Recovery After Relocation–Elizabeth Claire Wood Nails PCS Emotion

This article from Elizabeth Claire Wood is probably the most accurate portrayal of the emotions and stress surrounding a PCS that I’ve ever read.  I wanted to make sure that I didn’t lose these amazing words, so I’m storing them here on the blog.   Please visit Ms. Wood at or pick up this article at the amazing Military Wife & Mom.  

The longer we are active duty military, the more quickly and aptly I’m able to self-diagnose and articulate the funk I’m in. What it is this time, is something I have recently described as the Post-PCS Crash, also known as Complete Depletion. There is a process to arriving at this state of being, so I’ll explain.

For the few weeks leading up to the move, you find yourself in “get it done” mode. You’re working at break-neck speed to offload unwanted home items; you’re purging, and organizing. Physically, it is tiring.

You are saying goodbyes to friends and Army family; you are trying to protect your heart; you are making sure the kids are doing okay with the weight of the move. It is summer and you will be darned if you let the move eat up all of the fun, so you try to plan for some adventure and enjoyment to mark the time; but not too much fun because you don’t have the energy for it. Emotionally it is tiring.

Then, you have the “move week” where you are truly functioning on high-surging adrenaline. The packers and movers are in and out of your house; you are feeding them, overseeing their progress, trying to estimate whether or not your belongings will arrive at the next place safely. You clean and empty your way out of your house; wiping away dust, memories and…tears.

You make the physical move, for some this takes hours and for some this takes days. You and your spouse drive both loaded down vehicles to the next state; they are heavy with cleaning supplies, air mattresses, suitcases, duffle bags, Crock-pots, emotions.
You try to reframe the whole thing as an adventure…a road trip of sorts…are we having fun yet?

You arrive and you inquire about your next house. Is there one available? How long until we can move in? How long until we receive our household goods?

Mentally, you assess how your things may or may not fit into the house. You will deal with various housing issues like urgent repairs and financial matters— deposits, turning on utilities while you are still paying last bills at your old address, pro-rated rent, long-term temporary housing until your real estate closing.

You store or donate what you don’t need— d***it we just sold our mower and weed eater and they *don’t* mow your back yard on post!

It’s like a drain plug has been pulled from your checking account. You’ve just paid to have your house and carpets cleaned, the grocery budget is a joke that mocks you after weeks of eating out; and now you are buying and replacing what you do need to make your new house functional— rugs, doormats, a new broom, extension cords, a lawn mower, and bedding because you’ll be reconfiguring your kids’ bedroom furniture yet again.

You are in desperate need of a good night of sleep or maybe some alone time, maybe both. You are hotel weary. That continental breakfast was sufficient on day one or two, but by day twelve if you ever see another stale pastry, it will be too soon.

Or maybe you are so tired of sitting in your empty house on nothing but camping chairs. You are like a turtle carrying your home on your back as you trek laundry for a family of five down the hall, across the street, or in and out of your car at the laundromat. You are starting to sorely miss your creature comforts. Literally.

Household goods arrive and you compulsively begin unpacking and arranging your house to make it a home. These are the days where that adrenaline is surging the hardest. You are already worn out from the previous few weeks. And now, it’s go time. Slow down, pace yourself, some may say…but you just want to unpack and settle as quickly as possible.

Yes, the movers bring your things inside the house. Yes, they do most of the heavy lifting. But these few days are truly back-breaking. You are ripping off tape, unwrapping packing paper like mad. You are squatting, lifting, arranging…dishes, books, closets, keepsakes. You’re moving things from room to room, exhausted, sweating, and sore.
Just one more box. Just one more hour. Just one more room. Then you can rest. You think the finish line is in sight, but those big brown boxes with packing tape and stickers loom over you.

Rest? Not anytime soon.

When your kids are a little older, the unpacking can be a family affair, thankfully. Many hands make light work, and the faster things are unpacked and settled, the faster, you hope, everyone can begin meeting neighbors, making connections, and enjoying the new place. There is a temporary, albeit false, sense of ahhhhhhhhh— the house is unpacked and looks a little like home, it’s starting to feel like we live here.

There are a few days or weeks when you’re floating on the adrenaline high of the move. This is the period where I’m wearing my rose-colored glasses and my Pollyanna-cheerful-we-are-gonna-love-it-here-and-golly-gee-this-is-super attitude carries me along.
You check out some cool attractions in your area—eat at the local spots, enjoy the amenities on post, visit a church, ask strangers where they have their hair done, orient yourself to the nearest Target, revel in the glory of having a Trader Joes (if only temporarily), and begin having conversations with your neighbors.

These are the activities that follow after your boxes are unpacked. These are the activities that help you acclimate to a new place and new people. These are the activities that temporarily trick you into thinking you have arrived and you are settled.
As much as you fight to maintain a positive attitude and optimistic outlook about the new place and the fresh opportunities…what goes up must come down. The universal law of gravity is also the universal law of a PCS. It’s the let-down effect or what I’m calling the PCS Crash. A prolonged period of stress is finally coming to a close or at least tapering off and your body is telling you it is time to rest and chill-the-heck-out.
Another way the sudden decrease in pressure can set you up to crash and burn: “Emotional stress and physical stress kick up the same inflammatory response, which opens the door for illness or the let-down effect…” After either type of stress dies down, there’s “a down-regulation of the immune system, a suppression of the immune response, [as a reaction] to the easing of stress.” In addition, the surge-and-fall of stress hormones could knock down dopamine levels in the brain, which can trigger overeating and substance abuse as people (unconsciously) try to raise their dopamine levels so they can feel reward and pleasure again…” (U.S. News and World Report)
Over the past few days I’ve begun feeling the crash. I have been irritable, snippy, more anxious than usual, and flat worn-out. I actually succumbed to the exhaustion two days ago and took a nap at 10 am; I’ll probably do it again today as I woke up at 5:00 am with my mind racing.

A few years ago, I would have tried to outrun the tired and choke it out with more busyness and activity. And as the blurb from the article above suggests, some use food or drugs to feel reward and pleasure again. I’m a busy-junkie, but I’ve learned that’s not the way to solve or remedy the Post-PCS Crash.

You remedy it with as much rest as possible. You go to bed early, you nap often, and you relax. You don’t put pressure on yourself or your family to do anything other than replenish your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional reserves.

You stay still. You breathe deeply. You pray and meditate. You exercise. You take long walks. You look out around you and up to the sky. You eat healthful foods. You read or watch television or journal. Busyness does not eradicate exhaustion…rest does.

Those of us who are military spouses know that this rest-chasing is difficult to master. We want to maximize our time on station; see the sights, meet the people, do the things. And in time, we will, but we cannot pour from an empty or broken cup. It’s easy to allow a PCS to take center stage of our lives when it comes.

There is so much to do and most of it feels urgent and necessary. There comes a point though that you have to let the urgent and necessary die down and fizzle out. There comes a point when you have to set aside the hustle and embrace chill mode. I don’t like the image of crashing and burning. I prefer the image of my body (and mind) telling me it’s time to slow down, stop if necessary, wait, rest, and to enjoy an interlude of tranquility.

Won’t you join me?

Prepping for Travel

A big component of being an organized person is being prepared for whatever comes your way. If you’re dealing with a chaotic house on a regular basis, then it’s likely that along with disorganization, you don’t have a lot of systems in place to help you ease through everyday life and handle the curve balls life throws from day-to-day.

This topic has been on my mind lately as I have had occasion to travel a couple of times in July.

Along with being an organized person, I consider myself to be a frugal person—and part of being both is being prepared. Always looking ahead, always planning, having a good calendar, doing the research, taking advantage of amenities/discounts/points/miles.

So, our first vacation was up to a great resort in Vermont on Lake Champlain. Message me if you’d like the name of a beautiful, historic, fun, Dirty Dancing-esque resort. It is a dream! This was our second time staying at the resort, so I had an idea of what to expect: breakfast was included, but lunch and supper weren’t. Rooms have mini-fridges, but not microwaves.  I was aware of the dining options, from ties and jackets to informal, along with the other amenities this resort has to offer.

Last year when we stayed at said resort, we had just been on a Space-A adventure that was meant to end up in Germany.  Our plans fell through (someone–ahem–not me, was not prepped) and we just continued north to Vermont and booked this place on a whim.

It turned out to be great, but I was not prepped and the biggest sticker shock was not even the cabin prices. It was the FOOD. Meals were crazy expensive. Breakfast was included in our package, so I made sure we timed breakfast to tide us over until lunch. We drove into town and purchased a few snack items and stocked the fridge with drinks for the adults and the kids (they did provide a corkscrew—I mean, I can’t resist that temptation!).  That helped our food bill a bit, but we just weren’t prepared for how much food would cost and although we had a great time, I felt a little ill over the final bill.

We left knowing that we would likely be back again, but this time, with a little better planning. This year, I packed my cooler (thanks, Amazon Fresh!) with lunchmeat, cheese, yogurt, applesauce, drinks and bread. Oh, and ubiquitous peanut butter…peanut butter and bread have traveled the world with me and my fussy eaters, and in the process has saved me probably hundreds of dollars.

So, there I was, enjoying myself on the shore of beautiful Lake Champlain, sunning and reading while my kids splashed. When it was time for lunch, I got up and called the kids in, saying “Let’s go get our sandwiches!”.

Other mom sitting nearby: “Oh, where are you going for your sandwich?”
Me: “Oh, back to our room, I packed everything for lunch!”.
Her: “Smart.”

We had four or five meals that way, so I figure I saved between $150-200 just on lunch, if not more.

We ate supper at the cheapest place on the resort, and whatever was leftover came back to our room fridge and became part of lunch. We also took advantage of the resort’s very liberal policy on removal of breakfast food from the buffet to supplement our snacks/lunch (I mean, they brought me the takeaway box and told me to help myself—I’m not going to turn that down!). We ate really well on a strict budget and I didn’t feel guilty having a glass of wine (though I packed some of that in too—I mean, even a “cheap” glass at $9 is killer to me!).

Next up—last-minute travel home to attend my grandmother’s funeral. I flew American. Do your research folks, because some airlines are now charging for CARRY-ON bags. As in, you are not allowed to bring a carry-on and put it in the overhead bin or you will be charged $25 or more. You are allowed ONE personal item.

Well, I already felt like I’d donated a damn kidney for my ticket in steerage, so I wasn’t about to give American another dime of my hard-earned money. So—I packed in a backpack, rolling my clothes and wearing layers:  tank top, T-shirt, cardigan and jacket. Yeah, it was a little hot in DC, but at my destination, I just stripped off a few layers and put them in a shopping bag. I carried just a small purse that fit on top of my clothes and I even managed to get my laptop and Kindle into the bag.

My point is this: we pay a lot to travel. And we should strive to travel. There is nothing more wonderful than leaving everyday life behind and trying something new. There is nothing more wonderful than making memories and starting traditions. BUT—do your planning in advance. Try to find that hotel with a kitchenette. If you can’t pack in the food, meal plan and do a quick grocery shop. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of trying new/local foods, but cut it to one meal a day—it will be looked forward to and remembered even more if you make it a once a day event, anyway.

Check on your hotel to find out about any hidden fees—do they have a fee to park? Fee for Wi-Fi? Fee to use their spa facilities or gym? What kind of amenities does the hotel offer? Make friends with the concierge and he/she can direct you on fantastic, sometimes free adventures wherever you are. Check on airline fees and baggage policies—the last thing you want to find out after you’ve packed and arrived at the airport is that you’re going to wind up coughing up $25 or more per bag or paying for bags that over the airline’s weight limit.  Don’t overpack–travel is the best time to try out a capsule wardrobe.  Think about it–on vacation, isn’t it always easier to get dressed?  Yep, it’s because you have limited choices!

A ounce of prep is worth a pound of…money? I don’t know, but I guarantee you’ll have a happier vacation feeling great that you saved some money!

Questions to Ask Before You Buy

untitledPhoto courtesy Art of Simple

Today’s blog comes to you via the amazing Tsh Oxenreider at Art of Simple.  Tsh is, quite simply, amazing.  She writes about all sorts of things pertaining to life and simplifying your life, she has a podcast, she’s a published author AND you need to read her posts about the year she and her family traveled the world, living out of backpacks!

Basically, she’s living the dream!

I’ve posted this particular blog post on PCS Prepper a couple of times, but I wanted to share it in this space too, because it is such a short, sweet, but perfect little post about thinking it through and asking yourself some important questions before you buy an item.

If you’re trying to simplify your life and let go of clutter, one of the ways you will have to challenge yourself is to set limits on new items coming back into your home.  If you have expended energy to simplify and declutter, the worst thing you can do is go right back out and start filling the house back up with stuff.

You need to teach yourself to stop and carefully consider your purchases.  Obviously, I’m not talking about things like groceries (unless you are a spice hoarder–I’ve met a couple of those–do NOT buy any more spices!).  I’m talking about clothing.  Jewelry, shoes, kitchen items, decorative items.  Knicknacks and brick-a-brack.  Baskets and books.

As consumers, we are subject to a constant barrage of advertising and messages telling us that we need the latest and greatest clothes, gadgets, furniture, cars.  Advertising is everywhere.  It’s sneaky and pervasive and plays on our emotions.

Teach yourself to pause for a moment when you pick up an item.  Do you really need it?  Are you willing to become the caretaker for it (maybe it requires dry cleaning or is a kitchen item that requires disassembly to clean it properly)?  Do you already have an item similar to it at home?  Do you have the money to spend on it and do you want to spend money on a thing or would you rather save towards a bigger goal, like your nest egg or a dream vacation?

Don’t forget giveaways–if you’re at a convention or meeting and they’re handing out free coffee cups or swag, it’s OK to say “No, thank you”.  Believe you me, I know the lure of FREE…right this minute I have a beautiful dining room set sitting in my garage that I picked up last night because someone was giving it away.  It won’t sit there for long.  I’ll either use it in my own home or find another use for it soon.  This was a lucky deal that I stand to profit from, but you don’t need free coffee cups, Happy Meal toys, doodads and junk.  Say no.

The key is to stop, consider and only let it into your home if it passes the test.

Trust me, it will get easier and easier to walk past those displays at Target as you hone your skill as a selective consumer!

Good luck!







I’m Not Here to Judge

Do you want to contact me, but feel so embarrassed about your clutter and/or lack of organization that you don’t want anyone, much less someone who is more organized than the average human, to see it?

Are you afraid that I will make you throw everything away, leaving you with bare walls, no books, a capsule wardrobe and no memorabilia?

Do you keep putting off contacting me because you see me advertise and you know you need the help, but you keep telling yourself that you’re going to get to it…this weekend (and then it’s next weekend and pretty soon, another year has gone by and the situation has gotten worse)?

Well–I have news–I’m not here to judge!  Please don’t get me wrong, I do care why you’ve amassed clutter or why your organizing systems aren’t working.  I care about the underlying reasons why you might buy too many clothes or feel that you need to keep every gift that your mother-in-law gave you.  I care about these feelings, because they’re why you have amassed stuff and talking about those feelings can be revelatory.  Revelatory and freeing!

I’ve had so many clients who act nervous to show me the room, the closet, the cupboards that they need help with…they’re so apologetic.

Please don’t feel like you need to be apologetic about your situation, because we are all human.  We all have separate and distinct talents.  We all live differently and are wired differently.  Maybe you’re a really great defense attorney or good at jujitsu or play the bassoon in the National Symphony Orchestra.  Maybe you speak six languages or have written a book or are the best mom on the block.  Whatever it is–you have a talent.  Your talent just might not be decluttering and organizing.

I have a talent too–and that is listening and helping people let go of things that they don’t need/want/love, things that are cluttering their lives.  And then putting back the items they decide to keep.  That’s my talent and I want to share it with people, because I love to do it and I love seeing people’s look of relief when we finish up.

I’m not judging…I’m not silently thinking “Well…Mrs. Jones has really let things go around here!”.

Don’t let that be the reason you don’t get in touch with me.

Second–are you afraid that I’m a mean organizer?  That I’ll stand over you with a trash bag and force you to throw everything away, regardless of sentimental value?  I’m going to tell you something:  I have a bin of things that belonged to my grandfather, a man that I thought was a giant among men…and guess what?  I have an envelope of his beard clippings from his 1976 Bicentennial beard (apparently, it was a thing that year).  BEARD CLIPPINGS.  I can’t bear to throw them out.

Now, does that sound like someone who will make you throw things away?  Now obviously, I will offer a slightly opinion on your leopard-print stirrup pants from 1991, unless, of course, those were the leopard-print stirrup pants you got married in, but otherwise, I will likely ask you why you want to save such an item.

That’s my job…to suss out if you really and truly are using/loving/wanting all those things.  Usually, the answer is no and I barely have to coerce my clients into starting to fill the trash bags.  They’ve been wanting to for years and they finally have someone to stand and help them sort and hold them accountable for a few hours to GET IT DONE.

Third–I understand the drive to save money by thinking you can do something yourself.  I do things myself all the time.  For instance, I’ve been painting the hall bathroom for the last five or six weeks.  WEEKS.  Why?  Because I was convinced it would be a quick and easy project that I could do myself instead of calling in a painter.  Guess what?  I should have called a painter.  I know you think you’re going to get to it, but if you were, wouldn’t it have been done a long time ago?  In the meantime, those boxes/clutter sits there from week to week, taking up valuable real estate not only in your home, but in your mind and heart as well.

Therefore, you, my friend, should just call me.  Don’t be embarrassed.  Don’t be afraid of losing stuff.  And don’t be afraid of how much I cost, because I am about 3-4 times less expensive than your average organizer…I have seen ladies charging well over $100/hr and while I’m happy for them raking in the dough, I’m happy with $100 per four hour session.

I know my clients would agree that those $100 sessions are money well spent.  I know you will too, so let’s get started!

(Contact me through the form on almost every page on this site).


What to Expect–Session Time


Here’s a little about what to expect during an actual session with me.  Last week, I wrote about what happens during a consultation.  To recap that post, I come to your home and we talk about any areas that may be a concern to you or are stressing you out due to clutter or disorganization.  Generally, we agree on an area to start and set our first session date.

On our first session, I will come to your door armed with my red bin (items that stay) and my green bin (items that go), a bunch of trash bags and my trusty clipboard with your homework sheet attached.  What is homework?  Great question!  Homework is any task that we encounter while we work that you can tackle on your own after I leave to keep the decluttering/organizing project moving ahead.  The list might read:  “take clothes to dry cleaner”, “purchase storage bins for basement”, “drop old towels at humane society”.

I will try to remember to take a “before” picture before we get started on your chosen area–sometimes I get so excited to dig in that I forget!  Please rest assured that I will take care not to show any identifying objects such as your name/address, etc. and that I will not attach your name to any photos that I use.  You are completely anonymous unless you want to tell the world what an amazing time you had with PCS Prepper/Orderly Home Organizer!

After I snap that picture, it is time to get down to work!

If you need to declutter (and most people do–hey, even I declutter on a regular basis!), we will start with a good decluttering.  This means we need to open every door, explore every nook and cranny of the cupboards, pull clothes from the back of the closet and open every box and sort through the contents.

Some items will be easy for you to let go of–and some will be a little more difficult.  That’s OK.  I never make my clients get rid of an item that they want to keep, but I may ask questions about whether you use that item, love that item or need that item–and these questions may prompt you to really consider whether you DO need to keep certain items.

Decluttering takes stamina and time, especially if you have a lot of belongings and/or what type of items we will be sorting.  It’s generally easier to go through clothes, for example, than family photos or mementos.

If we will be organizing after decluttering, I do try to categorize the items that are still left so that putting them back into the closet/cupboard/shelving will be easier.

Once we are satisfied that we’ve decluttered as much as we can, I will help you organize the remaining items in a way that is easiest for you to use–because after all, organizing systems only work if they work for YOU.  I will need your input as to how often you use certain items, if you’d like them to be on a high shelf, close to the stove, stored elsewhere, etc.

If you have requested it, I will remove donated items (up to a certain amount–remember, I don’t have a U-Haul!), collect my fee and leave you with some detailed homework that will help you continue to carry on the process after I leave.  If you feel you need another session, we can book it at this time, too!

I hope this gives you some insight into what to expect during session time…please contact me if you’d like to schedule time with me or if you have any questions!



What to Expect–Consultation

I have done six (6!) consultations in the last two weeks, which is really and truly amazing.  A big “thank you” to everyone who has called, e-mailed or contacted me through this website!

I thought I’d take a moment to talk about what to expect during the consultation, just so that if you’re considering contacting me for one, you’ll know what will happen.

I will be at your home at the agreed-upon time, with my clipboard and card, ready to take a quick tour of your home, specifically the areas that are causing you the most stress.  Is your home office overflowing with papers?  Let’s take a look.  Is the toddler’s room buried beneath a layer of toys?  Do you just need some help using a space more effectively?

Whatever it is, I am there to look and talk with you about what is happening in the room and what your vision is for that space, should you choose to hire me to come and help you declutter and/or get organized.

I may offer up a few tips while I’m in your space (“You could consider getting a filing cabinet–it would fit perfectly in “x” spot”), but the main focus of the consultation is to get a feel for your situation, what sort of work you’d like to have done and to give me a chance, as your organizer, to determine approximately how many hours it would take to get your space cleared and organized.

We will have a few minutes to chat after I look and hopefully, you’ll decide that you’d like to work with Orderly Home Organizer and book me on the spot for your first session!

And that, my friends, is the FREE 30-minute consultation!  If you’d like to schedule yours today, please e-mail me at or message me through the contact forms on this page!



Baby Boomers Downsizing–Be Prepared

This is a great article from the Boston Globe that I hope anyone who is planning on downsizing soon and has adult children will read.

I have helped a few clients start the process of decluttering years of possessions in order to sell the home where they raised their family.  It’s not an easy process, usually, because there’s a very emotional component at play:  keepsakes, heirlooms, collections and other items that mom and dad have been saving under the impression that their children will desire them one day.

What they’re finding out is that the kids might take a piece here and there, but they generally aren’t interested in their grandmother’s doll collection or tea service, or even their own memorabilia from grade/high school.

Blame people like me if you want…blame the minimalist movement in general, but men and women of my generation and younger don’t want as much “stuff”.  Belongings that meant a great deal to our parents often don’t have the same level of emotional attachment for us.

Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of bafflement and hurt feelings on the part of the parents…

“I just can’t believe Jimmy doesn’t want all of his Cub Scout projects and memorabilia!”.

“My mother gave me her wedding china…it was so expensive.  We never used it growing up.  It’s antique, so beautiful.  I can’t believe Susie doesn’t want to keep this!”.

I really feel for this generation, who has been living under the weight of all that stuff for all these years and now, when they believe they are about to bestow these gifts upon their children, they get met with a shake of the head and have to watch their treasures get carted off to the Salvation Army or the Goodwill.

I would strongly encourage you, if your kids are grown and you are thinking of downsizing, to please have an open and honest conversation with your kids about any items that they might want to take when you begin the decluttering process.  Setting expectations ahead of time will help to mitigate hurt feelings and misunderstandings and may help you begin to disassociate memories and emotions from the belongings that have to go.

I would also encourage you to begin the decluttering process well ahead of time, to ease the discomfort and emotional toll it will take to let go of those items.

Best wishes!