She wasn't a sloppy person by nature yet it would be safe to assume that her house wasn't the tidiest place on earth. Stacks of newspaper lay forgotten in a corner until they transformed into a mountain-pile ready to topple. Her bedroom, more often than not, accommodated washed, creased clothes in dire need of being ironed and placed back in overflowing cupboards. She had never really been a hoarder but suddenly it seemed that her home was crammed with stuff she did not need; and for some strange reason, she did not have the heart to discard so many things at one go!
Messy places had never really bothered her so she settled quite happily amidst the clutter. She was so engrossed in sorting out the jumbled pieces of other people's lives that she had no time to clean her physical space.
The morning started like any other morning. She woke up, dragged herself out of bed, got ready, boarded the train to work and spent the train-journey chatting on the phone with her friend. There was nothing extraordinary about this day - at least not until she finally arrived at work and sat at her desk. She dove into her bag to fish out her locker-key when the horrible realization dawned on her that it wasn't there! Not one to easily panic, she found herself frantically emptying out the contents of her bag, desperate to find it. It did not take her long to realize that it wasn't there. She calmed herself down, took a few deep breaths and told herself to relax. "I must have left it at home," she thought and resumed work. But no matter how hard she tried, she could not ignore the deep sinking feeling that had set in her heart. Something told her that she wouldn't find it but, as was her norm, she neglected that tiny voice and went about her day as if nothing had happened.
When she returned home, her worst fear had come true - the key was indeed missing. She looked in every possible place but it just could not be found. She was quite a scatter-brain from time to time but her things had a habit of turning up every now and then. Not usually a worrier, she was rather surprised to find tears filling her eyes. It was just a key! Why was she so distressed?
She thought about distracting herself by going out for a drink and immediately made plans with a friend she hadn't caught up with in a really long time. However, as the time for her to venture out of her house dawned near, she felt her feet getting heavy as if indicating that they just did not want to move. Not one to ever back out last minute of a plan she had herself made, she surprised herself by cancelling on her friend and staying indoors. Finally, home alone, she sat down and decided to spend an evening catching up with the most important person in her life - her own self.
It had been ages since she had even thought about herself. Her life had become a mundane routine as she busied herself with work. She had never been such a person! She loved her job but for the first time she wondered if work was just a diversion to distract herself from the painful memories of tomorrows that never came. Even though she hated admitting it, she knew she wasn't really upset about losing the key - true, she was always a perfectionist when it came to work and while she did have a reputation to maintain of never misplacing her things at work, she knew what truly bothered her was losing the key-chain to which the key had been attached...
She had no idea of the significance of that particular, inexpensive key-chain until she had lost it...That particular key-chain stood as a symbol of simpler times in her life, of a time when she had felt blessed with happiness and abundance. Not having it suddenly made her conscious of the emptiness that had engulfed her world. She suddenly started howling and shedding a flood of tears. For some reason, the tears kept coming and would not stop. She had never felt more aware of her robotic existence than at that very moment. After a while, her tears dried. She calmed herself and realized that despite the disconcert she actually was relieved - she had finally experienced an emotion so deeply after a really long time. She had been so busy protecting herself from feelings of hurt that, in the process, without realizing, she had invariably ended up shutting herself from feeling any emotion at all.
She looked at her house and felt disgusted, almost repulsed. She finally understood what she had been doing in the past few months. Not one to dawdle, she immediately set to work. She opened her cupboard and donated her discarded clothes to a homeless shelter in order to make room for the pile of clothes that lay on her bed. She cleaned the floors, sweeping away even the dust that lay forgotten beneath the carpets. She recycled and disposed all the old things for which she had no use. She did not need clutter in her physical space to compensate for the void that was present in her mental state.
Her house was not spic and span but it was definitely tidier than before. The key was yet to turn up and while she hoped with all her heart that it would, she knew she would be alright even if it didn't. While precious, old memories are always fun to cherish, it is more important to make room for building new ones that we may want to treasure.