PCS Q&A: Organize with a Pro
by Lizann Lightfoot - April 7th, 2021
Guest: Caroline Overstreet of Overstreet Organizing. She’s an Army spouse on her 3rd duty station who owns her own organizing business.
DOD Updates from Megan: If your shipment is delayed for natural disasters such as the hurricanes or the wildfires, then you are not eligible for an inconvenience claim because that is outside of their control.
Pro gear: TRANSCOM confirmed that homeschooling materials are not considered spouse pro gear. If you have a teaching certification you can count those supplies as pro gear. But otherwise, it currently does not count. We discussed it with them at length and they are willing to take a look at changing the policy, but it hasn’t changed yet.
What inspired you to get into this line of work?
I’m an Army kid, my Dad served, and ran a pretty tight ship at home. I always cleaned my room on Saturdays of my own accord. When we were stationed in Germany several years ago, I realized how hard it is to keep a career when you move around. But I realized I could work and offer a service, and that I had the spark to be an organizer. Yes, I go and clean up and organize people’s homes. There is a great community of military and civilians, and I have worked with both, especially living near a big city. Overstreet Organizing came to life quickly and my family and friends have been supportive. I also do virtual organizing for a military spouse out of state. It’s harder when you can’t be hands-on, but I am glad it works that way too!
Why is it important for families to organize their home before the PCS?
It’s important to know your inventory. Know what is in your house at all times, because once you lose control of that you start ending up with boxes in the basement that you have never opened. If you filter out what you don’t need before they even get there, it makes it much easier to deal with on the other end. I call it “popping up the circus tent,” because you want to be able to “break down” and then set up your house quickly each time you move. All the like items get grouped together: picture frames, lamps, kitchen stuff, high-value items, etc. Have everything ready to go and grouped together when the movers arrive. I know that is harder with kids, but it helps to organize and break down each room so you just have to pick things up and put them in boxes.
It’s so important to open each box after a PCS, not only for organizing but also for claims! If something is broken, you want to know about it before the next move. So open each box, look at each item, verify that it actually belongs to your family and isn’t just getting tagged again with each move.
For people who are organizationally challenge, what should you organize pre-PCS?
Definitely go through papers and documents. If you have a PCS binder, start with that. If you have a file box, get rid of things you no longer need. Next is places like linen closets. You could probably donate some towels to animal shelters or retire some of your old sheets. You don’t need that many towels, just some for family members and guests. Next, go through kitchen and pantry items. If you have a favorite spatula, you don’t need 10 more! Some people have multiple versions of the same item. You don’t need all that extra space and weight. If you have kids, go through the toys and decide what is excessive and how much you don’t need. Tell them other kids are out there and don’t have anything to play with. That makes it easier for them to let it go. Some people are not sentimental and don’t care about much. Special toys or heirlooms are fine to keep, but you probably have more Legos than you need. Similarly in the bathroom, you don’t need to keep samples from hotels and travel! It’s just extra weight and space they take up, and if they leak they can cause damage. If you’ve had them for years, they may even be dangerous to use and need to be thrown away.
When preparing for your HHG delivery, how should you prep your home to stay organized when you unpack?
First, clean your home. Scrub things down and get a casual layout/blueprint/sketch of the home. Figure out where you want to place things in each room. It’s no fun to play Tetris in a small space when your things are already there. Measure and determine furniture placement ahead of time. Measure pantries and underneath sinks, and determine what will fit and how many baskets you will need in each space. Go through your house and determine the flow of the room before anything arrives so that it will be functional for you. Then you can tell the movers where to put the bed, the sofa, etc, so every wall isn’t already covered in boxes when you want them to assemble furniture. Tell them where to leave a clear space for the large furniture. Give your movers a brief home tour, then give them a copy of the room layouts so they can see your plans.
What should families be mindful of when unpacking?
There are tons of ways to organize your boxes– use color-coded tape and make sure rooms are labeled clearly. The Parts Box should contain all the hardware and be clearly labeled. Kitchen and bedrooms need to be done first. The kids need a bedroom space to hang out in, and the kitchen can take a while, but you will want to start cooking soon. It takes time to figure out what will fit in what cabinets. Know your inventory and your boxes to plan ahead how much room you need to leave for certain items.
What role should kids play in cleaning rooms for a move?
I’m not a parent, but if you can get your kids excited and make the task fun, it will go better. You can do scavenger hunts to help take down the room. Monkey see, monkey do: they will model your behavior, so if you do tasks together, it will help. For toddlers, you may just need to keep them out of the way and use a playpen to keep them away. Younger kids may be traumatized by seeing someone pack up their toys. Let them clearly mark and decorate their box so they can see when their favorite things arrive. Most movers don’t mind if kids are in the room or watch while they are packing, but ask first.
When unpacking, what are do you see families struggle with organizing?
Kitchen and pantry are the biggest. Don’t just throw everything in to get it out of boxes. Think about how things will work functionally. Try to get things in a place that makes sense: dishes and silverware should be close to the dishwasher. Closets are another big one. Try to keep like types of items together. Don’t just throw things in, but be able to know where each type of item is in the closet. Laundry rooms and garages can also get cluttered. Those extra boxes you never opened usually end up in a garage.
We have all seen organization shows on TV. There is some psychology behind organization. Purging and letting go before a PCS can be similar challenges to hoarders.
Organizing can be like counseling. You get very intimate being invited into their home, going through loved ones closets. You want to make sure that you all work together like a well-oiled machine. You need to be able to talk together and be a confidant. Sometimes people are holding onto things from a family member who passed away. You have to know what is important to them and beware of tender subjects. Sometimes people hold onto things because they paid a lot for them. Tread lightly, but also reassure people that we are moving forward, and it’s the memories you hold inside that are most important. There are about five levels of hoarding, and some organizers are trained to deal with the psychology of that higher level of hoarding. Everyone wants the Marie Kondo method. I’m willing to work with what you have and go from there. We want to get you back to a healthy baseline and get you squared away. I’m there to encourage them and remind them that if they haven’t touched something in years, then they don’t need all those cords and these things they have been carrying around.
Should we carry the parts box with us, or let it get packed?
It’s really a personal preference. Some people pack it in their car or even in a suitcase because if it gets lost, then you won’t get any furniture put together. If you send it on the truck, make sure you grab it as soon as it comes off and put it on a kitchen shelf out of the way so it won’t get mixed up in other boxes.
How can clients find you?
OverstreetOrganizing.com and I’m in the Savannah, Georgia area. I do sometimes travel, and I have some virtual clients where I have done calls with them, and it does work! This is my way to give back to people. It is a service people need, and it’s something that offers value to you. This is a calling for me, and I’m very excited about it.
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