I’m writing this from my Adirondack chair, sipping a cup of coffee and watching my kids play. No, I’m not lounging on the porch somewhere, enjoying the fresh morning air.

Actually, I’m sitting in my very sparsely furnished house. Because, thanks to an OCONUS PCS and a crazy moving season generally, our stuff is still not here.

Yeah, I’m upset, but I’m also learning how to make my nearly empty house into a home on a small budget, smart packing and some easy decor hacks.

PCS Chic Temporary Decor Hacks for Every MilSpouse to Steal ASAP

I could have gone crazy on Amazon or at Target, and it totally crossed my mind to buy all the things. But I’m pretty sure my husband would die if he saw a credit card statement with that many zeroes. Instead of buying all new everything, I’m making do and creating temporary solutions to our HHG issues.

Pack Smart Before You PCS

If you’re already on the move, this won’t help you much. I mean, totally file this one away for next PCS season, but it’s not uber useful to you in the right now.

Still moving? Listen up! This pointer is for you, right now. So stop what you’re doing and get to sorting.

Very few PCS moves this season seem to be going door to door, meaning you don’t have any gaps where you’re without your stuff. Instead, families are having to wait for a week or more (we’re on week 6 or 8, I think) until their HHG rolls up. Coming to or from OCONUS? Yeah, your stuff is going to be a minute.

If you’re PCSing, pack or ship these things now:

  • shower curtain + liner + rings
  • coffee maker (we packed our French press)
  • skillet + small pot with cover
  • utensils, one complete set for each person
  • cutting board + good knife
  • spatula
  • mixing bowl
  • plastic wine glasses (because let’s be honest)
  • corkscrew/bottle opener combo
  • kitchen towels
  • bathroom hand towels + one bath towel for each family member
  • sheets for every person’s bed
  • 1-2 pillows per person (see below for more!)
  • curtains (if there aren’t any in your next house)
  • air mattresses, 1 sleeping space per person ( 2 adults + 2 kids = 1 queen + 2 twins)
  • toys for the kids

This is easier if you’re driving cross country since you can just pack a bunch of stuff in your vehicle(s). But you can also do this if you’re flying.

Just be sure to pack anything sharp/dangerous into your checked luggage and wrap breakables, like the coffee maker, really well. there is typically a bigger allowance in terms of number and weight of checked bags for military on PCS orders. Use your space wisely!

Level Up During Your PCS

I like to take the opportunity allowed me every three or so years to level up some of my household essentials. Pillows and sheets are at the top of my life every single time.

Why? Those things get nasty quick! And I’m the last person who wants to drag all that grossness from place to place. Instead, I convince my spouse to ditch the rattiest of the pillows and sheets before we move.

We actually turn the sheets into cleaning rags for the pre-PCS inspection cleaning. Since we’re upcycling them, he can’t be mad about the waste factor.

Pillows, he has a hard time fighting me on. We’ll keep the better pillows and cycle them around to the kids (freshly washed and covered in allergy covers, don’t worry). Then we gift ourselves some new pillows once we arrive in our next hometown.

Other items you might want to consider improving during a PCS season:

  • curtains
  • shower curtains
  • bath towels
  • kitchen towels + napkins
  • throw pillows
  • kitchen knife sets + storage block
  • pots + pans (we’re slowly adding cast iron into the mix with each move!)
  • glassware + stemware
  • dishes, plates + bowls

Don’t level everything up during one PCS season. Spread them out over time, making these little improvements slowly. None of these items are total budget busters and can get worn down quickly, too. It’s smart to swap them out!

Furnish Flexibly

So these Adirondack chairs I’m using in my living room? Right now they’re inside furniture because we don’t have a couch, dining room set or other chairs. Everything is coming, someday soon they tell me.

I don’t want to buy anything new right now, but I’m also not parking my booty on the hard floor for weeks (months?) on end either. So I grabbed some lawn furniture on sale and stuck it into the living room for now. Once our stuff arrives, we’ll cycle everything outside to it’s forever home.

You can do this with other spaces and pieces:

  • futon: use now as a sofa, turn into a guest bed or kid’s bed
  • basic desk: use now as a dining table, turn back into a desk
  • outdoor dining set: use now inside, return outside later
  • packing boxes: use now as toy boxes, small tables, storage, etc., recycle later
  • folding camp chairs: use now in the living or dining rooms, move outside later

My plastic lawn chairs are working just fine for now, but I also can’t wait until I can move them to the porch and reclaim my spot on the comfy couch. You know, whenever our HHG decide to show up, eventually, maybe.

What are your favorite hacks to make an almost-empty house feel more like home? We’d love to learn from your experiences!



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Meg is a military spouse, teacher, writer, and mom of two MilKids. She is an education blog and coaching/advocacy service focused on military families. Meg's mission is to help families understand and navigate the K-12 world. She provides timely posts, timeless advice, and personal assistance to families with school-aged children. You can find Meg online at megflanagan.com and @MegFlanaganEducation

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