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How to PCS in a Hurry

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In a perfect world, military families get orders to their new locations months before the report date. In reality, however, things are hardly ever that organized.

Orders may be delayed due to budget cuts, promotion backlogs or personnel drama at the Pentagon.

And everyone has heard a horror story about that one family who had orders switched from Alaska to Florida after they had already shipped their household goods and purchased a lot of expensive, and now useless, snow gear.

Whether you’re relocating one state away or to another country, there’s nothing simple about a military move. But while it might not be ideal or low stress, it is possible to get ready for a PCS at the last minute.

Here are six tips to help you on your way:

1. Yard sale and donate — now. Most military families like to do some purging before their pack-outs. Just because you need to PCS quickly doesn’t mean you can’t declutter a little too. While it’s nice to take months for this task, you can do it all at once. Set aside an afternoon or two to blitz your home, sorting through unneeded toys and identifying the big-ticket items you don’t want to take with you. If your last-minute PCS is in at least semi-decent weather, you can throw together a yard sale. If the weather won’t cooperate for that, list what you can on Craigslist or a local Facebook yard sale page and be prepared to donate everything that doesn’t sell by a set date.

2. Be ready to submit those orders. Thanks to laws protecting service members, military orders in hand will help set you free from any long-term contracts on and off base, including any lease you are currently in. Be prepared to show copies of your orders to every service you are canceling as you prepare to leave your housing.

3. Outsource, outsource, outsource. In a perfect world, you would be able to do everything the low-cost way, from renting out or selling your home yourself, to DIY touch-up painting, to mowing your own yard one last time. But when you’re PCSing in a hurry, that might not be a reasonable option. Honestly assess what you do and do not have time to do — and what may be worth hiring help for. Even doing something as simple as hiring a housecleaner to take care of your move-out clean can offer a lot of stress relief when you’re trying to get out of town quickly.

4. Consider living on base, or get house hunting help. Even if living on base isn’t usually your top choice, it may be the easiest and lowest stress option when moving at the last minute, especially if the waiting list is short or non-existent. If living on base isn’t an option, hit Google to find large rental management companies in the area, and reach out to them for aggregated rental options. A Realtor or management company familiar with the area may be able to recommend specific options that fit your personal needs. If you want to buy, look into a six-month lease that will allow you time to get familiar with the area before making a home purchase.

5. If possible, go with the partial-PPM move. You may prefer to move yourself, but PCSing in a hurry is not the time to take on extra chores. If possible, let the military movers pack and ship the bulk of your belongings while you move some in your own vehicle, known as a “partial personally procured move” or “partial-DITY.” While letting someone else pack and move your things is always a risk, last-minute moves are the time to let someone help you — not the time to add more stress to your life.

6. Paperwork blitz. Moving comes with a lot of paperwork and records transfers, especially if you have kids. Sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of all of the doctors’ offices from which you need records and any schools from which you’ll need to process transfers. Give each of those a phone call asking about their records transfer policy, pick up hard copies of the records to hand-carry on your move if possible, and note what forms you’ll need to submit if an electronic transfer is your only choice.

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