It happened one week ago during the February break from school when I finally had the time to tackle unpacking the pile of boxes and bags that had been sitting in the corner of my room since the move in October. They each contained a mish-mosh of last minute packing - tacks, bobby pins, the necklace I was wearing before the day before the move, a box of items from the desk of the job I'd left over a year ago. Though I had been in my new apartment for over four months I'd yet to feel like I was really settled here and I blamed that pile.
I began on a Monday and over the next 24 hours I sorted, tossed and put away the items in the boxes. There were things I'd wondered why I bothered to keep and so I put them into bags destined for Goodwill. Others made their way directly to the trash bag, including some actual trash that I'd stuffed into a canvas bag at the end of the day. There were some delightful surprises as well, forgotten pictures, a pair of earrings that I'd been missing since I left my old job and notes from a close friend.
It was after the box of office items that I realized what had just happened. I'd flattened the now empty box and stuffed it into the recycling bin on the porch. I came back inside to stand in the doorway of my room, hand on hips, surveying my space when it hit me. I'd just unpacked The Last Box.
In all of my adult years, in all of the places I have lived there has always been a Last Box. With each move the box and it's contents changed but there has always been one that bore the title. The one full of things I didn't quite know what to do with so I never really unpacked it or I would become so tired of unpacking I just gave up leaving one box unopened. The box would be shoved to the back of the closet where it sits, forgotten until I move again.
One year, two years, elevens years later it's discovery always leads to exclamations among my friends of, "Oh I have one of those boxes too. Ten years it's been in my closet..." and "oh, so THAT's where my grapefruit spoon went" from me.
Perhaps we all have a Last Box...but for now my Last Box is no more. For the first time in my adult life I have a fairly accurate mental accounting of my Stuff. When I look around my room I see an excess of books, craft supplies, beach rocks, general clutter and too many pictures but no boxes. There is no mystery of, "Didn't I once have a (insert item here)?" only to have it turn up years later when the Last Box is pulled from its hiding place.
I am sure there is some psychological explanation for all of those Last Boxes; something to do with commitment issues, or maybe needing to feel like one's options are always open, or perhaps it's just due to the frustrations that come from moving but I do know one thing. With the Last Box gone I do feel more settled. My space actually has SPACE and maybe I'm finally beginning to feel, at least within the walls of my room, like I'm at home.