Meet Mary Elizabeth O’Toole

I am a collector of stories – and a recovering collector of things.

My personal quest for greater simplicity has been ongoing for years.   I rarely shop, definitely don’t buy new but somehow, I accumulated too much stuff.  Can you relate?   Belongings expand to fill the space before long there are totes and shelves and boxes full from various moves and stages of life, from combining homes, from kids moving out and leaving stuff stored, from a range of creative pursuits, from parents’ downsizing, from mementos of travel and events, and from an astounding combination of other miscellaneous sources.

It was hard for me to let go for all the most common reasons: emotional attachment,  the feeling that it was too good or too expensive to let go, the fear that it would be needed and unavailable, guilt because it was a gift or inheritance,  or any other rationale for holding on for SOMEDAY.  Sometimes I still have to fight that tendency.  However, I knew that I wanted to simplify my life and my space. And that my SOMEDAY would be better for clearing the clutter to make room for things that brought more positive energy to encourage peace, comfort, freedom, creativity and more.

Through my own experiences, interviews and informal conversation, I found that one of the most common reasons that people have trouble letting go is the fear of losing not just the things but the memories and history associated with the objects.  I discovered that there was a lack of resources that addressed both the minimizing AND the storytelling side of this challenge so I created a class called Keep The Stories, Lose the Stuff and delivered it locally to very positive responses.  That was late in 2016 and I have delivered variations on the theme since.

I started my blog, Keep the Stories, in 2017.  There were several false starts when I put it on the back burner because of various projects and opportunities.  But the idea stayed with me.  Early in 2020, I planned to integrate Keep The Stories with the artisan craft business, Chez Craft, that my husband and I operate from our home on the scenic eastern shore of Nova Scotia.  At the end of 2019, we had decided that I would focus on building Chez Craft with a focus on creating classes and preparing for fall and holiday shows.  Then COVID-19 happened.  So, like the rest of the world, we were forced to make new plans.  I took on new online contracts and we scaled back art production in favour of immediate work. And, though it was not a good time for building and inperson presence for our art, it turned out to offer an opportunity to give more focused attention to Keep The Stories.

I started with updating or archiving previous posts,  then began adding new content.  I am continuing to create resources and to build community.  Please join me to share ways to change our relationship to stuff and become more mindful about creating a positive, comfortable space to learn, work, live and connect.

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I am passionate about empowering people to find the confidence and tools to tell their stories.  As an educator, I have taught 1000s of people how to capture their personal histories and tell their stories.   I remember seeing the relief and satisfaction when they could tell the stories then be able to let go of the things without fearing of losing the associated memories.  That is when I realized that I was on to something.  Now I help people going through life transition to eliminate the stress of clutter and untold stories by helping them capture memories so they can feel free to release the stuff.



Under development

More info coming soon.  



Custom Story Quilts

About Keep the Stories

The Challenge

  1. Identify memories you associate with your things.
  2. Take pictures and capture the key details.  Decide if and how to tell a bigger story.
  3. Simplify your life by letting go of things that no longer serve you.

The Keep The Stories blog will offer strategies and resource recommendations for all stages of the challenge.  It will also include reflections on related topics as well as stories on what is going on in my life and in the world around me. 

Please visit often and join the conversation.


Get in touch

If you are interested in classes, storytelling – or possible collaboration, I would love to connect with you.  Drop me a line through this form – and let’s talk!

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