Tuesday, January 20, 2015

No Scary Boxes

Jeremy and I are packing. We are having our apartment painted soon. We are having beautiful new shelving and dressers custom made. We are getting some new rugs and furniture. We are having some of our old furniture refinished.

We are re-purposing some of our old furniture. One of our shelves is being turned on its side, placed on the rug and turned into a coffee table. I’m looking for a beautiful fabric runner to put on top. I got the idea from an article I saw on Twitter.

We are going to IKEA.

Walls are not being taken down. Nothing structural is happening. But rooms that were used for one thing will be used for another. Hannah and Noah will each have their own rooms.

This is a big deal.

Jeremy and I are assessing our possessions. There are four categories that our possessions fit into.

Some possessions are still good, but we don't want them anymore. One of our criteria for keeping things is that the item be relevant to us at this time in our lives. So we have given some things to extended family members. The majority of things that we are giving away are going to a huge, sparkling clean Salvation Army in the Bronx.

Some possessions are in such sorry condition that not only do we not want them, but we strongly suspect no one else would. These possessions are thrown away.

There is a small collection of items that Jeremy sets aside to sell. These are vinyl records and CDs that he no longer likes. He goes to record stores and sells them, then recycles the money to buy new music that he does like.

Then there are the things we've decided to keep.

This is a special group of items. Jeremy and I are generally on the same page about this. He's a little more loosey-goosey about it, and I'm more decisive and ruthless. But we do meet in the middle.

The wonderful part about all of this is that all of the possessions we are keeping will have a beautiful place to go. Books. An enormous collection of CDs. Things that speak to each of our children at this point in their lives. Things we use on a regular basis. Things I'm re-discovering. Things we treasure.

There are also things that we don't treasure exactly but we need to save for tax purposes or whatnot. That stuff will go neatly in the closet.

I made a decision early on in our packing process and am happy I did. It's turned into a mantra.

No Scary Boxes. This is not something we are hoping to accomplish. It is more than that. It is a packing lifestyle.

No Scary Boxes means a number of things. When Jeremy and I started packing possessions we wanted to do so in an organized fashion. Naturally, there is a binder devoted to the packed possessions.

Every box of packed possessions is numbered, which correlates to a special list that tells us what items are in the box. In addition, I've developed a three level system that ranks the box by urgency. A red dot means that we need to unpack this box ASAP. A green dot box gets unpacked after the red dot boxes are unpacked. The yellow dot boxes are the least urgent.

The yellow dot boxes contain things like beautiful art books. No one needs a book about Cezanne or artisans in Brooklyn. No one is having a Raymond Carver emergency.

The yellow dot boxes may be the least urgent but the most fun.

I would like to mention that there is a clear plastic pencil case inside of the binder of boxed possessions that holds post it notes, ballpoint pens and Sharpies.

Jeremy and I got a storage unit at a new facility in the neighborhood. This is where we bring our boxes of packed possessions. One of the ways Jeremy upholds the No Scary Boxes lifestyle is by keeping our storage unit really neat and organized. This is not the type of storage unit where you unlock it and a shoe falls on your head.

There are the No Scary Boxes things we are doing now, and the No Scary Boxes things we will do in the future. We are not going to be bringing all of the boxes back to our apartment at once, after the paint job is complete, the carpet installed and the furniture in place. We will not be bringing them back in a willy-nilly, random fashion.

It will be more like this. What do you want to unpack today? Should we unpack the cookbooks? Okay, let's bring back boxes 10 through 12 and number 55. Then another day, it will be boxes 90 - 100. And so on.

We have an eye toward our future experience when we embrace No Scary Boxes. We have enough on our plates. We don't need to be unpacking any box with a sense of dread. Dread that comes from not liking what's in there, but being unable to let go. Dread that comes from having packed something that feels unmanageable. Dread that comes from simply putting things in a box and deferring the decision making process by procrastination. Dread that comes from a random and disparate collection of items that don't have a home. Dread that comes from a guilty place.

Some boxes are straight forward and never had the potential to become scary anyway. Boxes of alphabetized music. Boxes of files that can go into deep storage, and boxes of files still active. A box of special children's books we want to save.

But there's another box that could have been scary but isn't. This box contains my children’s baby books and loose photographs of Hannah and Noah. The baby books are all partially filled out. The photographs in this box are not in albums.

If you asked me what kind of mom I would turn out to be early in motherhood, I would have predicted that I’d be the kind of mom who would fill out the baby books all the way. I also would have predicted that I’d be the kind of mom that would put photographs of my children in albums.

Indeed, I was this kind of mom. My prediction turned out to be correct – in the beginning.

When Jacob was born I filled out the baby book I received for my shower. I painstakingly recorded every milestone. This baby book extends until the age of three. Jacob died when he was two and a half.  So I have this unfinished baby book.

Jeremy and I chose beautiful baby books for Hannah and Noah. Even though these children are healthy and just kept growing and growing, the baby book notations stopped before the end of the books.

The photo albums took a similar course. Until Noah was about three the albums are populated with beautifully organized photographs, complete with captions. Then that stopped too.

We continued to take photographs of the children. We continued to make note of their milestones. I continued to be interested in being the kind of mom who finishes baby books and photo albums. I especially enjoy captioning.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I became busy with the stuff that all moms get busy with as well as some less commonplace stuff. If you are just joining me now, I wear and have worn a lot of hats.

The truth is that I could have made time to fill out the books and fill the photo albums. At each opportunity, I chose to do something else instead. I chose to chaperone a whole bunch of field trips, when my children were young. I chose to be available at the drop of a hat for them to confide in me as they got older.

I chose to be outside at the playground when my son desperately needed to run around, and a source of company for my daughter when it was time for her to choose high school art supplies. She was capable of doing this on her own, but didn’t want to. So we made it a fun outing.

At the end of a long day, I chose to read a magazine while drinking a glass of wine after my kids were in bed. Now that they are older, I choose to watch TV shows we all enjoy. I take care of myself so I can get up to do it all over again with a smile.

When I packed the box of unfinished baby books and unsorted photos, I remembered all of the important things I was able to sort out. I saw my parental accomplishments splayed out and clear. Suddenly, I didn’t feel badly about my unfinished projects.

I reverently put the envelopes, books, and empty photo albums in the box. I labeled it with a sense of respect. Now that they’re out of my apartment, I have all kinds of ideas for the pictures I didn’t have before. I have been able to change course when necessary and this box is no exception. That’s the kind of mom I am.

Our storage unit piled with non-scary boxes

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