There’s An Adventure in Simplicity — “Boxes” by Will Robertson

Teresa Carey Words 17 Comments


UPDATE: Congrats to Mike for winning the contest! Thanks for participating everyone!

In this post author Will Robertson speaks about the Simplicity themes that are woven into his latest children’s book, Boxes.” And what’s more, we are giving away a framed original, signed charcoal illustration of the boy and his box! Read on to find out how to win an adorable illistration!

“Boxes” reminded me of a summer where I spent many nights sleeping in a cardboard box with my friend who lived next door. Did you play with a cardboard box as a child? Do you still?

Boxes are a part of everyone’s childhood. My own kids have had a few epic boxes themselves. Whenever I find a good box, it gets played with. It seems like a crime to just stuff thing into them and stick them in storage.

How do you hope children will respond to “Boxes?” How did your children respond? Do you think simplicity is something that can be taught?   

My own kids are biased. They loved it!

Simplicity can be taught, but it also has to be consistently applied throughout the whole family. I’ve had friends where the dad would try to downsize, but the mom never had to downsize her things. I think that it makes living simply seem like a punishment or a burden to everyone else.

It’s key to keep our goals and our values front-and-center so that our children know they really are going to impact our family.

What is your approach to simplicity?   

For me, the draw to simplicity is not about having a certain number of possessions but more about making sure that a possession is adding value. With our kids, we emphasized the idea that we were not just removing things, but that we were adding in good things. We started cooking with our kids and going on walks. We found that if you stopped and focused on a bush, after a few minutes, the bush suddenly became alive with insect activity.

I think there’s an adventure in simplicity.

Todays discourse on Simplicity focuses heavily on downsizing and reduction of things. I find this to be a very limiting definition. As the boy filled up his box with toys and things, I couldn’t help but think that there must be a deeper metaphor. Maybe the things represented relationships, activities, or habits that are more detrimental than enriching. In addition to reducing our unnecessary belongings, how do you think we can apply the boy’s lesson to our lives?

It’s easy to look at possessions as the problem, when really, it’s the symptom. If I have a runny nose, I don’t cut off my nose to make my cold go away. Simply owning less, it won’t bring you joy. You can’t just take out the bad, you need to make sure you’re aiming for something great as well. In the end, the boy isn’t just happy because he only owns a box, he’s happy because the box is allowing him to be part of a great adventure.

I heard a great quote that went something like: Don’t sacrifice what’s great for what’s good.

The boy’s box had unlimited potential. As he accumulated possessions, each one had a purpose. None of them fed his creativity. None of them changed him in any way. They were good. There’s nothing wrong with them. But they weren’t great.

The key to downsizing is to get back to where we should have been all along. That’s what he does. As he removes the barriers, he finds himself back where he was content.

I think the principle of resetting yourself is key to the idea of simplicity and contentment.

In the end, the boy sails away in his box searching for a land where everyone is happy, but finds happiness instead in the adventure. I think a lot of people start cruising searching for the same thing. I recently set sail on a voyage searching for an iceberg only to rediscover that it’s often the quest that brings happiness, not the destination. What in your life inspired you to write a story with such a simple, yet powerful sentiment?

As my wife and I started to earn more, it seemed like the more stuff we got, the more we couldn’t quite afford. One day, we were replacing a spatula for the third time, and I asked my wife, “Do you think we’ll ever have enough?”

We immediately decided to map out the life we wanted to live. That propelled us into a life of pursued simplicity. The change in who we are as people has been more of a blessing than trips we can take or activities we can do.

I looked at your website and read the book cover to cover. I just have one more burning question. Is your house yellow or blue-ish gray?

Ha. It was yellow when I delivered the book. Now, we’ve moved and our house is blue-ish gray.

Will had a lot of great stuff to say, but sadly I had to shorten the interview significantly – blog readers tend to read and engage with only short posts! If you feel like you missed something, you can read his entire interview here. You can purchase this book on Amazon!

Now for the giveaway! Answer the following question in the comments below to be entered to win a framed original, signed charcoal illustration of the boy and his box. The winner will be selected on Wednesday the 22nd so you must comment before midnight on the 21st.

What’s your box? In other words, what thing do you have that gives you the most enrichment?

Comments 17

  1. Christine O'Connor

    My box is the supply of books I have at hand. Sometimes that’s a pile of books from the library. Right now, it’s a box of fiction and nonfiction my son had read and then brought to me from Boston at Christmastime. I feel rich. When I’m done with these books, I’ll give them away to make room for the next supply from somewhere.

  2. Andrew Troup

    I remember once visiting friends who had two kids who were wonderfully inventive.

    They had just discovered that a large, very heavy cardboard box could be made into a wonderful all-terrain vehicle, simply by pushing in the top and bottom so that they conformed to the sides.
    By tipping the box on its side they could get inside it. (It was quite big and they were quite small)

    Crawling side by side in the same general direction, they used the box like a caterpillar track inside which they could explore their hilly, overgrown section in relative comfort, without being assailed by prickles and sharp rocks.

  3. Douglas

    My cardboard box was from a new refrigerator , quite large. A struggle to get it to the hill top , but the dried summer grass was slippery ,,,, what a ride inside down the slope ,,,,, bump crash bump , but fast ,,, thrilling simplicity , simply wonderful !

  4. Andrea H

    Our cats have taught us that having a box to play with/in/on is the best toy in the world. No need for the jingle balls or catnip fish, they all love to play hide and seek using a box. Their actions remind us that being happy with such a simple item, a cardboard box, is really the only thing we need to keep us happy. What brings us joy? What is our box? Our cats, our home (small but perfect for us) and our family and friends. Anything after that is just extras which are nice to have but not really necessary.

  5. Alan

    For me its waking up every day. When I lay my tired head on my pillow each night I fall asleep exited to wake up make a hot cup of coffee and start a new day.

    Every day without fail for 30 years now I have looked in the mirror first thing in the morning to see that my surgery is still working. I had reconstructive eye surgery when I was 15 and it changed my life. Not a single day has passed that I haven been thankful for my life or the vision that I have. Every single day wasted in this life is another we will never get back.

    I’m a minimalist so If I win I cant accept your prize, please donate it to somebody more needy than me should I be fortunate enough to win 🙂

  6. Marc DuBois

    I have 3 boxes… The first is a home where I met Gilbert, a gentle man who is returning to citizenship after 23 years of incarceration. He has no box but he does have friends like me.
    My second box is a room where I meet with 7 middle school boys each week to share with them the love of Jesus and how unique and important they are. My third and favorite box is my home where I get the priveledge and excitement of seeing my kids fill there boxes with life and where my wife and I try as best we can to give to others from our box. Wow, sharing this reminded me how great the journey has been! Thanks Will. Thanks Teresa!

  7. Kiel Bath

    I believe it is the sum of items in a box that become the enrichment of life itself.

    With that said, I suppose I would have to choose my Frieling French Press and my HP 35S Calculator, oh goodness do I love reverse polish notation on a calculator!

    The good news is that both are small enough to fit on a small sailboat that I so desire to own, sooner than later.

  8. Ellen

    This is a great thought for the day. Thanks for presenting it. What’s in my box really is my ability to appreciate my experiences, make choices and love others, to express myself creatively, and to be joyful. That sounds kind of fluffy to me as I write it but I think it’s what it all boils down to because I have amazing people and opportunities around me everyday… but if I don’t make a choice to notice because I’ve busied myself or my box is cluttered (typical), I won’t notice.

  9. Mike

    My box is my laptop and the internet for now .It is how I get these inspiring contacts and stories…very good for a person living alone.

    Teresa and Ben are the greatest of inspirations…I am determined my next box will be a sailboat so I can get on with some true life adventures.

    Thanks for the great stories…and the almond milk too haha.

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  10. Turf to Surf

    I have different boxes for different adventures, I think. I have my sailboat for my adventures at sea. I have my backpack for my adventures exploring land. And, recently, I took my backpack off my sailboat and got on another boat – a racing yacht – for an adventure across the Southern Ocean. But no matter what “box” I take, I always have a notebook and pen, to keep the fleeting thoughts I have written down somewhere, so I can pull them out and relive my adventures. And as long as my “boxes” aren’t so big or cumbersome that they slow me down or keep me in one place for too long, I’m okay with my different boxes for different purposes. I can leave them in different parts of the world as I go out looking for adventure and return to them when they have a purpose in my life again.

  11. Terri

    Our little old sailboat is our box. A wise older gentleman advised us not to get a larger sailboat and I’m so glad we didn’t. It would have complicated the one place where we have peace and simplicity.

  12. Joe

    When it comes to “things”, the thing in my box that brings me the most enrichment is my journal. It wasn’t expensive and isn’t filled with any particularly profound thoughts…but to me…it’s a snapshot of my life. The variety of it pokes at the absurdity and beauty of life. Upon reflection, one page of the journal chronicles a stressed out law student worried about grades, etc and yet another page is filled with a half of a page of text that is stained with now faint tears…this page of my journal explains to the possible future readers of my words the death of my grandfather.

  13. Mary

    Nature, my dog, and reading anything I can get my hands on give me the most enrichment in my life. More stuff does not do it. The simple joy of water along a hull, wind in the rigging, trees swaying in the woods, the dog just sniffing along completely enthralled in the act of being a dog. Making my friends smile for no reason at all. All of those and more fill my box. I love his quote of “Don’t sacrifice what’s great for what’s good.”

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