How Many Boxes Hold Your Life

I used to keep a lot of stuff. Boxes and boxes of stuff. Then I began culling, donating, sharing stuff with friends. I still have boxes of stuff, sentimental things from childhood, items from our wedding, special outfits from when the kids were babies. The usual stuff.

But I also had boxes of stuff from my first husband, Mark. After he died, I had so many containers filled with the things I couldn’t bare to part with. Really, most of it was stuff I just couldn’t go through any of the times I packed to move. I just kept carrying them with us. I’ve carted those bins hundreds of miles for more than a decade. I’ve gone through a couple over the years, but not a substantial purge.

My issue, besides the purely sentimental ones, was not wanting to get rid of things just because I didn’t want a ton of bins. Just for the sake of purging.

When I started to go through Mark’s things, I was trying to get it down to a certain number of bins. But, as I was going through them, I realized that it was about the contents, not about the number of bins I was hauling around. I didn’t want to whittle down the number because I kept thinking, “Surely a person’s entire life shouldn’t be reduced to eight big tubs?”

Then something happened as I was going through the stuff.  I couldn’t remember what most of the stuff was. How it was connected to the man who I was married to for almost 10 years and who made me a mom. There was a magazine that I kept because it was the last one he was reading before he died. But it wasn’t his favorite. And I had his favorite book, so why was I hanging on to this magazine? There were a bunch of maps that we had never used, but were in his car just in case. I can tell Nicholas that his Daddy Mark liked to drive and to be prepared, but would those maps really help N know his father? There were all kinds of do-dads and pieces of junk. I know that they were junk because they were in his junk drawer. “Junk” is in the name. Would you want your children saddled with miscellaneous rubber bands and loose buttons? They wouldn’t really tell your story, would they?

I haven’t finished going through the boxes and bins. Even 11 years later, it gets really emotional and hard to go through Mark’s stuff. At least now I have some internal guidance. I’m not saving stuff just to save it, and I’m not setting a number for how many bins to have. Instead, I’m going through everything, and if I can remember what it was and what it tells about Mark, I’ll keep it. Heck, maybe I’ll even label it in case I forget eventually. I want Nicholas to have physical objects from his Daddy Mark, but they have to have meaning. If that takes 3 bins or 8, that’s what it will take.

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