5 Tips for Moving Into a Smaller Space


Most military installations are in areas that let families rent sizable homes while staying within their basic allowance for housing (BAH).

Let’s evaluate the rental rates in Fort Hood (Central Texas) and Fort Belvoir (Washington, DC, area). According to data by Zillow on the rental cost per square foot, the median rental price per square foot around Fort Hood is 65 cents; around Fort Belvoir (Alexandria, VA), it’s $1.84. For a 1,500-square-foot home, the rent would be $930 in Fort Hood and $2,760 in Fort Belvoir. For an E-5 service member, the BAH rate at Fort Hood would be $1,179; at Fort Belvoir, it would be $2,175.

Given these figures, an E-5 in Fort Hood would have leftover BAH money, but the same E-5 in Fort Belvoir would have to dig into his or her own pocket to even cover the rent. As a result, military members in the Washington, DC, area often sacrifice space to find a home within the BAH.

What does that mean for the military member? If you have goods that fill up a 1,500-square-foot home but are looking at homes that are around 1,000 square feet, it’s time to examine your options.

Here are five tips to consider when consolidating your household goods (HHGs).

1. Prioritize Your Housing Needs.

Do you have a big family and really need the space? This is when you might have to move farther away from an installation, or even move on post or base. Many of the large metropolitan installations, such as Fort Myer in the DC area, don’t offer on-post or on-base housing for military members. Interested families would have to consider living at a different installation that would be farther away.

2. Purge Your Belongings.

Families can purge their belongings before PCSing to an area with limited space by holding garage sales or making donations tosparefoot-logo charity. Have in mind how much space you’d be dealing with at your new location and work for there. If you’re going the donation route, drop it off at your an installation’s lending closet. It can be used to help other military families as they’re waiting for their HHGs.

3. Find Housing with On-Site Storage.

My husband is stationed at Fort Belvoir. We’re renting an apartment that is less than 1,000 square feet. Our priority was to be close to the installation and be under our BAH with enough to spare for utilities. We found the perfect apartment complex, but quickly realized that my husband’s gear ate up a lot of space. Fortunately, our complex has on-site storage that tenants can rent, so we rent a storage unit from the complex.

4. Leave It With Family or Friends.

Before my husband left for his tour in Korea, he left some HHGs at my parents’ house in Texas. It was mostly camping gear and half his wardrobe; he didn’t want to have a lot of things while he was there. It takes a little extra logistics planning, but it’s something to consider.

5. Rent an Outside Storage Unit.

What if you don’t want to let your stuff go and want to keep it close? In this case, families should look at renting a storage unit at a private facility. This way, you can have the military move your HHGs to your new location, and then personally move the HHGs you don’t need right away to a storage unit nearby. Also, if you ever need what you’ve stored, you can easily retrieve it.

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by Rachel Tringali Marston, an Army wife, is the public relations and communications manager for the Automated Housing Referral Network (AHRN.com), which helps military families find homes around the world. She is a Texas expat who is stationed with her husband in the Washington, DC, area at Fort Belvoir.

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