WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 24, 2007) - Your orders have gone through. Your household goods have (finally) arrived. Your recently-renovated quarters or brand-new privatized house is overflowing with boxes. You can't find your bed linens and you know none of your curtains are going to fit your new windows. Now what'

It's a scene most military Families have probably faced at one point or another, but according to Sandee Payne, veteran Army spouse, decorator and author of "That Military House: Move it, Organize it and Decorate it," it doesn't have to be chaos.

In her redesign business outside Fort Hood, Texas, Ms. Payne helps Families set up their new homes after a move and decorate with the furniture they already have. Her book is full of tips, tricks and ideas to make any move as seamless as possible, and then how to turn a new house into a home in a matter of weeks.

"I think we're pretty lucky, actually," said Ms. Payne, who has moved seven times. "When I know I have to move, I look forward to it. If I know I'm not moving, then I'm really happy where I am. I just like to look at each new home or apartment or housing as a challenge: how can I rework my space to meet the needs of my family today' Where a lot of people buy a house and they try to make it grow with their family, we get to choose a house."

She said experience has taught her that the most important part of moving is organization and preparation. She recommends that every military Family have a household inventory, listing all furniture and other goods, description and original cost, with the receipt if available. This should be updated once a year and can save valuable time if something is damaged in transit.

She also writes that a move is the perfect time to go through "stuff" and donate things no longer used. Ms. Payne said many military Families make the mistake of hauling boxes of things they neither want, nor even like, through move after move. Instead, divide things into three piles, either before or after a move: keep, sell/donate and discard.

"Everybody always has these sentimental attachments because we don't attach ourselves to a state or a town, we attach ourselves to the things that we own," she said. "It's really hard to break away from things that we have memories with, but that's where the biggest challenge is for most Families. People will have boxes in the garage that they haven't opened for three moves. My concept is don't open it, and go donate it. If you don't know what's in the box, you can't have it. Get it out of your house if it's not what you use on a yearly basis."

Ms. Payne also recommends some preparation work before the move to help get settled in faster. She always tries to find out as much as possible about her new community in advance: schools, local attractions, etc. She also tries to get copies of her new home's floor plans, which she said are available for privatized housing. Then, she uses an online floor planner - she recommends Better Homes and Gardens or Lane Furniture - to decide where her furniture will go. She also discusses manual floor plans and actually includes grids in "That Military House."

"There's enough to deal with once you get there, but it'd really be nice to know, this is the living room and this is where I'm going to put these two sofas and this is how I'm going to set them up. I print the plans out or photocopy them and I put them in a binder. That way, friends or family who are helping, movers who have to position heavier furniture, everybody has an idea of where things are going to go. The more I can be ready ahead of time, it just makes the transition so easy. Then my house is set up on the other side within a week or two," she said.

Ms. Payne recommends investing in high-quality, modular furniture that can survive multiple moves and be used in a variety of ways in different houses. Choose two love seats instead of a large sectional, end tables and coffee tables with built-in storage and entertainment units that can break up and be used in several rooms. And because storage in government housing is almost always an issue, she said, utilize shelves and cabinetry that go to the ceiling and the spaces beneath sofas and beds.

One thing she warns against, no matter how cute, no matter how tasteful, is buying anything custom-made or specialty-sized. It probably won't fit the next house and will end up being a waste of money. But she does suggest checking the post thrift shop for someone else's custom mistake, and has other ideas for window treatments: a pashmina shawl or placemats, for example.

Her ideas, she said, come from trial and error, when she wants her house to look nice, but doesn't want to spend money because she knows she'll be moving again soon.

"Ninety percent of our happiness is in our home. We take that to work with us, we take that to the way we are with our children. Not having that on my mind, not worrying about my house, because using the resources that we have, using the budget that we have, I really try to utilize my space to the best means of my family. I love being home. I love being in my house. And if there's something that bothers me about my house, I try to change it until it works. And then we're happy," said Ms. Payne, adding that she loves being an Army wife and having the opportunity to live all over the word.

Other tips from "That Military House":

Aca,!Ac Have a going-away party with recipes using only the ingredients left in the refrigerator.

Aca,!Ac Label electronic wires before unhooking them.

Aca,!Ac Visit the post do-it-yourself store for needs like light bulbs, paint and shower fixtures.

Aca,!Ac Unpack the kitchen first, then children's rooms.

Aca,!Ac Buy neutral towels and shower curtains. They'll go with almost any bathroom color.

Aca,!Ac Use screens, room dividers or book cases to divide a room into zones: a living area and a home office area, for example.

Aca,!Ac Add a wallpaper border with spray starch. It will just peel off when it's time to move.

Aca,!Ac A special instruction section also shows readers how to paint, sew and even the best method for hanging pictures.

Visit www.thatmilitaryhouse.com for other ideas.