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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 to Know About Non-Temporary Storage
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 will store 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. It's there your household goods will stay for the duration of your 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
“The authorized PCS weight allowance is normally determined by a Service member’s grade on the effective date of the PCS order, and whether or not the Service member has dependents on the effective date of the PCS order.” -The DoD’s Joint Travel Regulations (JTR)
For reference, a servicemember with E-8 rank, with dependents, and headed OCONUS is allotted a total of 14,000 pounds, excluding the pro gear (work-related items) for both the servicemember and spouse.
Be aware: NTS is considered part of your overall weight entitlement. Do not accumulate more than your allotment; otherwise, payment is due from the servicemember. 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.”
View the PCS and NTS Weight Allowances in Table 5-37. Remember, special circumstances may accrue larger entitlements so if you have any questions then it’s best to connect with your local transportation office.
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To find out the specifics of your PCS situation, start with the Official DOD Customer Moving Portal. There, you’ll learn about weight entitlement and the nearest location of the personal property office. Stay in contact with the office to ensure a safe and proper pack out and the delivery of your NTS.
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.
These are the general guidelines:
- Your belongings are packed by movers and crated. They should remain crated during their stay at the storage facility.
- Your stuffed furniture is wrapped and stored on shelves individually.
- Your household goods can be left on the floor for up to 72 hours at a time to allow space for staging and inventory.
- The facility does not have to be climate-controlled, but they are required to control the humidity levels.
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What Can You Do 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 moves 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.
The Pros and Cons of Long-Term Storage
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 hang onto things like keepsakes that you know that you’re not ready to part with or don’t have space for.
2) Leaving things in storage can make an overseas move easier.
Often, an overseas move involves downsizing to some degree, but you could run into obstacles such as different electrical outlets, weapon laws, or structural differences that render some of your items illegal or unusable. Utilizing a long-term storage facility allows you the luxury to keep the belongings that you can’t use now, but plan to use later. At the very least, it delays making the decision of 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, it’s probably not worth pouring money into storage to have when you return. If it’s a feasible financial possibility, consider paying the shipping cost to take the car with you or sell before departure and buy something different at your next duty station (also keep in mind that some countries won't allow certain vehicles).
And as far as electronics like small kitchen appliances, computers, gaming systems, and more are concerned, you’ll more than likely want to purchase updated versions when you return stateside; more on this in a moment.
2) Your items might be damaged.
We all know what to expect with movers. Has anyone's stuff arrived unscathed after a PCS move? Even though your household goods aren't going as far when you choose to use NTS, if your movers don’t pack correctly, your items could be damaged just from sitting 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 that 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 that don't get regular use. And 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 that 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.
- Wall 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:
- 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.
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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?
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 goods store well.
Save this easy checklist!
4 Tips For Using Long-Term Self-Storage
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.
Life Storage Blog recommends you “keep boxes and furniture off the floor whenever possible. Improperly storing your items, even for the short term, can result in unnecessary damage and stress.”
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.
Since 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 from time to time. Ask a nearby friend or family member to make infrequent but regular checks to ensure all is well.
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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.
Here are more tips 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. Save money by consolidating your stuff in a smaller unit. Break down cribs, bed frames, and tables if you can.
- Label. Be sure to label the contents of each box before storing. Not only is it much simpler to unpack when you’re ready to retrieve your household goods, but 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. Stor-It offers a handful of great packing tips. They advise that you “create a dust barrier between your furniture and other items by covering them with a clean sheet. Go for 100% cotton material, as it is gentle. You also want to make sure that your sheet is white, as colored sheets may bleed on your furniture over time.”
By Danielle Keech
Need more tips for an upcoming overseas move? Click below to download our free ebook, Overseas PCS Survival Guide, where you’ll find answers to all your overseas PCS questions!