For nearly 10 years I’ve tried to be a minimalist. It started out as something out of necessity. I had the “collectors” gene where it was hard for me to just get into something a little bit. My earliest memory of wanting to collect was Star Wars toys. I couldn’t just have a couple of figures, I need to have enough to create whole scenes. I used to love creating displays more than actually playing with toys. I would set up dioramas on my shelves. No matter what I was into I needed enough to set up a display and I never had enough. There was always something missing.
In my high school years, I collected CDs. I wanted to have every album by my favorite bands and I had too many favorites. I had a big media shelf to showcase all of my music. I had hundreds of CDs that I was very proud of. I spent more time organizing the shelf then I did actually listening to the music. I wouldn’t dare get rid of any of the CDs because then my collection wouldn’t be complete. I also felt loyal to my favorite bands. Even if I didn’t listen to their music much, I had to buy their latest volume… even if their latest album was a greatest hits compilation. It was a strange loyalty to bands that really didn’t know or care that I existed. It’s not like they were going to send a fan auditor to my house to make sure I had every album.
In my college years I had a lot of stress. That was when I discovered that when I stress out I buy more stuff whether I enjoyed it or not. All of my old collecting habits came back and I spent more money than I made. I had more collectables then could fit on shelves and more music than I would ever listen to.
About 10 years ago I had enough. Enough of the collecting, enough of the giving into my obsessions. I made a change and reduced many of my collections. But I still held on to some of the excess. It was like I just pruned the tree a little but didn’t cut the roots. So my journey with stuff reduction was a 2 step forward, 1 step back scenario. I was much better than I was in the past but my way of dealing with stress and coping with life was going to the store. It was a distraction and it gave me something to focus on. Over the last 10 years I dealt with some very serious health issues. I had a serious illness that was at its worst in 2010. I experienced nights of feeling helpless, not seeing an end to my suffering. So with that I took a few steps back. In 2010 I had no debt of any kind but slowly over the next few years I built a lot of debt from bad spending habits.
Now this leads us to today. I am still trying to pay off the mistakes of recent years. I had another slip while once again dealing with heavy stress over the last few months. I got into buying shoes, toys (aka collectables), and Disney Infinity Figures. I built up a big expensive collection but I have now paired them down to a minimum amount. I kept my absolute favorites.
So within the last few months I decided to fully embrace minimalism again. First minimalism is not giving up every non-essential. It is removing the excess. Pairing things down to what I truly need and truly enjoy. When I have too many things it feels stressful and I can’t enjoy them. I typically focus on what is missing as my obsessive nature doesn’t allow me to enjoy what I have. If I allow excess that excess continues to grow. Now that I have pared back on everything I can truly enjoy the collections that I kept.
I have now pruned all of my collections… Here are some examples of the changes I’ve made:
I was collecting Disney Infinity figures which are Disney, Marvel and Star Wars toys you put on a pad to play in a video game. I am not a gamer but I bought an XBOX to play the toys. What I discovered is that I would only play when my nephew was over and so I decided pack up the XBOX and 90 percent of the toys and sent it to his house so him and his siblings can enjoy it. I kept some of the figures that I really like to display. I removed the excess and I can now enjoy my favorites.
The biggest change was with my music collection. I have gotten rid of many of my CDs I had collected over the years but it was hard to remove the digital files and I kept some CDs from my favorite bands. I came to a realization that I was holding onto this long dead collection when I was trying to decide what to put in my car CD case. I typically only listen to 3 CDs in my car but for the most part I listen to podcasts in the car. I really don’t enjoy listening to music that much anymore but I would still buy latest releases from my old favorite bands and I would force myself to listen to them.
Here is what I ended up doing… I threw out all but the 3 CDs I listen to. I also deleted about 90 percent of the music I had on my computer. I held onto the music because I felt like I was throwing away money… the money that I had spent building that collection that I was once so proud of. Yes, I wasted money on that collection and at one time when I actually enjoyed listening to the music I got the value from it but it’s okay to move on. That is not my hobby anymore and it isn’t me. I’m not going to listen to it so it is time to let it go.
What I discovered is that in order to move forward I had to make drastic changes to keep myself from returning to where I was. By purging my stuff I can learn to enjoy what I have and not what I don’t have. I don’t need every Star Wars figure to make the perfect cantina scene, I don’t need every album by Chicago when their “best of” is enough for me, and I don’t need to own figures for a game that I am not interested in playing. I now have what I like and when I don’t like those anymore I can move on and not hold onto things. I need to not wrap who I am around what I liked in the past. We change, we grow, and our interests change. It’s okay to let go of the things you enjoyed as a child. It was great for then but you’ve grown up and you have new interests. It’s okay to move on.