October 24, 2014

How to Do a DITY Move

How to do a DITY move Me and My SoldierMan

I don’t claim to be an expert in much of anything, but in our entire Army career, we’ve now completed 4 DITY moves. In as many years. And while we may not do things the same way others do, we’ve figured out a few tricks along the way that I thought I’d pass along.

DITY moves are intimidating, because they are stressful and exhausting and time-consuming. You are responsible for everything. And even though we’ve done several of them, I still dread them. But there are definite Pros to doing a DITY:

BYou pack your own stuff. You can take extra care with the breakables and valuables and important sentimental things. And since you are transporting your own stuff, you have 100% peace of mind that it’s getting to your destination.
BYou can wait as close to moving day to pack away your kitchen as you want, so you aren’t creating tons of trash with disposable plates, cups, and utensils, and you don’t have to spend the money eating fast food for longer than absolutely necessary.
BYou make money. That’s probably the biggest. The military saves money by paying YOU to pack and load and drive and unload and unpack your stuff, instead of hiring professionals.

Now, the cons:
DYou pack your own stuff. Do I even need to elaborate?
DDepending on how many vehicles you have, you will either be driving separately, towing a vehicle with a moving truck, or (in our case this last time) both. In fact, we had 3 vehicles in our most recent DITY caravan. And while gas is partially reimbursable, it’s still a pain in the butt (and boring if you have multiple long days of driving).
DAt least one of you has to be a good planner who doesn’t mind pestering the transportation office. I’ve read plenty of cases where the spouse has to be the one badgering about getting advance dislocation allowance and making sure the reimbursement forms get processed after the fact. Thankfully SoldierMan takes care of all that for our family, but not every soldier has the time/wherewithal to go to the trouble and make sure you really are getting what you’re owed.

All that being said, here’s a quick rundown of things that helped us do a DITY move without totally losing our minds:
-> Look for used moving boxes on post facebook groups and Craigslist. We got the most AWESOME moving boxes from our neighbors, who had come from Korea, where cardboard boxes are as sturdy as plywood and the packing paper is used like it’s paper, not gold. Saved a TON of money. Otherwise, we used Lowes for supplies, because their prices+military discount couldn’t be beat where we lived. (Except the bubble wrap, which we bought in bulk on Amazon.)
-> Pack the decorative stuff first, and early. Seriously, no one will care that your walls are bare for a couple of weeks. You won’t even care.
->Label boxes clearly and gratuitously. A method I have seen used is using a different style of decorative duct tape for each room (such as, all the Master Bedroom boxes are assembled with pink gingham tape). We simply wrote “Master Bedroom” on all sides of the boxes, and then I’d write an itemized list on the top. This was especially helpful in the kitchen, so I didn’t have to open every. single. box. to find our coffee mugs (essential survival tools, of course!)
->HIRE LOADERS. Pack your own stuff, because you know it will be protected, but then hire loaders to do the hard work. The last two moves, we’ve hired local help on Craigslist, both to load and unload our moving truck. I won’t lie, the labor in El Paso has been superior to the others. Either you or your husband need to act as foreman, with a plan of how you want the truck loaded and no shyness about giving orders. But having that extra pair (or two) of hands and feet will turn a back-breaking hours-long job into a less-back-breaking half-a-day job (or less).
->If you can, have a garage sale. I took a few things to a sale a few months before we moved, and if I wasn’t in post-partum recovery/not getting any sleep because of a newborn in the weeks immediately leading up to our move, I would have been more motivated to do one for ourselves right before we moved. Yes, you get reimbursed based on your total weight, so yes, technically, anything you sell at a garage sale, you’ll get less $$$ for than if you moved it, probably. But there’s something to be said for not have half a dozen “What the heck is this and why do we have it” boxes at your new home. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

Those are the biggest things, I think. If you’ve never done a DITY, I know how intimidating and frustrating they can be. But, they are not unconquerable and even have some benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked.

How many DITYs have you done? What would your top tips be?


  1. I am not military so I have never done a DITY, but I have moved a lot.

    I have a system for labeling my boxes that my friends think is crazy, but it works really well for me. I number all of my boxes and each room gets its own set of numbers, eg. kitchen-100s, living room-200s- office-300s, etc. I put the number of the box on all sides of the box, so no matter how you stack the boxes you can see the box number. Then I have a moving notebook and in that notebook I list all of the numbers with a detailed list of what is in each box. That way if I am looking for a particular item I can go to the notebook, find the box number, and then find the box.

    I know I just wrote a book, but maybe my system will make sense to somebody else. ;)

  2. I commend you for doing full DITY moves. We would much rather do a partial. We have still figured out how to make quite a bit of money doing it that way.


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