Downsizing in the Military: Preparing for a Smaller Apartment

In the military, those orders can mean frequent downsizing. You might move from an apartment in South Carolina with room for a full entertainment system to a tiny one-bedroom space in Okinawa, Japan. Or from Virginia Beach to San Diego, where the cost of living soars and your living space shrinks.

Whatever the move, it can be difficult to start and complete the process. But transfers can become a well-oiled process, especially if you follow these simple steps.

1. Make the most of the time you have

When faced with moving into a smaller living space, the first step is to budget enough time for the move. If you wait until the last minute to pack, sort and donate items, you risk stressing yourself out and overlooking something.

Transfer orders come in six months to a year out, so use that time to your advantage. Especially if you have a growing family, plan for the entire process to take a couple of months.

2. Explore available resources

Secondly, check with your new base for any resources they have, like a housing office. Personnel there can provide you with a list of preferred landlords, share details on certified vendors and set you up with base housing, if you qualify.

The housing office is a great resource for other information about your new location, such as daycare and school options, which can help alleviate some stress about the transition. The office will also let you know if they have items at the base, like a kitchen table or set of outdoor chairs, that you could acquire, instead of having to take with you.

Don’t forget about the housing office at your current base. If you have furniture you don’t plan on taking with you, the office can usually provide recommendations on what to do with it. They might have a company take the furniture and donate it to another service member, or the office might suggest a certain company they trust to haul the items away for you.

3. Visit your new home

Armed with all this information, the last pre-sorting step is to visit the place you’re moving into. Sometimes there’s leave available to use, which you should always take advantage of.

However, seeing your place beforehand isn’t always possible, especially if you’re transferring overseas. In this case, make sure you get the square footage of the house at a minimum and if possible, a complete layout.

4. Sort and organize your belongings

At this point, it’s time to decide what to carry to your new location and what to get rid of. This process is most efficient when you make a plan for tackling your rooms. Start with areas where you can get rid of the most stuff.

For example, some obvious purge locations are storage areas, where you haven’t touched anything since you moved in, and kids’ rooms, where you might’ve overindulged them with toys.

Now start sorting. Every item is either one you choose to keep or discard. No “maybe” box is allowed in the process. Sell what you can and donate the rest to keep as many items out of the landfill as possible. Many service members hold yard sales before moving.

As you’re going through your items, you’ll have a couple of easy decisions. Remove duplicate items like extra sheets, mugs you never use, etc. You want to make your move as efficient as possible and ensure the government doesn’t pay to ship more than it has to.

5. Learn from every move

Though the first couple of downsizing moves can be difficult, each time does get easier. You learn how to downsize efficiently and “upsize” responsibly when you move out of a small living space.

But the process of purging items every move remains the same, and it becomes another way you exude military precision.

Ray Gagnon is a retired Marine Corps Veteran and the President of JDog Junk Removal & Hauling Empire, a Military Veteran Partners company.

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Ray GagnonRay Gagnon is a retired Marine Corps Veteran and the President of JDog Junk Removal & Hauling Empire, a Military Veteran Partners company.

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