Keep the stories – Lose the stuff!

by Dec 24, 2019

I’m a [recovering] collector. Some might say pack-rat is more accurate but, to be clear,  I don’t keep everything indiscriminately; I am big on recycling, reusing and donating. In the past, the main reason that I accumulated too much stuff is that my tendency was always to keep too much for fear of letting go of something that couldn’t be replaced.  I would struggle to part with things that I might want to use or items that were gifts or associated with a trip, event or occasion.

For years, I have captured memories through pictures,  travel journals, programs, tickets, mementos, art and various other tchotchke. I am able to evoke many wonderful experiences – and some not-so-wonderful ones – by looking through these collected photos and artifacts. This can be nostalgic, even comforting. But there is a huge downside to this approach in that it tends to make it hard to let go of things because they evoke memories of people, places and activities that have been important.

In the past, I would start with the best of intentions to par down the various flotsam and jetsam accumulated through my life, an effort that more often than not ended with me traveling on a trip down memory lane perhaps making, at best, a small reduction in the amount of stuff.  Sometimes I’d convince myself that I might use /display / repair / re-purpose some particular item but usually it just went back in the box.  Which inevitably meant that I still needed to keep the box, even when I reduced the number of items it contained. I was eager to get more space and clear the clutter but was not too successful at these efforts.

A few years ago, the solution hit me.  It is so simple! I don’t know why I didn’t realize this years ago.  In fact, I did realize that but didn’t take action on the connection.  What I am really collecting is stories.  I don’t need the stuff to keep the stories.  Instead, I need to make sure that I record the stories so I can release the associated things, hopefully to a new life out of storage and to use as intended.

And from that realization, the origins of my Keep the Stories project. I have started this blog a couple of times in the past and put it aside because of various family, work or volunteer commitments.  However, it was always in the back of my mind and I have continued to research and try different strategies so am revising this blog and other possible supports.  I intend to review and visit articles in my archive and republish with revisions.  At some point, I might create an archive of old posts as well but for now, my focus is to start fresh and build content that hopefully will have value.

Left to my old strategies, I would have fallen back on old ways but been doing some research and experimentation towards new strategies that are working for me to varying degrees.    I will be sharing some of these with you here.  I also intend to share some of the up-cycling and reuse that I am doing as well as some of the art that I use to tell my stories.

I hope that you will stay tuned and share some of your own methods for simplifying and letting go while also holding on to your unique stories.









































































Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Educator, Artist, Storyteller


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