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Insight, wisdom, lessons learned and everything in between to help you find the information you need for smoother transition between diplomatic assignments.

Making Your House a Home

Whenever we move in this nomadic lifestyle we are intimately aware that there is a finite timeline in our new home.  We know when the clock starts and about the time it ends too. Unlike when you buy a home with the intention of putting down roots, we operate on an express timeline.  Because of the time-bound pressure we often feel to get settled in quickly, it impacts how we approach our PCS packing strategy.

We encourage you to make time to develop a shipment strategy based on where you will be getting settled. By thinking through the various shipments relative to where you will be living throughout your next assignment. This can help you prepare for any of the likely scenarios such as TDY, temp quarters, or assigned housing.

Placed in temp quarters at the holidays, we packed a selection of decorations that could be toys too.

Getting Settled

TDY Housing

It is pretty common to experience a temporary stay in the D.C. area for training. These often last from a few weeks to nearly a year.  Whether you just sold a house to join the Foreign Service or you are in language training to go from one assignment to the next, most likely you are living with a lot less.  If you will be living in the area long enough that you will schedule appointments, shipments or need more than what fits into your suitcase, consider using your UAB to supplement what you need.  Alternatively, you can shop for budget friendly items that you are okay with leaving behind, or lean into your local Buy Nothing Group. Portable versions of items that you cannot live without can also be useful time and again. Think of these portable items as your own personal TDY/Welcome Kits that are customized to your likes and needs.

Temp Quarters

If you talk with enough people in the Foreign Service, you will find that most people have lived in temp quarters when they arrived at post. Sometimes it is a swanky hotel in the metro area of their new city and sometimes it is an unoccupied house in the housing pool. Typically, you are well aware that this is happening ahead of your PCS. When you finally arrive at your new post and go into temporary housing, it still feels like a transitory state. Living out of your suitcases can feel like an endless chore if you let it.

Rather than caving to your frustration of not being able to settle into your new physical home, embrace the excitement of landing in a new country by exploring your new host country’s culture and environment. Use the time to learn your way around and find your local resources. It's not like your HHE would be arriving overnight anyway, so change your mindset. Plus it can be very nice to live a minimalist lifestyle before your 7,000 lbs of treasures shows up on your doorstep.

Find ways to make your temp quarter more personal. Look for local open air markets that offer so much information about your current post, consider buying something local, whether a hand towel, fun bath mat, or kitchen rug that matches your style and gives your temp quarters a personal touch. All of these can start being used immediately and travel easily with you when you move into your assigned housing.

Assigned Housing

I can remember the moment we opened the door to every house we were assigned to overseas like it was yesterday. The rush of excitement, nerves, and relief all colliding into one sigh as we crossed the threshold. Moving into your new house is full of so much emotion.  The pictures and video tours come to life and the dream of being settled takes over. 

I always wanted to get settled in as quickly as possible. Knowing the time we would have in this space was finite drove me to do as much as I could right away. But it also meant that the bar for "good enough" was probably lower too. You can make the house feel like your home by creating a warm and personalized living space that reflects you and your family.  Think carefully about how you want to create that homey feeling because you will PCS again and having to undecorate your home can be a lot of extra work for your future self.  

Settled for Now

At some point during your PCS, you will live out of suitcases, from UAB, and with your HHE. Each of these vehicles for transporting your stuff has different meaning based on where you will use it and how long you will rely on it. Planning out how you will use these shipments is all part of your larger PCS plan and ultimately guides a lot of your decision making.

We encourage our clients to pack a sentimental item or two in their suitcases or UAB such as a framed picture, because it can help you to feel grounded where you are. Even the smallest personal touch like a kitchen towel, scented candle, or throw blanket can give you a stronger sense of self in a transition period.

Without a bunch of stuff to organize, clean, or care for, you have the freedom to focus on getting out. Accept the transition phase as an opportunity to explore and learn about your new surroundings. Trust me, you will have plenty of time to worry about folding laundry, washing dishes, and picking up after your family.

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