For many service members, moving is one of the hardest parts of the job. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make sure your move runs smoothly, whether you're receiving your Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders for the first or fifteenth time.
One of the most useful things you can do is make lists — lots of them. The first list you'll need to make is completely unique to you: your moving inventory. Here's what you need to know.
Why Take Inventory Before Moving?
Whether you organize your move yourself or hire professional movers to take care of the heavy lifting, shipping your belongings across the country is a complex operation. Before you do so, it's a good idea to make a complete inventory of your belongings.
This may sound like a hassle, but an inventory of your possessions will set you up for a successful move — and protect you from losses if something should happen along the way. It’s a great document to have handy during and after your move in the event of loss, damage, theft or any natural disaster that strikes. The inventory list helps you do the following
- Track Your Belongings Before and After a PCS: In the whirlwind of a move, it's easy to lose track of what items have been delivered and what's still on the way. You may also decide to keep some of your items in long-term storage, so a clear inventory of what has been shipped and what has been left behind will help you remember exactly where everything is — and will help you know when something is missing.
- Decide How Much Insurance You Need: An inventory of your possessions is also a great tool for helping you get the right amount of insurance coverage for your next home. With your itemized list in hand, your insurance agent can help you determine the approximate cost to replace those items in the event of a catastrophe, so you can make sure your insurance coverage is adequate.
- Expedite the Claims Processes After an Emergency: To get the most out of your home inventory, you'll need more than just a list of items. You'll also want to document their appearance and current value. To do this, you'll need purchase receipts whenever available, plus photos, serial numbers, and as much information as you can gather about the item's purchase history. One of the easiest ways to document your home inventory is to do a walkthrough with a video camera so you can record all of your possessions. As you do so, keep a running commentary to describe what you're showing as you go. This will make the claims verification process much easier.
- Provide Supporting Documentation to File Your Taxes: If you plan to claim moving expenses on your taxes, your home inventory will be part of the paperwork you need to prove the expense. Some also levy excise taxes on large purchases, so your inventory could help you document these items as well.
PCS Move Checklist
Once your home inventory is complete, you're ready to move on to packing and scheduling your move. To make sure you don't forget anything, keep this handy PCS timeline and checklist by your side as you make your plans.
Three Months Ahead
- Sign up for a counseling session with your current base's transportation office to help you understand the logistics of your move.
- Discuss the move with your family to keep everyone on the same page. Being open and honest will make everything easier, especially for children.
- Complete and/or update your home inventory.
- Schedule any final medical and dental appointments and arrange to pick up copies of your records.
- Begin going through your possessions to sell or give away items that won't be coming with you.
Two Months Ahead
- Begin house or apartment hunting in your new location. You'll want to get your financing squared away as soon as possible, even if you aren't ready to choose a permanent home right away.
- If your spouse needs to leave a job, they should submit their notice and get reference letters to help in a new job search.
- If you have children, work ahead to learn about childcare and school options in your new location.
- Organize your financial paperwork, including bank statements, tax information, insurance policies, deeds and titles you need to bring with you.
One Month Ahead
- Schedule your move with the moving company and move other items into long-term storage, if needed.
- Inform all financial companies and billing entities of your new address.
- Take your car in for a tune-up to ensure it's ready for the trip.
- Fill out a change of address form with the IRS.
Three Weeks Ahead
- Contact your military pay office to sign off on your PCS and certify your Basic Allowance for Quarters (BAQ).
- Cancel any local deliveries or subscription services you no longer need.
- Confirm your change of address and mail forwarding with the US Post Office.
- Fill any prescriptions so you'll have enough medication to get you through the first week or two of your time in your new home.
- Clean out all storage areas in your current home, including the attic, basement, and crawl spaces.
- Separate your professional books and equipment so it won't count toward your military weight allowance when you move.
- Clean your current residence thoroughly and make any small repairs to keep your security deposit intact.
One Week to One Day Ahead
- Close your safe deposit box and make copies of all important documents to have on hand.
- Properly dispose of any hazardous chemicals, including propane tanks, gas, and oil from mowers and other equipment, and flammable items such as fireworks, paint thinner, or antifreeze.
- Pack your electronics and other last-minute items, making sure to label boxes clearly.
- Disconnect gas and electrical appliances.
- Clean out refrigerators and freezers, leaving them open to air dry.
- Switch utility services to your new address.
- Pack a separate bag of items you'll need immediately, including clothing, medication, cleaning, baby items, and pet supplies.
To make a personalized PCS checklist, select all of the items above that apply to your situation. Then, count backward from your moving date to determine your personal deadlines for each of these items.
Using a PCS moving checklist will keep you organized so you don’t forget any major items during your move or leave important paperwork undone. With a checklist to guide your work, you’ll be able to relax a bit, knowing that all you have to do is work through the items one by one. This will help you channel your energy into tackling all of the steps instead of worrying about what comes next.