How to collect memories (without cluttering up your home)

Bonnie Evie Gifford
By Bonnie Evie Gifford,
updated on Aug 16, 2023

How to collect memories (without cluttering up your home)

Can you keep personal treasures without allowing clutter to take over your space? We delve into the power of collecting memories and moments, not things

We all have little mementoes that remind us of important moments or people in our lives – it could be trinkets from holidays, a box of tickets from events with loved ones, or gifts from friends to show you were in their 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 things that others may consider ‘junk’, is that attachment always a bad thing, and what can we do if we’re worried our collecting is getting out of hand? Collecting memories, not things, could be the answer…

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 as a way of enjoying themselves, expressing their passion for a certain hobby, or even as a status symbol. Others may slowly grow their collection, adding a new item to signify major life events, or because they create a sense of comfort, reminding them of where items were bought, who they were with at the time, and happy memories.

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.

What does collecting memories mean?

It’s important to be intentional with what we surround ourselves with – a cluttered home can lead to feeling cluttered in our minds as well, taking away from that calming, rejuvenating space in our personal sanctuaries. So, 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 put our energy into collecting moments, we return our focus to creating shared experiences with the people who mean the most to us.

By taking stock of how we feel in the moment, and the activities and events we share, we can create more meaningful connections and memories. Through finding different ways of recording these memories, we can enjoy and even share them for years to come. And, going forwards, there can be less pressure to spend money on keepsakes, when you set the intention to soak up every moment for your memories instead.

Why do people collect memories?

In many ways, our memories and our experiences define who we are. Good and bad, our memories shape us, the relationships we form, and the life lessons we keep with us. Gathering memories can help us to better learn and reflect on ourselves, the world around us, and our place in it.

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. Meanwhile, they may remember other specific details, such as a particular scent, emotion, even what you wore, something you said, or how you made them feel. Sharing these memories can help you 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. As noted by Harvard Health Publishing, 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 creating 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. Writing letters to your future self, or keeping a journal, can be another way of recording these memories in a written form to reflect on later.

Capture it in an album. 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 thousands of unlabelled photos saved precariously on her phone without any real backup.

Printing out copies of your photos can help you to create a physical memento you can curate, but why not give 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.

Create audio recordings. If writing isn’t your thing, recording yourself 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.

Make a memory box. You can make your own memory box to commemorate just about anything, from big life events, to smaller but just as meaningful things such as collecting small mementoes from your favourite dates. Even collecting things like recipes that have meant a lot to you can make a great memory box.

Decluttering without sacrificing the sentimental

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 become overwhelming, until we reach a point where we don't 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 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. If so, reaching out to a professional to talk things through, can be a great support.

Visit the Counselling Directory for more information about hoarding, as well as support and guidance to uncover underlying causes, and how to help a loved one.

Join 100,000+ subscribers

Stay in the loop with everything Happiful

We care about your data, read our privacy policy
Our Vision

We’re on a mission to create a healthier, happier, more sustainable society.