I’m no expert, but we’re doing our 5th full PPM with the Army this month, and I’ve learned a few things (mostly from making mistakes) that will help when it comes to packing for a move. I’d like to share what I know with you, in case it can help make your DITY packing easier!
I have a schedule I follow for packing the house for our DITY moves. I break up the time into “packing phase” and “loading prep phase.”
During the last 2 weeks of packing the house shifts into this “loading prep phase” as we prepare to load the truck. The truck must be loaded in a certain order because weight has to be distributed correctly and you want to minimize the likelihood of boxes getting crushed.
I have a long packing schedule for those moves where you have more than 2 weeks and time to pack. This is labelled below as a “regular DITY packing schedule.” But because in military life we often find we don’t have time to get things ready and we have to move quickly, I also have a rush packing schedule below that will help if you have less than 2 weeks before the truck arrives.
It’s also inevitable that you’ll fall behind schedule. So start counting a week or two from when the truck is supposed to arrive. So in the regular DITY packing schedule you’re actually starting 7-8 weeks early.
Factor in time for the unexpected. Factor in days of no packing, weekend trips, random crises…life in general.
Regular DITY Packing Schedule
Pre-move: all seasonal and holiday items, like decor and clothing.
6 weeks out: dining room and 1/2 the kitchen. This is rarely used items. Serving dishes, stemware, fancy dishes, baking pans, glass casserole dishes (move to aluminum pans you can reuse then toss), seldom used appliances, most utensils, almost all coffee cups….only leave out what you use almost daily. Go down to minimal kitchen. This part takes the longest, because so much requires wrapping and careful packing. Start sooner if you want, but don’t wait past the 6 week mark.
5 weeks out: living room and decor. I used to save this for later, but it’s motivating to get it out soon. Pack all decor, all pictures, all wall art…keep out a few toys, I also like to keep out a lamp, and I leave up the curtains. Everything else in the front of the house needs to be packed. Minimal living rooms.
4 weeks out: office/guest room/hobby/craft/spare room. This includes books, school and homeschool supplies not needed before move, office supplies, extra linens, sentimental stuff like photos…anything kept in the spare room. I keep out the printer and important papers only.
3 weeks out: children’s bedrooms. Only keep out minimal clothing (5 shirts, 5 pants, a swimsuit…), bedding, and maybe a few books. Pack everything else. All decor on wall, the rug, they are now “house camping” in the bedrooms.
2 weeks out: Master bedroom and all bathrooms. This is when I start the “first box”, and pack up one of the bathrooms into it (shower curtain, hooks, towels…I use the hamper to pack that first stuff.) Keep out your own clothing and necessities (keep a couple “nice/leave the house” clothes out, maybe one nice dress and dressy shoes just in case a last minute event comes up, or something on the other end at the new base comes up, before you unpack. But you’re mostly going to only keep out what you’ve been wearing the past month of packing). Pack everything else. Minimal clothing. Only what would go in the suitcase for the next month.
Last week: rest of kitchen, and laundry room. This is what’s left of the pantry, cleaning supplies, laundry stuff. These boxes should be lined with garbage bags to prevent messes, and packed carefully. Canned foods are heavy, spices spill…and you probably have more of this than you think you do.
During that last week the truck arrives. You’ll likely still be packing the kitchen and laundry room as the house begins getting loaded. My husband usually packs the garage and outside stuff, so that’s not on my list. Don’t forget that stuff if you’re responsible for packing everything.
Rush DITY Packing Schedule: LESS THAN TWO WEEKS
You’re basically skipping the “packing phase” and moving right into the “loading prep phase.” This will be hectic. There is little room for error. Shift your mindset from “packing the house” to “packing the truck.”
Don’t go room by room. Instead, go by loading schedule: what’s loaded first, what’s loaded next, what’s loaded last.
Furniture goes on first. So pack all furniture into boxes first. Wrap furniture and prepare it to be wheeled out the door.
Next is “bottom load” boxes. Heavy boxes, big and tall boxes. This is books, appliances, wardrobes…
Next is “top load” boxes and “filler boxes” and items. This is fragile boxes, easily crushed boxes, rugs, artwork… small boxes.
Plan to finish packing a few days early. You’ll likely not finish on time, and this gives you extra days on the end to avoid crisis. Also expect to still be packing the last load boxes as the truck is getting loaded. You don’t want big heavy boxes showing up for the truck after loading has already gotten underway, so get them done and then work on smaller things.
Tips and Extra Info
Towards the end of packing stuff starts “getting weird.” Boxes get random in order to get everything out of the house. You’re going to want to unpack those last probably, because they won’t be important stuff. I usually mark them “guest room” and “random”, so they’re put out of the way in the new house. Those are the boxes you’ll get to when you’ve set most of the house up. Expert tip: Don’t have them unloaded into the living room so they’re in your way the whole time.
Save a wardrobe box for last, for your vacuum, broom, curtain rods…that stuff that gets loaded very last, after the house is empty.
It’s nice to provide drinks for the loading and unloading crew. They usually work morning, before it gets hot. 8am to noon. Put a cooler in the yard with mini bottles of Gatorade and water, and a trash bag/box. Mini bottles so they can down it in one go and not have half empty bottles sitting around getting hot and lost. They’ll probably have their own, which they can leave in the cooler, but it’s a good idea to offer some. You don’t want them passing out in your yard. I also might toss a box of protein or granola bars in there. Sometimes with heavy lifting and extreme heat people get nauseous. Someone might need a break to sit in the shade and calm their stomach. You don’t want the crew throwing up in your yard either.
Measure all furniture before it’s loaded, so you can arrange the new house before its unloaded. Use painter’s tape or mark on the wall what goes there. Maybe add a picture. Use painters tape on walls and furniture before putting a moving label, so the label comes off easy and doesn’t stick.
Color code rooms. I draw up a floor plan and use colored pencils that match the labels to mark rooms. I put extra moving labels on door frames and walls. I spend 5 mins explaining the set up and floor plan to the unloaders, then hang the floor plan by the front door. There’s still confusion as stuff starts flying off the truck, but this helps.
A great resource for your DITY move questions is the PCS Like A Pro – Your Smooth Move that has military spouses from all branches working together to navigate the chaos of PCS seasons.
For other great tips by Carolee on how to make your DITY move smooth, check out How to Actually do a PPM from a 5 time DITY Move Milspouse
Carolee Armstrong, Guest Author
Carolee is an Army spouse and the mama of 3 boys and a girl.
Their family has persevered through 4 DITY moves and are in the midst of their 5th PPM this summer. Carolee is so helpful to share all she has learned through her experiences with the hopes that it helps your family during this crazy PCS season!
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