Movin' on Up...

...to the East Side

We are about 30 days away from our very first State Department pack out and at first that felt like a long ole time, but when I started shuffling boxes around today it suddenly didn't.  We don't even own many things.  We sold all of our furniture and gave away a lot of our stuff before we moved to Jerusalem so our earthly belongings take up one tiny corner in what we refer to as "The Bomb Shelter" in my Mother's basement.  But all the same, there are still a lot of choices that go into a pack out.

A "pack out" is when movers hired by the State Department come to your home and pack up all of your belongings.  Some of them go to storage and some go to your immediate destination - an apartment in D.C. for us.  Some of the storage things go to your first post overseas at the end of training and some of them stay in D.C. - depending on how much crap you have.  Max and I, thankfully, don't have a lot of crap.  But I still need to start sorting through the stuff we do have and decide which thing will go where.  I'm thinking of a colored sticker system to keep things straight.  What a librarian I am.

FSOs and EFMs - Any tips of a successful first pack out?  


  1. When are you going to be in DC and for how long? We should have a Viewmont party while you are here since there are a lot of us here in DC!

  2. I started out with different colors of post-its but they do fall off. We ended up using the very sophisticated pile system.

    Do watch the movers/packers though because they are swift and will pack everything unless you tell them not to. Before we knew it they had packed our recycling and a bunch of things that really needed to stay in the house. Now we have to send them back.

  3. The more organized you are before they arrive, the almost less chaotic it will be throughout the process.

  4. Brooke! You're back in the states! And in Utah even! My mom said that she ran into you at Cafe Rio. I would love to come and see you next time. Email me or call me (my mom said she gave you my number) some time. I've been reading your blog so I feel like I kind of know you more:) Love ya!

  5. Wow, people come and actually move your stuff for you? Sounds nice. I think the labeling system sounds good-you are a librarian. :)Best of luck in DC, sounds like fun!

  6. I'm a huge supported of putting things that are going to different places (long-term storage, store while at FSI, UAB to FSI) in completely different rooms. Make the packers pack one room at a time, so things are in order on your packing manifests. It doesn't work so much if you have a whole house of stuff... but for the post-grad student lifestyle, it's perfect.

  7. i don't recommend little post its, i recommend BIG BIG BIG sheets of paper that blatantly tell the packers exactly where your stuff is heading ... UAB, HHE, storage, etc.

    also - my other recommendation is to separate the stuff in each room into piles... that are far enough away from each other so that the packers have NO chance on getting confused. i even went as far as putting solely UAB stuff in one room, HHE in another...

    i've done 5 state dept moves... if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

  8. Ahhhh, nothing tests your organizational talents like a good old fashioned pack-out.

    I'm in agreement with no post-its but rather BIG HUGE ENORMOUS poster board signs that clearly state "UAB", "HHE" or "STORAGE" and (if possible) do put them into entirely different rooms. We also made it a point to have all of our suitcases packed in advance for the actual day of travel and loaded them into our own car during the days of packout so that the movers wouldn't pack anything while we weren't looking. In addition make sure your plane tickets, passports, etc. are in there.

    This one may seem obvious...but plan to feed your movers and make sure to have lots of cold bottles of water on hand. We've found that they really appreciate it and snacks/drinks keep 'em moving quickly. On that note, don't count on the fact that they will ALWAYS have their own boxcutters or regulation scales (INSIST that they get one to weight your UAB).

    Livelines has a lot to say about packouts. Don't let the horror stories freak you out and feel free to ask any of us if you have questions!

  9. Livelines? I'm not familiar with that?

  10. Livelines is a yahoo groups for people in the Foreign service. Just do a search for it in Yahoo groups. You have to send a brief note to the moderator letting them know that you are starting A-100 and they'll add you to the group.

    It is a great resource.

    Tipping the movers is something else you need to know though there are no rules that everyone agrees to. Different people tip differently and have different numbers of movers show up. Check out the livelines discussion on the topic for a variety of views and make up your mind.