Unpacking the Last Box: On First Homes and Leveling Up

There’s a scene in Pixar’s The Incredibles where the mom of the superhero family, Helen, talks about unpacking the last box. Her family had moved a few years ago, if I remember right, but it had taken her years to get to that last box of stuff. Now that she had, they were finally all moved in.

When I first saw The Incredibles, I was 10 — so, obviously, I related a lot more to the kids in the family than to Helen. But over a decade later, I understand her feeling of satisfaction. (Terrifyingly, I now relate more to the parents in movies than to the kids; but more on that later.) With our own Big Family Move two summers ago, it took well over a year to get to unpacking the last box, and when we did, it felt like a collective victory. And now that I’m living independently of my parents, with a home of my own to care for and set up, that feeling is amplified.

I didn’t have any boxes to unpack when I moved — just two suitcases of clothes, which I hung up in a day or two. Ken and I bought most of our furniture from IKEA (we actually bought out most of IKEA), which altogether took maybe three days to assemble. Setting up the TV took another day, and finally getting around to taking out the styrofoam we’d collected took about week. A week later, we had all our cookware. Most of the house was set up. So what was left?

My room.

First Home - Sara Laughed

Ken, me, and the entire contents of IKEA.

Ken and I are lucky enough to have bought an apartment with enough space for us to each have our own room. The prospect of a space where I could choose everything from the colors of the walls to  just the right bed frame filled me with glee from before Ken and I had even chosen this apartment. Because I couldn’t see the apartment in person before moving in (thanks, Atlantic Ocean), I actually downloaded an app this fall to let me make a digital mock-up of our home, Sims-style.

I know, I know. I’m a dork.

But putting together my room was not a huge financial priority for Ken and me. He had fewer demands of his office, in part because most of the furniture from his childhood bedroom could be repurposed for this new space. And when choosing between a sofa and the last frame for my gallery wall, you choose the sofa.

So it took until yesterday for me to finally complete the vision I’d had for this space.

 First Home - Sara Laughed

Links to: Bunting (similar) — mine are from Dille & Kamille; twinkle lights (similar) — mine are from the Hema; velvet pillows, decorative pillow; Names of Jesus print; Flower Lady print; Sleeping Lady print; flowers print; abstract print

Here’s the gallery wall, which I’d been dreaming of since Minted let me choose an array of art pieces for my first home.

First Home - Sara Laughed

Links to: abstract print; flag – no longer available, originally from the Target Dollar Spot; Names of Jesus print; Sleeping Lady print; Flower Lady print; flowers print; abstract print

The opposite wall is painted a rich teal color, and that’s where I ended up hanging the Happy Bees print.

First Home - Sara Laughed

Links to: Happy Bees print, bunting (similar) – mine are from Dille & Kamille

Next to that is a huge window, which unfortunately I can’t show you because, for privacy reasons, I’m not sharing the view from my apartment. Pushed up next to the window is my desk, where I work during the day and do my Bible study, Skype sessions, and daydreaming from at night.

First Home - Sara Laughed

I’m happy to report, by the way, that these plants have successfully survived the last three months. I intend to break my plant-killing spree in this new chapter of life.

So, finally, a little more than three months since I moved, I’m done moving. I feel settled in this room and this house, if not quite yet in this chapter of my life. The adult-ness of some of the things I do (meal planning; reorganizing the pantry; calling the dentist of my own volition) keeps catching me off-guard. When I watch movies, I now empathize with the parent characters, who I used to see as background noise. And I suddenly understand why my mom used to be so proud of things like cleaning out the fridge or mopping the kitchen (it is WORK to maintain a house, y’all).

When I was a kid, I didn’t really understand what adulthood was. I thought that at some point, between the ages of 16 and 30, I would have a Sims-like birthday event where someone would wave a magic wand and I, engulfed in a flurry of confetti, would suddenly be two feet taller and full of knowledge of things like thank you card etiquette and 401(k)s.

Not true. Instead, adulthood is more like an adventure game where you meander around, collecting artifacts like sensible footwear and Tupperware containers, and once a year you level up by accident.

Sometimes you battle a major foe, but it’s not a person so much as a diagnosis or the loss of a loved one.

At some point, you gain a team member, but he’s not a side-kick or a mythical other half whose strengths are just your weaknesses. Instead, he’s just another imperfect but complete protagonist. Someone who helps share the load, and load the dishwasher. Someone whose strengths may not be your weaknesses, but who is strong when you need to be weak, and likewise you for him.

(Also, I’ve heard that one day in this adulting game, you gain a series of tiny overlords who add nothing to your team but mess, noise, and happiness. But don’t spoil anything for me.)

I’m still on the first few levels of adulthood. My major foe, next to Ken’s diagnosis, is quarterly taxes and the necessity of dentists. But even though I just started, and even though most of my fellow recent grads seem to resent needing to, you know, cook and clean up after themselves, I’m loving it. I love the independence, the freedom, and the responsibility. I love the small pleasures of successfully assembling a FJORGENSORD dresser or making a new dish by myself. And I love my team member, Ken, who is thoughtful and patient, and always the one to unload the dishwasher.

All in all: leveling up is pretty fun. But the best part is still the company.

Sara Laughed

Author: Sara Laughed

I'm Sara, a writer, programmer, and American in the Netherlands. This blog is about my life, discoveries, and mistakes. Follow along, and thank you for stopping by!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Love this post. I moved into my new apartment last month and I still have a couple boxes to unpack. Although, they’re boxes I know I need to go through and decide if I’m going to keep the items or donate them which sounds like too much work haha. I’m so glad you’re enjoying adulthood and have someone to live with and make life better. Congrats on finally being moved in!

    – Courtney