Think Outside the Box

I have always had a thing with boxes. I can’t explain. Bah. I lie. I can explain.

You know how kids are, they’ll play with the box, not the toy. That was me. I always loved boxes. Again, I lie. I loved the toys, too, I still do. But when I was a kid, I wanted it all, I played with the toy while sitting in the box. Now I just want the toys, preferably electronics, and I’m happy to discard the box. Once the warranty has run out.

As a young girl, by dad worked as a traveling salesman for a bicycle distributor. Later, he bought his own Schwinn bicycle shop. I always had a new, shiny bicycle. Or two. Schwinn used to make an enormous three-wheeled bicycle for adults, and it came mostly assembled, in a gigantic box that was occasionally printed on the outside to look like a log cabin! My dad would bring it home in the back of his Chevy El Camino, bring it inside, cut the windows out and cut the door so it would open and shut. It was amazing, and I remember having a couple of them during the course of my childhood, in my room. The ultimate indoor fort. One in particular, I remember, somehow, had pink shag carpet inside. Another of my earliest fond memories of the color pink. And of boxes.

I remember constructing other forts out of lesser boxes. Another glorious box fort comes to mind. I had boxes up against the wall by my desk and bed, which I had pushed away from the wall just enough that I could crawl around behind the furniture, beyond the boxes. Near the boxes, though, was a nightlight which illuminated the space. I had a red balloon in my fort, and if I had the balloon close enough to the nightlight, it created the most wonderful, pink glow. My second, very fond memory of the color pink. And of boxes.

I have moved a half dozen times in about as many years. My life is cursed with boxes and right now, having recently moved back in with my mom, I have piles of boxes in my bedroom, in my office and in the garage. If my mom would let me, I could easily arrange them into a fortress and live within the cardboard walls, defended against whatever or whoever may seek admission. There would be a password, guaranteed. I also have a ten foot by ten foot storage unit full of boxes of family heirlooms I need to contend with, you know, like Legos and Barbies and merit badges and prom gowns.

My box story isn’t pretty, but it has a happy ending. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve recently moved in with my elderly mom. I’m back in the house I grew up in. In fact, I am, at this moment, facing the corner of the room where the amazing log cabin fort bicycle box was, once upon a time. Now there is a short filing cabinet with a printer atop it. I kind of wish it was the fort. With pink shag carpet. I’d be in there, with my MacBook, typing happily away, sipping my Bitch Creek Extra Special Brown ale, listening to my most excellent music mix.

Without going into gory details, I have spent the last several years weeding through an unimaginable number of boxes, ending up with, for the most part, only what I absolutely need, love, and adore. Plus the Legos and Barbies, merit badges and prom gowns. This has been pared down from what once filled a house big enough for a family of four, a forty-acre back yard, a “shop”, almost as many square feet as the house, and another outbuilding full of nothing but saddles and related accouterments. And quite honestly, all were bursting at the seams and spilling into the forty-acre backyard. Five moves later, I have taken a pile of boxes that filled two ten by twenty foot storage units in addition to what items I appointed my living space with and pared it down to, well, what still looks like way too many boxes, because I really could build myself a fairly impressive cardboard castle.

I still have work to do, it’s kind of scary, the accumulation of a family of four over the course of time it takes children to grow to young adults. How much stuff do people really need? I’ll tell you. Not that much. My ultimate goal is for everything I own, love and desire, to fit into one small U-Haul that I can drive comfortably, all by myself. So I either need to get rid of some more stuff, or go to truck driving school.

To my credit, during this timeframe, I have also migrated from family car camping to backpacking. Ten years ago, when we went camping, it required an SUV and a utility trailer to haul all the crap we thought we needed out to the woods for a weekend. Our getaway weekends ended up being a bring-it-all with weekends. And I’ll give you one guess as to which family member packed it all, drove the damn SUV, towing the trailer, all the way out to the woods, unpacked it all, set up the house-sized tent, cooked and cleaned up all weekend, then reversed the whole process in time to get to work Monday morning. I was never so happy as when I donated all that camping crap to Goodwill! Backpacking is where it’s at, everything you need in a nice, small, confined space, with a zipper. Okay, so my first couple of treks, I might have had a forty-five pound pack, but I’m so over that!

With my busy travel season soon upon me, I am beginning to panic a bit about all these boxes. I’m afraid I may have to get a larger storage unit, move the boxes there and out of our way and deal with them like I did the last batch, one Honda Civic load at a time. This is an exhausting, but manageable method; drive the Civic to the storage unit, cram as many boxes into it as possible, drive them home, go through them, dividing everything into three piles, keep forever and ever, donate to charity, take to the dump. The three piles are assembled into boxes and distributed between the storage unit, Goodwill and the dump. This process can be repeated several times in a weekend. Last fall, I spent entire weekends doing this, for several months on end.

The somewhat frightening thing, though, is, as I sit in my mother’s house, the house I grew up in, the house she has lived in for nearly forty-six years, it occurs to me that the only reason my already pared down pile of belongings only seems overwhelming is because every closet, cupboard, drawer, cabinet and even the spaces under the beds and behind all the doors, in every room, are full of the accumulation of a family of three. There is no space for the few, select items I have chosen to keep. And, this, too, must be dealt with. Boxed. And dealt with. Probably by me.

My childhood affinity for boxes has ended up as a recurring nightmare of boxes, but, I am confident, in the end, I will be able to overcome the situation. How is this a happy ending? I find with each and every box of stuff I discard, I lighten my load, I become less encumbered, more free. It is so completely liberating, ridding oneself of the unnecessary stuff. This reached beyond boxes of belongings, I realize. I have trimmed my life of many unnecessary, hurtful, unhappy things. Clutter of life, be gone! I’ve lost weight, I’ve chosen to populate my life only with people who are positive, supportive and adoring. I realize I don’t need things to make me happy. Those things never made me happy, they were just proof that I had money with which to buy stuff. Just stuff, not happiness. Now I have genuine happiness and I only have a few more boxes of stuff to deal with. I can do it! I simply need to think outside the box.

4 thoughts on “Think Outside the Box

  1. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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