02/23/2012 04:06 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2012

Mom Can't Let Go... of Her Boxes

Am I a hoader or an addict? I'm not sure. Maybe UPS or FedEx could figure it out and post it on their website FAQs.

The thing is, I've recently become rather fond of boxes. Empty boxes.

It began when the kids started leaving for college and is getting worse now that the last one left home. Am I trying to fill the child void with cardboard?

I don't think so. But the kids are more than a quick drive away, so if I'm not baking and sending them something, they're calling and asking me to send them something they either can't get at school or they left at home. All of those things require a box.

Boxes are readily available for purchase, of course, but I'm against buying boxes. Why pay for something that lands on my doorstep with some regularity? I am paying tuition after all, and the shipping fees are bad enough. Besides, I consider myself environmentally minded and it is much more convenient to have the box ready and waiting to be filled.

Ah, but that's where I began to get boxed in. Each shipment requires a different sized box. Some sizes are so perfect, they beg to be collected. Some boxes are just so sturdy and easily reusable -- dare I say beautiful? -- I can't bear to break them down and leave them useless in the recycling bin.

This obsession has been useful every time I need to send something to my offspring or, occasionally, someone else. But the unknown quantity I might need in the future has turned me into a bit of a stockpiler. My husband would say much more than a bit.

While I'm not afraid, exactly, to toss out a box I might soon need, I guess I am a little, well, unwilling to part with some for that very reason. I've begun to see the possibilities in so many sizes of boxes, the ones deemed unusable are fewer and farther between.

I tried thinking outside the box.

Admitting the beginnings of a problem (half the battle, right?) I put a notice on, offering some of my wonderfully shippable boxes free to anyone who needed to send something to someone.

Somehow, letting them go for another person's shipping need seemed more acceptable than breaking it up for the recycling truck. Figure that one out and explain it to me, please. I mean, I do realize that either way, the box will be unavailable for my future use. I'm not completely crazy.

Clearly my husband is not convinced. He asks before breaking my heart and recycling a box I have my eye on, but sometimes I have acquiescence-remorse. After he leaves in the morning, I'm not above stealthily taking back good-looking boxes from where he placed them at the foot of the driveway.

The situation is getting somewhat ugly. We have a shelving unit in the mudroom that used to house kids' sports gear, but it is now crammed to overflowing with empty boxes. The basement storage closet where we go to occasionally turn off the water to the house is buried in boxes. A small-ish area of the garage is beginning to grow boxes. Sometimes, looking for something else, I find -- ah, that's where I put those boxes.

The boxes haven't yet permanently scarred the main part of our house, but I do admit to leaving some on the kitchen table a bit longer than necessary, particularly now that my husband and I often eat at the island instead. (Which came first, the boxes on the table or eating at the island? Hm.)

Is there a therapeutic program for the box obsessed? While it was not exactly easier to let my children go than these boxes, at least with the boxes, I figure they don't mind being stuck at home with me.

My middle child will be finishing college soon, perhaps that will convince me to at least divide my box stash in half. I need to figure out a sane solution before the kids come home for the summer ... there are some high quality empty boxes on their beds.