Me & My Big PCS: XVII {organizing the stuff}

CONTRIBUTED BY MEREDITH NOVARIO

On Sunday I went to the commissary without my kids, a list or food in my belly. It was as close to a hot date as it gets these days. I even treated myself to a Febreze refill despite the fact that we’re leaving in 25 days. If nothing else, these last days will smell good. Actually they will alternately smell like Calypso Breeze and Hawaiian Paradise. Like chilled orange juice on a tropical beach one moment and then suddenly, without warning, like a casual walk through a tropical orchard. This is evidence that happiness can be bought. Case closed.

The commissary was packed with people new to the island. Well-ironed couples with mouths agape over the limp vegetables and the cost of blueberries. Others sharing hopeful hellos and flashing teethy smiles to everyone that could potentially be their next best friend. An earnest young fellow asking about the origins of the fish used in the sushi bar. East China Sea? Atlantic Ocean? While he received an indifferent shrug, I scooted in front of him for one of the last mediocre spicy tuna sets. Quiet, rookie or they’ll take our sushi bar away! I averted my eyes through most of the aisles to avoid the high-pitched screech of people trying to acclimate to Okinawa. I’m not bothered by it. I’m just not there anymore. Like Poison or Cyndi Lauper, a thing of the past for me. Instead I scurry through the aisles and shamefully toss six Kid Cuisine meals in my cart and hide them with frozen pizzas.

On Sunday I also found out that Joe may not be home for our pack-out dates on the 19th and 20th. I know many of you handle this alone with grace and a sweat-less brow. I applaud you but I am not that girl. I threw a tantrum at the mere suggestion of having to do it alone. I feel entitled to my deployment-induced exhaustion. I do not want to do this alone while Joe sits on a boat playing video games and watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. That is not what he wants to be doing and if he were allowed to help the folks in Myanmar then I wouldn’t be frustrated at how instead he passes time writing haikus and growing a mustache.

Deployments are just easier when we are both busy. Otherwise it doesn’t feel fair. And even though I’m a bonafide grown-up I still want the world to be a fair place. If this were a fair world then Joe would be in Myanmar getting people the food, water and medical care they deserve and no one would be listening to me carry on about my minor league complaints. But you’re right, Dad, no one ever said the world was fair.

I’m probably upset because I stink at packing. I’d almost prefer to put our stuff in the garbage and start over when we get to Virginia. Except that costs money and is wasteful and I should have a conscience about that sort of jazz. I can do this as long as I’m on record for not wanting to. Here’s what I know. There are three versions of our stuff to organize.

  1. The stuff that goes on the plane.
  2. The stuff that goes into our express shipment AKA Unaccompanied Baggage.
  3. The stuff that goes into our slow boat shipment AKA Household Goods.

Here’s what I have in each respective category thus far.

  1. DVD’s. Melatonin. Leapster. Dinosaur blanket. Diapers. Wipes. Sippy cups. 5 changes of clothing for each kiddo. 2 for myself. Colored pencils. Maracas. Foghorn. Lollipops. Brain matter.
  2. Beds. Clothing. Pans.
  3. Books and everything else that didn’t get packed in the express shipment the day before.

You have all done this much more than I have. What goes where? Can you jump-start me with some of your collective packing wisdom?

___________

All the posts in Meredith’s “Me & My Big PCS” series: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX

For posterity’s sake we have left this universally euphoric, terrified, confused, “what am I doing?!” series on Okinawa Hai.  However, we have closed comments for future readers.  If there is relevant information for all readers to benefit from, we have taken elements from this series and created new posts, which we’ve linked to from the original text. Thank you for joining us on this ride.


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25 Comments
  • October 21, 2009

    Meredith…I know this is a pretty late response to your question, but we are in Quantico now and soon to be headed to Okinawa. Yes, they do have a loan locker here on base. Hope this helps! This site has helped me more than yall know. I am a bundle of nerves about this move…but at least I know I’m not alone with my worries. 🙂

    Jenny Sanders
  • March 15, 2009

    Thanks Paul.
    I figured the humidity would be really bad.

    Ash I’m glad your spices all made it.
    I was thinking I’d have to send them to myself.

    Samantha J
  • March 15, 2009

    Hey Samantha,

    I was able to ship all my spices here. The movers didn’t say anything that we couldn’t, just no liquids. But, all my spices made it.

    ash
  • March 15, 2009

    Our rainy season is nowhere near what the PacNW is like. You’ll have more issues dealing with the summer heat and humidity than you will with the rain here.

    Paul
  • March 15, 2009

    Thanks Paul!
    It’s good to know the climate is hard on metal furniture. I guess we will wait until we get there then.

    Can you tell me about the rain? Is it a almost everyday all day thing? Or just a little bit everyday? I haven’t read any complaints about it so I guess it isn’t to bad. It just seems like ALOT compaired to were we are.

    Samantha J
  • March 14, 2009

    Plan on spending between $200-$900 on an outside storage shed for lawn mower, bikes, etc…unless you get the towers, in which you have a place to park the bikes, just need to lock them. No garages here, so you will need to store them in something. Depending on where you live, some houses have a small storage room, but usually not too big. Other housing areas, people close off the front or patio area and make it a big storage space for toys/bikes/grills. It all depends on where you wind up.

    Patio furniture is available here, so only bring it if there is something you really, really want, and to be honest, the climate here is really tough on any type of metal outdoor furniture.

    Spices, no, spice rack, yes. The skid proof pad would be nice to have, sometimes they are hard to find on base, but you can get that stuff off base anytime.

    paul
  • March 14, 2009

    I love this site! I’ve learned so much from you guys. Thanks.

    We are AF and heading to Okinawa in August.
    We have two kids (2,14)and a dog. This will be our first overseas.
    I’ve learned a lot from all of you but I still have a few questions.
    I don’t hear much about the rain. Is it not really as bothersome as I may think it is?
    Should we go ahead and buy patio furniture here in the states or is there a nice selection there?
    How is the outside storage space? Can anyone give me the size? We are E6, hopefully soon to be E7, if that matters.
    Will we be able to store 3 adult bikes and a mower, and what ever kid toys that might fly away in a Typhoon? I’m thinking about hanging them from the wall.
    Do the movers ship spices? The first and only time they moved us they either forgot or couldn’t ship my spice cupboard.
    Do you think we should bring the rubber skid proof pad for under our large rug? Will it get moldy?
    Thanks for all the help you can give.

    Samantha J
  • July 14, 2008

    Hello….my family and I will be coming to Okinawa on Aug. 6th. I have a question and I hope it’s not stupid. LOL….what about groceries(canned goods, noodles, un-opened dry goods), can you bring those along with you??
    Also, we have a one year old daughter and I wanted to know if you were able to take your carseats with you also or will they let you take it on the plane? Thanks in advance!!!:)

    Markeita
  • June 7, 2008

    Gaby,
    having raised 3 kids myself I remember having days where I would stay in my PJ’s until the evening, taking a shower and slipping right back into PJ’s.
    You are doing great! It’s perfectly normal.
    Thanks for reminding me how I used to be…..

    Daniela
  • June 7, 2008

    Okay. I had to wait until both boys were asleep and I could properly take advantage of all of your lovely and FREE advice. You are good to me!

    I’m responding in list form. It can also be sung to the tune of the WIlliam Tell Overture.

    1. I have no idea if there is a loan locker in Quantico. Anybody know off-hand?

    2. Nice use of the Dozou Box clothespins, Kandy. They shall be removed and set to work promptly.

    3. Tara! First of all, welcome to Okinawa. Secondly, I didn’t mean to be snide to the newbies. I will be one very soon. Just hard not to notice the fresh-ness. Forgive me.

    4. In a turn of mysterious events, our temporary storage got delivered a month early to a house that is not empty. While I feel terrible for putting people out to move our stuff, I am happy that we will have a bed, TV and all the artwork we left behind. Daniela, if you send your figurines my way they would have a nice home on an empty shelf!

    5. Good call on the towels, Bambi. I think the boys will appreciate having their favorite towels during the transition. A taste of the familiar always helps.

    6. Alyssa, nice to meet you and hopefully we’ll meet up in Virginia!

    7. Aviva. STICKERS! Yes, we’ll decorate the heck out of the plane. And a special thanks to Craig for offering up his big, bad self.

    8. Diann, whatever are wiki sticks?

    9. Joey, Wouldn’t think of leaving behind the taco powder we brought with us three years ago. We still may use it.

    10. Jackie! The color coding! I went and bought a pad of colored paper and have lists for each category on the wall to add to as I go along. Brilliance!

    11. We are on ANA/United from here to Tokyo, Chicago and then Reagan. No Northwest for us. Need to investigate their dog policy this week. And NO BEDS in express? How do I even figure out if that is forbidden. Ugh.

    12. Gaby & Court, thanks so much for your kind words. I know I share more than most people want to know! Court, where in VA are you going?

    Okay. Thanks to each of you. That definitely got me rolling.

  • June 6, 2008

    Your blog brings my overly emotional self to tears everytime. I too leave my “home” of now six years on this island and relocate to VA and relate to everything you post.

    court
  • June 5, 2008

    Okay, I think everyone else covered the practical information, so I just wanted to say…Thank you Meredith…Thank you for sharing your experiences and capturing so eloquently the craziness of military life and PCSing. That sense of unfairness and loss…it’s hitting me hard too as we get ready to PCS.

    We’re making almost the exact opposite journey from VA to Okinawa in about a month and my husband is off on yet another TDY (only 2 more after this one before we get there!) while I’m left here with our 4 month old daughter. Left to try and motivate myself to take care of all the mundane and necessary details…for example, my daughter’s napping, so right now I should probably be utilizing the color coded stickers I very carefully selected so I’d know what to take,express ship, slow ship or sell, but instead I’m here…still in my pj’s at noon reading and surfing this site. Trying to get over my own overwhelming desire to tantrum and demand to go “home” (where ever that is!) instead of sorting, packing and saying goodbye.

    Reading your PCS posts have a strange way of making me feel better…instead of feeling guilty that I’m not hardier or because I’m vacillating between excitement and dread instead of the consistent optimism I strive for…reading your posts help remind me that it’s okay because I know other people (even those with way more experience at this military stuff) struggle too. So really and truly from the bottom of my heart…thank you for being honest and brave enough to put it out there.

    Now I think I’m gonna go brush my teeth and find my stickers…

    Gaby
  • June 4, 2008

    The patriot flight is changing planes again in July starting the 10th. There was an article in the S and S on it just a few days ago.

    Double check with your TMO that you can move beds in your express shipment. Usually the express shipment (because it is flown and not shipped) is limited in size and weight by quite a bit. You might have to do mats or loan closet on the other end. I have moved about a gazillion times now and I don’t know anyone that shipped matteresses in their express but that might be more of a weight issue than a size issue since the express baggage is so limited.

    We usually take a small tv, a dvd player, a computer, some kitchen stuff, all the progear, some towels, a shower curtain w/rings, some sheets and blankets, pillows, kid essentials that aren’t on the plane, and then seasonal clothes if the weather is going to change a lot before the household good shipment gets there, so we are not carrying too much on the plane. This is express.

    We limit ourselves to 2 reasonable bags and 1 carry on each just because it is too hard to really manuever more than that around an airport especially if several airports are involved. Note that no matter where you land first in the States, you will have to get all your baggage to clear customs and then recheck it for any following flights. So keep in mind that reliquishing it at Kadena or Naha, doesn’t mean you won’t see it again until the final stop…you will be dealing with it in between too.

    I am sorry you are having to deal with the stress of this move on your own at this time. I am really surprised they haven’t moved your dates yet because I know another lady who’s husband is on a ship outside of Myanmar and their PCS dates have all ready been pushed because they were supposed to leave midJune and they just don’t know when those guys will be heading back.

    Seems like to me, they would need to send him home a bit before so he can turn in any equipment he is not keeping with him and figure out what progear he is shipping but perhaps they are planning to give you another shipment for that stuff….I don’t know how the Navy works.

    Hope you get some good news soon. Try to have some fun and enjoy your last few weeks here….I loved your description of the newbies at the commissary….beautifully written.

  • June 4, 2008

    Patriot Express: If they stick with the NWA charter flight it’s the one with like 20+ movies you can start and stop at your whim. I think for Eli it may keep him busy the whole time — Jake watched 5 different movies I think (pretty decent list of kid things) — not so sure about Henry…

    Joelle
  • June 3, 2008

    My lesson learned on the two day trip from the east coast to get here (my first overseas flight): I packed my personal bag of goodies (mostly yarn and knitting needles, spare clothes for myself) so full that it wouldn’t fit under the seat in front of me, somehow I got it shoved into the tiny space beneath my feet and no matter how hard I pulled in my exhausted and weakened state, I couldn’t get it back up above to get anything out. Also we brought a sling carrier for our three year old in lieu of a stroller, but getting her into it and adjusted while standing in the aisle of the 4th plane, or was it the 5th plane? it was such a pain, I would have preferred the stroller.
    As far as deciding what to bring and what to leave, it such a personal decision – only you know what you can and cannot live without, and only you know what you can reasonably carry with you on the plane. BUT to keep track of all of the details, I highly recommend not trusting your brain, keep your lists on paper and color-code them. I started out room-by-room and I think I had six colors – pink was regular shipment, blue for storage, brown for undecided, purple for donate, etc. I used the kids’ white board easel and markers, divided into three parts for each floor of the house, the labeled the rooms, and listed large items and items of interest in the appropriate color under each room title. This made it easier, too, for my husband to look at a glance and question this decision or that one. And when it was time for us to gather our unaccompanied baggage stuff, he could refer to the list as well.
    I would be nervous about doing a pack out alone too. Go ahead and throw your tantrum, girl. Tim had to leave in the middle of the day to finish checking out and was not too happy about leaving me with the packers – who had arrived three hours late and stinking of alcohol. Maybe you don’t have to worry about drunken movers here, though.

    Jackie
  • June 3, 2008

    Well first, I do wish I was there and am bored. And I’m trying to get back early. These things we should take:

    1. Puzzles. tools. towels. laptop.
    2. Bathroom stuff, kitchen stuff. My computer. DVD machine. expired medicines. taco powder from Wegman’s. I’m not so worried about bedroom stuff. Maybe linen. We will get the boys a new bed and we always have the floor to do our bed stuff. All set!
    3. everything else.

    Joe
  • June 3, 2008

    If you by any chance know what kind of plane the patriot is, you can look it up on seatguru.com. Some planes have outlets to plug in laptops, so you won’t have to worry about batteries running out. Also, some rows have more legroom or are not as loud as others. None of this will help you across the pond, of course- but it might make the journey ever so slightly more palatable. #1. Wiki Sticks, crayola model magic, and colorforms in a magnetic tin are favorites in our “stuff for the plane” bag. Or at least they were. The FAA might frown on model magic these days-who knows. Best of luck to you.

    Diann
  • June 3, 2008

    Oh dear Mere – enjoyed reading this once again! Glad to have the sushi (though mediocre) just like we did in San Diego commissaries. Was rather surprised when I moved to Japan and it wasn’t here! I packed out by myself b/c Craig was working overtime to train his replacement who got there 4 days before we left.

    ok:
    1. Sticker books (or something you know would keep at least Eli occupied for more than 2 min). On our recent trip home I made a prior trip to the 100¥ store and gift wrapped a few goodies so she had “presents” for the plane ride. (I’d be happy to do this for you or with you!) Those things are usually well over 100¥ worth of fun. Bring reading material or something for yourself in case the kids pass out. Travel pillow(s) – no need to use the plane ones & get sick. SNACKS. (you never know when they’ll feed you) Cash – Yen & $ – buy water at the airport & whatever else. Lastly – that laptop isn’t new – plug it in the minute you stop at mainland to make sure it has all the juice it can for the big ride. You aren’t going to get too many movies out of it, but they show some stuff on the Patriot Express, so hopefully that’ll do.

    2. I know you’ll be back in the states and making Ikea and Target runs, but like others have said – throw everything in that you can for cooking and sleeping and bathroom! I put an aerobed in there, but i guess you’ll have mattresses & such.

    3. I’ll just say a little prayer that all the other stuff arrives quicker than expected, sweets.

    WE ARE HERE. Craig is a big strong man who is MORE than willing to do any muscle work or other work you deem necessary and are not willing to deal with. Please let us know what else we can do to help.

  • June 3, 2008

    #2:
    Tools: You never know what you’ll need to fix in the new house.

    Cleaning Items: In case you want to clean the new house and don’t want to buy a new mop, broom, bucket, etc.

    I think everyone summed it up pretty good.

    Snuff
  • June 3, 2008

    Hey there, I feel your pain, my husband is with HMM 265 and also on the boat NEXT TO the helpless country of Myanmar….My packouts start on Thursday. I have two small toddlers as well and I say, tantrum girl, tantrum. ALL you WANT…b/c this stinks for us. I have been crying on an hourly basis…I am just praying my husband is home for our fly date…LORD help me if i have to fly home by myself with Thing 1 and Thing 2. Best Wishes to you, I have enjoyed reading! Thanks!

    Alyssa Kaminski
  • June 3, 2008

    I would say towels in your carry on. Hotel towels just aren’t as soft as your own towels!! Its also nice to have so if you do move in a little before your advance shipment gets there you don’t have to go buy new ones (unless you want to). I also say pack your linenes and kitchen things in the advanced shipment! Anything that you use in the kitchen between now and when they pack you out is a definate MUST go advanced shipment. That way you have it. If you don’t use it in a week or two than it isn’t really a need to you for a little while. Good luck though mere!

    Bambi Caldwell
  • June 3, 2008

    Depends on what is in your stateside storage.
    As for me I have a whole household and kitchen, minus the bed for a child. But I have a complete collection of German miniature castles and a trunk full of records. All very useful stuff:)
    Honestly now, I have everything I would need to survive for 2-3 month.
    As for packing out by yourself; my husband keeps on asking me why I gave the 200,- electric grill to my daughter and shipped the George Foreman we now never use.
    Answer; I don’t know and you let me pack out by myself. I was really tired, because I worked late the night before and I got into a fight about dogs with the driver. So, to me that justifies almost anything.
    Daniela

    Daniela
  • June 3, 2008

    I feel your pain minus the sushi bar. I fly tomorrow and newies here are friendly and sweet. I am living out of my suitcase, ready to be done with Ft. Polk. (army wives understand that one) Even though we did like it here I am done. Just done.

    Funny thing about that is you and I and countless others will switch places. We will be the newbies. You in VA, having a summer christmas with your storage shipment. Me on Okinawa saying after seeing housing, “oh crap we sent to much!”
    Be sweet to the newbies, you all will be one soon enough. (-:

    Tara H
  • June 2, 2008

    1. A deck of flashcards, gum, tissue, Laptop? calling card, not sure if the eye drops are allowed now, but I always need them on a plane.

    2.
    Kitchen: chef’s knife, cutting board, colander, dishes/utensils/pans to make/eat one meal.
    Bathroom/Bedrooms: towels, linens, (also useful to temporarily cover windows; Still have that unopened package of clothespins?)
    Kids & misc stuff: toys, kids books, TV, computer cables, spare cleaning tools, hangers. If weight limits are an issue, I’d skip the bed frames/headboard stuff and just have them take the mattresses. Then you’ll be able to squeeze in small chairs and maybe a little table. I’ve sat in front of a cardboard box to eat one too many times. An electric fan…VA summer.

    3. The stuff we realize we don’t really need to live…but love to have.

    Kandy
  • June 2, 2008

    Category 2 needs many more things to occupy the boys for 2 months until the rest gets there. Toys! Maybe a small subset of dishes. Kitchen appliances/utensils to get by for that time as well. TV and/or computer? Could be a while until Category 3 arrives. Do they have a loan locker on the other end as well?

    Kimberly