How to pack like Molly and James do when moving from Alaska to New Zealand:
Step 1 – About one month before your departure, get your unsuspecting New Zealand-based family members to come for a "great time in Alaska!" Show them glaciers and bears and then send them home with 120 pounds of your stuff, crammed into 2 suitcases and 2 extra carry-ons. Convince them they don't need their own pair of old shoes anymore. Throw them away and jam a pair of your own into their suitcase instead. Never mind that they will be stopping to visit Vancouver for a couple of days along the way and now have an insurmountable amount of your crap to carry on their tour.
Step 2 - Get rid of everything that you can.
• Utilize Freecycle. "Not only will I give you my bed for free,” (painless, since I got it for free) “but I will carry it down my 62 stairs and up your 15 stairs at a time that is convenient for you. And I will thank YOU profusely.”
• Invite friends for dinner. Send them home with the leftovers, the dinner table and chairs. Drop some plants off later.
• Pay attention to the Salvation Army's list of accepted donations. Never “donate” junk but bury unaccepted items under accepted items when you drop your boxes and bags off.
• Find people who have just moved into new houses or apartments. Harass them. "You really should have a salad spinner now that you have your own place. How about I drop one off to you, oh, right now?"
• Sell your car. Make sure it's going strong. Even rub a little polish on it. Fix the chip in the windshield. Buy a scented tree for the rearview mirror. Calculate the value of the car with the snow tires included. Strongly consider disconnecting the little light bulb behind the words, "Check Engine" but then worry it would hurt your car karma. Remember its selling point: It has only been Alaska for 2 years! Brought up from sunny California, this car has no rust, baby! You know you want it!
Step 3 - Maximize the USPS Large Flat Rate Box. Believe it or not, at $55.00, this 12"x12"x6" box is a shipping steal when it comes to shipping costs to New Zealand. To maximize the worth of these boxes, buy scales, even if the only thing available in town is a set of fish scales meant for estimating salmon and halibut weight. An estimate is better than nothing - you want to cram these boxes as close to the 20 pound max as possible, without going one ounce over. Tie a lightweight rope around the box so it can be hung from the fish scale without dumping the contents onto the floor - more than once. When perfectly balanced, scream at your husband to come read the scales. (In this carefully balanced position, you can't read the tiny numbers on the fish scale yourself.) That box should be crammed with books, papers, toiletries and metal tools. Anything small and heavy. Sit on them to make it all fit and figure out how to tape them shut while you are sitting on them. Fill out address labels in advance. Fill out customs forms only when you feel very calm and centered and capable of writing excessive details in miniscule boxes. Arrive at the post office in a sweat and double check the weight of the boxes on the postal scale before fully taping them shut. (Skip this step if you have something better than a fish scale at home.)
Step 4 - Pack the bags you will check onto your flight. But first note the weight of your bag when it's empty. Some empty suitcases weigh an astronomical 11 pounds when empty, leaving you only 39 of your 50 allotted pounds to go!! If your bag does weigh 11 pounds, argue with your husband about the trade-off of its convenient little rolling wheels vs carrying a 50 pound cardboard box with a duct-tape handle which weighs virtually nothing.
Step 5 - Weigh your packed luggage. The fish scale won't work for this so borrow a neighbor's bathroom scale. Note that you can't get your giant suitcase to balance on the bathroom scale without holding it on there, which alters the weight. Weigh yourself. Lift up the suitcase. Get your husband to come in, on hands and knees, and look at the weight of you, plus the suitcase, on the bathroom scale. Try not to drop the approximately 50 pound bag on his head while he's doing this. Now, do the math – the weight of you plus the bag, minus you.
Step 6 - Pack books at the top of your baggage. Get your sister to take you to the airport and come in with you. Put your bag on the scale there, which will invariably weigh in heavier than the bathroom scale method at home. Open the top. Take out one book at a time until the bag weight decreases down to 50 pounds, exactly. Give them to your sister. You didn't need those books anyway.
Step 7 - Get on the plane and breath. Feel a mixture of panic and relief.
Note: This is the simple version of packing for New Zealand like Molly and James do. We can also provide detailed instructions regarding skis, mountain bikes and how much you can jam into a lap-top bag before they will call it an additional carry-on, over your restricted amount, and forbid you to bring it on the plane. We're also darn good with duty free information and what pair of shoes to wear when flying.