Since I am pretty much a professional now, I've included some of the valuable packing tips I learned during my struggle.
#0. Before you start packing, it's important to go through your belongings and get rid of all the things you may have collected throughout the years. If you don't want to pack or ship it to Africa, and if it's not worth the effort to pack up to the attic....toss it. Before you take your things to Goodwill however, I think it's nice to try to give some to your friends and family. It's important though, that you don't get offended if they don't want the cell phone chargers to phones you no longer have or clothes you've had since high school that you may love....but have seen better days. They're not rejecting you.....just your things. Repeat that like a mantra.
(Side note: I was teased mercilessly for trying to give my family the electric cord to a heated mattress pad that I had lost. But who's laughing now that I found the mattress pad??? Ha. Sweet victory is mine!)
Ok, now onto the actual packing.
#1. Wandering aimlessly around the house looking at your piles of belongings does not actually put them into the suitcases for you.
#2. Make sure you measure your luggage BEFORE you start packing. Just because you measure one piece of luggage and it's within the prescribed limits, does not mean that your other, bigger bag necessarily is. You will save the time and effort of taking all of your carefully placed and weighed items out of the first (and turns out ridiculously oversized) piece of luggage and re-placing it in much smaller piece.
#3. You're going to need to make some tough choices when deciding what you will take and what you will have to save to send later. Even though you may really really really want to take your "Strongs Exhaustive Concordance," the 11 pounds may be weight prohibitive.
#4. Be prepared to put in some time. "Some people" may have had to completely unpack and repack their luggage 4 times before they got it right.
#5. Whittling down your personal belongings can actually be a good way to get rid of some bad habits you may have picked up along the way. For example, say you have the unfortunate propensity to clean your ears 2-3 times a day. If you don't have room for Q-tips....problem solved.
#6. Now for the #1 most important tip I can suggest!! The most important thing you can do is have a mom who can't stand messes and is frustrated beyond belief and your lack of activity in the packing department. This will allow you to sit on the couch eating your birthday ice cream while you direct her where to put all your crap. This is by far the easiest and best way to pack. I highly recommend it!
Well, that's all the tips I have for now. Have a great weekend!