The 7 Stages of Packing for a PCS


PCS season: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But really, it was the most stressful of times.

It starts long before the move; during the season of orders uncertainty. Remember that scene in “Legally Blonde” where Harvard’s finest are huddled in the hallway anxiously awaiting the internship list to be posted? We thought it would probably be Warner and Viv, but of course we were all pulling for Elle. Her infamous, “ME!” was one of my favorite parts of the movie. If you’ve watched it once, you know the scene:

Reese Witherspoon GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

“Legally Blonde” not your thing? How about Harry Potter and the Sorting Hat? Students sitting in anticipation waiting for their fate to be decided by a hat…The tension is palpable. Will it be Gryffindor or Slytherin? Hufflepuff? Ravenclaw?

Harry Potter GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Whatever your choice pop culture reference, you know that feeling of apprehension about your future.

When maybe it comes down to work ethic or timing or chance or some sort of algorithm to which you are not privy.

You’ve been there.

You know that moment in the Harvard hallway or the Hogwarts Grand Hall, when you’re just…Waiting.

Whether you get your top choice or don’t get picked for the prime spot, there’s one great equalizer in moving: Packing and unpacking.

While the emotions might be intensified if you’re not thrilled about your final destination, it doesn’t really matter. The 7 Stages of Packing for a PCS are practically science. That’s why we capitalized it.

Stage 1: Waiting

You’re waiting for a date.

You’re waiting for written orders.

You’re waiting to tell your in-laws when to visit and when to schedule the babysitter and when to plan your farewell dinners and lunches and when to give your job notice (or make the hard sell for telecommuting) and when to get the pack out scheduled and the cleaning lined up and the inspection and All The Things you need to do.

There are almost literally 1,000 things you need to schedule, but can’t even fathom until you have orders.

So yeah, you’re just waiting.

Bring It Dancing GIF by Lifetime - Find & Share on GIPHY

And then, you have them! You have orders! While you’d think the next stage would be elation or relief, you are wrong. It is quickly replaced by:

Stage 2: Overwhelmed

You ask yourself such reasonable questions as:

How am I going to pack enough to keep us all alive when our things might not arrive until the next fiscal year?

What am I going to pack in the express shipment?

And how am I going to schedule those 1,000 things?

Why do I have so much stuff?

Can we just leave it all here?

I Just Felt Like Doing It GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Stage 3: Determination

Luckily, once you soar through the overwhelmed stage, you get into your Olivia Pope phase, and you Handle It. You schedule the things, you line up the movers, you figure out jobs and schools and tickets and leave and plans and you get it done. Because that is what we do.

It'S Handled Olivia Pope GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Stage 4: Meticulous

Your grandmother’s china? Individually wrapped and labeled in bubble layers of promise and hope. You’re sorting by “need immediately,” “next season,” “long-term storage” and “donate.” It’s going really well. Because you are meticulous. You are organized. You are amazing. And you’re killing it.

Fashion Menswear GIF by Primark - Find & Share on GIPHY

Oh that was fun while it lasted wasn’t it? Until the movers call and tell you instead of Friday, they’re coming in 6 hours. Suddenly you’re thrust into:

Stage 5: Panic

The rest of the china gets stacked in the corner for your movers to pack with the cat and leftover takeout from the night before that you meant to put in the trash. You do your best to stay one step ahead but really, you’re six behind. You’re throwing things in a suitcase and hoping for the best (also filed under how our ski jackets made it to Guam before such useful things as towels).

Hashtag fail. Hashtag panic.

How I Met Your Mother Lily Himym GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Stage 6: Over It

After some frantic moments, maybe a little bit of yelling (not me, of course, I never yell), and maybe even some tears, you reach your tipping point. Enter Stage 6.

Maybe you throw away/donate the rest of your things. Maybe you consider burning the place to the ground. Maybe you let the movers do their thing and you channel your inner honey badger and just don’t care.

Whatever that zen is, embrace it. Run with it. Drop the mic and walk off the stage. It’s all good my friend. Your stuff will get moved one way or another. It’s just stuff. Ooosa.

Tv Show Comedy GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

And finally, once you’ve gone through all these stages again at your new duty station, you’ll eventually reach the end. That’s right:

Stage 7: Finished

Happy Eddie Murphy GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

You might not have everything you left with. You might have acquired new things along the way, but whatever it is, you’ve packed, you’ve unpacked and you’re finally done. Kick back, break out Grandma’s china if it survived the trip and enjoy your new home. At least until you have to do this all again.

Spit Take GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Are you packing for a PCS? Which stage are you currently in? 




  1. Stage one… been in stage one since January… thanks for the laugh ?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.