10 MilSpouse Rules to Store, Not Hoard

Military spouse unpacks boxes.
Tami Dugger, Air Force spouse, unpacks boxes in her new home at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force/Kylee Thomas)

I've just completed another military move (phew)! I learn something new every single time I complete the process.

This time, I really tried to strike a balance between keeping things I need, love and will use again ... and winding up on an episode of Hoarders.

Since this isn't my first rodeo, I've picked up some wisdom along the way. Gather around and let me share some tips with you.

1. Start preparing before the move. On the front end of our move, I purge things that I don't want to bother unpacking on the back end. Need cash? Start a few months ahead of time and sell on eBay and Craigslist, or have a yard sale. Feeling flush? Give it to Goodwill in one fell swoop. If you don't feel like unpacking it, don't let them pack it in the first place.

2. Plan where things are going to go ahead of time. Do you have pictures or a floor plan of your new house? Then you can plan where things are going to go ahead of time. The movers totally appreciate not moving the piano around while you decide where you want it, too.

But I will admit even though I try to plan where things will go in the new house ahead of time, at the end of our unpacking period, I am usually still left with items that just won't fit in this particular house.

Quick tip: An unbreakable rule of moving is that two houses, even if they are exact same square footage, will not hold the same amount of furniture in the same configuration. It is what it is.

3. Impose a two-week deadline. My goal is to get all of my boxes unpacked within two weeks of the unload. By then, I usually know what fits and what doesn't.

In the past, I used to try to get rid of everything that didn't work in this particular house, and then I'd wind up re-purchasing the same item when I needed it in the next house.What a waste of time and money!

If you love a piece and intend to use it again, try with all your might to make it fit. I currently have a dresser in my closet, a table in my hallway, and a bookshelf in my bathroom. I promise it all works -- it even makes me decorate more creatively.

If all else fails, I stash things in my garage, attic or pool shed. If I used it in the last house and will use it in the next house, it's not hoarding!

4. Beware holiday decor! I donate unused holiday decorations when I pack up after the fact. If I haven't used them in two years, they are gone. Sometimes, they get the ax after one year -- I'm trying to simplify.

5. Impose the one-year rule. It's OK not to ditch my sweaters and scarves if we're spending a few years in the Deep South. However, if I haven't worn a piece of seasonal clothing in my closet in a year, it's outta there! I also have a strict one-in-one-out rule for shoes, mostly because I keep them in nice plastic bins and I have a set number. Sad, but true.

6. Create memory boxes for the kids. My kids get to have a few boxes of "memories" that we drag all over the place, no questions asked. "Normal" people have basements, attics, garages etc. and don't have to throw away their childhoods; my military brats should be able to do the same.

7. Unopened boxes are telling you something. This doesn't happen as often with military families as it does with civilians, but if you haven't opened a particular box in several moves, then it might be time to reassess the importance of said box. This excludes the memory boxes mentioned above, although I'll still go through those every few years and weed things out.

8. Things get “lost” in a move, don’t they? Please don't tell my kids this, but sometimes things get "lost" in the move. I'm not talking about a favorite stuffed animal here, but maybe a drawerful of kids' meal toys, or a foot-high stack of school papers and artwork. The corollary to this is that you shouldn't "lose" your husband's things in the move the way you "lose" your kids' things, however tempting it may be. Seriously.

Quick tip: Because we all have artwork made by tiny hands that we want to keep throughout the years, I tape two large pieces of posterboard together on three sides to make a huge pocket. I make one for each child, and as we save particularly special pieces of artwork, we date them and slide them into the pocket. The pockets can be stored under the bed, or even slid between the mattress and box springs in each child's room.

9. Kick 'em to the curb, not the garage. Once I've sorted through my stuff in my new house and made the decision to get rid of things, I just get rid of them. I don't let them hang around in my garage until the next yard sale -- they go away that same day. It's worth it just to restore a feeling or order and organization to my world after weeks of chaos.

10. Storage units are for locals. Some houses don't have storage; then (and only then) it's OK to get a storage unit. My rule of thumb is that if it fits in my house and we can still park the cars in the garage, we can keep it. However, the house we're living in now doesn't have a basement, or attic storage, or linen closets. When things like that happen, I call an audible and we're allowed to rent a storage unit, or hubby can park in the driveway. His choice.

See, I'm flexible! And that, friends, is the key to a successful move -- and a happy marriage!

-- Christy Black is a semi-professional mover after 18 years of wedded bliss to an Army pilot. She's also the proud mom of two awesome kids and the keeper of a small zoo that includes two rescue dogs, a senile cat and a hamster. The Blacks currently live in Savannah, Ga., and Christy blogs about life, DIY and home decor with her friends Amy and Terry at www.11magnolialane.com. Follow her on Pinterest and Facebook.

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