Boxes are the Answer

Whatever the problem, boxes are the solution. Give me enough boxes and I will solve any problem — finish my novel, clean my huge untidy house, fix the economy. (The economy will take a lot of boxes.)

I’ve spent two days turning chaos into stackable rectangles. Three years ago my older son moved to Japan, leaving behind — almost everything.

In his habits, he takes after me — a pack rat. After sifting through the mess, I am pretty sure that he has never thrown anything away. Movie ticket stubs, foreign coins, school papers, Magic cards, souvenirs from Africa and Japan, DVD’s, CD’s, lots of computer stuff, and books, books, books. A large cocoon of things he once had on his Christmas list or spent precious allowance dollars on.

How much can you fit in a really big suitcase? That’s how much he subtracted from his hoard when he left. The rest remains.

This is a part of parenthood that they don’t tell you about.  I knew all about toddlers and teenagers, I drove them to practices, taught them to drive, filled out the FAFSA for seven years, met the roommates, met the girlfriends. I knew that they would eventually move out. But somehow I didn’t imagine them leaving behind so much stuff.

The first thing I did was close the door to his room. The next thing to do was leave it closed for three years, opening it only long enough to remember why I closed it in the first place.

But the time has come to address the situation. Boxes are the answer.

I am a hyper-organized person. It bothers me to randomly throw things into boxes without a plan, but I didn’t have time for a plan. Instead, I kept reciting this mantra: Stuff into Boxes. Get it Done.

And a brilliant thought occurred to me as I filled the third box with computer cables, War Hammer figurines and wool socks. The chaos had been divided. Now I didn’t have to deal with the entire mess all at once. There was no longer any big mess. There were uniform stacks of boxes, each containing a smaller, more manageable mess.

By the time I’d filled the last box, I understood: it’s the parents’ curse. I did the very same thing when I moved out of the home where I grew up, leaving behind things I intended to deal with in some vague, unimagined future.

But actual things are not vague or in the future. They are very solid, taking up space here and now. The things I left behind followed me in boxes, packed into the back of my parents’ station wagon. Every visit brought another box.

And it wasn’t overwhelming. Every box I opened brought back memories. Like me, my mother saved everything — report cards, sewing patterns, school projects, stuffed animals, LP’s.

And the legacy goes on. My son’s boxes will stay in neat stacks in my basement until he comes home to visit. A box or two will find its way into the trunk of his car. And like my younger self, he will probably be asking himself, “Why did she keep this?”


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Liliana Mountford
    Jun 17, 2012 @ 10:21:40

    Outstanding article. I already saved your page. Keep sharing. Cheers


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