Confessions of a Recovering Collector

I thought I could never be a minimalist with few clothes, few knick-knacks on the shelves, or few physical memories lying about. It just wasn't me. It still isn't. I thought I was destined for a life of clutter - not that I really enjoyed my space being continuously messy, it was just better (and easier) than it being uncomfortably empty! Historically, I'm one of those weird people that like having a lot of clutter everywhere!

I come from a long line of collectors.

My mom infamously comes home from each vacation with bags upon bags of rocks, seashells or upcycled mustard jars filled with sand. One sailing trip in the Bahamas brought about a collection of plastic doll heads found floating in the tides. This spring she returned home from Europe toting just the essentials of course: mosaic pieces and shards of pottery from ancient ruins in Italy and Greece. Totally legal.   

My grandmother collected mid-century modern furniture, ceramics, Bobbsey Twins books to match the series we had, German souvenir wine glasses, Caro Nan basket purses, and various antiques. My love for messy, dusty antique stores comes from her. 

 Annie Spratt

Annie Spratt

Me? Throughout the years I've collected, with fluctuating intensity, cameras, antique photographs, old books, hand-thrown amateur pottery, kilim pillowcases, baskets, ticket stubs, vegetarian cookbooks, oil lamps (this was during my Prepper days), cassette tapes, vinyl, foreign coins, amateur oil paintings, vintage Heath ceramics, and more. 

Shopping has always made me feel better. When I have had periods of particular poorness during my adult life, nothing would make me feel better than going to a thrift store (or to a fast food drive thru) and buying something - even if it was with a handful of change. I would suddenly feel powerful and in charge of my own life again. No one could stop me from buying something if I wanted to!

It was an unhealthy habit, and it was weak. 

As I packed and prepared our house to sell last Spring, I took dozens of bags to the thrift store. Dozens. I realized then that there's a freeing feeling in giving something away.

Twice I've been at friends' houses, complemented the host on a mug, and have had them offer it to me to keep - happily. Both times I took the mug, but both times I found it incomprehensible that these two separate people would so genuinely offer me something from their "collection." I am so attached to my Things that I couldn't imagine giving up something freely. For me, the objects I possess are a part of who I am. In my weakest moments, I believe those objects define who I am and help people know what kind of person I am, and that's the really scary thing. 

My belongings have at points added to my image as the eccentric roommate, the quirky artist, the put-together hostess, the well-read scholar, the not super attractive but at least unique single girl in the crowd, but to be honest, I was none of those people. I know myself pretty well, but do my acquaintances know the real me or the person I've curated through the things I buy? Have you realized a tendency in yourself like this?

 Annie Spratt

Annie Spratt

I am still at the very beginning of this journey towards simplicity, towards not defining myself with things, towards confidence and honesty. Moving has helped. In this new city 1,700 miles away from everyone I know, I am free to leave the house without makeup, or to grocery shop in the weirdest but most comfortable outfit imaginable, and as I meet people and make friends they'll get to know a person who is pursuing a self that is more complete and more true than other people have known. She may be less cool, less put together, and less unique than before, but she also may be more confident, more real, and healthier. 

As for the collection of books, ceramics, and knick-knacks that I thought I had pared down so much before the move and are now collecting dust on every surface imaginable - I've started packing them up again, and the uncluttered bookshelves are looking surprisingly aesthetic. 

I want to know, do you like giving things away or does it make you feel uneasy? How much of what you have could you stand to get rid of? What's the scariest part about minimalism? I'd love to hear from you. Comment below!