The Most Important Things will Fit in a Shoebox

Services for Real Estate Pros

Karen GeorgeJune 11th, 2012: I am editing this post and reposting it as a "public" ActiveRain post, over a year later. The original private posting on ActiveRain was the best way for me to cry out loud, That's it. Unexpectedly, I received more support than you can image from right here in the Rain.


George Carlin once opined that all Americans are concerned about is getting "more stuff"...about how our lives are consumed with getting "more stuff" at every possible moment. 

About a year ago, I moved out of my home. I was moving to a smaller place, so much of my house had to be boxed up and put into storage.

Realizing that I was going to have to part with a lot of my "stuff", I started organizing my life in order of that which was most important to me.

I organized everything into three piles:

1. Stuff that I can take or leave: my KitchenAid mixer, lots of unfinished hobby projects, power tools

2. Stuff that I really need to keep: business files, computer, my bed

3. Stuff that I absolutely cannot live without.

Makes sense, right?

The biggest problem was sorting piles 1 and 2.

Pile three was another story. This was for stuff I just couldn't live without. Pile three was my pry-it-out-of-my-dead-hands pile. No matter what, pile three items will stay with me at all times, for the rest of my life. 

Pile three is non-negotiable.

Like many of you reading this, I thought pile three would be the hardest; but turned out to be the easiest.

I had originally given myself one large U-Haul box to hold all of my most precious things. You know, the boxes that stand about 3 feet tall and about 2 feet wide? Come "hell or high water", I was going to get all of my most important stuff from a 2500 square foot house into that one box. It would be tough, but I was determined to figure it out.

It turned out to be much easier than I thought. In fact, I learned a very valuable life lesson that day.

This is what I ended up saving in my "can't live without" pile. In order of importance:

1. My dearly departed wife's ashes. Not the whole urn, but a pocket-sized version for easy totability. I can hold it in my hand easily; it's a little bigger than a roll of quarters.

2. The cards she gave me on every one of our wedding anniversaries-- seven cards total.

3. My favorite picture of her, which is actually attached to this post.

4. My grandmother's crucifix and St. Christopher's medal-- a Catholic powerhouse combination.

5. Paperwork: My marriage certificate, my U.S. passport, my college degrees, and my birth certificate. 

That's it. That's my entire "pile three". It turns out that I never needed a big box. I know this sounds corny as all get-out, and I understand that. But I'm not being corny! My mind processed exactly like this: "If I had rags on my body, and nothing more, what could I hold in my hands?"

The most important things in my life, that which I absolutely could not live without, based on my own requirements-- all fit into one tiny shoebox, with some room to spare. A padded, legal-sized envelope would have worked just as well.

And when it all comes down to it, I bet you could fit your most beloved things into a shoebox also.

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Comments (38)

Rosalie Evans
Meritus Group Real Estate - Sioux Falls, SD
The Evans Group, Sioux Falls, SD Homes For Sale

That is a adorable picture.....I can definately see why its your favorite. Sorry for your loss. I wonder if my husband would say such sweet things if I was gone.

Apr 27, 2011 07:53 AM
James Locklear
Online Marketing Advertising Consultant - Seattle, WA
Social Media Training , Virtual Services, Search Engine Optimization Lattitude - SEOL

That was concise, succinct and, it certainly appears, fits in the small corner of the box!  Thoroughly enjoyed it Michael.

Apr 27, 2011 08:11 AM
Bill Gillhespy
16 Sunview Blvd - Fort Myers Beach, FL
Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos

Hi Michael,  Didn't know this would be an emotional roller coaster !  Great life lesson.  Sorry to hear of your wifes' passing !

Apr 27, 2011 08:33 AM
Tricia DeSouza
HomeSmart - Scottsdale, AZ
Selling Scottsdale Luxury

This post is wonderful. My husband and I talk all the time about "getting back to the basics." This is when we cut out all the excess negative in our life and get into a healthy workout routine, healthy eating, organized/decluttered life. If I had to pick up everything important to me and move tomorrow I would only need my husband, our cat, and legal docs you mentioned above. Funny thing is... my cat takes up a shoebox on her own and in fact... loves hanging out in them frequently! Sweet Pea

Apr 27, 2011 08:36 AM
SEO Expert: Michael George
Phoenix, AZ
Real Estate and Law Firm SEO

Thank you all so much. It was so nice of you all to take the time to say such nice things. And Rosalie-- I am sure your husband would say the same things about you. But that's a problem that we as males need to address. We don't really shower our wives with enough love when they are actually around. Take heed boys!

Thank you again everyone.

Apr 27, 2011 08:44 AM
Melinda Wasinger
Melinda Wasinger~ PrimeLending~ Chandler AZ - Chandler, AZ
AZ East Valley Lender | Chandler | Mesa | Gilbert | Tempe

Great post - very inspirational.  It is easy to become wrapped up in our materialistic society; thanks for bringing us back to what is truly important.

Apr 27, 2011 09:29 AM
Barbara Altieri
Better Homes and Gardens RE Shore and Country Properties - Shelton, CT
REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale

Michael -- I am so sorry for your loss.  That's a beautiful picture of your wife, one I am sure you treasure.   Good advice about not getting excited about the small stuff.  We have to always step back and put things into perspective.

Apr 27, 2011 09:30 AM
Kate Elim
Dockside Realty - Spotsylvania, VA
Realtor 540-226-1964, Selling Homes & Land a

Hi Michael...I love the photo of Karen.  Our personal pictures/slides/movies will take up a good part of that larger box, but I agree with you that many of us have way too much.  It's amazing how many people live in large homes and still have to rent storage areas for their extras. 

Wishing you well,Michael.


Apr 27, 2011 03:10 PM
Sally Weatherley
Vancouver Home Staging, Home Stager Vancouver, B.C

Michael - I know it wasn't your intention, but I have a huge lump in my throat.  When it boils right down to it, what is truly important to us probably does fit physically in a shoe box, and the rest is stored in our hearts and minds.  The photo of your wife is beautiful. 

Apr 27, 2011 03:30 PM
Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate
Kelly Right Real Estate - Hood River, OR
Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs

Nice post. We so need to follow your example. We just keep accumulating more and more as the years go by. That's so sweet of you to save your wife's anniversary cards. Mel leaves my cards to him lying around until I throw them out. Once I used the same card two years in a row and he didn't even notice!


Apr 27, 2011 03:36 PM
Marchel Peterson
Results Realty - Spring, TX
Spring TX Real Estate E-Pro

Michael, Have you ever read the poem that Irma Brombeck wrote about burning the pink candle? When I read it I had a neighbor dying and ever since I have been burning the pink candles.

Apr 27, 2011 04:46 PM
Chris Spade
Keller Williams San Diego Metro - San Diego, CA

Hi Michael, 

Thanks for this.  Sorry to hear about your wife.  Your blog really puts things into perspective.  

Apr 27, 2011 05:27 PM
Ronald DiLalla
Century 21 Discovery DRE 01813824 - Anaheim, CA
No. Orange Cty Real Estate

Hi Michael,  I don't know about a shoe box..For me it might be strethcing it a bit.  Thanks for sharing.

Apr 27, 2011 07:41 PM
Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group
Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001 - Gaithersburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

Your wife was an icon on ActiveRain and she will always be missed. . .

Apr 27, 2011 11:04 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Thank you for posting; and you're right, besides people, the really important things that we can't live with out can definitely fit in a shoebox.  Everything else is just nice to have.  

Apr 28, 2011 01:03 AM
Jason Sardi
Auto & Home & Life Insurance throughout North Carolina - Charlotte, NC
Your Agent for Life

I've missed ya, dude.  Hope all is well.

A wise perspective you do have ...

May 01, 2011 03:35 AM
Steven Pahl
Keller Williams Tampa Properties - Tampa, FL
Real Estate Consultant Tampa, FL 813-319-6423

Yes, Michael, it's all just stuff.  I have never been much of a collector of "Stuff".  When I moved from Colorado to Florida 16 years ago my life fit in the bed of a pickup truck.  Now, it would be more like a semi-trailer, and I really don't "need" any of it.

May 03, 2011 10:55 AM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Michael - A few years ago, I would have disagreed with you because my photos are so important to me.  However, in the day of small portable hard drives, I could probably do it though I'd have to digitize all of my old photos from childhood, my wedding, etc. first.

Jul 10, 2011 08:00 PM
Gail Robinson
William Raveis Real Estate - Southport, CT
CRS, GRI, e-PRO Fairfield County, CT

Michael - I came over here from the mention in Mimi Foster's post.  Karen will never be forgotten on AR.  That is a beautiful picture of her.  I sometimes wonder how you are doing.  It can't be easy.

Jun 27, 2012 12:19 PM
Thom Abbott |770.713.1505 | Intown Atlanta GA Condo Living - Atlanta, GA
Midtown Atlanta GA Condos For Sale

Well Butter My Biscuit and call me stupid....I did not put 2 and 2 together!  I was here in the Rain as Karen left. I'm glad I've discovered both her and you again!

Aug 02, 2012 10:45 AM