Be ruthless: how to move the army brat way

Guestpost by Kacey
Korean War - 111-SC-343382 Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker and Brig. Gen. John H. Church

So, we'll start by sorting the clothes. Be ruthless, boys. Do you understand me? RUTHLESS. Photo by US Army Korea, used by Creative Commons license.

I was a military brat from the age of six, and I eventually joined the Air Force. I've moved eighteen times that I can remember, and I know I missed one or two that happened before my conscious memories start. Suffice it to say, I've learned a thing or two about packing up one's entire life and hauling it off somewhere.

My last move was interesting because of the circumstances: my daughter and I had been living with my dad in his four story, three bedroom townhouse in northern Virginia. Before we were married, my husband lived in a four bedroom, two bath house down in Florida. He got out of the Air Force and moved up to be with us, and of course we wanted our own place. Renting was our best option, since I'll probably be reassigned in less than two years, so we found a two bed, two bath apartment around the corner from Dad's place.

Are you doing the math yet? We had a LOT of shit to cram into a relatively tiny apartment. Here's how we did it:

Be ruthless

This was my mantra when I took on the task of downsizing. I set rules and forced myself to abide by them. When I packed my closet, these were my rules:

  • Remove clothes from their hangers one by one. Sort them into "keep" and "go" piles.
  • At least half of the clothes must go in the "go" pile, including any that I hadn't worn in over a year, didn't currently fit, or I didn't like much.
  • More sorting! Sort the "go" pile into two bags: trash and donate. Pack "Keep" pile for moving and trash or donate "go" bags as appropriate.
  • When I arrived at my new apartment, I went through the same process when unpacking my clothing. That is to say, I halved my wardrobe before I packed it, and halved it again when I unpacked. I know it doesn't seem to make much sense to move things just to turn around and donate them, but this made it a lot easier for me to gut the monster that was my wardrobe. I did the same thing with books and decor items.

Cut yourself some slack

This applies to one very specific category of stuff. For me, it was my collection of steel-boned corsets and other Dragon*Con-esque costume pieces. I didn't make myself get rid of any of those things. Every person in the house gets to pick a "slack" category… but choose wisely.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

We made a concerted effort to make sure that every room of our new home held something of him, something of me, and something of our daughter in it. This helped it feel a lot like "our" space, instead of "mine" and "yours".

The all-time number one piece of moving advice

I learned this as a kid, but confirmed its universal truth for myself in my last move. Set up your bed first. Because then, at the end of unpacking day, you have something to fall down onto.

After it's all over, that downsizing from six bedrooms to two was a huge pain in the ass, but it was also a freeing experience.

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About Kacey

Kacey is a longtime denizen of the Offbeat Empire. Offbeat Bride helped her plan her wedding, and she's been an Offbeat Mama for eight and a half years. She's an active duty Air Force helicopter pilot and proud geek. She lives with her husband and daughter in Virginia.