moving tips – just ask a military spouse

When it comes to moving a household, the military spouse has it down to an exact science. Over the years, I have acquired tips and “lessons learned” from other spouses.  Here is some of what I have learned.

Tips and Tricks

1. As soon as you learn you are moving, begin sorting and purging. Don’t leave this step to the end. I begin right away and take one closet/room at a time. By the time the packers arrive, this step is complete and I can breath easy knowing that I won’t have to do it on the other side of the move.

Go through closets, kids bedrooms, garages, file cabinets, kitchens {do you really need ____?}. One of the best things about moving so frequently is the opportunity to get rid of clutter. I love that my husband and I are limited to a maximum weight. It forces us to not accumulate too much stuff. It is very cleansing to reevaluate every couple of years everything we own and decide if we really need it all.

Now that you have sorted out of all of the unnecessary clutter, you have several choices. Sell online, garage sales, donate to charity, or give away. We primarily like to give away our things to families or friends who may need or want them.

This past move we gave a family down the street a riding tractor and trailer my boys had outgrown. It gave me such pleasure to see their two-year-old enjoy it like my boys once did.

Also, the day of our community garage sale, we placed many large items out on our driveway to give away. A young family {brand new to the Air Force} with two boys and one on the way took all of our baby items – crib, strollers, bike trailer. That was fun! They were elated and blessed by the free stuff.  We were happy to help a young family in need.

Okay, now that you got rid of all the unwanted stuff, don’t you feel freer, less burdened, able to breath? I love that feeling. Give thanks that you had the opportunity to purge and cleanse your home and your life.

2. Take stock of your refrigerator and pantry. Remember you can’t move most of your food. Be mindful of how much you buy at the grocery store.

Begin using your stock in the pantry and fridge to try and get rid of as much as possible before the move. This will save you money in the end. I have learned the hard way when I have seen us throw $50-100+ worth of food in the garbage.

This is fun too, and makes for some interesting meals. Just be sure and warn your husband and kids to keep their minds and hearts open to the new meal adventures awaiting them.

3. Keep all original boxes for small appliances, breakables, TVs, etc. Movers will likely use these boxes and repack them for you.


3. Collect the essentials: sharpie, blue tape, ziplock baggies {variety of sizes}, and heavy duty garbage bags. 

4. Have on hand a variety of shapes and sizes of lidded plastic containers. They come in handy for so many things, i.e. kids toys, bathroom odds and ends, the junk drawer items that you can just pour into a container. You can never have enough!

We tackled our sea of Legos with plastic bins.

5. A few days before the move, bag all of your clothes. I guy 2 gallon plastic baggies.

For every dresser and drawer, from clothes to linens to loose items, I bag them. Just think when you get to your new home and your son or daughter wants their favorite tee, you can unzip the bag and pour out into their dresser drawer clean and fresh clothing that has not been touched by anyone other than yourself.

6. Group like items. For the most part, things that are grouped together will get packed together. So, group those like things together. I find that I begin collecting vases, candles, decor items together and putting them all on the same shelf or in the same drawer.

7. Finally, pick one room in your house and designate it as a “Do Not Pack Room”. Then, with blue tape mark it with a big X and label it as such. This room should start out empty. But, will quickly fill up with all of the things you do not want the packers to pack.

For example, small amounts of cleaning supplies to have on hand at your next home, a roll of paper towels and toilet paper so you don’t have to run to the store, one set of sheets and a towel for each family member, important documents, jewelry, dog food and leash, and a few toys for each child {this is when the plastic containers come in handy}.

You get the idea. I love this room. It doesn’t have to be organized for now. Everytime I see something that I do not want the packers to take, I simply put it in that room. This room gets created in our house about a week before the move.

Lessons learned

1. Packers are  hired to pack everything, including full garbage cans and bread loaves {yes, it has happened}. Just keep a watchful eye and make sure you don’t end up with green, stale bread on the other end.

2. It is all just stuff. {That is my mantra I say repeatedly to myself throughout the entire process.} It is all just stuff…it can be replaced…I will not freak out if my table gets scratched or a box goes missing.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Easier said than done, I realize, but a great way to practice eternal living.

3. Remember who is watching how you cope with this transition. Moving is stressful. Your children are watching how you react. If they see you getting upset easily, worrying about the small stuff, and bringing a wave of tension with you everywhere you go, they will act the same.

I have seen this time and time again with my own kids. My husband and I work very hard at “de-stressing” ourselves {exercise, breaks, special outings like restaurants and parks} so that the kids cope better. And we find that we cope better as well.

4. We all need to say goodbye – to friends, our home, our church, our school. Find your family’s unique way of saying goodbye. We like to write personal notes and give personal gifts to friends, neighbors, and church members who have touched us in a special way.

This year I gave away my hanging geranium baskets and some of my house plants. I knew I couldn’t take them all with me and was happy to provide them with a good home.

Our boys chose special gifts for a few of their closest friends.

We made a point on our last day of church to say goodbye to everyone we had come to know through Sunday School or church activities. For many of us goodbyes are hard and we avoid them because of the pain we feel. But, our family has learned it is better to say goodbye, even shed a few tears, than to regret not saying goodbye later. We have learned it is important to validate our friendships in this way.

Finally, we walk through our empty home and say goodbye. While we walk from room to room we have fun remembering fun things that we did in each room. It is a great way to bring this chapter of our lives to an end.

5. Showing emotions is okay.

I have two boys who express their emotions in very different ways. One is a crier who crumbles at the smallest of things. The other gets angry and hates the world.

My husband and I find during a move these traits come out in force. He and I remind ourselves repeatedly that our oldest son isn’t upset because he tripped over a box in the hallway. That event simply triggered in him all his sadness over moving. That is what the weeping is all about.

Same with our other little guy. Even though he really wants to punch someone or something {a pillow, couch, or a wrestle with daddy work well}, all of the anger he is showing is really masking the deep sadness he feels inside.

It is okay for mom and dad to show sadness too. It helps my boys when they see us cry. We really are sad to leave, and nothing makes kids feel better than to see it is okay to be sad.

Finally, Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. You can’t take your posessions with you. And, only my husband, kids, and dog really matter in the whole process. Now, back to tackling the tower of boxes in my living room!


newly purposed,


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8 thoughts on “moving tips – just ask a military spouse

  1. This was SO encouraging to me! It looks like God is leading us to move this summer – a total surprise after being raised here myself and raising our family here, as well. I’m excited and heart-broken and overwhelmed and excited and teary just thinking about it! The hardest part is moving only our youngest 2 kids with us. Our oldest is 20 and semi-independent and the second oldest will be leaving for college this fall. I loved that your tips were practical and emotional. I feel like I’m already grieving leaving friends and family, but I know that has to be part of my process to tackle this next mission field. Thank you again for the encouragement!

    • Hi Joy, You are welcome. I am glad my words were encouraging to you. Moving is never easy. No matter how many times we do it, it is still hard. Thank you for your kind, encouraging words. Mission field, indeed. God always has a greater plan, even if we cannot see it. He will always be faithful and provide at just the right time. Blessings to you as you take this next step in your life-journey. jana

  2. Thanks so much for the post – got emotional just reading your words about allowing the tears. :) Great tips! We move often and don’t have the help of professional movers, but I can put many of the tips into action when we receive the call to move along one day!

  3. Thank you for the wonderful tips! We are getting out of the military in 2 months and we are all so sad that it has been hard to even think about the moving as well. Reading this has given me the encouragement to get up and start going through a closet…or two! Thanks. :)

    • Becca, I am so glad this post was helpful for you. Moving is never easy, no matter how many times I do it. Those tips were passed on to me by other military wives. They have worked so well for me, I wanted to share them with others. Best wishes with your next season in life. I can’t imagine what it will be like to one day walk away from a way of life that has become so familiar. All is Grace. ~jana

  4. We are moving in a month, and I’m stressing a bit. Your post made me feel ready to tackle it head on. It’s just what I was looking for. Thank you!

    • Hi Syd, I am so glad you found the information helpful. Moving can be very stressful. Even though we have done it a lot, I still feel stress and anxiety every time. I just try to remember to breath and take it one day at a time. Thank you for your comment.

I would love to hear from you!