When I was younger, I had a slightly unhealthy obsession with not letting go of old things. Material possessions, things I found at the back of a wardrobe that I didn’t even remember, I wouldn’t throw them out. I come from a family of borderline hoarders, so it’s not really a big surprise I grew up with this mentality.
I’m not a hugely sentimental person, but I had trouble letting things go. There was always the thought process of ‘oh, what if you need that at some point?’ ‘what if it has a use that you haven’t thought of yet?’. I never did need these things; since stripping down my possessions, I’ve never once thought, ‘actually, I could have used that’. My mother, on the other hand, keeps pretty much everything. She called me a few months ago and asked if the old PlayStation 2 games were of any use to me (I have an Xbox One now). I still don’t think she’s thrown them out.
As well as not throwing anything out or letting things go, I had a fixation on collecting things. It didn’t matter what they were, if there was a set of something, I’d strive to collect the lot. Pokémon cards, Happy Meal toys, Lego sets, whatever. I didn’t actually notice at the time how much I collected things, until the time came to discard them.
Not long after I started actively striving towards minimalism, I came across an article by Derek Sivers, titled 232 sand dollars. It’s short, but it’s a great read, and captures how I now feel about keeping collections of ‘useless’ things. I’ve since rid myself of almost everything I’ve ever collected that I no longer use or need, and reduced my ‘collecting’ habit to one single collection: my Hard Rock Café t-shirts.
This may sound like it flies straight in the face of minimalism. Isn’t minimalism supposed to be owning as little as possible, like a hipster with a red-spotted-hanky on a stick? Well, no. Minimalism can be whatever you want it to be. For me, I’m happy with having way more t-shirts than can be called minimalist, because each one is a memory of a place I’ve visited. And they’re practical; I wear them all the time. Aside from my work clothes and gym clothes, I only own five other t-shirts, and five casual shirts. Still too many for most minimalists, but it’s the right amount for me.
Could I pare it down even more? Yes, of course I could. 30+ t-shirts is more than anyone needs, but that’s not the point; the point is that it’s the right amount for me, having made the conscious choice to keep them, and continue expanding my collection. And it’s a concession to my internal hoarder, who may try to break free at some point.
Extra t-shirts doesn’t impact my ability to keep everything organised either. I still consciously maintain an absence of clutter in my life, something I found hard to do when I had a lot more possessions. Keeping things that only serve a purpose, rather than compulsive ownership of useless items, helps with focus, and through that, reduced stress.
Everything else I collect is digital, and everything is related to remembering the past without a physical representation. Swarm check-ins, Instagram posts, even this blog, all serve as a portal to look back over my life whenever I feel the need to. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s good to reminisce once in a while.