The Last Box, pt.1


hello, Pandora?

Urgency Day 148

500 Things Item 348: The Last Unopened Box

What’s in the box?

Have you ever considered that your house is a set of boxes within boxes? In the first box, the house, there is an arrangement of rooms and closets fitted in; and within the rooms and closets, there are many more boxes; actual boxes of cereal and pasta; envelopes and tissues; detergent and crayons… and on and on; all existing within the largest box, the house. So many boxes.

So much cardboard!

I am extremely grateful for curbside recycling.

It all begins to feel like one of those toys, those nesting Russian dolls: one within the other within the other…

And just as in the toy version, I wonder, “What’s in the middle?” What’s in the box at the heart of all the other boxes? Calling the middle of something the heart suggests that whatever is there is crucial, fundamental, necessary.

But how can we refer to the “middle” as both the lively “heart of the matter,” and as the “dead center?”

I have one answer to that paradox.

We’ve moved a few times, moves that ran the fatigue-spectrum of calling a few buddies who agree to help you haul your stuff if you feed them pizza and beer; to the gold standard, the all-inclusive corporate relocation. The desirability of each of these experiences represents the difference in desirability between taking a stay-cation and winning an all-expenses paid trip to a luxury resort.

After a move, there’s always a box, one box, that kicks around unopened until it’s time for the next move. Ironically, at some point during the next packing effort, you open the last unopened box from the previous move. Speaking from personal experience– and maybe this is just me– but I have never opened that box and joyfully exclaimed, “WOW, I’VE BEEN MISSING THAT!” Never, not once.

What I thought was, “Do I take the time to sort through this crap now, or just seal it up, move it again, and deal with it later?”

Remembering that I am a human person, what do you think I chose to do? Every. Time.

I’m staring at that box, right now.

Here’s my secret fantasy: Maybe there is a tiny, highly selective catastrophe in my basement that could remove this box from my life. A sudden opening of a black hole that sucks the obligation of the last box away from me, forever.

Neither of us is holding our breath, right?

But now I’ve opened this neglected box, and I find that it has become central to my Project, to sorting out stuff and letting go of burdens. It has been sitting in my basement for years, lifeless and inert, and now it is in the middle of my office, my Project, my life. The last unopened box.

Today, I have opened the box.

Tomorrow, I will unveil its contents.

What’s in the box?

a curiosity and a cat


9 Responses to “The Last Box, pt.1”

  1. melanie Says:

    Great post. In the great Chicago flood of 1996 our basement flooded and did take away a few burdensome boxes. I’ve never missed the contents. I smiled the whole way through your post. I relate! I can’t wait until tomorrow to find out what’s in the box! Really!

  2. boysgonewild Says:

    I’m betting it’s a mouse, judging by the look on sweet Mel’s face.


  3. Great post! I have moved that box but have no idea what’s in it. I’m going to cheat, though. I’m looking in the box tonight.

  4. sthibeault Says:

    cheater cheater cheater!!! I bet I can distract with some March Madness…

  5. Sydney Says:

    For your sake, I hope Box #1560 contains something that seemed timely and necessary years ago, but whose usefulness has since expired. For instance… a box of user manuals and limited warranties for appliances and gadgets that you have already expunged from your life. You can open it, discard the contents, and press the Easy button.

  6. Donna Says:

    I’m posting this simply to share with all of the wonderful people who read your blog and not for you, because I think you know these two stories.

    Recently, I was able to get into a small 2-drawer file cabinet which had sat locked in my basement for years — years!! Every time I ran across a small spare key, I would try to open the cabinet. I also tried picking the lock (which looks so easy when Laura Holt does it). No luck. Finally though, a locksmith informed me to get the number from the lock and they could make me a key. Voila! (Sorry for the missing accent.) In addition to some old files I would never have missed, this cabinet contained several photo albums with pictures of my young children which I would very much have missed. Which is why I can never do what my brother-in-law has done: Adopt the attitude of “if it hasn’t been opened in seven years, we don’t need it and we can throw it away sight-unseen.” He did that. I never could.

  7. sthibeault Says:

    Honestly, J..n’s method went through my head. But I couldn’t do it. What if…? So many what if’s. But ultimately I couldn’t do it, because it’s not who I am. Yes, I want all of my crap to Go. A. Way. But in a more considered way. I’m really not looking for the black-hole out.
    A black hole would be cool though.

  8. melanie Says:

    So Donna, you did find buried treasure in that old file cabinet. That had to be a great day and…perhaps…. an “I told you so” moment?

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