The battle of the boxes

Oct. 5 , 2009

by Ivan Raconteur

The problem with cardboard boxes is that they multiply spontaneously when no one is looking.

I have been ensconced in the new bachelor pad for nine months, and I still have boxes to unpack.

I have been through all of the boxes once, and unpacked or consolidated many, but the supply in the spare bedroom seems to have reached a sort of equilibrium. I am still removing boxes, but the pile doesn’t seem to get any smaller.

I am starting to think that for every box I unpack, two more mysteriously appear overnight.

There is some satisfaction, however, in knowing that I am not the only one with box issues.

A group of colleagues and I were hanging around the fun shop on a recent Friday afternoon, conducting an important committee meeting.

One young lady indicated that she would have to leave early to unpack boxes from her recent move. She said some of the boxes have been hauled around unopened through several previous changes of residence, dating back to the day she struck out on her own and left her parents rejoicing on the front stoop.

One of the gentlemen present expressed the view that she had plenty of time, because unpacking boxes is a project that can be spread out over a period of many years.

He noted that he still has boxes that have not been unpacked since he built his house.

He took a drink of a fermented beverage, and added, with an air of mild frustration, that he has moved those boxes back and forth about 15 times during an ongoing remodeling project.

“If we haven’t missed this stuff in four years, I’m sure we could get rid of at least half of it and never miss it,” he commented.

Many people I consulted admitted to having a stash of boxes containing items that have not seen the light of day for years, possibly sufficient to constitute a fire hazard. Others denied having such a collection, but said they have lived with someone who does.

The consensus among observers was that it is best to dispose of these mystery boxes without looking inside them.

If one opens the boxes, there is a danger that one might be overcome by a wave of sentimental attachment to the contents, and will be unable to part with them.

The disposition of mystery boxes is not always a simple, matter.

Sometimes, disagreements about the treasures can lead to domestic discussions of a warm and lively nature.

For example, one day, the fellow who moved the boxes 15 times during the remodeling project asked his wife if they could get rid of some of the stuff, and if they really needed all those boxes of knickknacks.

She replied tersely that she had started a garage sale box, and pointed to a tiny, unobtrusive box in the corner.

She also informed the fellow that they did, in fact, need the knickknacks, and if he would get busy and finish the built-in shelving he was supposed to be working on, she would have a place to put them.

One has to be so careful what one asks.

To be fair, though, the debates over what is vital and what isn’t can go both ways.

Some guys possess a collection of artifacts from their first apartment, or from their glory days in college, squirrelled away in the garage or attic.

A guy knows perfectly well that there is no way his wife or girlfriend is ever going to let him deploy these treasures in any house that she lives in, but he keeps them just the same.

She says he should throw them in the nearest dumpster at the earliest opportunity, but he just shakes his head sadly and says she doesn’t understand.

These situations illustrate one of the basic truths of domestic cohabitation.

Women won’t allow men to display things that they, the men, find beautiful, but men are expected to put up with a house full of things that we find foreign and repugnant, simply because a woman says it must be so.

During the above mentioned meeting, the woman who had moved described how she had lectured her new husband on the difference between candles that are for burning, and candles that are for decoration.

The men in the assembly stared dumbly at her following this revelation, standing with their mouths open like a school of trout loafing in the current of a slow-moving stream.

We don’t understand such things. Ours is a practical nature. If a thing is made of wax and contains a wick, we reason, it must be for burning. No technical explanation to the contrary will convince us otherwise.

The same applies to fancy soap and towels.

As far as men are concerned, soap is for washing. We don’t see any point in having dishes of soap in cute little shapes that we are not allowed to use cluttering up the place. And, if you don’t want us to use a towel to dry our hands, don’t leave it hanging next to the sink.

We all have our little idiosyncrasies when it comes to our possessions, and most of us are probably going to continue living with a box or two of things with which we are not quite ready to part, no matter how impractical they may be.

Therefore, anyone who wishes to have peace in the home may find it necessary to adopt a live-and-let-live attitude toward the prized possessions of his (or her) housemates.

It seems inevitable that the boxes, at least in some quantity, are here to stay, whether we like it or not.