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Surviving a Military Move During the Holidays

Surviving a military move during the holidays

How we made moving during the holidays merry and bright in spite of the the moving chaos!

This post was written by me and originally posted on the MilitaryByOwner blog. Reposted with permission.

Moving boxes…cranky kids…more unpacking in front of me than behind me…exhaustion.

All of the above could be a description of any military move, but add one more detail: December 19. We had received delivery of our household goods just days before Christmas.

Like many other military families, it wasn’t our first off-season military move and it wouldn’t be our last. But while in the midst of a holiday PCS move, skipping the “holiday” aspect of the season made sense to me. To my four kids? Not so much.

They still expected—to put it lightly, demanded—that we do something to mark the holiday season. And to be perfectly honest, deep down, I didn’t want to let Christmas go by without observing at least some of our family’s traditions, either.

small Christmas tree

How to cope with a military move right smack dab in the middle of the “most wonderful time of the year”? Here are a few ideas that worked for our family.

1) Let go of expectations.

For both the holiday and your normal unpacking routine! You likely won’t get all your outside lights strung, nor will you finish unpacking every box in a week. Or maybe you’re still making a home in temporary lodging for the time being, in which case, give yourself a ton of grace!

Give yourself permission to do what you can and not stress over what you feel is unfinished. If you’ve managed to make space to sit together and find room for a Charlie Brown-type Christmas tree, then I consider that a success!

For the move mentioned above, we joined forces with our new neighbors on base and all contributed to a potluck style meal. From store-bought cherry pies to homemade goodies, the holiday table was quite the assortment! But what we all remember most is the laughter and fun. 

Give yourself permission to do what you can and not stress over what you feel is unfinished. If you’ve managed to make space to sit together and find room for a Charlie Brown-type Christmas tree, then I consider that a success!

Jen McDonald

2) Start some new traditions. 

This holiday season will look different this year and that’s ok. Your regular seasonal routines and activities will be upended, while your typical shopping plans will be out the window (but hey, that’s what online shopping is for anyway!). 

This is a great time to focus on your own family unit. What new traditions could you create that might be worth observing again next year? Maybe it’s an audiobook you listen to together, a new board game, or watching a movie while snuggled up with hot cocoa (with unpacked boxes in the background!).

Embracing the newness and changes you’re experiencing can help put a positive spin on a holiday PCS move. Get more ideas: 4 Benefits of an Off-Season PCS Move

eating pizza out of box

3) Keep your sense of humor.

You may eat your Christmas dinner off paper plates while perched atop moving boxes like we did. My kids still talk about how funny that was to them! And “Christmas dinner” may mean takeout or pizza. 

No, it won’t be Norman Rockwell picture-perfect, but I suspect your family will remember the togetherness more than the chaos of moving. Some of our best family memories have sprung from moments like these.  

4) Accept help. 

If your new neighbors, your spouse, or even your children offer to help, accept it—even if it’s not how you would normally do things. Case in point: my teens offered to unpack the kitchen on one of our holiday moves. While it took me a few months to sort out where all the frying pans and spatulas had gotten themselves to, it was well worth having that task out of the way at the time.

moving boxes with flowers

5) Remember to rest! 

Between getting your household goods unpacked and settling into a new location, you may feel like it’s laziness to take a break or that you should always be working on something right now. As my grandmother used to say, “You’re a human being, not a human doing.”  This is good advice for a military family. Carve out time for a nice long nap or a fun activity. Trust me, the boxes will still be there! 

I hope that if you’re moving during the “most wonderful time of the year,” you’re able to pause and enjoy the holiday season. 

Are you moving during the holidays? Share your best tips for marking the time during the moving chaos down in the comments below.

Happy Holidays!

Surviving a Military Move During the Holidays

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Hi, I'm Jen!

As a military spouse of three decades and now the mom of an active duty son, my hope is to support you in your own military life. You’ll find help for your military marriage, deployments, PCS moves, and more!