniture to your friends and neighbors. . . like you’re joining a convent or taking a vow of poverty.

25. Decide whether it’s time to finally get rid of the box of maternity clothes.

26. Keep them anyway. . .  just in case. . .

27. Give notice at work that you are leaving.

28. Update your resume and begin searching for jobs.

29. Schedule doctor and dentist appointments, in case it will be a while before the next one.

30. Get your medical files from all providers.

31. Tell all your professional contacts that you are looking for a job at the new location.

32. Hold a job interview over the phone or through Skype.

33. Attempt to put yourself on the list for base housing.

34. Find out that the base housing waiting list is over one year.

35. Start house-hunting.

36. Question whether your bed and dining room table will fit in the new house.

37. Walk through your house and consider which pieces of furniture are worthy of making the move.

38. Take pictures of everything in your garage and post them to a Facebook yard sale page.

39. Allow strangers to come to your house and pay you $10 for random pieces of furniture.

40. Sell all the baby items. Feel a little sentimental about each one.

41. Sit in a moving class where a relocation expert explains how to do a military move.

42. Recoil in shock when you discover how expensive it is to ship a vehicle.

43. Consider selling one of your cars.

44. Arrange movers with the military or rent a U-Haul.

45. Use Google Maps to learn more about your future home and neighborhood.

46. Sign documents to live in a house you have never entered.

47. Put clothes and furniture out on the curb. Watch them immediately disappear.

48. Get rid of a trampoline, swingset, or motorcycle.

49. Plan a going away party to say goodbye to all your local friends.

50. Arrange pet or child care for moving day.

51. Make hotel reservations for moving night.

52. Clean out kitchen cabinets and pantry.

53. Offer half-full bottles of olive oil and pancake syrup to anyone who will take them.

54. Follow your spouse around base as they complete their check-out sheet.

55. Blow the dust off that box of curtains you have had for three duty stations now.

56. Spray off all your outdoor furniture and gardening supplies.

57. Take the three zillion batteries out of every toy your children own.

58. Eat a meal composed of random pantry and freezer items.

59. Bribe friends to come over and help you move furniture.

60. Discover that boxes of books or photo albums are really heavy.

61. Pack your car with things you don’t want in moving boxes. . . like the car keys.

62. Make a sign that says “Do not pack the baby.” Because, you never know.

63. Run around labeling boxes and shouting, “Be careful with that!”

64. Load everything you own onto a truck. In one day.

65. Order pizza.

66. Sleep on the floor.

67. Clean your house thoroughly for the move-out inspection.

68. Turn in keys.

69. Begin the drive to your new home.

70. Celebrate that you won’t have to do all this again. . .  for at least two years.

Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at

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