One of the terms that becomes familiar to everyone in the foreign service is “pack out.” This is government lingo for packing up all your stuff and moving it from one home to the next. Our pack out process started on Tuesday when a representative from the moving company visited our 300 sq foot apartment to make sure they bring enough supplies and a big enough truck to handle all of our stuff on our moving day.
Despite the fact that our apartment is smaller than the elevator at our neighborhood subway station, and despite the fact that the professional movers will be doing all of the boxing and wrapping and lifting, the pack out is still a complicated process that takes a lot of planning. The reason is that we essentially have to divide all of our posessions into five categories:
- Stuff we’ll never, ever need again – This is pretty simple. This category is for things we just don’t want, like the unfortunate bistro table we carried home from Red Hook on a freezing winter day, or the microwave with the buttons that usually work.
- Stuff we need immediately – This category is for things we plan on physically taking with us on our persons to DC and will need immediately, like toothpaste, socks and our dog.
- Stuff we need sort of immediately but not absolutely immediately – The government calls this category Unaccompanied Air Baggage (UAB). This is stuff that will arrive in DC within a couple of days (or when you go overseas, within a couple of weeks). It will include clothes we don’t wear much, cooking supplies beyond what is included with our corporate housing and our collection of Law & Order DVDs (to remind us of NYC). We are permitted a total of 450 lbs of UAB.
- Stuff we don’t need while living in DC but will need overseas – This is the stuff that will be placed in storage while we live in DC, but will be taken out of storage and shipped as our Household Effects (HHE) when we move overseas once training is finished. It will arrive overseas anywhere from a few weeks to a few months after we do, and we won’t have access to it while in DC, so it is a category for things we don’t need in a furnished corporate apartment, but might need for a two year post abroad. It includes stuff like the rest of our cooking supplies, our dishes and our collection of books (to make people think we read, but let’s face it, there’s a reason we won’t need these in DC). We are allowed something like 7,000 lbs of HHE, I think.
- Stuff we don’t know if we’ll ever need but don’t want to throw out – This category is for things that will be put into storage on a semi-permanent basis. Since our television might not be compatible with the standards used in the country of our overseas post, but we also don’t want to get rid of it just yet, it will end up in storage. Since our overseas housing will probably be furnished, we would put our bed and couch into storage too. We are allowed around 18,000 lbs for this storage It may or may not include the 7,000 lbs of HHE. I’m not really sure about the details since, as I said, we live in a 300 sq foot apartment and when you live in a 300 sq foot apartment you don’t really need to worry about 18,000 lbs of stuff.
Our official pack out date is going to be March 23. When the movers come it will be critical that we clearly indicate which of our posessions belong in each category. One lapse of concentration and we’ll be stuck with two beds at our furnished DC apartment while our clothes sit happily in storage somewhere in Virginia.