What Military Families Need to Know About Long-Term Storage

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You’re getting ready to move and don’t want to (or can’t) take all of your household goods to your next duty station. Does this situation sound familiar? 


It probably does if you’ve ever made a PCS move overseas. In any case, what’s the solution? Do you ask friends and family to store the things you don’t plan to take? Do you pack everything and hope it fits? Or, do you use storage space?


Long-term storage is the most likely option, but you might find yourself choosing between government-paid facilities or self-paid options for your non-temporary storage (NTS). 

What Is Non-Temporary Storage?

For many PCS moves (mostly OCONUS, but a few variations of long-term storage for a CONUS PCS exist), the government stores a portion of your household goods while you fulfill your tour at your next duty station. This type of holding is called non-temporary storage (NTS). 

NTS is the long-term storage of your belongings rather than shipping your items to your new duty station. The storage facility will likely be near your pack out location, and it's where your household goods will stay during your overseas tour. After returning home, you can request a delivery of your stored household goods once settled with an address.

The process sounds simple enough, right? But there’s a lot to think about before deciding whether or not to use long-term storage. For example, applying for NTS is specific to your destination and years in service, as each rank is only allowed a certain amount of weight per move, also known as weight entitlements. 

Understanding Weight Entitlements

“In accordance with the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), paragraph (par.) 051402, household goods (HHG) weight allowances can be administratively reduced at a permanent duty station (PDS) outside the continental United States (OCONUS) based on factors at that location.” -Department of Defense


For reference, USMC service members with unaccompanied orders to Bahrain are limited to 600 lbs of unaccompanied baggage. No other HHG shipments are authorized based on the limited size of the BOQ and BEQ and lack of storage.

OCONUS duty stations with administratively reduced HHG allowances: 

  • Alaska, Dutch Harbor 
  • Australia, Alice Springs (Does not include Detachment 421/LGN personnel) and Learmonth 
  • Bahrain 
  • British Indian Ocean Territory, Diego Garcia
  • Greece, Souda Bay
  • Japan, Akizuki (Hiroshima) and Kure
  • Japan, Camp Zama
  • Japan, Combined Arms Training Center Fuji
  • Japan, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni
  • Japan, Okinawa
  • Japan, Torii Station
  • Korea (Does not include Chinhae, Osan, and Detachment 452 Wonju)
  • Korea, Mujuk
  • Kuwait
  • Poland, Redzikowo
  • Portugal, Azores, Lajes Field
  • Qatar, Al Udeid Air Base
  • Romania, Deveselu
  • Saudi Arabia, Eskan Village (U.S. Military Training Mission)
  • Thailand
  • Turkey, Incirlik Air Base
  • Turkey, Izmir Air Base

Be aware: NTS is considered part of your overall weight entitlement. Do not accumulate more than your allotment; otherwise, the service member will owe the difference. Here’s what the Official DOD Customer Moving Portal says:

“Moving allowances are generally based on the overall weight of your household goods. Any overages on your approved weight will be your financial responsibility, so work hard to make sure you stay within your weight allowance.”


Remember, special circumstances may accrue larger entitlements. To verify your weight allowances, connect with your local transportation office

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How Does Non-Temporary Storage Work?

There are rules and guidelines the movers and storage facilities are mandated to uphold, but there are variations between companies. Your local personal property office will help you learn what to expect in terms of standards. 

Your NTS begins when the DD 1164 is issued and ends upon your next report date.

For example: 

  • PCS with TDY – NTS expires upon the report date to the new command.
  • PCS from CONUS to OCONUS – NTS expires at the reporting date of the next PCS to CONUS.
  • PCS OCONUS to OCONUS – NTS expires at the reporting date of the next PCS to CONUS.

If you're getting out of the military, you can apply for NTS. 

  • For those separating, NTS expires 180 days from your separation date.
  • For those retiring, NTS expires one year from the date of retirement.

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What if You Don’t Qualify for NTS? 

Government-funded storage is most widely available for OCONUS moves, but it may also be an option for CONUS duty stations on a case-by-case basis. If you don’t qualify for NTS, consider self-storage. 

You’ll pay out of pocket for private self-storage and should calculate the cost of storage versus the cost of renting or buying a home large enough to accommodate all of your belongings at your next duty station. Storage facilities are expensive, and you might find that it’s less financially taxing to spend above your BAH allowance on rent or a mortgage than to pay for self-storage.

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Pros of Long-Term Storage

1) Long-term storage allows you to downsize.

Long-term storage is a good option for military families preparing to temporarily downsize at their next location. It’s a great way to keep things like keepsakes you’re not ready to part with or won’t have space for.

2) Leaving things in storage can simplify an overseas move.

Often, an overseas move involves downsizing to some degree. You could face obstacles such as different electrical outlets, weapon laws, or structural differences that render some items illegal or unusable. 

Utilizing a long-term storage facility allows you to keep the belongings you can’t use now but plan to use later. At the very least, it delays deciding whether or not to keep a particular household good. If you don’t see it for three years and don’t miss it, maybe it’s time to part ways.

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Cons of Long-Term Storage

1) Your belongings might depreciate.

Electronics and cars depreciate rather quickly. Unless the vehicle is paid off or a collectible you can leave with family to start occasionally, it’s probably not worth it rotting in storage. If it’s a feasible financial possibility, consider paying the shipping cost to take the car with you or sell it before departure and buy something different at your next duty station (also keep in mind that some countries won't allow certain vehicles). 

Electronics, such as small kitchen appliances, computers, gaming systems, and more, age and depreciate quickly, like cars. More on this in a moment.

2) Your items might be damaged.

We all know what to expect from movers. Has anyone's stuff arrived unscathed after a PCS move? Even though your household goods aren't traveling as far when you choose to use NTS, if your movers don’t pack correctly, your items could get damaged from being stored improperly for a few years.

3) Age is a factor. 

What are you storing? Technology constantly evolves, and electronics like TVs, kitchen appliances, and computers will likely be outdated before you’re back to retrieve them. And chances are, you’re going to want the updated versions. Go ahead and sell them before you leave and use the money towards replacement items. 

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4) Storage is expensive.

If you don’t qualify for NTS, ask yourself if it’s worth paying for self-storage. Any money you put into storage is money you’re not putting toward other important things. If there aren’t enough funds, you’ll need to decide if storing your stuff is more important than paying off debt, saving for your kids’ college funds, or saving for a down payment on a house. 

5) It’s easier to hoard.

Most people choose to store items they don’t use regularly. Once stashed in a storage facility (out of your hair), it becomes much easier to hold onto it. Suddenly, you’re paying for a room of stuff you’re too afraid to face. Be selective about what you put in your long-term storage.

Belongings that might be worth storing: 

  • Furniture you won’t have space for but want to have again with your next set of orders. 
  • Decor that you might not be able to hang due to structural differences overseas. 
  • Garage items like tools, gym equipment, and lawn gear that you might not have room to store. 
  • Keepsake items you can live without every day but want to revisit in a few years. 

Things that might not be worth storing: 

  • Vehicles. 
  • Electronics like TVs, computers, tablets.
  • Furniture that you want to replace in a few years. 
  • Decor and other household items that you won’t miss. 

Military spouse Kristi Adams shares,


“Electrical systems vary throughout the world. America runs on a 120-volt system, whereas South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and European countries run on a 220-volt system. (Japan uses a 100-volt system.)”


High-wattage appliances like your hairdryer, coffee maker, stand mixer, and microwave  that might not be compatible with overseas electrical wiring are worth considering for non-temporary storage. 

However, for those moving to Japan, note that, while Japan runs on different wattage than the U.S., small appliances will still work, just maybe not as efficiently as you're used to. Blow dryers, hair straighteners, and kitchen appliances are all worth bringing with you if you're PCSing to Japan.

empty storage unit with small table

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How to Decide Which Option Is Best For You

If you're unsure whether or not long-term storage is the best solution, ask yourself a few questions.

  • Can you live without the items you plan to put in storage?
  • Will they depreciate while in storage?
  • Are there adequate facilities available?
  • Is there easy access?
  • How much is insurance?
  • Are you okay with the items possibly getting damaged?

Then, the big question is, if you can live without it for two to three years, is it worth sending to (and potentially paying for) storage, or is it better to sell or donate those items before your overseas PCS? Only you can answer that question. However, if you choose to use long-term storage, whether paid for by the military or out of pocket, there is a process to ensure that your belongings are stored well. 

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Save this easy checklist, then keep reading for more tips for using long-term self-storage.



4 Tips For Using Long-Term Self-Storage

If the government denies your NTS application, you might choose to store some of your belongings yourself—here's what you should know. 

1) Pack appropriately.

Movers should include plenty of filling to cushion your items. And if you’ve chosen self-storage, not only should you pack well, but you’ll want to be mindful of how you organize the unit.

Lining the floor with pallets or buying storage tubs are great ways to get your items off the floor and help prevent water damage should the facility flood.

2) Ask for help if you choose self-storage. 

If your items are valuable enough to store for a few years while you’re overseas, it’s probably a good idea to ask someone to check in on them occasionally. Ask a nearby friend or family member to make infrequent but regular checks to ensure all is well. If you’re leaving priceless memorabilia behind, consider leaving them with family rather than a storage facility. 

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3) Don’t use plastic bags to pack.

Wrapping in plastic traps humidity and breeds mold and mildew. Instead, use paper, sheets, or drop cloths to protect your things and allow air to circulate. 

How to make the most of your storage space: 

  • Use a vacuum sealer. Although vacuum sealing soft goods won't reduce your storage weight, it does protect winter clothes and bedding from the elements and creates more space.
  • Use pallets. Lift your items, storage tubs, and boxes off the ground to protect them from bugs, excess dirt, and potential flooding. 
  • Disassemble furniture. Consolidate your stuff in a smaller unit to save money.Break down cribs, bed frames, and tables if you can.
  • Label. Label the contents of each box before storing. It is much simpler to unpack when you’re ready to retrieve your household goods, and if you’re planning on getting items out of storage, they will be easier to find.
  • Create a map. Digitally map out your storage so you know right where to retrieve something without upending your entire unit. 
  • Cover with fabric. Cover furniture with a sheet to protect them from dust. Go for 100% white cotton material, as it's gentle and won't transfer color onto your upholstered items.

Non-temporary storage can be helpful for military families forced to downsize. If you are entitled to NTS, be intentional with which items you hold onto, as they'll be waiting for you in a few years. It's better to sort your items now than when you're unpacking after your next PCS move.

By Danielle Keech

Need more tips for an upcoming overseas move? Click below to download our free Overseas PCS Survival Guide, where you’ll find answers to all your overseas PCS questions!




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