Thursday, August 11, 2011

Unpacking; a military wife's guide

Still no internet, therefore no photos.

We received our household goods last Friday. It wasn't what I was expecting. I had heard that the movers took a very long, Italian-style lunch break and generally took their time unloading the truck. These guys (there were three of them) worked their asses off in 90 degree humid heat from 8:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. with a one hour break.

I had a bout of apoplexy watching the movers lift our 650 pound piano from a truck that was chest high and without a ramp! That was a first (and hopefully last)! Seriously, I had to turn my back to the debacle. My-Army-Guy had to help too or I think they would have dumped the whole thing in the road. I get breathless and tense just writing about it...

After all thirteen crates were unpacked, we went out for pizza in downtown Vicenza with a friend and collapsed into bed.

The movers told us they would come to pick up the empty boxes in about a month and left us a phone number. I told them I would be done in a week - they laughed.

On Saturday morning, My-Army-Guy was overwhelmed by all the boxes everywhere and it occurred to me that he has been home for only about half of our unpackings. "Pee-shaw!" I said... "don't worry about it."

Here's how to put away 13,000 pounds of household goods in less than a week:

1) Make sure that the boxes and furniture are put in the proper rooms or at least in the near vicinity. Carry a pair of scissors or a box cutter in your back pocket on unloading day and slice open the box and check the contents if you are unsure what the box contains.

This was especially important on this move for us because our Belgian packers did not speak much English. Every book-size carton was labeled MB Books and every wardrobe box was labeled MB clothes or choes. After about ten MB Books boxes came out of the crate, we started cutting them open and found all kinds of stuff in the books boxes that belonged in the garage, kids rooms etc!

2) On the packing end, zip lock genres of stuff together like all tapes (scotch, duct, electrical), sewing stuff, pet stuff. On the receiving end, it is so much easier to find a place for a zip lock bag of stuff rather than a million bits and pieces of mismatched junk.

3) Get the boxes out! Get the boxes out! Get the boxes out! I am like a Tasmanian devil - a whirlwind of box-cutter, packing paper and household goods. Out comes the stuff, throw it on the bed (or table or couch) and break down the boxes and move them out to the garage. Then put stuff away quickly. Do not linger over your bedside stand junk or whether or not socks are in the wrong dresser drawer - save that for another day. In the kitchen I have to leave an intact box for every unpacked box to hold all the packing paper, which I roll up, about 30 sheets at a time into a tube and put back in the box.

4) Think about placement and storage before your goods get there. I usually have/buy graph paper and plan out the living room and bedrooms before delivery so I know where everything will be placed. I also give some thought to where linens, wrapping paper, cleaning supplies, paper goods/school supplies will go. Sometimes I don't have a solution and just have to solve the storage issue later but thinking things through allows me to move through boxes quickly.

5) Get the order right. Everyone is different, but I unpack rooms in this order: master bedroom, kitchen/dining room, kids rooms, living room, bathrooms, laundry/utility room, garage, outdoor furniture. This allows us to sleep in our beds the night of delivery and eat in our kitchen soon thereafter.

This may be TMI for some of you but I thought I would share.

On a last note... I want my packers to feel appreciated. I go all out and buy lunch every day plus drinks for all 3 days. No monetary tip.

At the destination: drinks, cookies and a 10 euro tip each seemed to make them very happy!


crazylisa said...

This is blowing my mind!!! I'm totally going to try to adhere to this regimen whenever we move next. Thank you for sharing your hot tips!

edith said...

Lisa, I can't tell if you are making big fun of me or seriously will heed my fabulous moving advice. Are you moving soon? - I thought you loved your house

maggie g. said...

This is great information... it makes unpacking seem so systematic and achievable. I love that you graph and plan pre-delivery. You are amazing!

Anonymous said...


edith said...

Thanks K. Smooch.

3thingsneeded said...

Oh I am so glad I found this blog. We are moving to Vicenza in Jan-Feb (still can't get the date figured out). I am trying to soak up as much information since this is my first PCS move ever. Can I ask if you brought you dog with you from the states or got him in Belgium? We have a German Shepherd and I am pretty much convinced we will have to leave him state side.

edith said...

Yes we did bring our dog and two cats when we moved to Belgium. You should too especially since you are travelling in the winter. There a couple of websites/blogs I used and use for information - good ones on pets are Life Lessons of a Military wife (link in sidebar) and also on facebook I belong to two groups that have a wealth of info. Use the search feature to look up topics that interest you. You have to ask to be a member: 1)Army Wives Caserma Ederle ( and 2)SHAPE families ( Also if you want to email me with any questions or concernes you have, I am happy to help. Really.