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Packing Tips

Family unloading moving truck

Whether this is your first PCS or you’re a seasoned pro, moving can be a challenge. Here are some tips from service members, civilians and their families to help ensure your transition goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Stay organized by creating a moving binder. During a move you are going to need ready access to lots of paperwork, such as copies of your orders, birth certificates, Social Security cards, mortgage documents, rental agreements and other hand carry documents.
  • Create your own photo inventory. A great way to make a record of everything you own is to open doors, cabinets and drawers and take pictures. You can do the whole house in about an hour. If you end up needing to make a claim, a photo is hard to dispute.
  • Use clear, resealable bags to collect loose hardware during furniture disassembly. Nothing gets lost quicker than the hardware that keeps beds together or mounts a TV to a bracket. Use clear resealable bags to tape hardware from beds to bed frames so they all arrive together and make reassembly after delivery much easier.
  • Don’t move still-packed boxes. If you haven’t used an item in two years, you probably don’t need it anymore.
  • Remove items from the walls before the packers arrive. Your packers are not responsible for removing wall-mounted items, so make sure all pictures, curtains, curtain rods and mounted TVs are down and ready for the movers to pack. Use clear, resealable plastic bags to tape the mounting hardware to the back of items.
  • Move on less popular days. Historically the worst times to move are the last week of any month, and the last week of June to the first week of July. If you can move mid-month, you may increase your chances of getting a date that works with your timelines and getting your preferred moving company.
  • Prepare drawers and toy bins for packing by placing contents in clear resealable plastic bags before the packers come. Think silverware, spices, kitchen utensils, markers, pencils and toy bins. Having small, sorted items in clear, resealable bags can help make unpacking much easier.
  • Photograph the condition of your home on moving day before the packers arrive. Make a video record of the walls, floors and appliances so you’ll have a digital record of the condition of your home before the packers arrive in case any damage is done.
  • Block off a “Do Not Pack” area. Put aside any items that you’ll need on your road trip or that you want to transport yourself. Place these items in a location away from the packers, such as in a closet or your vehicle, and mark the area with a “Do Not Pack” sign. Make sure the packers and your family are aware of the “Do Not Pack” area so that important hand carry items – like your car keys – don’t end up in a moving box.
  • Don’t sign the mover’s inventory until you understand and agree with everything listed. If you disagree, make sure to write it in the remarks section. No one likes doing paperwork, but if you spend a few extra minutes reviewing the inventory sheets on the front end, it will make life much easier during delivery of your goods.

    The movers will identify any preexisting damage such as dings, dents and scratches on the inventory form. Make sure that their description is accurate. For valuable items, make sure the inventory specifies the make, model and serial number of the item. Generic labels like “Electronics” or “TV” should be a red flag for you. If they miss something, you can request that they unpack the item so that specific details can be added to the inventory. If you disagree with the inventory, write that in the remarks section and don’t be afraid to call your transportation office if you have questions.

  • Clean out your trash cans before the packers come. This avoids having dirty items packed and delivered. It’s also a good idea to throw out items such as used toilet brushes, old mops and any other items that are easily replaceable.
  • Empty the medicine cabinet and plan to take those items with you. To avoid any problems with prescription medications going missing, it’s best to transport these items yourself. Grab a small clear, resealable bag and pack them away to take with you if possible.
  • Have the packers show you the inside of each box before they tape it. You can make additional notes on the outside describing exactly what is in there. Adding a few detailed notes to the boxes – such as pots and pans, utensils, toy trucks, hammer, etc. – can help make the unpacking process easier.
  • Carry your “first day” necessities with you. Don’t let them go on the truck. Even if your belongings are scheduled to arrive “door-to-door,” plan for an extra day or two without your things because delays happen, especially in summer. Pack a box with items you are going to need as soon as you arrive at your new house: toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, cleaners, toilet brush, broom, mop, drinks, snacks, diapers, paper plates, etc. Then pack an extra bag with sheets, towels and an air mattress.
  • Document any preexisting damage and plan where you want your furniture to go. Take photos of your new empty house before you move in. It is easier to document the damage to walls, flooring or the carpet if you take pictures before the movers arrive and start unloading.
  • The movers are only responsible for placing items one time. Make sure you know where you want them to put the couch and other large items before they unload.
  • Pre-clean the new bathroom and kitchen. Allow enough time to clean before the movers arrive so you don’t have to clean around all those boxes.
  • Unpack one box at a time. It is easy to open a box, decide you have no idea where all that stuff should go and then move on to the next box. Resolve that once you open a box, you will empty it completely then break down the box to avoid half unpacked boxes everywhere.
  • Document and report any damage to your mover as items come in the house. Footprints on your mattress? Nicks in your table leg? As things are unpacked, immediately photograph any damage to the item and how it was packed in the carton. Make sure you point out this damage to the movers and document the damage on the Notice of Loss or Damage at Delivery form they should provide to you. List the inventory number, description and whether it was missing or damaged. For example: #101 (piano) missing; #45 (box with kitchen items) crushed; #236 (TV stand) broken in half; inventory #36 (mattress) not in carton or greasy fingerprints. This can help with any claims negotiations later on.

If you have questions or need assistance, use the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS look-up tool to contact your local transportation office.

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