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DITY Moves for Dummies: Your Guide to the DIY PCS

PCS season is in full-swing. Summer not only brings pool parties and BBQ’s, but also packing for those who are in transition from one duty station to the next. We flock to social media asking for advice about schools, housing, activities, and moving. 

In our short six years in the military we have PCS’d five times. And three of those have been DITY moves, with the other two being partial DITY’s. 

“DITY” sounds like one of those fancy government acronyms, but it simply means: “Do IT Yourself.” It is officially referred to as a Personally Procured Move, or PPM. 

A Full DITY move is where you pack and move 100% of your belongings and get reimbursed per weight afterwards. 

A Partial DITY move is where the government moves most of your belongings, but you pack and transport some of your items, such as what you’d fit in your car, and still get partially reimbursed by weighing your vehicle empty and full.  

DITY moves can be confusing and stressful when you don’t have a moving manger (from the Personal Property Shipping Office, Installation Transportation Office, Household Goods Shipping Office, or Traffic Management Office, depending on your branch affiliation) to guide you through like you would in a government assisted move.

Here are some tips to help keep you organized and calm in your next DITY move:

Do Your Research

Gone are the days where your only option is driving a U-Haul across country. There are many great companies like PODS or U-Pack (we’ve used them for two DITY moves and loved it) that will leave a container in your driveway, you pack, and they move it (and even store it if needed!). It really comes down to how much you’re moving. 

Do the Math

The biggest draw of a DITY move is the money you can make by moving yourself. But also consider what your time and sanity are worth.

Maybe a full DITY move isn’t right for you in this season of life or for this move. Maybe driving a U-Haul is cheapest, or maybe you need to put your things in storage for a few weeks while you’re in transition and need to use a company that will store. After you do the research and figure out the options, do the math to see which one is best for you. Don’t forget to ask for military discounts!

Talk to the Moving Office

In order to get your reimbursement, you still have to coordinate with the moving office on base so it is on file that you are seeking a Personally Procured Move. They also will have certain forms for you to fill out. Keep in mind that only the sponsor can do this. If your spouse is deployed and unable to coordinate the move, talk to him or her to help you navigate the correct action steps. 

Set a Budget

Because you will get reimbursed after you move, the upfront cost will be out of pocket. So think ahead about what you will need to spend/buy/pay in the months before and after your PCS. Make sure you have enough cash-flow to pay for everything as you go. 

Sometimes you can apply for some reimbursements, like DLA (Dislocation Allowance, what you get for food and lodging expenses), in advance. Talk to your local moving office to see if that’s an option for your situation. Sometimes this can help offset the upfront costs. 

Think Proactively

What will your kids be doing as you pack? Do your pets need to be boarded when all the doors are open to load the truck? Think ahead to each part of your packing and moving process and what each member of your family will need physically and emotionally. Planning for these in advance will lessen the amount of stress across the board.

Need advice to help your kids prosper through this PCS? Check out this two part article here and here

And yes, thinking proactively, also includes drinking wine and eating Oreos while you’re out of sight “packing” the bathrooms as you deal with that “PCS Funk” 😉

Are you packing as you’re selling your house? Check out these tips on how to stage your home well and sell it faster! 

Borrow What You Can

It can be stressful and frustrating when you have to pack in phases based on what you’ll need to use until you move. Instead, consider borrowing a coffeemaker and frying pan from a friend, so you can pack yours with all the kitchen items. You can even purchase these items used (or plan on purging them, see below) and leave them out when you vacate for a porch pick-up from the local charity. 

Don’t forget to hit up Facebook for extra packing supplies and boxes! 

Purge the Under-used Items

Yes, you’ll get paid based on weight, but do you really want to pack, move, and unpack things that will end up at Goodwill or a garage sale eventually? No, no you don’t. Just skip those middle steps and give it away. Now! 

Pack Smarter, Not Harder

Yes, you will get reimbursed to buy 50 rolls of bubble wrap, but why waste that space to move something you’ll just throw away when you have a closet full of winter sweaters that you can use to wrap your glassware? Have a bunch of baskets or vases? Think what you can pack inside them.

Basically, turn your whole house into one giant Russian nesting doll. Trust me. You’ll thank me when you unpack.

The bubble wrap and packing paper clutters faster than bunnies multiply. Need a laugh? Check out these hilarious PCS packing horror stories.   

Weigh EVERYTHING

Whether you do a full or partial-DITY move, it’s vital to get everything weighed. Twice. Your cars, trailers, moving van, etc. needs to be weighed empty and then again full to accurately asses the weight of your household goods. If you use a company like PODS or U-Pack to move your items for you, they will do this for you. But if you’re driving your cars to your next duty station, you need to weigh what you’ll carry in those too! Usually, it’s best to weigh empty and full at both your old duty station AND your new duty station. Need help finding a scale? CAT scales are reputable and nationwide, and you can search for your nearest one here

Make sure you have the name, rank, and even SSN (or DoD ID#) of the sponsor on the weigh tickets. Sometimes all are required in order to process the reimbursement. Most scale operators are aware of this and will ask. But always be proactive!  

Check Your Insurance Policies

What if you get in a fender bender in the U-Haul? Or what if you find out after the thunderstorm that there’s a leak in the roof and all your furniture is ruined? There have also been horror stories of trailers stolen overnight from hotel parking lots. Make sure you know what your auto insurance and renters/homeowners insurance covers and get extra if needed. 

Save. Every. Receipt. And preferably keep them all together in a binder. 

You have to submit every receipt from packing supplies to lunch to gas, and it’s the pits to turn your purse inside out looking for that “one receipt” you just know is in there. Take my word for it: DON’T leave receipts in your glovebox, or worse, your cup holder. That’s a disaster just waiting to happen! 

Check for Updates

Like with all things military, it’s ever-changing. So before your PCS, make sure you’re up to date on any recent changes to the forms or reimbursement method and allowances. You don’t want to be scratching your head saying,”If only I’d known!” 

Have you done a DITY move? What would YOU add to this list?

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