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.  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.  My intention for the year was to to focus on creating classes and preparing for fall markets  Then COVID-19 happened.  So, like the rest of the world, we were forced to make new plans.  I pivoted to more web design work and cut back on textile art production.  It was not a good time for building an in-person presence for artisan crafts but the requirements for isolation did provide time to focus on 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.  Join me to share ways of capturing your stories while changing your relationship to stuff, and  becoming more mindful about what is most important to you. This will give you space and help you create a more positive, comfortable space to learn, work, live and connect. 

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  and work histories and tell their stories.   I know the power of recording details as part of the process of letting go of things without fear of losing the associated memories.  Now I help people eliminate the stress of clutter AND untold stories by helping them capture memories so they can break the emotional hold of stuff.

About Keep the Stories

Keep the Stories is about capturing your memories and deciding what stories you want to tell and how you want to tell them.   Sometimes, we associate our stuff with the memories they bring to mind. I call these things memory-keeper artefacts.  They are items  that trigger memories but the items themselves are rarely, if ever, the memories.

The Keep the Stories Challenge

  • Identify memories you associate with your things.  Determine if they prompt stories that you want to keep.
  • If there are stories you don’t want to lose, take the time to record the important details:
    • Who was there? What exactly happened? When was it?  Where were you? Why were you there (was it a special occasion)?  How do the memories make you feel?
    • Take pictures and/or make a sketch of the item.
    • Decide if and how you want to tell a bigger story.
  • Simplify your life by letting go of things that no longer serve you. Make intentional choices about what things are most important.

How we can help

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.

Visit often and join the conversation.
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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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