How a Brain Injury Turned Me into a Minimalist

I’ve never been a fan of clutter. At least I didn’t think I was. Looking around our home, one would never have thought I was a collector of anything.

But the truth was, I was the master organizer, the grand arranger, the disguiser of all things collectable. I could hide anything in a cabinet or drawer. I could even hide it in plain sight, making a collection look like a grand array of art.

Strings and old ribbon, cascading like a fountain over an ivory colored lamp. Buttons and gadgets, baubles and beads, in amber colored bottles lined on a shelf. Painted canvases pressed against a wall, brushes stacked in terra cotta pots.

Books upon books, like soldiers on a shelf.

In a closet, in a small corner basket, a pile of material, folded, each color elegantly displayed. On a shelf above, evenly spaced, boxes and packing material, neatly aligned.

Such a beautiful vision of clutter.

Then one day, I was in a car accident. My brain snapped, and within days (or was it weeks?), I changed. My personality became an extreme of who I once was. I no longer just wanted things arranged, I wanted them out of my life. Clutter became my enemy.

Everywhere I turned, I saw clutter. In books and papers I couldn’t read, in jewelry supplies my clumsy fingers could no longer hold. I saw clutter in the canvases I painted, and cards I no longer had the patience to make.

I began to let go, though I don’t remember the first items I threw away. That memory, like many, is gone. But the act of decluttering, the emotion it spun, stuck with me forever.

I think decluttering was my way of releasing my old life, and letting myself become someone new. Over the next couple years, as I changed, so did my home. I slowly let go of more stuff, until two years ago when I did a significant cleanse.

Decluttering, like the brain injury, changed my life. It changed me. But I rather like the person I have become. Like my home, I feel cleansed. I feel like someone new.

To think it all began with a brain injury.

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