On the Move – Preparing for the Pack


Hope you guys have not been worried about me too much, I spent the long weekend doing some last minute market shopping and preparing for our big move back to the States in under two weeks. The picture above was taken two years ago when all our belongings arrived in Germany. Now as we prepare to send it all back I thought I would share some of my preparation pointers.

In the past 20 years I have moved 10 times, not moves around the corner but moves across the country and sometimes across the globe. Even for a military family this is a lot. The normal stay is usually three to four years, we have average one move every two years. We did stay at one location for four years but even then my husband was gone for a year so at our house it seems like we are always either recovering from a move or planning for one. I thought today I would share some of my wisdom on preparing for a move that will make the recovery period less painful.

1. Make a list:

A list can be so helpful when in the moving process. If you can put it into a timeline form, even better. Consider all the things that need to get accomplished before and after the move. Things like mail service , pets, utilities, transportation, anything that needs to be scheduled. A list can keep these things in perspective, some can be done right away and others will need to happen as you go but if you have a list to track them you are less likely to forget some major step. Keep this list handy you will be sure to need to add as you think of things. If you have questions about what should be on your list do a little research, there are tons of checklists available online, I use the checklist at Military.com

2. Purge, purge, purge:

Anything that you don’t love or don’t use, get rid of it. There is no reason to add to your packing and unpacking with things you don’t need. Gently worn items can be sold, items still in usable condition can be donated and if it is not in good enough condition to donate or sell it probably should have been tossed already. Before our last move I had a huge yard sale which saved me from moving tons of unwanted item, I also made over $600 which never hurts.


3. Sort:

I do two kinds of sorting.

My first sort is pulling out any items I want to travel with me. Things that I will need to have accessible or that I don’t want to be packed. Things like personal electronics, valuables like jewelry you want to protect,  legal documents that cannot be replaced, and basics like clothes and day to day items you will be using until the move. If you are using movers it is a good idea to designate a room or area where all these items can be stored during the pack. I usually use an “x” of painters tape on the door to designate this area. You can also add an X of tape to any other large items around the house that will not be packed.

The second sort I do is to group like items. This makes for easier packing. Framed photos stack easily together, books can be packed tight in smaller boxes since they are heavy, pillows can go together in large boxes since they are light. If you are using a moving company it is also a good idea to move breakable glass items to the kitchen. The kitchen packers are used to doing dishes and glasses and will do the best job packing breakables.

4. Clean:

As I sort I also clean. I take all the framed art off the walls and wipe down the glass and frames, you will quickly see how dirty things get just hanging on the wall. Curtains should be cleaned, rugs vacuumed and rolled, outdoor furniture hosed down, you get the idea. Just like the junk, you don’t want to bring the dirt with you either.


5. Make a binder:

Hand carry items like legal documents and passports are important to keep with you and to keep organized. This can be as simple or fancy as you like. I just use pocket dividers and sort documents into easy to find categories like: School, Pets, Auto, Travel Documents, Legal Documents (one for me one for my husband), Birth Certificates, Moving Documents, Army Documents, Etc. I also add a binder pencil case that I can use to store smaller items like passports and credit card.

6. Hang on for the ride:

For all the preparation I do for each move there are always things that crop up that were not planned for. For these things all I can do is try to stay calm and muscle through. The more you ARE prepared for the easier it makes resolving those unexpected things you AREN’T.



  1. Maggie, I’ve been wondering – do you already have a house? How do you go about looking for a house from abroad? And if you don’t have one, where are you going to stay? Seriously, how is a transatlantic move even possible?!

    I am saying this as someone who is a terribly bad mover. The second-to-last time I moved I was so completely overwhelmed by the whole situation … I didn’t want to leave the place I was living in, didn’t like the new place all that much, and this was in addition to not really loving the job I had at the time, and to be honest, I think I didn’t like my life very much at the time! I remember sitting on the floor in my empty living room, and my brother came in (he and my nieces had travelled all the way to where I was living to help me) and found me crying because I was so upset and exhausted. It was horrible. 🙁
    (He hugged me and told me not to worry, because I had family and friends to help me, and that things would turn out ok. I <3 my big brother.)

    • Oh tears are perfectly acceptable even for the most experienced mover! Things can get overwhelming and you just have to let it out. Thanks goodness for the support team (i.e. big brother.)
      The answer to your question about the logistics is that we are usually homeless for a little while. A month in a hotel is not uncommon on these moves but if I have a chance I try to set up housing before the move. In many cases I have taken a trip to the new location before the move and purchased or set up a rental home ahead of time. Not so easy to do from Germany so this go round we will spend a few weeks visiting family while my husband stays back in Germany for a few weeks and then goes onto a school for his new job. In the meantime, I will leave the kids at Grandmas and take a trip to check out the housing situation. Once it’s time for everyone to come back together hopefully we’ll have a house lined up and our belongings will have arrived. I do a lot of online shopping but I like to see the houses in person before committing. Seems like the ones I love online have some major character flaw in person. As for getting all our belongings overseas. The military takes care of a lot of those logistics like shipping of your furniture and one vehicle but there is still a lot of planning and scheduling involved. Hopefully all this will flow smoothly but I expect at least one more crop of tears, specifically when I have to leave Germany!

  2. Maggie, thank you for this list! I would like to share your post with my readers in my next weekly links post, if that’s ok with you!? And: Did you see the message I sent you in the Blogging your Way forum? No pressure here 🙂 I just want to make sure that you got it… Hope all goes well on your move! Tina

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