Angelina HoltComment

Military Minimalist: The Civilian's Guide to PCS Behavior

Angelina HoltComment
Military Minimalist: The Civilian's Guide to PCS Behavior

The minimalist lifestyle is all the rage these days. While conspicuous consumption is still the norm, many folks are tuned into the fact that stuff doesn't make you happy. I have read Marie Kondo's masterpiece on decluttering, and I have made a conscious effort to consume less. Things still seem to accumulate, but there is a force more powerful than Amazon or my husband's determination to bring more books into our home. (I only pretend to dislike this habit.) The military is mandating its own form of minimalism, and it is happening to me in hours. I, like many military spouses before me, am in the throes of a PCS.  

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For the civilians out there, "PCS" might sound like a communicable disease. It is not a disease, but it is an affliction that military families face when we get new orders. PCS is short for "Permanent Change of Station." It is a fancy way of saying that we are moving. The mighty laws of PCS have dictated that I will be sleeping on an air mattress with only the barest necessities for the next month or so. Whether you are part of a military family, or you support a military family,  you may have noticed that around the time of a PCS the military folk in your life take on a few extra grey hairs or get that sunken look around the eyes. Here's what is likely happening:

 While I will not resort to cooking one of these on the back of the toilet, this doesn't mean that one of us (not me) hasn't gone to such lengths while in a non-deployment temporary lodging situation. 

While I will not resort to cooking one of these on the back of the toilet, this doesn't mean that one of us (not me) hasn't gone to such lengths while in a non-deployment temporary lodging situation. 

Calm on the surface

It is easy to get bent out of shape about all your stuff getting moved, but being grumpy about the move isn't going to make it any less imminent. Time to suck it up, Buttercup. Depending on the circumstances, your military-affiliated friend/ family member is probably bouncing between two modes: frantic and resigned. They are probably just going to say something like, "I'm moving, and I am not sure when exactly." If they're optimists, then they know that resignation is just one or two steps below contentment. Just keep climbing that ladder! 

Logistical Coordination

Military or not, nobody wants to scramble on move day. Scrambling is the opposite of staying calm. Try not to get stressed out about looking stressed out. This is all part of it. I am lucky because other people are going to move all of my possessions for me, but even with movers doing most of the heavy lifting, there are still tasks that should be done ahead of time. 

For the non-military cheerleaders in the room, you may notice that your friend is getting rid of lots of stuff. Just because the military will pay to move it doesn't mean they should move it. We military spouses are finding homes for things like house plants, gerbils, and  half-used stuff. My current movers will not allow me to take any liquid other than unopened booze. Goodbye, shampoo. Hello, no-poo. (OK- maybe a no on the no-poo for now, but you see my point, right?) So when I ask you if you want my open bottle of laundry detergent or the partially used vat of coconut oil in my cupboard, it is actually a sign that I think you're the bee's knees. Who needs Windex?

Mind the cash

Even with the military covering the majority of expenses in this PCS process, the average military family still loses money when they move.  Great things like the Dislocation Allowance (DLA) can defray some of the expenses, but there are some things that just won't be covered. Don't even get me started on lost wages due to a lack of career mobility... Moving our cat has cost us nearly $400 in vet bills so far, and that is not including her plane ticket, the pet import fee, or the tranquilizer that they are going to have to inject into me so that I can get her through security again.

Little mistakes like packing something a necessary item can nickel and dime the person on the move. Beloved restaurants quickly become crematoria for Hamiltons and Jacksons. Unless their twenty-dollar bills naturally come in 2-ply, then your friend is going want to choke up on that wallet without appearing to be a complete cheapskate. When your military friends want to chill out at your house and watch a movie, it is 90% because they want to hang out with you, 10% because they miss having actual furniture, and 50% because they are afraid of blowing the budget. That is a lot of percents!

The Fight for Normal

Every move is going to have unique circumstances that can contribute to its degree of difficulty. One of the less commonly discussed issues related to PCSing is the desire to maintain normalcy for as long as possible in the face of dramatic change. In the days leading up to when the moving truck comes-a-callin', your military friend is trying to plan ten steps ahead while offering the appearance of complete stasis. I didn't even entertain pulling pictures off the walls until my husband left for work, and we are getting awfully close to zero hour. I wanted the place to feel like home for as long as possible. 

 You can find beauty in the messiest times. Photo Credit:  Quinn Dombrowski

You can find beauty in the messiest times. Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

Bear with Us

I can't speak for every military spouse going through a move, but I am certain that everyone will agree that flexibility is greatly appreciated during a PCS. I don't want my brain to be running in fifteen directions at once, but it probably will be for a little while. The only certainty in life is that things are always in flux. 

"...So please be kind if I'm a mess." --Rufus Wainwright, "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk"