Since 2004, Joy and I have lived in three houses.

And the funny thing about moving that many times – staying five years in one place, moving to another, spending another five years, and then moving again – is that you somehow manage to bring boxes full of your old life with you, never really cutting open the packing tape to see what’s inside.

And you keep doing it. A taped-up box made the move from House 1 to House 2 to House 3 without being opened and analyzed, shoved into the garage or the attic or the shed without comment. Joy and I got so good at moving that we learned how to pack boxes inside boxes so we wouldn’t have to go box hunting when the five-year alarm went off.

It didn’t go off this time. The garage, shed, and attic were filled with boxes with two sets of mover stickers on them, as well as sealed-up boxes of boxes! The house looks lovely, but five years in one place meant that we needed to touch up some of the paint. Before, that was a sign that it was time to get the old place ready to sell. This time, the touch up work wasn’t for the next owner. The next owner is seven right now, and he doesn’t really care about the paint. The painting was just for us.

But the boxes!

Joy started the process, I think. She cleaned out and organized the shed. Those poor unsung heroes who collect our garbage late every Tuesday night (or Wednesday morning, depending), found themselves pulling up to our driveway and tossing boxes of boxes.

But they also had to deal with that random junk that you accumulate because you might need it someday, like the boxes that hadn’t been opened in years, moving from house to house to be shoved in a corner or an attic somewhere.

I followed Joy’s lead and worked on the garage. I had stacked up pegboard from the time I redid my office, just leaving it in a corner of the garage and stepping around it when I needed something. I finally moved some things around and put it on the wall, finding hooks and posts to hang my tools in a nice, organized fashion. I then opened the cupboards and peered into the taped-up boxes of stuff. Stuff that didn’t matter in almost six years, so why did it matter now?

You know you pay movers to bring things across the state based on weight, right? I could have saved so much money if I had gone through the boxes in Marietta! Me six years ago was thinner and dumber, that’s for sure. I found nothing in my search that was worth keeping. Some of the junk was not a part of a life that I recognize.

My garage is super organized now, and the attic isn’t as full as it was. Loads of carboard went off to its next life somewhere. But I was surprised how much junk you can accumulate even when you live your life in five-year increments. In those five years, I had never really even looked at my garage, but now I have it organized into a functional workspace. But I had thrown so many things into boxes without a second thought. It’s a kind of careless lifestyle that you can get into permanently. Somehow, even moving never made me stop and take stock of what baggage I was bringing with me. I just dutifully shuffled it around from place to place.

When I showed Joy my cleaned-up garage, she smiled at me and said, “I guess we’re staying, huh?” For the first time in 16 years, the storage space didn’t just have to fill up with five years’ worth of stuff and then get shuffled onward. It would have to accommodate a lifetime. That actually meant, if I wanted to be able to park my cars in the garage, I couldn’t accumulate junk wantonly anymore.

I’m sure there’s a life lesson in that.

Andrew Bundy is a husband, father, teacher, writer, and nerd. You can reach him at bundycolumn@gmail.com.