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How to collect memories (without cluttering up your home)

Can you keep personal treasures without allowing clutter to take over your home? We explain more about how you can collect memories, not things

How to collect memories (without cluttering up your home)

We all have little mementoes that remind us of our lives and shared experiences. Perhaps you collect little trinkets from past holidays, or keep a box full of tickets from shows you have been to with loved ones, to little gifts brought back to show that we were in a friend’s thoughts while they were travelling. From fridge magnets to an array of cuddly toys and souvenirs, it can be easy to get caught up in keeping items from our past to act as physical reminders of some of our happiest memories.

But why do we become attached to so many little things that others may consider ‘junk’, is that attachment always a bad thing, and what can we do if we’re worried our collecting of things is getting out of hand? We explain more about how you can collect memories, not things.

Why do we collect things?

According to the Royal Mint, an overwhelming four in five (83%) of us have collected something during our lifetime, with just over half of us (57%) currently keeping a collection.

The reasons why we collect things vary from person to person. Some people may start collections as a way of enjoying themselves, expressing how much they like to be part of a certain hobby, or even as a status symbol. Many collectors have a passion or love for the things that they collect. Others may slowly grow their collection, adding a new item to celebrate or signify major life events. While for others, their collections may create a sense of comfort, reminding them of where items were bought, who they were with at the time, happy memories around travel or spending time with loved ones.

We may link these items within our collections with people, places, or events, entwining those positive memories with the physical items we have kept – whether that item is something big or small, expensive or cheap. In essence, our collections can become almost a physical representation of our lives: what we have done, who we have spent time with, and where we have travelled.

Collect memories, not things: What does collecting memories mean?

The idea behind collecting moments instead of things is that we should focus on how our memories connect us with others, rather than physical objects. When we focus on collecting moments, we return our focus on creating shared experiences with others. That could be with a partner, family, friends, or even now people you’ve never met before.

By focusing on how we feel in the moment and the activities and events we share, we can create more meaningful connections and memories together. Through finding different ways of recording these memories, we can enjoy and even share them for years to come.

Why do people collect memories?

Collecting memories over things can be beneficial for both us, and those we love. Gathering our memories can help us to better learn and reflect on ourselves, the world around us, our place in it, and those around us. Finding a way to collect your memories can help you to better understand what you have learned, look back at life milestones and experiences, as well as find ways to keep these memories alive and pass them on to others.

In many ways, our memories and our experiences define who we are. Good and bad, our memories shape who we are, the relationships we form, and the life lessons we keep with us. Unlike physical objects, our memories don’t require careful upkeep, are harder to lose, and don’t cost money to obtain.

Sharing our memories can be a great way to bond with loved ones, as well as to pass on shared history and knowledge about our families. It can also be a way to remind yourself of small details you may have forgotten. For example, you may remember perfectly what you did on your first date with your partner – where you went, what you did, what you ate. While they may remember other specific details, such as a particular scent, emotion, even what you wore or how you made them feel. Sharing these memories can help you to rediscover parts of yourself and your shared experiences that may have otherwise become lost to time.

How do you collect memories?

As we get older, sometimes we can begin to forget smaller details about the events that mean the most to us. Once we hit 30, evidence suggests that we find it harder to remember some things. Over time, our memories fade, become less vivid, and it can be hard to recall the exact details.  

There are many different ways you can collect your memories without resorting to keeping a large collection of items. Finding ways to help gather, record, and collect your memories as you go can help you to ensure that you remember as much as possible about these events, while also helping to create something you can share with loved ones and even pass on when the time is right.

Write it down. Creating a personal memoir has become a popular option for many people. This doesn’t have to be using an expensive service, or even written in a way that has to be shared with others. But it can be a great way to collect little life stories you wish to preserve or that matter the most to you. Writing letters to your future self or keeping a journal can be another way of recording these memories.

Photographs. How we store and display our photos has changed over the years. While my grandmother had album upon album with hand-written dates, names and places stacked in her living room, my mother has tens of thousands of unlabelled photos saved precariously on her phone without any real backup.

Printing out physical copies of your photos can help you to create a physical memento that you can manually curate, but why not consider giving the same care and attention to digital photographs? Ensure you back up your photos to avoid accidental loss if your phone is damaged or stolen. Take time to add photos to individual digital albums, or to rename photo files to include details of when they were taken, who was there, and what the occasion or event was.

Audio recordings. If writing isn’t your thing, recording you talking about your memories has never been easier. You can use your phone or computer to make audio recordings that you can listen to again in the future, or share with loved ones as you get older.

Memory boxes. Creating a memory box doesn’t just have to be about remembering loved ones that you have lost. You can make your own memory box to commemorate just about anything, from big life events like getting married or having a child, to smaller but just as meaningful things like collecting small mementoes from your favourite dates, and your family homes over the years. Even collecting things like recipes that have meant a lot to you and have been used to celebrate over the years can make a great memory box.


Decluttering your space without losing memories and sentimental keepsakes

Sometimes, decluttering our physical space can help us to feel better. When we are feeling particularly low, it can be easy to let things build up. Over time, a little clutter can start to feel overwhelming, until we reach a point where we no longer know where to get started, or feel guilty or ashamed for letting things get so far. Or for some people, you may struggle to realise you have a problem at all.

If you find that you have developed an emotional attachment to a lot of physical items, or struggle to get rid of things, it’s not always a sign that something is wrong. But if you find that the amount of items you have is interfering with your day-to-day life, is stopping you from doing things, accessing rooms, or having visitors, it can be a sign that your collecting could be compulsive hoarding.

To find out more about hoarding, how you can find support and guidance to uncover underlying causes, and how you can help a loved one, visit Counselling Directory or enter your postcode in the search bar below to find a qualified, experienced therapist near you.