What To Do With Collections & Sentimental Stuff

When I talk with people about minimalism and keeping only things which serve a purpose, there is one response that I hear more frequently than any other.

“I could never be a minimalist because I love collecting things.  I could never get rid of my…(insert anything here! Shoes, beauty products,  DVDs, records, books, photos, music gear, keepsakes, the list goes on!)”

I say, keep that collection! Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of things that matter to us!  It’s about getting rid of all the other stuff.  It’s about getting rid of the stuff we don’t use, the stuff we have to shuffle around so we can effectively use and enjoy the stuff that matters more to us.  It’s about releasing an emotional connection from things which have less value, so we can fully enjoy the people and things we love.

The job some things do is to create a warm and happy feeling in our minds. They can remind us of happy times and special people.  They also help a home to feel cozy and comfortable.  They can bring joy to our lives, and that is a really important job! If an object or a collection makes you happy, you should certainly keep it.

For example, I love pretty dishes.  I love drinking from teacups on a chilly evening.  It is neither of those things at the moment, unfortunately, but a cup of earl gray poured from my favorite teapot into a tiny little cup, yes it makes me feel cheery in any season.

I have acquired quite a collection of cups and dishes over the years.  Nearly all have been given to me, and not only is each piece lovely, but it reminds me of the giver and the occasion of the gift.  This one was from my Grandma Matthews, on my birthday. That one was from my Grandmother Durkee, who got it as a gift from her husband when he had to travel for work.  These were wedding presents, and those were handed down through several generations on Brian’s side, from a distant relative who was an opera singer, or so the legend goes.  They all have a history as unique as the flowers which encircle them.

I also have this amazing mid century china hutch that my wonderful, thoughtful husband searched far and wide for, and then drove nearly two hours away to buy for me.  He knows my style well and spent a long time finding something just exactly right for me to display my precious collection of tea cups and dishes.  It is beautiful, it is exactly my style, I totally love it, and I am so grateful for it and everything it contains.

But, it serves no real, functional purpose.  The whole blessed thing is totally unnecessary.  I have plenty of sturdy, versatile, dishwasher safe pieces, so I don’t need any of it.  Most of it sits collecting dust without ever being used!  I love the idea of tea on a chilly evening, but how often do I actually drink it from a teacup?  Almost never!  As a minimalist, is there a place for them in my home?

Yes there is, because those dishes and that hutch bring me joy.  The key is to not to keep every last sentimental thing.  Which ones are most important?  Is it necessary to keep all childhood memorabilia, every keepsake passed down from grandparents, the souvenirs from travels, etc. as well?  Maybe not. Keep the best things. The ones that bring back the strongest positive memories, the ones with the strongest emotional connection.

Instead of keeping every last bit of every last collection and every single keepsake, evaluate things, keep only the best ones, and say goodbye to the rest.  Choose one collection that is extra special to you. Choose one special keepsake from a special time in your life.  I feel so much like Marie Kondo for saying this, but it really is the truth.  Look at that thing that you’ve decided to part with, say goodbye and let it go.  It sounds ridiculous, but it really works!  By saying goodbye to an old prom dress or the airline tickets from that amazing vacation you took, you are reclaiming the emotional connection.  You are keeping those feelings stored along with your memories, rather than with your objects.

Keep the best things, the things you love the most.  Let the others go.  Like so many other things you may leave behind on the minimalization journey, you will never regret moving forward.


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