wherein I define my treasures

My friend Elizabeth has followed our Life Planning journey for about 4 years now and has been an active participant in our decision to downsize, and an enormous cheerleader. She is also playing the curious spectator. Many people are. Over the last few months, many friends and family members have asked questions from “why?” to “can I have your vitamix?”  Just last week, Elizabeth asked what do we do when Himself wants to get rid of something and I don’t, and vice versa? I told her that hadn’t really happened yet. Then within 24 hours of that call I see Himself carrying these wooden crates to the trash. Whoa, hold the phone. I chased him out there and asked what his plans were for my crates? Blank stare.

I guess it is fair since 20 years ago I tossed his ammo boxes that played TV stand when we were first married. Revenge is sweet, even 20 years later.  But it got me to thinking. Why did I feel so inclined to rescue these crates, they are just crates for cryin’ out loud.  There’s a story, and maybe that is what I was clinging to more so than the worthless crates.

Twenty eight years ago I was driving past a house in our neighborhood in south NJ, when I spotted dozens and dozens of these crates on the curb. I thought, wow these would be perfect for carting my stuff too and from college and they are much cooler that the coveted milk crates everyone else was stealing from the local Wawa and Cumberland stores. I drove back home and got my brother Rob and we went back to get the crates. When we got there, the garage door was open and we could see some kind of brew-ha-ha going on with a bunch of old Italian guys. They were loud and raucous, and once we saw there was no dead body in cement boots, we approached.

Once close, we could see that these guys were stomping grapes to make wine and having a grand old time for themselves. They waved us in while we explained that we were interested in the crates for our dorm rooms. “Take as many as you want,” they said, “we are making wine for our restaurant, we do it every year.” Then we figured out they owned the Italian restaurant in town that had a pretty good reputation, which is an accomplishment in a town of mostly Italians, who at every holiday argue whose Nonna makes the best meatballs and gravy.

As we waved goodbye shouting many thanks, we loaded as many crates into my car as we could fit and drove off.  A waft of fresh cut lumber soon filled the car, which always reminds us of our Dad,  and I can remember how thrilled we were with our find.  Rob and I both used those crates to stack as book shelves, bedside tables, and cart our belongings to and from college. Mine even followed me to and from Germany. Many times I had plans for those crates, plans of little tables, or bookshelves, or stools, but those never happened, they remained in our basement filled with junk and old video tapes.

As I toss, sell, and give my things away, I am learning more and more what a true treasure is. A true treasure is not the item, but the memories it evokes.  Memories are the treasures, the only real things we can ever possess and take to eternity. And as I grow old, there is a risk of losing those too.  Those crates conjure the memories of that humid Jersey night and the happy grape-stained Italian guys drinking wine right from the bottles of the previous year’s vintage, hanging out with my brother, the fresh scent of lumber, and the many ways we used those crates for almost three decades. I am grieving every item I let go, because once lost as a physical reminder of the memories, will I lose those precious memories too?  So I took a picture, told my story here, shed too many ridiculous tears, and watched the crates go, all the while tucking those memories deep in my thoughts that they may never be lost.

But there is a twist. There is always a twist. The trash men took all but one crate.

Uva di Collina lives!


  1. Posted June 27, 2014 at 12:04 PM | Permalink

    What a thoughtful, heartfelt and beautiful post!

    • Robin Sue
      Posted June 27, 2014 at 12:35 PM | Permalink

      Thank you Joan. This is very hard.

  2. Posted June 27, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

    I understand every move you are going through. I have been there. My brother gave me words of comfort after our parents died and we sold our childhood home. Susan, he said, we still have the memories that is so much more important and tangible gifts. Hold onto the memories. They are priceless and share them with your children. Everything else is just not that important anymore. Hugs.

    • Robin Sue
      Posted June 27, 2014 at 6:15 PM | Permalink

      Selling our childhood home was hard too, I still dream of it! Memories are gifts.

  3. Dibs on the Vitamix
    Posted June 27, 2014 at 1:14 PM | Permalink

    Those boxes stayed with me a looong time, too. But one spring cleaning day, “Herself” tossed them, too. There was something about those boxes, wasn’t there?

    Funny thing, I saw a completed listing on Ebay for one “Vintage Papagni Wine Grapes Wooden Shipping Crate”. It went for ~$20. Vintage– in more ways than one!


    • Robin Sue
      Posted June 27, 2014 at 6:16 PM | Permalink

      I did see a few too, and gift cards and posters made from the photos of them. Crazy!

  4. jenn in GA
    Posted June 27, 2014 at 1:41 PM | Permalink

    i was going to suggest that you keep one, and the trash guys beat me to it! yay! you’ll find a way to make it useful, i’m sure.

    • Robin Sue
      Posted June 27, 2014 at 6:16 PM | Permalink

      I will be sure to find a good use so that it does not end up in the trash again:)

  5. Posted June 27, 2014 at 10:28 PM | Permalink

    It was meant to be (the left crate). 🙂

    Photos and writings – keep doing it. Good for you and those who will read them later.

  6. Posted June 28, 2014 at 1:43 PM | Permalink

    If it were up to my husband he’d throw everything out – and I want to keep everything! Glad you have at least one! 😀

  7. Rindyr
    Posted June 30, 2014 at 8:05 AM | Permalink

    This is adorable! I could smell the lumber as I was reading! This post is so timely for me – as my mom will be at my house mid July to help me do a major clean to my basement. I think my mantra will be “Keep the memories, throw the box”! Thank you Thank you!

    • Robin Sue
      Posted June 30, 2014 at 8:28 AM | Permalink

      Thanks Rindy! You and your mom will have fun singing your mantra!!

  8. Sabrina
    Posted July 7, 2014 at 11:20 AM | Permalink

    Robin,thank you for sharing your journey. I am so happy you shared your treasured memories here. This serves as a motivation for me to continue to downsize and simplify. All your blood, sweat and tears will be worth it. Please share with us how happy and content you are afterwards so we can share in that too.

    • Robin Sue
      Posted July 9, 2014 at 10:27 AM | Permalink

      Thanks Sabrina! I can’t wait to get to the other side of this!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All posts are moderated.


  • 10,080 Minutes - BRK Book The story of our dramatic lifestyle makeover and journey for living what matters.

    10,080 Minutes - Daniel and Robin Joss