Transitioning Into Civilian Life & Life After The Military

*This is a sponsored post by Gillette SkinGuard
in partnership with Gillette's new SkinGuard razor available at Walmart

Meet Derrick. The other half of Simply Ciani. He is the man behind all of our DIY’s and builds, but we have yet to shine a spotlight on him... and while he may hate this, here we go...

Anytime I am explaining Derrick’s personality to someone new, I always say “He is a Marine through and through.” He’s rugged, serious most of the time, with the occasional sarcastic joke and doesn’t take anyone’s you know what. He finds his happiness in boots and jeans and being out in the middle of nowhere. He will lend a helping hand to anyone that needs it and always will have your back. He is a hero in every sense of the word, although he hates being called one. He will put his own life in danger for anyone at anytime and jumps into action. (I have seen this first hand at any accident scene we have witnessed).

Derrick started his 10 year service to the Marine Corps in 2006. He joined because he wanted to do something more with his life, he wanted to serve a purpose. He started his career at Perris Island, then joined the few and the proud at his first duty station in Kings Bay, Georgia as security forces. Two years later he was on his way to an infantry unit at Camp Pendleton, California where he served his next 5 years and where I fell into his life. Literally. (More on that story another time - it’s a funny one) After 3 years of marriage for us, the Marine Corps reassigned him to recruiting duty for 3 years and moved us back to Georgia just 40 miles from where he started his career.

Within his time as a Marine, his body took quite a beating and resulted in 2 full knee surgeries, left him with arthritis and an array of back issues. After 10 years, he felt it was time to put away the uniform, but it was far from an easy decision. Being a Marine was his identity. He was a rare breed and we both worried how life would look after the military.

The transition was difficult. And really, that word should be in all caps, because it was a doozy on both of us. Life in the military comes with its own set of challenges and hurdles to overcome both individually and as a couple, and they are hard as heck, but we made it through. Life after the military brought more than I ever imagined. We both had to get to know ourselves again, and each other. Being in the military, many times, your relationship is put completely on hold and as a spouse, you often get so used to being alone and doing everything alone. It was a huge transition to have a husband who was suddenly present but didn’t know how to be present. (Not by his own fault.)

In his case, he too was so used to being a provider, and gone because of that. When on the journey to find a civilian job, he lost his identity as a Marine and desperately tried to find a job, any job, that would accept his experience. That one proved more difficult than he thought it would be. And when a job didn’t fall into place, he began to spiral out of control with emotions.

I share all of this with his permission, because we both agree that there are so few resources out there for those transitioning out of the military. It can feel isolating, and no one else can relate unless they have gone through it too. That is why we have decided to share more of our story, both sides of it, and be completely open and transparent about the struggles we faced during D’s transition into civilian life.

For so long, I found an identity in “being a military wife”. There is a lot that comes with that title and a standard to uphold. I never agreed with “wearing your husband’s rank” but I do believe that you as a spouse to your military member need to uphold a level of dignity in his honor. You are the other face of the duo that you are and your actions reflect on him and his career. This may sound harsh, but it is the way it is.

My days as a military wife were mostly spent alone, taking care of our children, and doing everything else that needed to be done. I didn’t have a spouse to rely on for helping with bath time or anything for that matter. I don’t mean for any of this to sound negative, but this was our life. You just had to get used to being a solo spouse and parent, for days, weeks, months or even years on end. Their career came first and you knew that from day 1. The other side of military spouse life was filled with unit parties/ meetings/ get-togethers... the majority of your life was centered around your spouse’s career, information about deployments/ training and putting on a happy face when you felt at your limit some days. It was tough, but those were some of the best years I have to look back on. I was made stronger as a mother, a wife and a woman because of it. And I will always be proud of my Marine.

When D’s career came to an end, I also lost that identity. Suddenly all of my military wife friends, I emotionally felt disconnected from. The best way I can describe this is when you get kicked out of a club. Not that they stopped talking to me or anything along those lines (because they are all amazing and we still are all friends!) but because you suddenly are living a very different life and no longer can relate or support each other on certain levels like you did previously. I felt myself feeling very isolated and lost. I had a husband who was spiraling, for his own reasons, and I had no idea how to support him, or “fix it”.

It took a lot of soul searching and a lot of phone calls to those military wife friends of mine for support and advice in that first year of civilian life. But eventually both he and I found our own way to communicate with each other again and work our way back to a new “us”. I will dive more into all of this in another post, because I feel it is important to share the tools we used to help us, but my main piece of advice is to never give up on each other. Transitioning into civilian life is going to be tough on both partners for different reasons, but you need to both be willing to take a step back and understand you are in it TOGETHER.

(In Derrick’s words)
Ask any marine about their transition into civilian life and most won’t want to discuss it, or just skip over the negative stuff and go right to the “everything is great” talk. Myself included. Even writing this that my wife somehow convinced me to write, I don’t know where to even start.

Before getting out of the Marine Corps I saw life after as better, I thought I would be free to have any job that I wanted. I thought I would have my weekends and nights free again. Little did I know then, how different living as a civilian would be.

Fining one good paying job didn’t happen. I spent months searching for a yes but kept getting no’s. I eventually ended up working three lower paying jobs just to make ends meet because that is all I could get.

I am not a man who talks about feelings publicly, but I do agree with my wife when she says that there isn’t much out there for service members to find real life stories about others who have transitioned into civilian life. We want to be a small part in reaching someone who might be struggling.

Transitioning out was harder than I thought it would be, and I was met with the reality that I had a lot of personal issues to face. I was in denial about that for a long time but I knew that my wife wouldn’t be able to help me with that until I helped myself. It was on me to fix it.

I am still working on the things I need to, and most days I still shut down but the key is to learn to lean on your partner. They may not understand exactly what you are going through, but they are there to support you and you have to allow them to. I didn’t do a great job of that at first, and thought I could handle it all on my own. That is what we as men are told to do. But after getting to to edge of my wife at a loss of how to communicate with me and support me, I had to allow myself to let her in.

By doing so our marriage strengthened and we learned how to be partners. Something we had never had due to both living solo for so long.

The transition will likely be difficult but take one day at a time and accept that there are things that you cannot carry just on your own. Lean on your spouse. Lean on a brother. Find someone you can trust and work through it. Eventually all will fall into place, emotions and a job... but it will take time. Just know you are not alone in this journey.

Nearly 2 years have passed since Derrick’s last day in a Marine Corps uniform, but he didn’t fully hang up wearing a uniform for good. After working 3 jobs for about a year, he was hired on as a Police Officer in Georgia and served our community for over a year before we made the decision to chose where we wanted to live and really begin our new lives. Neither one of us felt like Georgia was “home”, it was where the military put us and made the most sense to stay after transitioning out. But it was always just temporary. A few months ago, we made the big decision to take the leap and move back to California to raise our children near family.

With that, came another career change for Derrick, but one thing has remained the same throughout his time in the Marine Corps and life after... and that is his classically shaved head and freshly shaved face daily. No matter what the job, shaving daily is a must for Derrick. Even after the Marine Corps, he attempted to grow out that “freedom beard” yet he only lasted 5 days before caving in and breaking out his Gillette razor. In his own words, “growing hair just didn’t feel right!”.

Gillette has always been D’s razor of choice and even while separated, Gillette products were always a staple in the care packages that I sent to him. Life after the military is no different and Gillette’s new skin guard razor is top of the line! As someone who saves his face and head daily, Derrick explained that this razor just glided over the skin and was surprised at what a close shave this razor gave with no skin irritation. This was top priority for him when searching for a razor since he has highly sensitive skin. Gillette’s new skin guard has unique skin guard bars positioned in between the blades to specifically reduce the “tug and pull” of the hairs and result in a close shave. The precision trimmer on the opposite side is great for hard to reach areas and styling facial hair.

And as a wife who doesn’t love the stubble kisses, I can officially say I give the closeness of this shave two thumbs up! You can find the new Gillette skin guard set or individual products at your local Walmart.

I want to finish up this post by saying that if you or someone you know is struggling with their own civilian life transition, don’t be fearful or hesitant to reach out to us, or anyone you might trust. We all need to be there for each other. Each journey is different, but we are all family in this unique way of life. And remember, you are NOT IN THIS ALONE.

To purchase the new Gillette SkinGuard - CLICK HERE

Moving For Love

* This post is sponsored by - all thoughts and ideas are my own

Being that it's Valentine's Day, and we are just getting settled into our new home in California, we feel that today is no better time than to share a little bit of our love story with you all... This will be our 8th Valentine's Day as husband and wife, and through the past 8 years we have jumped over a ton of hurdles and endured many changes. One of the biggest changes being moving across the country, twice. Since becoming newlyweds way back in 2011, we have called four houses "home". The military has moved us to a city we didn't know in a moments notice and we've recently taken the big leap to come back home to our roots with no job security. With each move, there has been a huge scary unknown facing us, but we have done it all together, and we have done it all for love.

When you enter a marriage, you repeat the vows "for better or for worse/ for richer or poorer". Let's just say that as it goes for our marriage in the past 8 years, 80% of it has been for worse and for poorer. I am not sharing any of this to gain sympathy or pity, it is actually quite the opposite. We as a couple have faced some big downfalls. To be honest, we have even at times been on the brink of giving up. But we never have.

These 8 years have been hard, on both of us. When you mix moving (one of life's biggest stresses) and financial issues (one of the leading causes of divorce), you end up with a brewing storm of emotions. And while we are far from being out of the wind and the rain, we have managed to weather the storm together and barely hold on. Our hopes in sharing our struggles and our journey, is to hopefully help another couple out there that may be weathering the same. It is far from easy, but there are a few things we have learned along the way and through it all, love has remained the rope that has held us together.

Moving for love (that new and exciting love)
Let's travel back in time to our first move into our first little home as newlyweds, back in 2011. That little 2 bedroom/1.5 bathroom base house was the reason I started this blog of mine. It was tiny, a mere 1,200 sq. ft. at most, but it was a place to call our own (for the time being). Back then, we were nothing but excited and ready to start our lives there. We brought home our first baby to that home, we hosted our first family holiday meal in that home, and we said goodbye to all of our family and friends in that home, before making our way across the country. That home held so many firsts and memories for us and will always be the home where our story began.

Moving for love (even when you don't want to)
Fast forward to 2014, we were approaching our 3rd wedding anniversary and awaiting orders from the Marine Corps of where next we would call home. How fitting, that on our anniversary, we received the news... we were going to be headed to Georgia. While I have always loved the idea of living in different places, when you have no choice in the matter and are a planner (and slight control freak) like myself, not being in control of where your life is headed an be testing to say the least! While I never desired to call the state of Georgia home, I tried my best to take it as a new beginning and a new adventure. To leave all of my family and friends behind and everything that I ever knew as comfort, was difficult. On top of that, it wasn't just myself I was taking away from my family, I was a mom, which meant this would change everything about my child's relationship with our family members as well. Driving away after watching our last California sunset, I bawled. So much was changing, so much was unknown. The only comfort we had was a home awaiting for us and my husband's new special duty assignment. Everything else was a blank space waiting to be filled in. I grabbed my husband's hand as we drove away, with tears streaming down my face, I whispered "I'm scared." He didn't say anything in return, but his hand squeezing mine back a little harder let me know that we were in this together.

Moving for love (even when the future is unknown)
After moving to Georgia, we decided to make the best of it and even started to enjoy our new home state. It never really felt like "home" to us, but we made a few new friends, I spent my days decorating our home and raising babies, while my husband worked 18 hour days - 7 days a week. We somehow made it through our 3 (long) years on marine corps recruiting duty. I won't go into details (in this post) but those 3 years were probably the hardest of our marriage. We went through a lot between 2014-2017 and after serving 10 years in the Marine Corps, my husband decided it was time for a change. He packed away his uniform and boots and we settled on trying out Georgia as our home, in civilian life. At the time, we were perfectly content living in our rental and were even talking about buying that home once Derrick was able to establish a stable civilian job income. But soon, all of those plans were derailed. Just a month after EASing from the military, we received news that the owners of our home were selling and we needed to be out asap. So add finding a new home on top of finding a new job/ jobs. We were hit with a ton of bricks. No money saved, no guaranteed job in sight, no idea where or how we would find a new home, at that point everything in the future was unknown. We had no idea what to do, but pray. We knew that no matter what we were facing, again, we would face it together.

Moving for love (even when it means taking a big financial leap)
Eventually, we did find a house, it was run down, in horrible condition and needed a whole lot of work just to move in, but it was a roof over our heads. We tried our best to clean that rental up as best we could, then made it into our own with paint and filled it with the things we loved. Soon, it felt like home. As for the job search, in 2017 Derrick worked three jobs just to make ends meet, until finally getting hired on with our county police department. We were still far from making it, but we were somehow making ends meet. We still knew that Georgia wasn't our forever home, but we started to become content in where we were. Until mid 2018... I started to feel the urge to want to be back home. To raise my children near family, to seek larger opportunities for my own career. We started talking about all of the many reasons that California felt like the right decision. The one big part though... we sure didn't have any money saved up and financially were not in the position to save any to make the move happen, and secondly California is extremely expensive and would require both of us to make triple our current income. There were so many pluses, but one huge financial obstacle in the way. It took months of talking and weighing options to come to our decision but Derrick was willing to move back to California for me, for our kid's sake and for our future. We sold most of our large furniture and tons of other things around the house just to fund our move. We took a huge leap of faith and trusted in each other that we could make this work.

At the end of January 2019, we loaded everything we owned into a 26 foot moving truck and drove across the country. Ironically, we celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary on that road trip, stopping somewhere along the way for McDonalds with the kids and enjoying our "anniversary celebration".

Now, here we are, just 2 weeks (as of today) settled in our new home in southern California. We have been surviving on the last little bit of money we saved from selling nearly everything we owned and a bit of help from family. We took a huge risk to get here but still feel it was the right decision. Through it all, we have both made sacrifices. Were we both happy through all of it? Far from it...  We have had many many arguments over the years. But we made it through, together and relied on our love to guide us.

Tips to take away:

Lean on each other - Moving or any big life change is stressful enough. In times like these we can often try to find blame to put on the other person, to take out all of our fear and anger on our significant other. Try to understand what your significant other may be facing and if you do find your relationship in a downward spiral, take a moment and try to pinpoint where those hurtful words or actions may be coming from. Often it is much simpler. Realize you both are climbing the same mountain and help boost each other up until you reach the top.

Give each other space - Sometimes moving, wether before or after, can bring up a lot of emotions. You are either freaking out about the million things on your to-do list before move day or you have held it all together and are now settled into your new home and are emotionally and physically drained and all of those hid away feelings come bubbling to the surface. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself or your significant other is to get out and do something for yourself. Maybe it's a long walk, or 30 min just to sit in a local coffee shop by yourself or a long drive with music blasting. Allow yourself a moment to clear your head and reset.

Talk it out - I can't even count how many times one of us has blurted out something hurtful to the other. for example, just this week D yelled out of frustration, "Screw this, we will never get out of this hole we are in, moving here was a horrible mistake." I knew he didn't mean it, but I did understand where that frustration stemmed from. It stemmed from the stress of knowing we took a big financial risk to move here and now we have no option but to make it work. On top of that, my husband finds his identity in his work, with not working full time right now and with the fear of not being able to provide for his family, he takes all of this stress on his shoulders and many times we all can take out our frustrations in not so nice ways. I knew once this comment was made, we needed to talk. I needed to be there to reassure him why we made this move. I had to give him faith that this would all work out in the end, and in the meantime, we are on the same team. Talk out your frustrations, talk out your fears, talk out your plans. Be the pillar that the other one needs.

If you are facing a move in your future, or maybe just treading through some big changes in life right now, I hope that you know that you are not the only couple going through this. You are not alone in feeling like you just can't see the light at the end of the tunnel some days. Just remember you and your significant other/ spouse are in this together and you will get through it together. With a little grace, a little sacrifice, a little trust and a little love.

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Master A Stress Free Move In 30 Days

If you have been following our moving series, you might be a little confused based on last month's move update, we went over how we were approx. 3 months out from moving. Now here were are, announcing we are just 30 days (actually less) away from move day! So you might ask, what changed? 

*This post is sponsored by - all thoughts and ideas are my own.

Well... We have a house! While I had full intentions of taking you all along the final house search process with us, this specific home presented itself while doing just a quick browse on last week. We have had no plans to even begin contacting available rental homes until January, but this one seemed perfect so we went ahead and inquired. To our surprise, they got back to us nearly immediately and thus that is when this surprise whirlwind of finding our perfect home began. 

As stated in my last move update, I went over the challenges you can face when trying to find a home/ rental while living in another state along with how to set yourself apart from the many other (local) applicants. One of the biggest tips I have for securing a home from out of state or in a unique situation, is to find a home listed by the landlord/ homeowner. This allows you the chance to connect with the person owning the home and present your situation to them, and more often than not, they will be more open to holding a home for the right person/ family, accepting a not so excellent credit score or a new job change over a property management company who is just approving applicants based off of a checklist.

In this case, as well as when we moved to Georgia, both homes were listed by the homeowner. In both situations we were able to talk on the phone to the homeowners and explain our moving timeline and also let them know a little more about our family and who we are as renters.

So let's get back to our home search journey... After talking to the homeowner, we set up a time to do a video tour of the home via FaceTime. Being that we are moving back to California to be near family, we knew that we had people whom we trust to go view properties for us in person. But... My dad has been here visiting us for the holidays, and when this home presented itself, we were informed that there were already 2 other applications in that they were considering and they needed to make a decision soon. The homeowner graciously walked us through the entire home, then outside to show us the neighborhood, nearest playground and community pool to really get a feel for where we would be living. 

After the tour I think both my husband and I knew instantly that this home was for our family. We sent an email saying that we would like to apply. But, we knew there were still a few obstacles in the way. First off, those 2 other applicants were local and could move in immediately. We on the other hand, hadn't even prepared to start moving until mid Feb! Not to mention my husband starting a brand new job, and not knowing how our credit score would hold up against the other applicants. We decided to give them a call and explain everything up front before ever submitting the application. Being honest and transparent is key if there is anything you are concerned about when applying. Secondly, I sent the homeowner an email with links to my social media and blog, to show how we care for our current home and how we plan to love and care for their home as well. Even if you don't have a blog or social media account where you share your home, send an email with possibly a collage of a few photos of your current home and a photo of your family. This gives them an idea of who will be occupying the home that they cherish. Renting from a homeowner is so much more personal, so try to connect with them on a personal level.

After all was sent off, we received the news within 24 hours, on Christmas Eve of all days... that we were accepted! 

Then came hammering out the details. I won't go into financial detail here because of personal reasons, but the homeowners graciously discounted our deposit due to a long distance move, but we did have to pay to hold the home until we could move in. This has now pushed our move date up by quite a lot! We now will be moving across the country in less than 30 days!

So you might ask... What's next? We now have one massive to-do list...
Follow along as I share a few of the tips that I have learned through my past moves and how I plan to incorporate them into this one. There is so much information that I have actually split this post into 2 parts. Part 1 being everything you need to know to get your home packed up and ready to move. Everything from packing materials to how to pack each room and what you need upon moving into your new home. Part 2 being the logistics of moving. In that post I will take you through a breakdown of moving yourself vs. hiring a moving company, traveling long distance to your new home, and how to do it all on a small budget, along with a to-do list of what you need to do before moving out of your current home.

How to master a stress free move in 30 days (or less)

Packing materials you will need:
Depending on your size of home, this will vary, but when it comes to purchasing boxes and packing materials, you need to factor in the following,

8 boxes - Standard Size Bedroom
(2 large for clothing, 1 medium for shoes, 3 medium for decor, 2 large for bedding/ curtains/ misc.)

12 boxes - Master Bedroom
(4 large for clothing, 2 medium for shoes/ bags, 4 medium for decor, 2 large for bedding/ curtains)
3 boxes - Bathroom
(1 medium boxes for decor, 2 small boxes for liquids, lotions and misc. product)

20 boxes - Living Room/ Family Room
(8 large boxes for decor/ blankets/ curtains/ pillows, 3 large picture frame boxes for wall decor, 1 large TV box, 5 medium boxes for DVDs/ electronics/ decor, 3 small boxes for any small misc. items)

18 boxes - Kitchen
(10 medium boxes for dishes/ pots & pans/ bake ware/ non-perishable foods/ table linens, 8 small boxes for spices/ counter top items/ cooking utensils/ coffee mugs and glass drinking glasses, plastic cups (kid's dinnerware)/ dishtowels & cleaning supplies)

4 boxes - Hallway Closets
(4 large boxes for hallway closet linens such as towels, extra sheets, blankets and pillows)

25 Boxes - Garage, Laundry Room & Misc.
(Depending on the size of your garage and what you need to pack, allow yourself an over count of boxes needed in various sizes from large to small. It is also good to have extra boxes on hand for other products such as cleaning supplies, toys, and extra decor. Remember, you can always return what you do not use, but it's better to have more than enough rather than making run after run back to the store to buy more!)

The average 3 bedroom home usually accounts for 75-90 moving boxes

The quality of your moving materials also matters. Sturdy boxes and tape will insure that your items will arrive at their destination in perfect condition. And how you tape your boxes also is of importance. The last thing you need is the bottom of your box to fall open after you spent all that time wrapping up your belongings.

Begin by taping the box once, across both flaps. Then tape once down the center line, then again on either side of that, overlapping the sides of the tape to create a strong hold. Again, the tape you use will make a difference. I've done this same method of taping but with a dollar store brand before and I was sorry I did... My advice, splurge on the good tape.

Lastly, label each box so that it has a final destination and anyone picking up the box can figure out where it goes. Label the boxes not as where they came from in your current home, but where you want them to go in your new home. I label each box with the room, then number each box for that room, and label the main contents in that box. I also have a checklist that I have created of all of this info that I can relate back to and check off as I un-pack, just in case a box gets misplaced or I can't find what I am looking for.

One other tip - Because we don't have a craft room or a play room, but have lots of craft items and toys, I box all of those items up grouped with similar items. Such as: "Crafts - Paper", "Crafts - Painting", or "Crafts - Wood". And for toys that don't have a place in either of the kid's rooms, I label those, "Toys - Hotwheels" or "Toys - Dress Up". On move in day, I have these boxes placed in the main entry or in the garage until I find a place/ closet to organize them.

Lighten the load:
As I went over in my last update, one of the biggest things you can do before a big move to make moving as easy as possible, is to purge the "junk". I went through round 1 with you, which was the hard part. Round 1 consists of taking inventory of what you have, what you haven't used in years, what you can live without, and what is just plain trash.

(You can read more about the process HERE)

After getting rid of and selling everything you could do without, now it's time to really think about what else can go. If you have a home (which you should being 30 days out from a move) you know the layout. Which furniture that you currently own won't fit or work into your new space? Maybe you want a slight style style change, what can you possibly sell and use that money to buy something new that you love? Or take a hard look at your closet, can you let some of it go? I like to call round 2, the "make room for more" round. You have to let go what is weighing you down sometimes to make room for something even better. Moving into a new home, one you have worked hard for, this is a new chapter, a new beginning. Now is the perfect time to let go of the things you maybe have held onto for too long just because it is "stuff".

Want to know another great thing about letting go? Well, it sure lessens the cost of your move! The lighter the load = the less that you pay. 

For us, we have saved the big items to get rid of, for last. Now that we have the layout of our new home we know what we can take and what needs to be sold. A plus of our new rental is that it comes with a washer and a dryer so we will be selling ours, along with our large dining table and other furniture items we know will not fit into our new home. What is fun about the purging process is that we always use the money that we receive from selling the old to buy new after we move. We get to go shopping without really spending!

Once you have sold/ donated all of the big stuff it's time to take a look at all of those things you have been hoarding for much too long: When it comes to anything in your bathroom cabinets, lotions, hair product or makeup, if you haven't used it in 6 months - a year, its time for it to go. Same goes for clothing, if you haven't worn it in a year or if it doesn't fit, let it go. And as for kitchen items that we all know can gather up over time, if you haven't used it in a year - 2 years, its time to be used by someone else.

Downsizing can be hard and it can feel overwhelming when it comes to deciding what to keep and what to let go of. But with each one of my moves, I have never regretted letting go of any of the items I decided to part with. Just keep your new home in mind through the whole process. Think of how everything needs a place to go and if you don't have the space or room for it, let it go. If you don't absolutely love it and that item no longer brings you joy, let it go.

And if just even starting the purging process feels daunting, I suggest starting in the bathrooms. then closets, then dressers, then the main areas of your home. One bag/ box at a time, and you will get there, I promise. Just trust your gut.

Where to begin packing:
Again, another daunting task that many dread (myself included). After 9 times of doing this, I basically have a routine and a system. Before I ever begin packing to move our home, I set aside a suitcase (or multiple in our case - for our family) along with 2 large size boxes and 1 medium size box. The suitcases will be for your travels to your new home and the boxes will be your "first night boxes". Especially when moving long distance, there is no guarantee what time your belongings will arrive at your new house and if it happens to be pushing bed time, the kids are melting down and you are at the end of your rope, the last thing you will want to do is dig through tons of boxes to find the things you need. Here are the items that I pack as MUST HAVES for the first day/ night of moving into a new home:

The "First Night Box(es)":
1 set of sheets for each bed
2 rolls of paper towels
1 bottle of cleaning spray
1 container of disinfecting wipes
3 rolls of toilet paper
1 towel for each person
4 night lights
1 can of air freshener
1 candle
paper plates
plastic utensils
travel size laundry detergent
travel size shampoo/ conditioner/ hand soap
1 large blanket/ comforter per bed

clothes for each person for 1 week
personal care items
bedtime books for kids

Bring in the car:
favorite pillows
phone chargers
any valuable jewelry or items
memorabilia that cannot be replaced (baby books, photos, family items, etc.)

Packing with kids:
If you have children, especially young ones, moving can stir up a whole boat load of emotions. My biggest tip when facing a new change - get them involved with the packing. Let them choose which items they want to pack up and make a game out of it! Try to see who can pack their boxes faster or count how many items fit into a box, or sort toys by colors. The more you involve your children, the less anxiety they will have.

Packing room by room:
Bathroom - I always start in the bathroom because it is the smallest room in the home and usually has the least amount to pack. (Ziploc bags will be your best friend!) I first pack up all liquids and lotions, each in their own separate Ziploc bag. I always place those in a box by themselves, separate from everything else. 

Closets - I begin by packing clothes first, leaving the clothes on the hangers, placing a plastic trash bag over them and placing each group of clothing into a box. 

Dressers - As for clothing in dressers, we have never packed our clothing, we first take out the drawers of the dresser on moving day, load the dresser, then place the drawers back in them with the clothing still inside. As you fill up the truck, the other furniture and boxes will insure that your drawers will not open and it/s one less thing you don't have to worry about packing! 

Decor - I always wrap breakable decor up with quality packing paper. Each item gets wrapped individually.
Dishes - One of the easiest tips I have for packing dishes is to place a foam paper plate in between each plate, then wrap the whole set up in bubble wrap. For coffee mugs and breakable glasses, wrap with packing paper and pots and pans wrap up with extra bath towels. 

Bedding - When it comes to comforters, duvet covers, etc... I always pack each bedding set together. Including throw pillows. This way, once your beds are all set up, it is easy to put each one together again. 

Jewelry - For jewelry that I won't be taking with me in the car, I like to use scrap pieces of cardboard, then using 2 different sized hole punches, punch holes into the cardboard for where I would like my jewelry to be held in place. This makes it so that necklaces, earrings and bracelets won't get tangled up in the move. For additional packaging, you can wrap the entire piece of cardboard up with plastic cling wrap as an extra step to keep the jewelry in place.

Garage Items/ Tools - Packing plastic wrap is great for keeping rakes/ mops/ brooms together but when it comes to the tools, we have chosen to purchase large plastic totes to insure that none of our tools get damaged in the move. Plus it makes for easy organizing after moving into your new home.

These are just a few of  tips that I hope you find helpful. Ones I have learned after making things much harder on myself over the years, when moving and entire household on a short time frame. 
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, coming soon! Thanks for stopping by!

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The Best Moving Tips For An Easy Long Distance Move

We are officially three months out (actually more like 2.5 months out) from our long distance move to California! Time is flying by and the holiday season, sick kids, holiday events, and present shopping isn't helping our move to-do list any... If you have been following our moving series, you know that we are pretty much long distance move exerts at this point. In this update I want to share a little more about where we are at with our home search using, and other tips I have come to find helpful after making my own moving mistakes over the years. All of this info will help you to make long distance moving a breeze and (almost) stress-free!

*This post is sponsored in collaboration with, all thoughts and ideas are my own

Selling The "Junk"
Before I ever start packing a box, I like to start each move off with a fresh start. This means selling all of the "junk". Being 3 months (or less) out from a long distance move is the perfect time to start de-cluttering and really planning what you will be taking with you onto your new home. 

Designate A Sell Section:
I first start by designating an area of my home where I can begin placing all of the items I need to sell. This allows me to keep track and sort like items such as home decor, clothing, and household items. I can easily take items from that area, photograph them for online groups/sites and place them back. As these items sell, I can put sold tags or sticky notes on them and wait for their new owners to come pick them up. Being that our home is small, I keep all of our "sell" items currently in our front entry. If you are a neat freak, like myself, the clutter will likely drive you crazy but just remember, it's only temporary.

Selling Your Household Items Online:
No need for a garage sale, selling your home items online now is extremely easy and convenient and I have compiled a few tips to get you top dollar!

Photography is important - I cannot stress this enough. I have been selling not only my own household items online for years but also furniture I have painted to sell, along with furniture we have built. When selling online, all your potential buyer has to go off of is the photo. Take high resolution photos if you have a camera to do so. If not, cell phone quality is perfectly fine too. Take crisp clear bright images. Photograph your item using natural light at the brightest time of day in your home. If your images are still dark, you can always edit them in an app. One of my favorites is PicTapGo or VSCO, just adjust the brightness and sharpness and you are set.

Stage your decor - When photographing, stage your decor to show your potential buyer how that item can be used in their own home. Think of your favorite home decor catalog, you want to buy the items in that catalog because you can vision it in your own home. 

Pick a backdrop - If staging items just isn't your thing our sounds like too much work, photographing your items against the same background is an easy way to have all of your images cohesive and makes the subject the focus. Pick a well lit area of your home, against a plain wall (preferably neutral), or use a roll of white paper and tape to a wall. Photograph each of your items individually. 

Posting your items on Facebook - Facebook is one of my favorite places to sell for many reasons. It is easy to upload many images at once into local re-sale groups, you can also post those items into FB marketplace at the same time with just one click, you can share personal items for sale with friends on your own profile by making a photo album, plus you can create a private FB event for your friends to come shop your home/ garage sale. 

Write clear descriptions and add measurements - Make things easier on yourself than trying to answer a ton of the same questions from potential buyers. Write clear and precise descriptions of your items, the condition of your items, brand, along with measurements. Also note if the item is from a pet free/ smoke free home or not.

Utilize clothing resale sites - Have clothes that are in great condition? One of my favorite sites to sell both mine and my children's clothes on is ThreadUp. It saves me the hassle of having to photograph the items myself and leaves the selling to them. Then once my items sell, the money from my sales is free for me to use on their site to buy new to me clothing or I can have the money transferred to me.
There are a ton of these types of sites out there, and many for higher end designer clothing and accessories. Just do your research before selling, but many of them are great!

Selling The Toys:
Sorting through the toys can be overwhelming and one huge task that honestly no parent wants to do. All of the little tiny toy pieces, the fights with the kids of what to actually get rid of, and the begging just to keep that one toy they all the sudden discovered in the trash bag that they haven't played with in almost a year. Being that I have two children in 2 different stages, I have learned a few tricks along the way to getting them involved. My almost 7 year old is my hoarder. She wants to keep every little McDonald's toy to every tiny rock and crystal. In the past year or so we have created a new rule in our home, that no new toys are bought unless one old one is sold. And she can only use the money from what is sold to buy something new. More often than not that means selling 2-3 things just to get 1 new one. It also acts as a great incentive for her to really analyze what means the most to her. She now gets excited with every toy clean out, and when it came to selling this time around, she jumped right in and wanted to even help me come up with prices of what to sell the old toys for. As for my little one, luckily she isn't old enough to care yet. With her, we have always kept toys to a minimum since she was born, being that most of her toys are from her big sister. We like to keep toys that will keep her attention for a few years rather buying baby toys, toddler toys, and so on... Our favorites are the play kitchen and play food, interactive stuffed animals, and building blocks.

Packing Up The Clutter
3 months out, you are not quite ready to pack up the entire house yet, but you are ready to get a head start. Begin by packing the items you know that you will not need within the next 3 months.
For example: holiday or seasonal decor, childhood keepsakes, out of season clothing, books, any decor not in use, dvds/cds, photographs and albums. Once you have these items packed up and boxed, you will be surprised at the space it will free up. Currently, I have been stacking all of our packed boxes in the garage and sorted by area in the home they will be going to when we move into the new house.

Cleaning Out The Trash
Now that you have gone through the items you plan to sell and have begun packing what you plan to keep, it's time to take out the trash! We all have them, the junk drawers, boxes, bins, baskets, and closets... The junk always seems to pile up and hide away no matter how hard we try to keep things organized. My rule when preparing to move, is to go through one drawer a day/ week (whatever your schedule allows). I like to start in the bathrooms. First getting rid of all old and expired shampoos, soaps and makeup. I am afraid to say, I recently found makeup I have been hoarding from my early 20's, nearly 10 years ago! Yep, apparently no matter how many times I move, there is still trash that travels with me somehow... Once the bathrooms are all cleared, I head onto the kitchen and the drawers that just seem to accumulate everything. Throwing away old receipts, gum wrappers, broken pencils, and all of that junk mail. Little by little, I make my way through every drawer, cabinet and closet before we ever even get close to move week. This makes me feel like I can handle the mess without being overwhelmed, stressed and frantically throwing our trash into a box at the last minute.

On The Hunt
You might ask, "How are things going with the house hunt?" Well... were still hunting. We have now narrowed down to a specific neighborhood in north county San Diego called San Marcos. We feel it has the best school district for our price range, a great family community and close to my family. We are on the search for at least a 3 bedroom/ 2 bathroom single family home or town home. So far, we are still a little bit of a ways out timeline wise to put in an application since we will be renting, most listings are wanting a move in date of 30 days or less. I have saved a handful of my favorites on and will be watching them closely over the next month to see if they might still be available. When renting, or applying for a rental from a long distance, it does limit you. You are on a timeline of when you can move in. If the home is currently vacant, the landlord or property management company likely will rent out to the first qualified applicant who can move in as soon as possible. Being tied down to a date until you will be in town, can result in losing out on something you may love. When moving from California to Georgia, this was the exact problem we ran into and in the process I learned a few things that can set you apart as a renter when you might face some factors that go against the norm.

Setting yourself apart in the rental market:
There are many reasons that you as a renter might find it difficult to compete with other applicants. Maybe you have a larger pet, maybe your credit score isn't the absolute greatest, maybe you find yourself in a new job and don't have a steady income history, maybe you are a long distance mover like us or maybe you are on a tight time crunch and need a new rental asap. Whatever the reason, the rental market is competitive enough, without having obstacles in place. To set yourself apart from just another application, you might consider writing up a personal "about me/ about our family" letter. We did this with our last long distance move. We were on a tight time crunch to find a home, in a market where not many rentals were available and to be honest our credit was not the best. We were applying for a single family home that already had 3 other applications in on it. Along with our application, I sent along a letter, introducing the homeowner to our family. Telling them why we saw their home as our ideal fit, explaining our shortcomings with our credit and situation of why we couldn't move in until the end of the month. Although our credit wasn't the best, I made sure to add in pay stubs to show my husband's proof of income. Granted, we didn't have any pets, but it seemed as if every other obstacle was stacked against us. At the end of our letter, I included an attached photo of our family and the current home we lived in so the homeowner could see how we took care of the current rental we were in. As you are reading this, here on my blog, you obviously know I am a blogger. So of course I had a handful of staged photos of my decor. But I don't want that to discourage you. You don't have to be a home decor blogger, or interior decorator to show the beautiful home you have created. Take a day, clean your home well and snap a few photos of the main areas of your current home. You would be surprised at how including these photos in a letter will set you apart. To take it one step further, if you can get a letter of recommendation from your current landlord/ property management company include that as well! Lastly, if you are facing a lower credit score, you might have to offer a little more than you are wanting to, to get into your desired home. This may mean signing a longer lease. In our last home, we knew we would be in that home for at least 3 years, so we felt comfortable offering to sign a 3 year lease up front to make up for our lower credit score. If signing a longer lease is too much of a commitment, you might have to put down a larger deposit. Not saying that these things you need to offer right up front, but if your application is turned away, you might want to go back offering some of these things and see what they say back.

One Step At A Time
If all of this seems like a lot to take in... JUST BREATHE. Moving is overwhelming, and I myself am for sure feeling the effects lately. But I promise you, it will all get done. It will all fall into place. Just take a deep breath. Go through one junk drawer at a time, fill one for sale bag at a time and pack one box at a time. Little by little you will get there. I promise.

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