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Military families know how to move better than most, just by nature of their job, so who better to help you prepare for your next move across town than someone who’s crossed states, countries and possibly oceans?

Kurtis Schneider, former Staff Sergeant (SSG) in the U.S. Army, completed a total of four moves during his service from 2008 – 2016. Now on his fifth move, Schneider shares his tips for packing and moving with military-like efficiency.

Fieldstrip Your Finances Before the Big Move

In the military, the term “fieldstripping” refers to breaking down a weapon for cleaning and inspection. It’s also a process that builds a sense of familiarity with the weapon, so you learn how it works, and more importantly, how to repair it should it malfunction. Think of your finances in the same way, in the sense that becoming familiar with your finances can prepare you for any changes you can expect in your new location.

“The largest thing that can make a move stressful is finances,” Schneider said. “Before moving you need to be prepared financially. If you do not have a plan set in place you cannot achieve the mission of moving from one point to another.”

Before you move to a new city, state or country, Schneider suggested to break down your current cost of living in a spreadsheet. Think about what you’re currently paying for housing expenses (mortgage/rent, utilities, taxes and insurance), transportation (gas, routine car maintenance and auto insurance) and additional costs like schooling (if you have children) and consider how that might change in your new location. Is the cost of living higher or lower? Are there any large expenses you should expect upfront when you move?

Like fieldstripping a weapon, break down your finances for “inspection.” Research cost of living in your new location and compare it to your current costs. Become familiar with how your budget operates in respect to your income and adjust expenses when necessary. Taking the time to examine your budget before a move can help you prepare for any large lifestyle changes in your new location.

“Once you figure out your finances you can shift to obtaining how you are going to move,” Schneider added.

Get Your Boots on the Ground with a Packing Strategy

When you’re ready to enter into the battle of packing before the big move, get your “boots on the ground” by creating a packing strategy. This includes everything from scheduling a moving truck to the final mission of unpacking your belongings into your new home.

The first big moving decision you’ll have to make is if you’ll want to hire a professional mover. There are obvious benefits to having trusted friends and family help you move. You might be able to save money, but there are a few things you’ll need to do yourself that might not be worth the effort.

For example, you’ll need to rent a moving truck or pods to help transport your belongings – especially if you’re going farther than across town. You’ll also need additional moving equipment like dollies (for heavy furniture and decorations), ropes to prevent damage from falling furniture and, of course, boxes.

If moving yourself seems overwhelming, it might be worth your time and money to research reputable movers. They’ll be able to take care of loading and unloading the moving truck and, of course, transporting your belongings, so all you’ll have to worry about is transporting yourself and your family.

Just like you wouldn’t go into a battle without a strategy, don’t wait until moving day to decide how you want to load, transport and unload your personal possessions.

Make Sure No Mess Gets Left Behind

You wouldn’t want to walk into your new home confronted by a mess left by the previous owners, so make sure you leave your previous home clean for the new owners. It doesn’t have to be completely sanitized from top to bottom; just make sure any garbage is gathered and disposed of and any personal items are packed away.

To avoid adding another item to your moving checklist, start tiding up your home as you pack. Make separate piles for what you plan to throw away, pack or donate, keeping items separated in labeled boxes for an easier move.

As you move room by room, sorting and packing items in their designated boxes, do a quick sweep of the room for any areas that can use a quick cleaning. Even vacuuming the carpets and doing a quick sweep of any wood or tiles floors could go a long way.

Speaking of cleaning, before you move into your new home and unpack any of your personal belongings, do a deep cleaning of the home, going room by room, unpacking boxes as you finish cleaning. Not only will this ensure a fresh new start in your home, it will help breakup unpacking into bearable timeframes.

Don’t Let a Broken-Down Car Leave You in the Trenches

Even if you plan on utilizing a professional moving company to transport your belongings, you’ll still need to drive your personal vehicles to your new home. You can pay to transport your car via auto transporter, Amtrak Auto Train or by hiring a professional driver but it will cost a premium.

If you’re not moving far, or just want to save money by driving the car yourself, don’t let a dead battery or popped tired leave you in the trenches. Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, Schneider recommended servicing your vehicles before the move.

“You want to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Schneider said.

You can do a basic self check at home. Check to see if you’re due for an oil change. Make sure to account for the number of miles you will be traveling to your new home.

Inspect the condition of your tires. You can check the air pressure with an at-home tire pressure gauge or on the dashboard on newer cars. If you don’t have access to either of these methods, most gas stations offer air pressure machines. Do a quick scan to make sure there’s no leaks or damage to the tires.

If you have an older car, or you perhaps haven’t serviced your car in the last year, consider visiting an auto shop for a quick inspection. Have a mechanic take a look at your brakes, battery, transmission – anything that could be subject to breaking or dying during your trip.

Before you leave, stop at a nearby gas station to fill up your tank. It might seem like a given, but in the hustle and bustle of moving day, you might forget to stop for gas.

Map Out Your Move

Before you hit the open road, Schneider suggested creating a route to your new home. Communicate the route to any involved parties: moving trucks and family or friends helping you move, including scheduled stops for gas, food or bathroom breaks, if necessary.

Take it a step further by printing out an action plan with dates, times, addresses and contact information – anything needed to have open communication with everyone involved in the move. Rehearse the plan with your moving team to ensure everyone is on the same page.

However, don’t just stop for the necessities. Research fun stops you can make along the way to your new home. This is especially helpful if you have children. If you know that you’ll be driving for an extended period of time, break it up by taking breaks to stretch their legs, get fresh air and have some fun.

“If there is something on the way to your destination that can be fun, do it,” Schneider said. “This move is going to be a journey; make it a memorable one!”

Even if you’re not driving far from your previous home, research a few fun car games you can play as a family or create a family playlist you can enjoy on the way to your new home. Make it even more enjoyable for your children by packing their favorite snacks to enjoy on the road.

“The stress and anxiety of moving is straight insanity,” Schneider said. “When you plan accordingly, you will be ready for any situation. If you are ready, you will be confident with the move.”

Moving will always require hard work and a little strategic planning, but by starting to prepare before moving day, you’re on the right path to a successfully executed move.

Are you a former or current military service member with moving stories to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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