Is there room for collections and keepsakes in a minimalist home? A tough question. Collections of things can add up to clutter fast. Keepsakes are nice to remember a certain event, but in the meantime they must be put somewhere. Is their added value bigger than the space they require? What about moving? Are you willing to spend time on carefully packaging your collections, or is it better to just sell all of it?

Finding balance

I’m guessing this, too, is a matter of finding balance. Sure, there are some of us that live with under 50 things, all of which they need on a daily basis. No room for a collection there. Then there are some that have one or perhaps two small-sized collections that are very precious to them. Our family falls in the latter category.

My collection

I personally have one tiny collection that I want to keep, almost no matter what. (Trust me, if my house is on fire, I’m rescuing the kids, not the collection!) My ‘precious’ collection consists of 5 little jam-jars, the ones you get at hotel breakfasts. Before I migrated to Europe, I filled each jar with a different type of sand from my home country. I have one with red, powdery sand… one with little, black rocks, a jar filled with brown sand, one with pieces of coral that have come ashore and one that looks like a mixture of those. This little keepsake of mine uses as much space as a regular pencil case. Therefore, I believe that its value exceeds its use of space by far.

My wife’s Michael Jackson records

My wife also has one collection. This one is slightly bigger and more expensive than mine. In her teen years, she used to be a Michael Jackson fanatic. (And I mean fanatic, as in… if he went somewhere, she went there to see him!) You can guess that leaves her with a pretty large collection of his music, videos and books. The t-shirts and posters are all long gone, but a large bookshelf full of vinyl, cd-s, books and dvd-s remain. Now, I understand why someone would like to have every album ‘the man’ has ever made, but for a long time I didn’t understand why she needed to have 5 different versions of the ‘Thriller’ album.

She later explained that some were limited editions, that would be worth a lot of money when he died. Well… we all know how that ended, right? Indeed, prices of his merchandise have soared over the past couple of years. It’s almost sick to see, but when an artist dies, his work increases in value tremendously. So for the moment, my wife’s still hanging on to those cd-s, but she’s planning on selling the ‘double’ items (that’s my word, she uses the term ‘collectors editions’) on Ebay soon.

Strategies to keep collection-clutter down

Apart from these two collections, we tend to keep very little keepsakes or mementos. They have both a tendency to keep you in the past and a tendency to take up massive amounts of space, if you let them. I’ll leave you with this list of strategies that we use to keep our collections and keepsakes down. Feel free to use any of these tactics… I’ll guarantee they’re all tried and true!

1. Don’t fall in the trap of sentimentality. Family photos are priceless, but it’s the image, not the paper that has the value. You can scan them and store them on a hard-disc AND online. If your house ever gets robbed or burned down, you will still have your photos.

2. The same goes for kids art. Our daughter makes a million and one drawings every day. She often comes home from school with something she made from toilet rolls as well. The most recent piece of art gets a place of display. The others are photographed and then discarded. We keep the digital (!) photos in a special folder, which we look through from time to time.

3. Supermarkets around here have many campaigns where they give out little plastic figurines with ever $10 worth of groceries. “Collect them all!” they say. This solution may sound hard, but we refuse the items at the register. We do not need cheap, plastic toys, the environment doesn’t benefit from us taking them and throwing them out and our daughter wouldn’t play longer with them than half an hour. (Plus it’ll save you LOTS of money if you don’t buy extra groceries just to get more toys. I’ve seen it happen…)

4. If you’ve bought something that you really like, it’s appealing to get a second or a third of it, “just in case”. Or if you find a t-shirt that looks good on you, you’ll start thinking about buying it in three different colours. Don’t. It subtracts value from the original item (which isn’t special anymore) and it adds to clutter. You’ll get a new one as soon as the old one is worn out. Chances are that shops still exist at that time.

5. Set aside one space where you want to keep your keepsakes. It can be a shelf in a bookcase, or a special box. Make sure your keepsakes stay in there! They say that stuff fits itself into the space allowed. If you set a strict rule about what space is for storing mementos, it’s bound to stay within proportions.

6. Think about “why” you want to collect something in the first place? Does it make your life better in some way? Is it of any use? Be ruthless and you’ll often realise that one is enough. One teddy-bear to remember your childhood, one love-letter to remember the time you and your spouse were still dating, one outfit from when your kids were still babies, etc.

7. And, last but not least… evaluate whether keeping your collection exceeds the value of the money you’d make if you would put it on Ebay. As with the Michael Jackson-records, it made absolute sense to hold on to them until this moment. But at this time, it’s probably more profitable to sell those limited editions than to keep them (and not listen to them, because you have the ‘normal’ version of the same music as well)