One thing that I’ve noticed when people start to consider a minimalist lifestyle is that they are always worried about the things they may collect. There is this prevailing thought that minimalism means you have to get rid of everything, and that everything includes those dear to you items that may be part of a hobby you enjoy or a memory keeping system you have. But that’s just not the case.
Perhaps my version of minimalism is a bit rebellious. Perhaps there are people out there who would say that I am not a minimalist for the things I am about to write in this post.
Perhaps… but it doesn’t really matter.
Minimalism isn’t meant to be a copied lifestyle because it’s a nice, new fad. Minimalism is meant to be a choice you make because it leads to a better focus on the things that really matter.
Keeping What Matters
Let’s say you collect postcards. You’ve been collecting those postcards since you were a kid. You have boxes full of them. Your postcards tell a story about where you have been, where your family has been, where your friends are from, and a life you have enjoyed living.
When you look through your boxes of postcards, you are reminded of great times with great people. You smile, laugh, and cry through the memories. The postcards tell a story that you enjoy reading over and over again.
Then you decide to become a minimalist.
You start decluttering your life and home. You empty out all of the unnecessary items from closets and drawers. You downsize your home, your furniture, your kitchen appliances… you donate all sorts of gadgets and gizmos that you never use. You clean up and clean out.
And then you get to your boxes of postcards.
Because you now consider yourself a minimalist, you feel a sense of shame or guilt in having these boxes that just appear to be clutter. But deep down inside, you know they are far more than that. These items have value in your life.
You’ve stopped buying things you don’t need.
You’ve stopped adding more items to your shelves.
By this point, you’ve given away more than you actually own.
But the postcards…
Can you really be a true minimalist if you keep the postcards?
Yes. Yes, you can.
There seems to be this misconception about minimalism that tells people they can’t have things they love. I’ve watched a lot of videos over on YouTube where minimalists instruct people to take digital pictures of the items they collect and then get rid of the actual, physical collection. I so disagree with that approach!
The tangibility of an item is often what makes it so special to us.
I don’t collect postcards, but I do have a collection of journals and traveler’s notebooks. I have been journaling since I was a kid. I love to write. Getting my thoughts out on paper is a release for me like no other. Over the last year of my minimalism journey, I have considered multiple times selling my traveler’s notebooks. After all, I only use one or two at any given moment. The rest sit nicely tucked away until I decide it’s time for a change.
I’ve often thought about how I also like to blog. I could get rid of the physical journals and just put everything on a blog. Right?
No… that’s not right. You see, there are some things that can only be written down in a private journal. There are some emotions and thoughts that are just for me. And there is also something ever so special about the paper and pen… and the leather smell of those traveler’s notebooks… and the crinkling of the pages as I flip through my journals and remember certain feelings.
And that’s ok.
Our collections are valuable. Whether they are postcards, keychains, bottle tops, journals, coffee mugs, vases, earrings, or anything else… they matter.
Minimalism gives you the opportunity to get rid of the excess and focus on what matters.
Maybe by getting rid of so much extra, you can now travel and acquire more postcards.
For me, getting rid of clutter has released a renewed sense of creativity that allows me to write even more than I was before. And I love it.
So yes, you can be a minimalist and have your collections, too. There is nothing wrong with keeping things you value. But it most certainly would be sad if you got rid of it all only to one day regret it. A digital picture can’t replace the feeling of an item in your hands or the smell of an item. Pictures can’t replace the memories that flow as you touch the tear stained pages or as you hold something close to your heart. You don’t have to keep everything, but I believe that you should keep what matters.