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How to have a Collection and still be a Minimalist

Closet of vintage Pyrex

I'm going to dive into an area that is near and dear to my heart: collecting.

I'm going to explain why I call myself a minimalist while owning a vintage Pyrex collection that is huge and still growing.

Let's go over the basics. What is a collection? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a collection is "an accumulation of objects gathered for study, comparison, or exhibition or as a hobby." I'm going to reiterate, for emphasis, the word hobby. Because that's what my collection - and most people who have collections - take their collection to be: a hobby. 

One collection is fine. Even two. Perhaps even three or four. 

But when is it too much? How will I know?

Since I was a kid, I've been collecting something. I think most collections for adults begin in their youth. There is a giant world of things to collect and for me, this was how I learned to value objects and to take care of those things as well. My love of vintage began in my early years and is probably why I cling to it today. In the beginning, I collected ceramic deer, books, Star Wars memorabilia, music memorabilia, and records. As I got older, my collections turned to other vintage items, particularly things I could use, like collectible dinnerware, dishes, bowls, etc. 

But, there came a point when I realized I wasn't getting the satisfaction from "things" that I used to get. I think this is also part of growing up. I still had collections, but there was only so much time in the day, as well as funds to support the collections.

So, over the years, I began getting rid of (and selling online) various collections and things. I knew it was time to let go. 

This purging is fairly normal for most people as they age and acquire new responsibilities, but it doesn't happen to everyone. Some folks like to keep what they collect for as long as they can. I understand this! But my desires, as I shifted into a minimalist mindset years ago, changed me. Things that I thought were bringing me joy were burdening me and costing me money I didn't have. Not to mention, I really didn't have the room to store it all. My kitchen was overflowing.

So, is there a way to be a minimalist and a collector simultaneously? I think it comes down to two issues within the parameters of responsibility and moderation. Here's how I did it and how I plan on continuing to do it:

Keep only what I love: I realize this is rather vague. I liked all of my collections. from vintage Fire-king dishes, vintage restaurant ware, and vintage mugs.  But, I knew some things needed to go. I knew what I loved over what I liked. I really wanted to use what I loved and as it turned out, I was only using those things. I wasn't using what I didn't love. If I open my cupboards and can smile at my collection because it makes me happy (not just taking space) then there is my reason for keeping it. Keep only what you love. Your likes will change and preferences will shift over time. Pare down to love.

Keep only what I use: This is debatable because so many collectors of big things, like cars, car parts, furniture, or art, can't "use" everything they own. But, do they try to? That's the point I'm trying to make here. I collect vintage Pyrex. There are dozens of patterns I collect. Do I use them all? No. Not at the same time, but I use them every day, as often as I can, and rotate through them throughout the month. I have a utilitarian collection: I use what I collect as well as collect for the joy of finding (thrifting) and displaying. If you're interested in being a minimalist but still want to have a few collections, then make a point of using or displaying them. If it's just collecting dust, then are you really taking care of your collection? Keep only what you use. The rest is superfluous and borderline hoarding.

A beautiful book about vintage Pyrex called Pyrex Passion
Book rec: If you collect
Pyrex, this book is a must! 
It's practically a work of art.


Side note about hoarding: I've had folks tell me on a social media account of mine focused on my Pyrex collection, that I'm a hoarder. I have to laugh - because I am the opposite of a hoarder, and yet I understand why they say it. They see multiple similar items and wonder about the point. Hoarding, per the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "the compulsion to continually accumulate a variety of items that are often considered useless or worthless by others accompanied by an inability to discard the items without great distress."

Hoarding is a real disease and I am sensitive to understanding it. It is awful and I wish all who have this disease relief from it. But my collection is not accumulated under compulsion, the items are not useless or worthless, and I have no qualms about selling or donating my collection. My main joy in collecting Pyrex is thrifting the items. The fun is in the hunt; questing for the cheapest but most amazing pieces I can add to my collection without having to pay retail (antique store) prices. Once I'm done collecting, I will save a few pieces, and sell it all. This collection does not own me in the least. 

Can you say this about your collections?

So, keep only what you love and keep only what you use. Those are my two rules for keeping collecting and minimalism on the table together as friends. When you love what you have, the collection doesn't weigh on your shoulders as "stuff." When you use what you have - when your collection is both utilitarian and a satisfactory thing to look at - I find no reason not to hold onto it. It brings you joy.

The other big part here, other than my collection, is that the rest of my home is minimal. I have nothing else to clutter up my closets, drawers, and cupboards. This gives me the freedom and justification to keep my collection and still call myself a minimalist because the majority of my life has minimalism at its foundation.

Remember, minimalism isn't about just having the least amount of things possible. We need things to live and operate and to enjoy life. But the moment those things control us, we've lost our focus. We've lost the reason God made us: which is to love others, over things. With minimalism, we remind ourselves that this way of living (and loving) is possible. So, enjoy your collections! And if they've become a burden, then let them go... pare down to love.

-HJS 





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