16 Boxes

Nest for sale

Almost everyday we hear somebody say “I live vicariously through you” or  “I wish we could do what you’re doing.”
As inviting as it may seem, it’s probably not the lifestyle for everybody.

There is actually quite a commitment to chucking it all and becoming a gypsy. It takes a dash of nerve and a pinch of intestinal fortitude to get rid of everything you own except a handful of personal items that can be fit into a few boxes.

16 boxes to be exact. 30 years of marriage and three kids later, we’re whittled down to 16 boxes, most them in storage. Many of these boxes are tagged to go directly to the kids when they are more settled, and some, containing photo albums and baby clothes will not be opened for years.

We no longer own a stick of furniture, an appliance or a bit of clothing we are not planning to wear in the near future (including those skinny jeans that were hanging around as incentive). It is amazingly freeing and, at the same time, a little bit frightening.

What is it about boxes, bubble-wrap and packing tape that drags us down Memory Lane?

Back when we were readying for our GypsyNester adventure, I was sorting through baby clothes that I couldn’t bear to part with; a sweet little black and white dress that our girls, The Piglet and Decibel, both wore; a jumper with an appliquéd Scottie dog, handmade by David’s mother, that each of her four sons and The Boy had donned on special occasions.

As I was packing, the boxes were taunting me. They had surrounded me with bubble-wrap, packing tape and intimidation. They made our upcoming adventure a bit too real.

“A change is ahead,” the boxes mocked, knowing I have issues with change.

I was no longer a Mommy, but a long distance mother. I no longer woke up in the middle of the night to breastfeed a sweet-breathed newborn, forced myself to stay awake waiting on an boundary-pushing teenager flirting with her curfew or had to be up at the crack of dawn to shuttle the brood to school. If I was up late – or early – it was merely because felt like it. Or I had to pee.

“Why is this so daunting?” I asked the boxes.

They simply sat there offering no answers. Apparently, boxes only pose questions.

The boxes continued to nag:

“You have no plans!” It appears that the boxes were also aware that I was the embodiment of preparedness.

Even though our plan as GypsyNesters is no plans, the boxes’ statement was thought provoking. Stupid boxes, making me think about stuff.

It is true that I am, deep down to my core, a planner. Years ago I came across a poem my mother wrote that beautifully, yet truthfully, described me. It spoke of a child who looked so forward to upcoming events, meticulously preparing for every moment, that when the big day arrived she was always let down. It’s high time that kid is sent to her room without supper.

I firmly believe this propensity for planning served me well in the parenting department. I made lists, charts and schematic diagrams to keep track of ballet rehearsals, baseball games, concert practices and flying lessons. I would scotch tape the kids’ schedule to the glove compartment of our minivan.

But the time has come, dear boxes, for the obsessive planning to end. The plan is for you to be in storage – no matter how much you whine, plead or intimidate.

“What about our precious cargo,” they asked as I bubble-wrap the living crap out of an heirloom teacup, “don’t you care about ANYTHING anymore?”

This answer was easy. The stuff in the boxes had been gathering dust on shelves or buried in drawers for quite some time. Not exactly daily-use-type stuff. This was the history of us, my husband and our children, our parents and grandparents, mementos of lives lived.

No one in our family is at a point where Memory Lane is a street in their city, much less neighborhood. And David and I certainly aren’t going to live there. I’ll revisit Memory Lane when I’m really old, surrounded once again by these mocking boxes, a crotchety old lady with too many stories to tell, willing to recount them to anyone who will listen.

I also know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the photo albums, grandma’s china and books I treasured as a child remain precious. Someday, perhaps one of my daughters, a grandson or a curious anthropologist – or space alien – will cherish my keepsakes just as I have.

But for now, you 16 boxes, it’s time for you to shut up and keep my memories safe in the dark, cool recesses of a storage building.

‘Cause I’m outta here.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

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  23. We have also downsized since our twin daughters became college-aged. No other children, so after 20+ years of marriage, we finally reduced our excess in return for precious time for each other and for settling back to watch our daughters’ new lives as young adults! We love to travel, and would like to make it more permanent, but my question to you is: what is the financial trick that you follow in order to keep traveling, and does a job fit in? Is the blog and/or sponsors supportive? Thanks! You’re both an inspiration!

  24. We are discussing selling our home and taking a year to travel rtw. I am so excited to find your blog as comments show that it is a good one. BUT please tell me how to navigate your blog. I was hoping to go chronologically but I cannot find a clue to how it is organized.
    Many thanks- I look forward to reading. (Also I am curious for dates of you travel experiences)

  25. I have been de-cluttering as we will be downsizing soon,so lots of stuff has to go. I have asked my daughter if she will eventually want some of my memory things and she has said she doesn’t think so but I think that’s because she has no children yet and she will change her mind eventually. Once you have finished all your travels it will be lovely to look into your boxes once more.

  26. Great & inspiring post, as has already been said 29 times. I’m with the person who has the motor home & the home base. Love travel but also enjoy my ‘things’.
    Cheers from Melbourne, Australia.

  27. I love reading your blog! We have 4 children the last is in college. We built our home 33 years ago with the thought in mind that the children would grow up and we would have large family gatherings there. But as time has passed on, one is in Calif. one is wanting to move to Washington the state, and one is planning to leave Georgia in the near future and our last will always be with us she has autism and won’t ever marry or have her own children soooo with that said we have realized that the dream we had was just that OUR dream not our childrens. They struggled at first with the idea of us selling the house they all grew up in but realized that we can’t stay so this spring the house goes on the market and we are currently living in a 32 foot travel trailer (close to the new grandbaby) of course! We are planning for the day my husband retires and we hit the road to wherever! We don’t have a plan other than to enjoy the rest of life together….those boxes are going to be daunting me as well. I figured if the kids live all over the country we will always have some place to land for a little while at least. Hope you and David have many more adventures! Take care and keep inspiring us!

    PS. Food for thought! What better memento’s to leave your children and generations to come than memories of the love and commitment and journeys you two have shared on this life you adventure you are sharing! I am sure they will treasure the videos and stories you leave behind alot more than any item those 16 boxes could ever hold!

    1. Hey Veronica and James. I can totally relate to your 16 boxes and I am still stationery in one place w/ 2 elderly parents and a daughter, son-in-law, and two precious grandchildren. I’m pushing 60 and have 3 suitcase’s w/ very modest clothes and supplies, ready to go, when the time is right for me. It may not be on the path where you all have been, but it will be my path. I keep precious letters and handwritten notes in my Bible that of course will go w/ me and I’m not waiting for funeral’s. ha! There are Agencies and good Caregiver’s. All worldly possession’s will go to my daughter and granddaughter’s. I have never been comforted by ”stuff” and prefer the freedom. They can keep what they want, sell what they want, that’s my gift. I honestly prefer traveling the USA, because there are so many things I have seen, but so many I’ve yet and want to see. I can part w/ ”stuff” and I will always visit and keep up w/ my family. I never want to be selfish and if I’m needed I will go, but until that…I have my 3, 4 suitcases ready for living.

  28. As you said, baby steps. My New Year’s resolution this year is to give away one thing every day. Sometimes it’s easy (why on earth are we still hanging onto last year’s Halloween pumpkin we never got around to carving?) and sometimes it’s not so easy (those size 8 jeans). But at 6 weeks and counting, the box is getting heaving and the weight on me is getting lighter. (And gee, that helps with the Lose 10 lbs. resolution too!) 🙂

  29. Oh my word! After living 30 years in the same home and being an antique collector — If I sold/gave away my crap — I could afford to travel like you two guys! I ADMIRE you and love hearing of all your wonderful adventures while I sit here surrounded by a lot of “stuff”!

  30. This essay resonates. For reasons I won’t bore you with here, I’ve done 4 moves/downsizes in the past 18 months: two for my husband and me and two for my parents. In the last one for my 86 year old mother, she refused to make any decisions, forcing me to figure out what we could move or store and what had to be donated or otherwise disposed of. So, kudos for not leaving that for your children—-or at least not all of it. Given my experiences and after reading your post, I think we should get started digitizing the old family photos.

    1. Suzanne – you are SO right! Have to admit, I hadn’t thought about it quite like that, but have helped out with quite a few downsizings like that in my time as well. The biggest was my beloved Grandfather’s – not only was his home filled with his life, but he had inherited his house from his parents – and it still had all of their precious things too! Quite the experience. -Veronica

  31. Before you convince yourself that the boxes you so lovingly labeled for the kids will meet their desired end, you might want to check with them. We had boxes labeled just as you have thinking these were things our kids would cherish upon their final receipt. Wrong! When we casually mentioned that we were saving these mementos for them the response was “Why? We sure don’t want that junk!” What we thought held wonderful memories for them turned out to be only in our minds, not theirs. You could whittle down your 16 boxes if you discuss their contents with those so named kids.

    1. Dan – I’ve had that exact thought nagging at the edges of my mind. I remember getting boxes from my own mother when she deemed me “settled down” and wondered what the heck she was thinking. Thanks for the heads up – I will eventually get to that point I’m sure. Baby steps. -Veronica

  32. So brave! We were going to move upon retirement, but it was just toooo daunting. Bought a motor home instead and went camping. Still have home as a base. Kids may be the ones to clean it out…..don’t tell them…….

  33. Very impressive, and I am slowly whittling down, but I still have many many more boxes than I can count and certainly more than 16. Still, I would love to go through and organize and label… such an important and necessary process!

  34. I got very teary after reading this. I have whittled things down in these past 7 years after a divorce. First I moved to a smaller place, now I’ve moved to another province for work. I’ve let go of a lot of things but the special items are boxed. I’m hoping one day I’ll find the place I plan to stay in for more than just a few years. Then maybe some of my books will see the light of day again.

    I love to read about your adventures don’t think it’s the life for me. But, would love to head to a few of the places you have been to see for myself. One day I’ll get to do this, I hope.

    For now I keep up with your blog, FB and twitter. Sorry if that sound like I’m a stalker really I’m not. lol

    1. Dianne – so sweet! Thanks so much for making my day. And I won’t hold the “stalking” against you – as long as you check in and let us know how YOU are doing every once in a while! 😉 -Veronica

  35. Good for you, it must have taken quite a bit of restraint to whittle down that much. I’m a big planner, too, but in the end we need to recognize that we aren’t in control. I wonder, if like me, you’ll find that the ‘plan’ will fall into place once you strike out. In the meantime, you can do mini-plans on a weekly or seasonal level. Good luck, can’t wait to keep up with your adventures!

  36. Odd that in reading this article I had to ask myself, “Will you ever get to this point without children?” Of course, the question arises due to fertile abilities and my love of children :-)… Will I ever enter into the Gypsy Nester’s lifestyle, or will I always allow my joy to unfold through children and messy smiles?

    We have moved so many times over the course of years that we have labeled ourselves gypsies, just not empty nester’s, as our little people are with us all of the time, with our youngest being 3yrs of age. Over this time we have seen and been through many trials and tribulations. We have ran many a race with our little ones hanging on to our pant/skirt hems and looking back to make sure we didn’t lose one while jumping over that next hurdle.

    One day, realistically, I know that everyone will be gone in due season. But honestly, I am not looking toward that moment, as I am saddened by the idea that one day I will be an empty nester. I have received my rewards in life and if I could I would stack them on my proverbial mantle in chronological order, but my children won’t sit still on a couch, much less a mantle… lol!

    Memories are stored away in my heart and shared through stories told. I don’t have anything to share with my children, other than pics and hugs, text messages and delicious meals coupled with stories of childhood adventures.

    Most items were destroyed in a fire, thrown away by a family member who said they would ship our items to us once we moved (he threw them away), or lost in moving. I do wish I had baby pics of my older children, but I don’t. Of course, they would love to see themselves crawling around with their bare-bums. I think about those bare-bums, too. I now have nothing to show their future wives. Crud… that is going to make for boring meet-the-fam-dinners. 🙂

    I helped my family clear out my dad’s stuff when he passed. Sadly, it was heart wrenching for me, but I watched as they just threw it all away, boxed it up and donated it, or just left it behind. I realized then, if not before, that my stuff was only important to me.

    Right now, I write from a small apartment that is laden with nothing but tons of love and a fridge full of delicious snacks, leave it to the food to keep folks happy. Seriously, I am in love with the lifestyle of being a gypsy-empty-nester.

    I have taught myself over the years to let go of the stuff and just keep the memories in my heart and my mind. From time to time I write things down in a journal labeled for each child, I post to a private blog that I share with a few folk so they can see what I thought was awesome about them being in my life. I also try my best to tell them all of the time, sometimes too much, that I love them with all of my heart.

    So, for my hubby and myself, we are gypsies with our chillin’ in tow.

    Gypsy Nester’s…. I love ya!!!

  37. What you have done is brave, amazing and just plain damn fun. I am slowly emptying a 4 bedroom house and dreaming of something small so we can travel. Thanks for making it look, well, rather easy.

  38. We have been married 25 years as well are in the transition to doing the same kind of downsizing prior to moving to Belize. Have about that many boxes at my Mom’s house filled with pictures, homemade items from grandparents and parents, and other memories. Sadly, we have no children to pass these onto, but I figure I’ll take ’em with me to assisted living one day and enjoy the memories. Right now we’re having fun making new memories!

  39. Oh Veronica you are my inspiration! This piece got me teary eyed, thinking about my baby graduating from high school in the spring, and the stuff I have accumulated along the way. I am however totally commited to downsizing when he leaves for college next fall,(have started working on it early) girl keep it coming because you are my inspiration along my journey to the big empty nest which I am looking forward to:) (after I shed a few more tears I am sure)

  40. 16 boxes btween 2 of u? Weird, cuz I saved 8, I am one.(person) & ya know we cud dump more! darn photos… hehe

  41. I have been talking about getting rid of everything except a few clothes and dishes. I have gotten rid of lots. The things to pass on to the kids are packed but they want us to store them. I wish they’d take them now so I’d feel free.

  42. Veronica! This sounds so exciting, liberating and…free! May you gather many precious memories in the future! Things to share with friends and family through words and thoughts and NOT to be kept away in more boxes for storage!

  43. I so admire you for whittling down that far and I’m glad you’re free!

    My shrinking story’s in its’ beginning stages, with a few bulk-up incidents to impede its’ progress!

  44. This sounds good to me. We have eight years to go, as far as I know right now, before we could afford to chuck it all and be gypsies. That is if we have any retirement money in our account by that time.

    My dream is to live on a boat in the Keys. A good galley, some clothes, little else. I’m keeping the good sheets though, and I’m loathe to lose our records, dinosaurs that they are.

    -sigh- I wish it could be now. Right now. Best of luck to you Veronica. I hope you will gather us around your campfire here and tell us true stories of the free and easy life till we can join you.


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