One Man’s Box, Another Man’s Treasure


Every now and then I blow it. I do something that someone I love isn’t happy with. Not on purpose, mind you. Still the outcome is the same. I hate it when that happens, but human I am, so happen it will.

Last week’s cast of characters included my beloved brother Brad, and my photographer friend, Brian Fitzgerald. Both tops on my list of people I love, like, and admire.

In August, Brad was visiting and wielding a very cool looking pocket knife. When I admired it, he started to sing its praises, describing in great detail its features and benefits. This was no ordinary pocket knife.

The next thing I knew, he gave it to me. On the spot. “Here, Sis, you should have this knife.” I do find it handy to have a knife in my pocket and had recently lost mine. This was a stellar replacement and a gift from my brother. I was thrilled. “Thanks, Brad!”

Last Friday I was helping Brian organize his photography studio.Tall ceilings made it possible to store rarely used items up on a shelf about ten feet high, which included a fair number of empty boxes.

Brian and I have talked boxes before. How many do you keep? Where do you keep them and for how long? Every situation is different, however. I am NOT a fan of empty boxes. I see their use and value as temporary. Protection. Shipping. Rarely storage.

Cardboard boxes are the worst. They don’t hold up well over time or in damp environments. They attract bugs. And you can’t see into them.

It’s not uncommon for me to find folks keeping far more empty boxes than they will ever use. True, some may be useful someday, and some are pretty nice–think Apple products–but if they’re empty, they’re just taking up space. And something not being used at the end of the day is still clutter in my book.

Brian climbed up on the ladder and sorted through several dozen empty boxes. He kept maybe eight. I had my handy pocket knife ready to make short work of breaking the boxes down into a manageable pile of cardboard recycling. Now there was more space than boxes on that shelf and it was a thing of beauty.

I got home later to find that a padded envelope had arrived from my brother with a knife sharpener, a spare set of handles, and the original blue cardboard box the knife came in. The sharpener was the only thing I knew what to do with.

I called Brad and said I couldn’t imagine using a second set of handles. Didn’t he want them? “OK,” he said. “Save them for me and I’ll get them when I come up at Christmas.” I put the handles aside, the sharpener in my truck, and recycled the box.

A few days later I get a text from Brad, “Sis, can you send me the handles and the blue knife box USPS”? Uh oh, I thought. Handles, yes. Box, no. I double checked the garage and the recycling had already gone out. No blue box in sight.

Sigh. I know my brother still loves me, but he was NOT happy that I had tossed the box. We had never discussed it or its relative importance. The knife lived either in my pocket or on my dresser. I was not going to put it back in the box every day, nor was I going to store an empty box indefinitely. It was a no brainer, I thought, wasn’t it?

In this age of online shopping, having a system for box management is a good idea. Brian has a place for his boxes in sight, yet out of the way. I don’t keep boxes for long once I’m happy with my purchases. Recycling boxes at our house is like composting food scraps. It can be a daily occurrence.

The lesson for me is that some people value the original containers (Brad), some of us not as much (Brian), and some of us not at all (Bettina).

I’m really sorry, Brad. I love my knife. I love the quality, and I think of you every time I use it. Next time I’ll check first before tossing a box.

Still, it’s a great life, simplified. 🙂

Bettina Blanchard

About Bettina Blanchard

It’s not what we have, it’s what we do that makes life fun. Professional organizer, business owner, radio show host, accordion player, I love to live and write about finding the balance between having and doing.