The Healing Power of Packing…My Relationship With Boxes

21 years. That is how long I have lived in this house. That is how much “stuff” I have accumulated. I have never really taken stock of that “stuff” until it was time to move, to begin again, to start my next chapter. My home is filled with a multitude of boxes, packing tape, and loads of memories. The drawers and cabinets are like bottomless bowls of pasta…I had no idea I had this much stuff?!?!?! In my family, I was always the one most likely to “throw” in our little game of “keep or throw” (my kids will remember that game all too well)!moving-boxes

So much “stuff,” so little time. This is the only home either of my children has ever known. Even after the emotionally driven events of 11 years ago, I made a decision to do whatever I needed to do to hold onto this house for the sake of my kids and their memories. Yet, when I talked to each of them a month ago, now both living a few hours outside of Dallas, about the pending move, their responses surprised me.

While so much of the day-to-day occurrences of 11 years ago are still foggy for me, I clearly remember a phone conversation with a Deacon in our church and a story about an imaginary box that he shared with me. I had shared with him my angst amidst the shame and humiliation of the events occurring around the kids and I. In that conversation, I also shared a multitude of fears that I now had — some rational and some completely irrational. In his story, there was a box in my mind’s eye. It was a box with a lid that could clearly be taken off and on. I was to place that imaginary box on the highest shelf, in the farthest corner of my bedroom closet. As I sorted thru my fears and determined those things I could change and those that I could not, I was to place all of those things that I could not change into that box and replace the lid. But the box had a very clear rule: once I put something into the box, I had to leave it there. No revisiting it; no taking it back out in times of anxiety or hesitation. I followed the rules set by that story of my imaginary box for 11 years.

Yesterday, as I revisited memories from pictures I had forgotten I had, to documents that brought me back to that tumultuous time, I was reminded of that imaginary box and the trauma that had surrounded the filling of that box. To my children, I realized, that while this was their “childhood home,” it was still a home that had remnants of the difficult, unhappy “stuff.” Could that be the reason that, when I talked to each about the move they were happy and excited? No sentimental comments, no emotional outcries questioning my decision about their childhood home…just happiness, excitement and congratulatory well wishes. In fact, Alexa has been with us (she is home for the summer from college) a couple of times at the new house and she is more about which bedroom will be hers and which direction will her bed face. Hmmmmm, should I have done this years ago???

door frame measuring stickWhen Austin arrived yesterday for a few days in Dallas on this 3-day weekend, the first thing we did was to measure his height one last time on the doorframe of his childhood bedroom—a tradition we began in 2007. He smiled, we laughed at the memories captured by this doorframe and we talked about going to see the new house while he was in town. I looked for something in his eyes…sentiment, sadness, flashbacks? Nothing but happiness for Scott and I on our new venture.

So when he left to go visit with friends for the afternoon, I returned to my boxes but somehow, packing now felt different. I was purging the past, creating a new chapter in a life shared with Scott, building new memories in the home that will, hopefully, someday be filled with grandkids (but not too soon!). Don’t get me wrong. I still see my 1-year-old blue-eyed beauty in her bright blue headband on her birthday smearing birthday cake all over her face in our kitchen. I remember with a smile my 3-year-old “little man” on his pretend phone, pacing back in forth next to the stairs pretending he is on a business call. But I also see their precious 8 and 10-year-old faces sitting in the middle of my king-sized bed in the Master bedroom as I tried to explain why they would not see their biological father again. And I still remember lying on the marble floor in front of the fireplace on that February night just over11 years ago not wanting to be alive anymore, unable to fathom how I would move forward and take care of my children.

My girlfriend, Denay, texted me yesterday accidentally. Upon our brief exchange and telling her we were moving out of inspirational boxesthis home, she texted immediately back that packing boxes is good for the soul. She is a wise friend and I needed to hear that.

So, today I am back at packing those boxes, the garage is filling with a multitude of sealed boxes filled with “stuff,” and I am leaving one box behind. It is that box on the highest shelf, in the farthest corner of my bedroom closet.


Note from the SHE files: Packing boxes is good for the soul. It allows us to move forward and move on until that momentous day when we realize THERE IS NO BOX!


american flag

On another note:  Sending prayers, hugs and thanks to all of our soldiers, past and present, for their service to our country. Happy Memorial Day, SHE-friends!


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7 years ago

Thank you. I just moved – all those boxes! There is something to say about fresh beginnings and being forced to discard those things from the past that no longer lift us.

7 years ago

Thank you for sharing this Darlene. Good luck with the more. I wish you much happiness in the new house!

7 years ago

Loved that