BookMark These Tips for Your Next PCS

We are fortunate to live in a 100 year old historical house on Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. These original bookcases are one of my favorite features. I’ve already styled them a dozen different ways since we moved in!
One of the greatest gifts to enjoy as family is a home full of books. As a military homeschool family, each time we approach a move, I realize the volume (and weight) of the amount of books we have. We can truly never resist a library sale, thrifted books, or a free little library in our path. I had the pleasure to meet Lauren Weldon May, a military spouse, certified Professional Organizer, and owner of the Manifesto Home + Office, during our time stationed in Italy together. Lauren’s ability to bring peace to a home is a quality I not only admire but believe can change the way families approach the stress associated to a permeant change of duty station! When I had my list of organization questions, I knew I had to reach out to Lauren for support. Enjoy this bookish conversation between two military spouses who both moved their book collection around the world.
Lauren Weldon May, owner of Manifesto Home + Office
Lauren Weldon May is a Certified Professional Organizer and founder of Manifesto Home + Office. Lauren started her organizing company in Temple, Texas in 2013 to pursue her passion for tackling difficult spaces with a combination of big-picture planning and detailed aesthetic style. Over the course of her 10+ year organizing career, she’s organized hundreds of clients, taming everything from playrooms to pool houses, from tiny apartments to small businesses, from post-it piles to stuffed file cabinets. Lauren, her Army JAG husband MaCayn, and their four year old son Lucas lived in Kansas City, Missouri, Charlottesville, Virginia and Vicenza, Italy, and call Oahu, Hawaii home (for now).
MMC - photo 12
MMC - photo 11 (1)

Q: Help! How do I pair down on the amount of books, specifically children’s books, in our home?

I’m a professional organizer, but I am also a big book person, both for reading & decor. My husband jokes if there is a flat surface in our house, I will put a stack of coffee table books on it.  I am almost always going to say there is no such thing as too many books! That being said, we as military families have to consider PCS weight limits and the constantly changing parameters of square footage in our rotating homes. Out of those necessities, we DO need to at least have some limitations. First, keeping kid books and adult books separate helps you keep two separate editing parameters in place. Those are two entirely different sets of books in my mind and one category growing should not force the other to shrink to accommodate. The key to book management is to let your bookcase be the editing trigger. Pick bookcases that reasonably fit the number of books you would like to have in your space and reasonably fit the spaces you typically live in. Once the bookcase is filled, implement a one-in, one-out rule from then on! Get three books that take up 6” of bookcase space? Time to purge a few from an old series to make up that room! Purchase a ton of thin early reader books? You might just need to let go of one giant board book your kids have outgrown to fit the new. For books that are no longer actively read but are sentimental, get a reasonably sized acid-free box to store childhood favorites to pass down someday and keep them separate from your everyday bookshelves. And again, I am always going to make accommodations for sneaking in a little stack of pretty books to warm up a corner of the kitchen or give company something to read when  jet-lagged in our guest room. Books are incredibly underrated decor in my opinion.

I love a good ROYGBIV bookcase in a kid’s room. Our son has been able to put his books away by color since he could reach them! It instantly makes clean-up time a game.

Q: How do I implement a book rotation into the habits of our home?

This is not something I am a huge fan of for military families because of our changing storage space capacities with each house. My one exception to this is seasonal and holiday books. I do not like to keep these year-round on regular bookcases. Instead, I store them with holiday decor in bins! It’s just too easy to let St. Patrick’s Day come and go, forgetting you had two or three lucky clover leprechaun books hiding on the bookcase! You can use a basket, a Montessori-style front-facing bookshelf, or wall-mounted book ledges to display your rotational books. If your reason for wanting to implement a book rotation is to encourage reading books your kids do not normally pick up, try this instead: grab a board game spinner that has colors on it and some dice. Have kids spin the wheel (green!) and roll the dice (11!) and then have them grab the 11th green book they see on the bookcase. It’s a fun little game to mix it up without taking up bins of storage space in the dark, damp basement.
Super thin or staple-spine books are easily overlooked on kid bookcases, so I like using a front-facing Montessori style book rack when possible.

Q: Is there any way to better protect books during a PCS overseas to include from mold and mildew? Do you recommend any supplies?

Yes! We live in Hawaii currently where mold and mildew are a huge problem. When moving here from Italy (also a location with a mold issue), I purchased hundreds of silica gel packets online and asked our movers to throw one or two in each box they packed. They very graciously did so and we opened up all our boxes to zero moisture issues! I always tell people it’s an investment but it’s important to protect your belongings from mold yourself because the military won’t be doing that for you.

Q: How do I protect special edition/signed copies of books?

Whenever possible, hand carry them. Even with proper packing, inevitably contents shift around and the pressure of boxes sitting on top of other boxes over months of being shipped overseas can cause damage. If you can not hand carry them, try this method: purchase some plain acid-free kraft paper and gather cardboard boxes. Cut cardboard (make sure no labels or writing is touching the covers) to fit around the important books and wrap the cardboard-protected books in the kraft paper like a present. Then place your book packets in the smallest box that will fit. Make sure to label them as high value and point them out to the movers before they pack them inside small book boxes. Do not forget your silica gel packets but do not let them touch the actual high-value books.

My favorite reading spot in the house.

Q: Is there a better way to pack hardcover books versus paperback books?

Remember this organizing and packing rule: like plays well with like. Separate books by length and width first. You can separate your hardcover books and your paperback books and request that the movers pack them separately. Another method is alternating one hardcover book and one paperback book (again, size them first). The key to both methods is to pack the box tightly and fill any gaps with packing paper. Do not pack ANYTHING else with books! The test? If you pick up a box of books and you feel or hear anything shift, it is not packed right yet.


I love to see how my book collection’s categories swell at different points in my life. The parenting section is pretty hefty these days.

Q: Should I inventory my book collection?

This is a very personal question and depends on how book-ish you are! No matter how detailed you want to get for your personal enjoyment, you absolutely, 100%, no exceptions should take a photo of your bookcases before the movers come, each and every PCS. During our last 6,000 mile move, several boxes of books were not packed well and we had a dozen paperback books that were bent and some hardback books with the spines cracked. I had photos of our bookcases beforehand that showed the books were in perfect condition the day they were packed, so I should have no trouble getting full reimbursement for the damage. Military or not, I also recommend updating your photo book inventory once a year for insurance purposes in case of a fire or natural disaster. I donot not personally keep a digital or written inventory of all my books other than the quick photos I take. I do, however, keep a list of the books we own that I have not yet read so I can quickly and easily choose one from the list vs. standing in front of my bookshelves for half an hour trying to pick my next read!

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AshLeigh Link
AshLeigh, a veteran of the United States Army, formally served as a Captain in the Logistics Corps. A graduate from Pennsylvania State University, AshLeigh holds a Bachelors of Arts in International Relations: National Security. Her husband, Jake, serves as a Captain in the United States Army. They have two children, James and Wren, and currently live in Vicenza, Italy. AshLeigh enjoys writing, reading, cooking, traveling with her children, pottery making, and is beginning to train for her first triathlon. AshLeigh hopes through her writing with The Military Mom Collective, she can inspire mothers to know creativity can thrive in the margins of motherhood.


  1. This is such a great read. The silica packets is a GREAT tip and I hadn’t thought of it before. Writing that down for the next move.


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