Moving? To DITY or Not To DITY


So…you’re moving.  You have orders in hand, you may or may not be headed to a base/post that you are excited about.  Maybe it’s your first move right out of training, or maybe you’ve moved a lot but you’ve never moved yourself.  You are probably overwhelmed, worried, anxious.  Those feelings are all 100% normal.  Never fear, I am here to provide you with tips and tricks that have worked for my family, share a few anecdotal stories of moves, and hopefully empower you or at the very least relieve some anxiety.

In the 35 years I’ve been alive, I have participated in 8 full DITY moves and 2 partial DITY moves…5 of which were growing up when my dad was in the service.  My first DITY move with Mr. Man was not planned at all.  He had just arrived back from OTS and all of our belongings were in a storage unit in Logan, Utah.  We had planned on only doing a partial DITY because we didn’t think we had a lot of time to get to his first duty station.  We were preparing to travel from Logan to Columbus, Mississippi.  The day arrived for us to meet the moving company at our storage unit and we………………………….waited and…………………………..waited and………………………….waited for them to never show.  Mr. Man called the moving company assigned to us and guess what?  We were never placed on the schedule.  They had absolutely no idea who we were or that we needed to move ASAP.  So Mr. Man and I looked at each other, threw our hands up and started calling U-Haul and Budget rental.  We figured, ‘how hard could it be? Everything was already packed and in boxes anyway.’  Turned out that first DITY move was a grand initiation into the Air Force.  The packing and unpacking of the truck was the cake part.  Thankfully we still had plenty of friends in Logan from college who were willing to help us load up and we contacted the church we’d be attending in Mississippi to let them know we were coming and needed assistance unloading when we arrived.  The awful part was the middle.

This was back in 2006 when texting was still sort of new, 4G didn’t exist and the coverage to roaming areas were extremely large.  Mr. Man came up with the brilliant plan for us to use walkie-talkies because he was driving the moving truck and I was following behind in our personal vehicle.  (This is something we still do every move.  You never know when you won’t have cell service, and it is much quicker to talk over a walkie-talkie than it is to call and definitely much safer than texting and driving.)

We were able to get the moving truck packed up and on the road all within 24 hours.  Our route was going to have us go on I-80 through to Omaha where Mr. Man’s family lives and then down southeast through Iowa, Missouri etc.  Around the time we were smack dab in the middle of the wilderness of the Midwest Mr. Man began to not feel the greatest.  By the time we arrived at his parents house in Omaha, he was full on sick with a terrible stomach bug.  I was worried about him, and he was worried about making it to Mississippi in time before his new commander yelled at him.  Between his mom and I, we were able to convince him to stay and rest for a couple of days.  I somehow even shuffled him to the Urgent Care at Offutt AFB where they loaded him up with anti-nausea meds and an IV to rehydrate him.  But Mr. Man being the stubborn person he is, insisted we eventually get on the road.  I knew he wasn’t 100%, but I also knew he was having added stress trying to arrive at his first official duty station.  So we left, we waved goodbye to his parents and took off.  I followed behind the biggest moving truck you can rent hoping and praying the whole time Mr. Man would be OK.

We made it to Mississippi, unloaded the moving truck and Mr. Man checked in with his commander, all in the allotted time he was given.  One of the first things out of his commander’s mouth when he heard how sick Mr. Man had been was “why didn’t you just call and tell me?  I would’ve extended your travel time.”  (major facepalm)  Another fun fact I didn’t find out about til after we were settled in Mississippi was from Omaha to around Memphis, Tennessee every time I saw the moving truck drift a little to the right onto the shoulder and then slowly drift back into the correct lane…turns out Mr. Man was trying to drive a massive moving truck…while puking his guts out in a grocery bag.  (another major facepalm)  That first DITY move not only stressed me to the max, and we didn’t even have kids yet, but it also was the first of many times I realized just how strong, and stubborn Mr. Man is.  Thankfully that was the most eventful DITY move we’ve had thus far.

  1.  Start packing early:  we like to pack room by room.  This helps us to know exactly where we want our belongings to go in the new house.  We pack the rooms/belongings we know we won’t need for a long while first.  Another thing to think about is if you already know that you will be waiting for your next residence for more than a month, pack accordingly.  If you are going to still be in temporary lodging during Christmas, but you want to still have a Christmas tree up make sure you pack your Christmas decor in such a way that you will be able to get to them easily in the storage unit your belongings end up in.
  2. Label EVERYTHING: In our experience it is a lot more efficient if you over label everything.  The first time the military moved us one of the packers labeled a box as microwave.  The house we moved into had a microwave so we didn’t open that box til after our next move.  Turned out that box had not only our microwave, but a bunch of kitchen towels as well as ALL of my cook books.  By the time we had moved I had replaced most of my cook books.
  3. No need for fancy packing materials: Just about any box and tape will do.  Mr. Man found a huge flat of UPS boxes for a great price on eBay for our second DITY move.  They were all uniform in size, thick cardboard and durable.  I think we ended up paying less than a dollar per box.  And we just purchased packing tape and tissue paper from Walmart.
  4. Some things just need to be left behind: Every move we trash certain items that we would much rather repurchase when we arrive at our next duty station.
    • plungers
    • trashcans (if they aren’t terribly nice)
    • vacuums (again if it isn’t nice)
    • paper goods such as kitchen supplies
  5. Owning your own dolly is cheaper: Well, it’s cheaper if you plan on moving yourself a lot.  I was gifted the first piano my dad ever gave my mom, so it only made sense to purchase our own piano dolly.  We also ended up purchasing a regular upright dolly as well.  Not only has it come in handy every time we move, but we are Mormon, so it comes in handy just about every weekend when we are asked to help move another family.
  6. Hire someone to clean after you pack: Every time we’ve done a full DITY, I ALWAYS hire a cleaning company.  Who wants to spend a whole day or two packing your own moving truck and then deep clean your house?  The first time we moved from base housing, we cleaned it ourselves and between loading the truck and then cleaning the house, Mr. Man and I almost divorced.  There is just something about spending that much time with your spouse, feeling filthy dirty being elbow deep scrubbing the third toilet where you look at each other and think ‘sure he’s sexy as hell, but do I love him enough to scrub the poo and hard water stains for a third time in the last hour….at 2:30am?’
  7. Roll with the punches: Moving with the military hardly EVER 100% works out.  Whether you are doing a full DITY, partial DITY, or just traveling with yourself and family; there is just something about how it hardly ever works out from start to finish.  It is easiest and least marriage crushing if you are able to keep an open mind the whole time.
  8. Pack your vacuum, cleaning supplies, air mattresses last: Whether you have a house lined up off base/post before you arrive at your next station, or if you are planning on just living on base/post you will probably want to clean your new residence yourself before everything is unpacked.  Or at the very least be able to vacuum right away after the truck is unloaded.  It is much handier if you have your cleaning supplies in a box at the back of the truck, then if it is buried somewhere in the middle.  And it saves you time from trying to hunt down the local store to purchase more cleaning supplies.
  9. Save ALL of your receipts: When you arrive at your next duty station and need to turn in all of your expense receipts it is better to have too many and be told that certain ones aren’t applicable, than to wish you had saved more.  Every receipt TMO accepts is tax deductible towards your payout.  You need to save your truck rental receipt, your weight receipts, your food and gas receipts, and your lodging receipts.  Even if you ended up staying on base/post for lodging every night you traveled.  If I remember right, some TMO offices have accepted our receipts that were full of cleaning supplies purchases.

Before my parents had children, my dad finished up Nav school at Mather, AFB in northern California and they were headed to their first duty station Minot, North Dakota.  They were traveling in my dad’s old beat up lima bean green Ford pickup truck that had more rust than paint.  At some point somewhere in Montana they stopped for gas and my dad turned to my mom and said “why don’t you go inside and get a dozen donuts.”  ……so she did.  Dad finished up gassing up the truck and mom came out with the dozen donuts.  She had bought all cake donuts……..my dad hated cake donuts.  She had no idea, he didn’t speak to her for the rest of the ride that day.  Did I mention they were still somewhat newly weds?  We laugh about that story now, it’s especially funny because my dad’s call sign ended up being Dough Boy….what can I say, he really likes donuts.

Bottom line is moving yourself is stressful, whether it is your first time or your 8th time.  Keeping an open mind, being as prepared as you can be, and laughing instead of crying is always the best remedy for a more successful move.  Below are a few websites that can help prepare you for expenses and can estimate how much you will make on your move based on your rank, if you have dependents, and the distance you will be moving.  AND good luck!  Moving is an adventure!

Move.Mil- https://www.move.mil/entitlements

DITY Move Calculator- http://ditymovecalculator.net/

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