Military How To’s: How to Manage Your Household Goods Move (Outbound)

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You’ve got your orders, and you’re looking forward to your next station—just not the move.  Relax, and follow these steps. 

1.  Contact your personal property office.  If you’re stateside (CONUS), you’ll be directed to set up an account & perform self-counseling at the DoD household goods website (www.move.mil).  Even so, maintaining contact with your local personal property office will help, as self-counseling is relatively new, and a lot of offices will still bend over backwards to help you.  If you’re overseas, you will probably still manage your move through the personal property office.  Set up an appointment and get your counseling as soon as possible.  Get an estimate of how long your household goods (HHG) transit time will be.  You will also schedule your vehicle move through your HHG office, so get that transit time as well.  You are eligible for full-replacement coverage through the moving company.  Ask & research this, so you know everything you need to before your move.  That way, you don’t have to scramble for this information at your destination.

2.  Do what the office tells you during your appointment.  If you’re directed to set up an account, do so.  Ask for a copy of instructions (some offices have printed guides they hand out to customers—take them).  Eventually, you will be expected to know the rules by yourself, as personal property offices will probably become less & less involved in your moves. 

3.  Set up your move schedule. 

Stateside:  Moves typically do not take more than a week (unless you’re going from coast to coast).  Your household goods can be packed right as you leave, travel during your leave period, and meet you at your destination.  

Overseas:  You will normally be entitled to two moves (ask your personal property office for details)—an unaccompanied, or express, shipment, and your normal shipment.  The primary difference is that your express shipment is supposed to have a shorter transit time, so you can pack essentials, such as pots, pans, a small TV, toys, clothing, etc.  Overseas moves require planning.  Typically, when you’re going overseas from CONUS, you will want to keep your HHG as long as possible, since the local family housing office usually has loaner furniture, and your sponsor can help you get things like appliances, pots, pans, etc.  Overseas, everyone has had to go through this, so you usually should be able to get some help—ask your sponsor how it works.  Coming back from overseas, it’s the reverse.  You want your stuff to leave as soon as possible, so that it’s waiting for you (or ideally, gets to the destination at the same time as you do), since you can take advantage of the resources you have.  Set up your schedule along these timelines, and make sure you plan to take entire days off (no appointments, no anything else) for these moves.  Make sure you talk to your personal property office about your plans so they can perform a sanity check on them.

4.  Keep an inventory of valuables.  Anything electronic, valuable antiques, jewelry (that you can’t hand carry), rugs, furniture, etc.  Anything that you feel is valuable counts.  Keep an inventory with serial numbers, and if possible, color photographs.  Movers will take serial numbers as well, but the more information you have on your valuables, the better off you’ll be if you have to file a claim.

5.  Move your stuff.  Moving day is here—it’s stressful.  Here are some tips.

Kids:  If possible, make arrangements for someone to take your kids.  Babies are one thing–feeding schedules & naps might make this impossible, but toddlers to teenagers are better off at a play date, school, or a friend’s house.  If you’re stuck, try to keep them in one place (better said than done).  If this doesn’t work, then let them do little things that make them feel involved.

Movers:  When they arrive, make sure they know what is valuable to you (they usually special wrap items only if you tell them to).  Take nothing for granted—if you don’t tell them to do something how you want it done, don’t be surprised when it doesn’t get done how you wanted it.  Don’t worry about hurt feelings—you’re not the weirdest, stingiest, or the most demanding customer they’ve had.  I promise. 

Paperwork:  If you have paperwork you need (recent bills, orders, plane tickets, etc.) make sure it’s elsewhere.  If you have things in your safe that you need, take them out in advance.  This is especially important if you’re overseas or going overseas—nothing says pain in the rear than finding out you just shipped your passports & dependents’ visa to the country you’re headed to.  That only means delays, more work, and probably very ticked off family members.

To feed, or not to feed?  We usually feed our movers, but it really depends on how well the movers work.  While they may or may not have control over what time they get there, it’s what they do when they arrive that really drives my impression.  If I have a good impression, or even an indifferent one, my wife and I will usually feed them.  Just remember the movie, “Fight Club.”  Although there is a claims process you can go through, the movers in my mind have the ability to make a good experience go really bad.  I have found that $40 in pizza & some grateful movers makes for an afternoon of hustle & effort, and erases any bad first impressions.

This isn’t everything, but knowing where you can go (sponsor, HHG office, www.move.mil) should be able to help you fill in the gaps.  Good luck!

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