Our First Pack Out: Lessons Learned

We semi-successfully completed our first pack out yesterday.  All of our stuff is gone, except for the clothes and food we stuffed in Cormac’s car to get us through our first week or two in DC.  Here’s a bit of a recap of the day and some notes on what we hope to do differently next time.

When the Foreign Service moves your belongings, you are assigned a transportation officer who selects and contacts a moving company on your behalf.  My officer never actually emailed to confirm that he received my request, and was out of the office on our moving day when I called to ask a question.  Luckily, the person he asked to cover for him was super nice.  Don’t hesitate to call your transportation officer when your movers start asking you questions like “are we packing to store or move abroad?” (The answer is to store, I guess someone repacks before the journey overseas)

Our move was contracted out to a moving company, who re-contracted it out to another moving company.  No one from either company ever contacted me.  I finally called my transportation officer to ask who was moving us when no one had arrived by 10:00 on the morning of the move.

I had a pre-pack survey done a week before we moved.  Whoever did this survey (I somehow forgot to ask his name and company), seems to have failed to transmit the contents of the survey to the movers.  When our moving crew arrived, they were shocked to find a *whole* house to move.  They hadn’t prepared to move any furniture, as far as I could tell, and were also surprised to find our TV and Cormac’s musical instruments, for which we requested special packing materials.  

We had items at our home and at my mom’s house, about thirty minutes down the road.  For some reason they wanted to pack up my mom’s house first (even though we requested the opposite and were told that was fine), and didn’t arrive until 1:00pm.  That took about an hour to pack since there wasn’t a whole lot there– just a few pieces of furniture and some childhood knick-knacks.  Our movers ran out of packing supplies and had to swing by the warehouse before coming to our house.  They started on our house a little after 3:00, and finished up a little after 8:00.  Not bad for a two bedroom house! 

Somethings we learned that will make this so so so much easier for next time:

  1. If no one contacts you, track them down yourself.  I should have called to confirm my pre-pack survey contents and the order in which they planned to pack our stuff.  
  2. Have your Air Freight (UAB) separated from your storage (HHE).  We had two separate shipments of stuff, our Unattended Air Baggage and our House Hold Effects.  The UAB is 450lbs of stuff that will be shipped to us in DC in a week or two.  We only packed about 225lbs, which was a mistake.  I should have thrown in our pots and pans.  The HHE is everything else you own.  When we move abroad, we can have up to 7200lbs of our HHE shipped to us.  The rest will stay in storage.  
  3. It’s okay to do some packing before they arrive.  They guy who did our pre-pack told us that we couldn’t take any of our rubbermaid storage bins with us.  So I had UNpacked a lot of stuff we had in storage and placed it in piles all over our house.  This was a lie.  They put stuff right back into the bins and taped them shut.  Only, they didn’t put things back into the bins they way I would have.  So my winter coats, summer shoes, and sewing fabrics are all co-mingling until I can re-sort them in six months to a year.  
  4. Label the weird stuff you own.  The movers had to write the contents of every box on the outside.  Our washers game, my dress form, and a lot of my crafting supplies, threw the movers for a loop.  An index card taped to the items that said “Craft Supplies” would have  ensured that we didn’t end up with a box on our inventory list labeled “Plastic Bins”.  
  5. Don’t sweat it.  We were really anxious all day long, sitting around without much to do.  We kept saying to each other “I guess it doesn’t matter what box that goes into, so long as it gets into a box…”  Our stuff will eventually find its way back to us.  And if it doesn’t, no biggie!  We don’t own that much irreplaceable stuff.  

We move up to DC on Sunday and I start work on Monday!! Hopefully the blog content gets more exciting when I have real news to share. 


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