Packout Looms… PCS Update II

Before I get to the last post in my travelogue about our Ghan train trip across Australia, I thought it was time for an update on our upcoming Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move from Australia to the U.S. and eventually, onward to Mexico.

My posture towards the PCS is swinging back and forth between hyper-preparation and organizing everything, and hiding in my bed doing nothing. Both conditions may present even during the same hour. Ha ha! But whatever I do, it will not stop the inevitable: we are leaving Australia in less than three weeks’ time.

In just over a week, the movers will come to pack up our house. It will take two business days, for which I’ll be accorded admin leave. Some of our things will come with us, and some will be sold or left behind. Some of our things will catch up with us in Virginia this September while we’re in a temporary apartment for several months of training, and the rest we won’t see for about a year, until it all arrives to us in Mexico, where we will have already been for a couple of months. So making decisions about *what* we need to be where, and when, and what we can live without, will save us a lot of money and aggravation. That’s if we can just survive until the packout!


Like it or not, it’s almost PCS o’clock


How does this work?

First, V and I will pack two suitcases and two carry-ons each and will put them in a no-packing room. In those suitcases have to go clothes for four seasons, since it’s winter here, soon we’ll be in American summer, and we won’t get to Mexico til spring of 2020. We also have to hand-carry personal papers, medicines, computers and electronics, jewelry, and any other valuables with us. Anything that absolutely cannot risk being packed, like wallets and passports, must be secured in the no-packing room.

Second, we’ll also put in the no-packing room things we will use for our last week in the house that we will use up, sell, give away, or leave behind – cleaning supplies, kitchenware and appliances and linens from the welcome kit, food, local shredder and vacuum cleaner, step-down transformers, toilet paper, etc. These are things we will still need here, and don’t want to get packed and count against our weight allowance. I’ll also be stashing some wine in that room, not gonna lie.

Third, we will put 450 lbs of unaccompanied air baggage (UAB) into a taped-off UAB zone in our front room. UAB will be things like kitchen appliances, decorations, winter clothes, shoes, and other things we want in Virginia but don’t necessarily want or need to lug across Hawaii and the west coast on home leave. The only real rules are that packing materials count towards the limit and we can’t bring liquids or aerosols. I also can’t import alcohol since I’d have to pay duties on it. Fine.

And fourth, household effects (HHE). There isn’t much you need to do about those, since once your suitcases and UAB are done, HHE is kind of everything else by default.

For me, once I’ve gone through the house and gotten rid of anything I don’t actually want to bring (which we have done over the last two months), and cleaned up any outdoor things we don’t want to get snared in quarantine, we really only (a) group like items from across the house together to expedite packing, and (b) make sure any hardware gets bagged, labeled and stays together with items like beds, shelves, mirrors, photo collages, etc. that get taken apart.


But in order for a PCS to work, there’s a lot of other stuff that needs to be handled, as well.

Here are some things that V and I have been doing, in no particular order, over the last several weeks to avoid getting a PCS butt-kicking:

– I finalized all of our accommodation and activities for home leave across Hawaii, California, Oregon, and Washington. The way I have staggered making reservations over the last four months allowed me to pay everything off incrementally, with no credit card debt. As V may soon be out of work again, it’s imperative that I manage money the best I can in case I need to float us both until we get to Mexico, or even longer.

– We put up both of our Australian cars for sale. The old one has a buyer, the newer one still doesn’t. I’m trying not to worry. We filled out the diplomatic paperwork to clear our cars for sale.

– Final service and oil change on cars is complete.

– We got rid of two car batteries from our garage at the hazardous waste part of the dump. We didn’t even get charged! Thanks, ACT government!

– We sold our elliptical trainer; no luck on the treadmill yet.

– I went through my books and DVDs and came up with a donate bag.

– We have an ongoing list of UAB and no-pack items that sits in the kitchen. I wrote it a week ago, giving us a couple of weeks to think about it and recall those “oh-what-about-this?!” type of things.

– We cancelled our gym membership.

– I froze our Netflix DVD shipping until September. Super important! LOL.

– We requested our medical records from the embassy.

– We went through all of our medications and eliminated a lot of old things for incineration. Now the cabinet is tidy for packing.

– We attended the pre-packout survey with the moving company, inventorying our house for a weight estimate.

– I requested our items in storage in Belgium and Maryland to be returned to us in Virginia, and am still asking myself how that is 655 lbs of stuff?!

– We turned in the road toll tags from both of our cars and settled our account.

– I closed my Australian bank account. No more debit tap-and-pay. Sob!

– We changed our addresses – both DPO and dip pouch – with USPS.

– I separated any of my remaining paper in the house into four folders: save/hand carry; scan and shred; medical records; and submit for medical insurance reimbursement.

– I cleaned up the fridge of papers and gathered all greeting cards from around the house for storage in my personal correspondence bin.

– V winterized the back yard and took down all of our hanging and potted plants for giveaway or green waste.

– V is in the process of shutting down our home internet and cable bundle.

– I worked with Washington on my post-Spanish training schedule (February-May 2020), and it’s almost all locked in.


There is probably more, but that’s what I can think of for the time being. It’s not fun, and there’s a lot left I don’t have the heart to list. Also, none of this even takes into consideration all the things we have to do to transition at work, but as much as V and I may procrastinate or get frustrated these days, overall we are a great team and there’s no one I’d rather PCS with.

Will be so hard to say goodbye to Canberra. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land. Photo: SBS

  3 comments for “Packout Looms… PCS Update II

  1. fan-cy
    July 14, 2019 at 13:09

    You darling girl you! I’ve started the Ghan trip and have a few more left to read. God bless you and V. Will eagerly look forward to more news when you get settled in D.C. Be safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. apashby
    July 15, 2019 at 02:18

    Wow, you’re more organized than me pre-baby planning. Awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

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