The Stories in Our Stuff

This is a story of clutter and confusion, a brain muddled by too much stuff.

Inside a pocket sits a story, a place where a child’s toy once rested, a spot for a special gift given to a special someone. Shoes tell stories of trips to malls, journeys to other countries, trips down a hospital corridor, runs on a sandy beach.

Our stuff is our story. Objects turned to fragments of our lives. Inside a book once read, now soaked with tears. Barrettes worn by a little girl. Bracelets given by loved ones no longer on earth.

I once owned a lot of stuff, which held a lot of stories. Closets and cabinets overflowed with items I didn’t need. But after my brain injury, I could no longer comprehend what everything in my home was for, and clutter became nothing more than a source of tension for me. Piece by piece I let go, books, papers, a pile of material, though at the time, I didn’t understand why, or what I was doing.

A few years later, my husband and I moved. I looked around our new home and all we owned, and decided, more than anything, I wanted a life of less. I began to purge.

Even then, I didn’t understand the true impact of my actions. With each item placed in a box or bag, emotions overwhelmed me. I cried, shedding tears for a vase bought on vacation, dresses worn to weddings, tiny paper ornaments created by children now grown.

My stuff was being given away bit by bit, my life, my stories, my memories.

Memories are hard for me, holding pain and grief, and most of all, loss. After my injury, I lost many memories, falling from some obscure slit in my brain. I have worked hard to try and get them back. That day, as I placed items in a bag, I was scared. What if I lost these memories, just as I’d lost the others?

But that’s not what happened.

When I released bags and boxes from my life, needless to say, my physical world changed. My home was cleaner. But what happened next was unexpected. I experienced a clarity I hadn’t had in a long time. A freedom came over me. I could think. Reminisce. Remember. Recall. Images appeared, remnants of a life I thought I’d forgotten. Doctors’ visits, a son’s far-away move, another child’s career change. Memories I didn’t know I had.

My brain had been cluttered by all I owned. When I let go of clutter, it let go of me.

I don’t have all my memories back, and probably never will. But I have more than I once had, more than I could hope for.

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