Raise your hand if you married someone and didn’t know much about their job?! That was me. 9 years ago my now husband and I moved in together and I had very little knowledge about what it meant to be doing what he does for the military. I didn’t understand some of the lingo, I was clueless on what different uniforms were for, and especially on any of the ribbons or stripes or insignia that went on those uniforms. And don’t get me started on the paperwork…. Oowee, was I lost when it came to knowing what he meant when he was looking for his DD214 or AF form 910.
When I look back on those early days, I can’t help but to laugh. I had no clue what life looked like as a married person, let alone marrying someone in the military. It really is different. You’re always learning and growing and adapting to your new environment. And you typically don’t have any of your extended families near you, so you learn how to manage it all together, just the two of you.
Thankfully, we’d both lived on our own for a few years before we moved in together so we both had an understanding of the importance of staying on top of bills, holding down full-time jobs to pay for those apartments and food, and how to get by at a comfortable lever. And while my husband was not the most organized person, he was pretty well put together and self-sufficient. He got up every morning on the first alarm, he didn’t shop much for *stuff*, and he always took care of his dishes before bed. Amazing!
On top of those great qualities, he was also super laid-back about me moving his stuff around to make space for my stuff. He didn’t care much where things were, just so long as he could find them. Moving in was a pretty smooth transition.
Flash-forward to our first PCS (military move) and now he’s calling me from work asking me if I’ve seen his birth certificate or some other really important document. When I say I haven’t, he tells me to look in his bedside table drawer… I’m sorry, what?! You keep your most important and sensitive documents just thrown in this drawer?! I couldn’t believe it!
Sure enough, after sifting through the drawer full of papers and receipts, I can’t find it. He needs the birth certificate for his official passport for our move to Germany, and we can’t find it anywhere. In panic, we Google search the process for getting the document replaced, and there are so many hoops to jump through! Especially since we don’t live in the state where he was born. Oye! It was stressful to get a new card to say the least.
I knew I did not want to be in a panic each time he needed to show proof of credits from a training or his social security card. And so, the journey to getting our important paperwork in order began. Between portfolio binders, fire safes, and a small filing system for current paperwork we now have an easy and super functional system to keep and maintain all of the documents we need.
This was just one of the things I’ve worked on over the years to simplify and organize our home. With military life comes, other unexpected things that need to be managed, like gear or uniform accoutrements. And if they get ignored long enough, they really start to take over every space in your home!
With almost 10 years under our belt at this military life gig, I thought I’d share 4 ways I’ved helped to organize my military spouse and helped maintain our sanity. And the best part is — I don’t have to go insane from my husband constantly asking where things are… because he already knows! Well, okay… he still does this (but I think it’s just to mess with me).
Our very first PCS (military move) was from a small town in New Mexico all the way to Europe! And even though I knew very little about anything that would be considered “important” in the military world, I knew we needed something simple and organized to keep our personal documents in. For the move itself, we created two portfolio folders to store all of the documents that we’d need to keep with us throughout the transition. One for personal documents, like our social security cards and birth certificates and passports, and another one for all of his military documents, like the orders, out-processing documents, etc.
This has been huge in having peace of mind that we’ve collected everything we’ll need and can grab it quickly. Highly recommend this if you haven’t done it!
Oooo gear! This is a tough one. So much of the crap they bring home from deployment or training they never use again! It’s so bulky and sometimes hard to store. It’s hard to know what to do with it! For me, I think the best thing you can do to keep gear under control and organized is to keep it minimized, when possible.
Have a conversation with your spouse about possibly turning it back in to the base training unit, or finding out how to appropriately get rid of government issued items. I usually check in with my hubby before each PCS to see what needs to go back and what is out of regs now. And each time they change their uniforms — I know to check the gear. Most of it won’t be used in an official capacity if it’s outdated. A great time for a major purge!
3. Morning routine/location for stuff:
I’ll never forget the first few months we were living together and I received a couple of calls from my hubby asking if I could find X document or Y piece of clothing or gear and bring it to base. I mean, I was sitting at home without any job prospects in a town I knew no one but him and feeling so lonely… but I still did not want to be driving to base to bring stuff he forgot.
I started playing with ways to create a designated spot, just for him, so that he could toss all of his stuff together and know where to find it in the morning. And the simplest way to do that was to just place some sort of storage by the door, where he would naturally tend to put items in the first place. In some houses we’ve hung a little decorative organizer on the wall for keys, wallets, and hats. In other places I’ve just designated a basket or organizer on the entry table top. Either way you do it, keeping it simple is key.
4. Uniform Accessories:
When my husband and I first moved in together, he had patches, ribbons, stripes, you name it — all uniform accoutrements, as we like to call it — all over our apartment. It drove me nuts. In an effort to consolidate all of those small pieces into one area, I grabbed an American flag cookie jar he had and put them all inside. I mean, it was already patriotic so it seemed fitting, right?
Since then, we’ve upgraded the storage of those items to a drawer in his bedside table. Some great storage options for small pieces like this are tackle boxes or jewelry organizers. Anything with smaller compartments inside to separate out the pieces can work! Even a multi compartment drawer organizer can suffice! I like something enclosed so it’s easier to travel/PCS with.
Are you PCSing soon? Grab our ultimate checklist of essentials you need to keep with you after the movers leave!