Self

Gravity, Ladders, and the Art of Decluttering

The story of every “thing” we own and how it informs our nesting decisions.

Sean Kernan
5 min readNov 29, 2023

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Picture via pexels images Andrea Piacquadio

As my hands pushed the ceiling hatch upward, the ladder beneath me suddenly wobbled. My heart caught in my throat as I reached down to stabilize it. Thankfully, there wouldn’t be an early trip to the ER that day, but it was a reminder that gravity is real, and watching.

Trying again, I pushed the wooden hatch upwards, and to the side. A barely-visible string dangled from above. After poking my head up and pulling it, a floating lightbulb revealed my attic’s treasures and I groaned.

“More junk,” I thought. Four boxes, none of which I owned, sat and waited for inspection. It felt like bad karma to leave mystery boxes for the new owners as the old ones had for me. One box was filled with random papers. Another had erotic magazines from the 80s, which felt like a troll move to leave behind. Two boxes had children’s clothes and had been chewed up by some unseen rodent.

A month earlier, my partner surveyed my house and said, “You’re move will only be more expensive, and difficult, if you bring all this stuff.” I was initially defensive, but as she made her points, she initiated one of my most prized reforms: a quest of decluttering, which brought about self-discovery, a new lifestyle, and revealed the strange relationship we develop with everyday objects.

Every “thing” has a story

Standing vertical in my closet, was an acoustic guitar with only four working strings, a dent, and tons of dust. I learned to play guitar on it a decade prior and it somehow became an important artifact— despite me being one of the world’s worst musicians.

Ancient homework assignments sat in scribbled piles. I didn’t even like school (compared to my partner, who is a professor, and saved much of her cherished homework like they are family photos). A box for my X-box, which was stolen years prior, sat empty on one shelf. I looked back, and remembered admiring the shape of this box and being certain I’d store cool things in it— despite having rows of empty shelves already. A pile of broken black and white keyboards sat on top of each other, like kissing…

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Sean Kernan

Former financial analyst turned writer. Always on the hunt for a good story. That guy from Quora. Writing out of Tampa, Florida.