A Collector and a Minimalist │Living with Less but Enjoying Every Bit of It

A cupboard of vintage mug
Being fully immersed in the vintage world, and as a forever collector, I know what it's like to collect, cultivate, and want to own "things" that spark our interest. 

I am also a minimalist. 

But guess what? The two can co-exist, intermingle, and thrive in a place where what is valued is also used.

I like to call myself a utilitarian collector. What I collect gets used. This means, to me anyway, that I'm not hoarding, I'm not collecting something that no one else can appreciate, but it's a collection I love that others can see (and use) and it's also something I use every day. 

These are utilitarian collections. And I think everyone should have at least one utilitarian collection.

Today, my collections are my vintage mug and vintage Pyrex collections. I also collect vintage belts (I own about 30 belts, and rotate through them every month), as well as a dozen vintage dresses. These are special dresses and don't get worn every day, but they do get worn. This is definitely part and parcel of owning an online vintage clothing store. I buy to sell but inevitably, certain items stay in my closet for good. Oops.

It's easy to assume that I can't possibly use them all. And you'd be right. I can't use them all at the same time. I can't wear every belt every day, or every dress every week. 

But I sure can use various pieces, from belts to Pyrex, throughout the month and year. And that's exactly what I do.

I've collected so many things over the last 40 years, that it's hard to pinpoint when it first began. But, I believe it was the Disney deer, Bambi, that I loved as a young girl. I love deer and so I collected deer, but especially Bambi. I had several dozen Bambis and I loved getting another one to add to my collection for Christmas or my birthday. 

But, because I wasn't utilizing this collection, I've since sold it off.

Do I miss it? A little. But, it also collected dust. I sold it off to people who wanted to collect it and now have space for something else or nothing at all. 

In my case, nothing replaced the deer collection. And it's perfect. I enjoyed the collection when I had it.

Over the years, I've collected many other things from books, Disneyana, Star Wars collectibles, vintage Fire-King dinnerware, depression glass, vintage Fiesta ware... it goes on and on. And most of the time, they were things I collected because I loved them. That's a fine reason to collect.

But, I also didn't use them. 

And that's a fine reason not to collect.

For the last thirty years or so, I've had a vintage Fire-King collection. Fire-King is a vintage dish company (via Anchor Hocking) that started in the 1940s. I loved the turquoise blue color. And had hauled this collection from home to home over the decades adding a piece every year, and enjoying looking at the growing pile.

A set of two blue vintage plates
The problem, as I rearranged my cabinets for the millionth time last year, was that I didn't use them. I mean, I used maybe one bowl, and the mugs, but that was it. All the plates, the bread and butter plates, and the salad plates - not to mention the salad bowls, berry bowls, cereal bowls, etc - just sat there and stared at me as I opened the cupboards passing over them for the pieces I used instead.

I wanted to use them. I loved them with all my heart, but loving them didn't mean I used them. 

And I didn't use them. 

So, I did what I should've done before my last move and a couple months ago began selling off the unused Fire-King items in my Etsy shop. I kept the mugs, and the mixing bowls, but everything else went.

Do I miss something I treasured and hunted for? Absolutely. I miss owning the collection. But I don't miss the actual collection. I never used it!

For me, so much of the thrill of a collection is the hunting, the treasure hunting. This is why my work of selling vintage is rewarding: I get to treasure hunt and sell off the items for a profit. It's a win/win situation for a collector and minimalist at heart.

Now, hopefully, the vintage Fire-King is going to homes for people who can use it. 

Today, I'm living with less, but using every bit of what I own. 

My collections are used, loved, used some more, and enjoyed. They're not collecting dust, they're not just "for that special occasion," but they're front and center of my kitchen being used and enjoyed every single day. 

Each morning, I use a different vintage mug. And every evening when I cook dinner, I try to use a different set of bowls in my Pyrex collection.

As I usually tell myself, being a minimalist is a constant work in progress. It takes time and willpower to continually go through things, not to collect (as the avid collector that I am), not to hold on to things I won't need or use. 

But, as I've learned over the years, by paring down to things I love and use, I can simultaneously be a minimalist and a collector and not feel an ounce of guilt about it.

Are you the same way? Is there a collection you know you should get rid of but you haven't because of the time you've put into treasure hunting it? 

Be easy on yourself. It's okay to collect. It's okay to love things. But if you're like me and want to live the simple life of minimalism, learning how to let go of collections is part of the deal. I've found a way to cope with my collector's heart by keeping only what I love and use and letting the rest go.

Of course, I miss some "things" but I find I don't think very much about them anymore. Why? Because I never used them in the first place. Just owned them, or more accurately, they owned me.

It's okay to collect. And it's okay to minimize. There's a healthy balance between collecting, using what you collect, and being a minimalist and keeping a minimalist home.

But, learning to keep only what I use has been a life-changing way to free myself from collecting too much. Now, the things I collect I love even more, and being able to use what I love is the cherry on the cake to my collector's (and minimalist) heart.

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