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5 genius ways to collect souvenirs like a minimalist

5 genius ways to collect souvenirs like a minimalist

At my parents house in Tasmania, I’ve stored a large stack of scrapbooks filled with keepsakes from all the trips we took when I was a kid.

I used to love collecting plane tickets (back when they were more than just a flimsy sheet of paper), entry tickets to attractions, and photos that had been developed from the old film camera that we used before digital cameras became a thing.

After each trip, I would use coloured paper and cut-out lettering to turn all of these mementos into beautiful creations. This method of souvenir collection slowly built up into numerous large albums of our travel memories.

I would also buy souvenirs to keep in my bedroom. I had a miniature terracotta warrior from when I visited Xi’an in China. I had a giant foam hand from when I went to a baseball game in Chicago. I had fridge magnets from some Australian destinations that I’d visited. All the stuff I’d collected from my travels added up to quite a lot.

Nowadays, I collect souvenirs in a very different way. Since 2011, I’ve moved 4 times between 4 different cities, and each time I stack all my possessions into a moving van, it becomes harder to argue why I should be hoarding so much stuff. I wrote about this mindset a while back when I told the story of selling everything we own.

While I’m no longer a hoarder of physical possessions, I still am a hoarder of memories. Over the past few years, I’ve collected so many photos and videos from my travels that I’ve had to upgrade my digital storage multiple times.

If you also want to reduce your material possessions but don’t want to stop hoarding memories, here are 5 genius ways to collect souvenirs like a minimalist!


Hull telephone box souvenir

1. Take photos of souvenirs instead of buying them

In my opinion, photos are the best way to keep a memento of your travels. And if you spot a cute souvenir but don’t want to carry it back home or store it in your house, why not take a photo of it?

I spotted this super adorable telephone money box in a gift shop in Hull, but instead of buying it, I snapped a photo with my phone so that I could remember the souvenir whenever I reminisced about my trip by looking through my photos. It’s like having the souvenir without actually buying it. Genius, right?

West End ticket, London

2. Take photos of attraction tickets

Speaking of photos, how about taking some snaps of your attraction tickets instead of keeping them? I did this when I went to a West End show in London, and I would argue that this is even better than keeping the original as I now have a photo of the souvenir which was taken in the venue itself.

This can go for any sort of ticket, like a plane ticket at the airport or an entrance ticket in front of the museum/theme park/attraction that you’ve just walked into.

Poster Souvenirs

3. FIND RECYCLABLE OR REUSABLE OBJECTS

Recyclable objects make a great souvenirs. For example, I found some inexpensive posters in the gift shop of the Tenement Museum and decorated the walls of our apartment with them. I’m undecided if I’ll take them back to Australia, but if I don’t, it won’t be a big deal.

There are loads of other souvenirs that are made out of paper or cardboard and can be recycled after they’ve been used. I purchased a cardboard 3D puzzle of the Empire State Building for my nephew in Australia as I knew it would be no problem if it gets discarded after he’s finished with it.

Some other souvenirs that can be reused or re-gifted are games and puzzles, stationery, and even books. Whenever you’re looking at a souvenir, consider whether it will be recyclable or reusable when you get tired of keeping it.

Chocolates from Hull, UK

4. Buy consumable souvenirs

Souvenirs don’t have to be permanent. If you buy something edible as a souvenir, then you’ll still be reminded of your trip while you’re consuming it! Items like chocolate, tea, or jam are all things that could last a while but won’t take up space in your house forever.

I purchased 3 blocks of British chocolate (with flavours like Eton Mess, Summer Pudding, and Apple Crumble) and took them back as a souvenir for Rob and I to enjoy. It was a great way to take a little piece of the UK back with me.

Shoreditch, London

5. Use a blog instead of a physical journal

All my old travel journals are stored in a suitcase at my parents house, which I’ve kept as souvenirs of my past travels. It’s one of the things that I just can’t bear to throw away for sentimental reasons, but is just sitting there taking up space.

These days, my travel journals take the form of a blog rather than handwriting on paper. I get just as much of a creative kick writing about my travels online as I did in those journals, and this way, it only takes up digital space!


Before anyone gets upset that I’m telling them not to buy souvenirs, please know that I’m aware that the minimalist lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Some people just really like collecting things, which is totally fine (especially if you plan to live in one place for a while).

This post for those of us who are trying not to hoard possessions. I want you to know that it’s entirely possible to be a minimalist and still collect souvenirs, if you’re smart about it!

How do you go about collecting souvenirs? Do you use any of these minimalist methods? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!


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Ashlea Wheeler

This post was written by Ashlea, a colourfully clothed and excitable vegetarian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

19 Responses to “5 genius ways to collect souvenirs like a minimalist”

  1. Lisa

    I try to take pictures of things too, to save space and money too. My mum definitely got me started on this when I was little and very attached to toys and books which we couldn’t keep forever, telling me that a photo takes up less space! It’s definitely useful advice for travelling too. I totally know what you mean about moving- I try to be quite ruthless because I know some things just won’t ‘survive’ my next move!
    Lisa | http://www.whatlisadidnext.com

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s great that your Mum got you started on the minimalist lifestyle, Lisa! She was absolutely right, nothing lasts forever and it’s much easier to keep a photo than a material possession. Being ruthless every time you move is a great way to purge – whatever doesn’t make the cut can get sold, recycled, or discarded. It’s a great feeling to get rid of all that unnecessary stuff!

      Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I think notebooks are the hardest thing to give up! They were definitely an item that I loved to collect as a kid. Still, if you’ve started buying consumable souvenirs and the only physical souvenir left is your notebooks, you’re doing pretty well 🙂

      Reply
  2. Kevin R. Thompson

    Fantastic ideas!! I prefer to travel as light as possible and sometimes forget to do the souvenir thing, but taking pictures of those pieces is a great way to capture them in your memory! Definitely trying this on my next trip.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Kevin! I’m glad you’re already on board with travelling light 😉 Keep us updated on how you go with collecting minimalist souvenirs on your next trip – I’d love to hear how it goes 🙂

      Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You’re welcome, Stephanie! I have only started taking photos of attraction tickets in the past few months, and I have no idea why I didn’t think of it before now! It’s honestly the best way to keep an extra memory of the attractions you visit.

      Reply
  3. Leslie Carbone

    I like to bring home unique kitchen items. They’re practical as well as fun reminders of my travels while I’m cooking–two of my favorite activities.

    Reply
  4. Dyanne

    As a (now, 6 years and counting) blissful “minimalist” expat who lives perpetually with only what will fit in a carry-on rollie and a backpack, I agree emphatically with the options you’ve listed here.

    I’d only add a couple more alternatives: I now “collect” only A. scarves and B. earrings (and allow myself only a dozen at a time of both – tossing one out when I reach 13) as these can easily be tucked into a backpack and I can and do use them on a daily basis.

    I also can recommend tattoos as souvenirs. While I don’t get “inked” in every country I explore (far too many now!) I do have a handful of small tattoos to remember extra special places (South Africa, Bali, Nepal and most recently an “Agradecido” script with tiny butterflies on my forearm – to remind me of my (finally!) visit to the trees outside of Mexico City – (literally!) *dripping* with Monarch butterflies.

    And the “Grateful” script? That pretty much covers ALL the wondrous corners of the globe that I’ve been privileged to visit thanks only to the (sheer fluke) of my birth in the U.S. (as opposed to Mozambique, etc.)

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Ooh of course, tattoos are a great souvenir idea! I don’t have any of my own, but they definitely fit within the minimalist lifestyle 😉

      I really like your scarves and earrings rotation idea, too – I do something similar at home with the clothing in my closet. It keeps me from collecting too many wardrobe items!

      Reply
  5. Lorna

    Love this so much – I definitely prefer to keep possessions to a minimum. I tend to go down the consumables route, but I love taking photos of tickets too! I also buy local items to send to my niece and nephew occasionally, anything from postcards to themed books/toys. They appreciate getting post and treats from afar and I’ll be able to feel a connection to the place when I’m next home. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Lauren

    I can relate to this so much. Since I started travelling and transitioning to the nomadic lifestyle, I find myself getting rid of more and more material possessions.

    I’m at the point where all my earthly possessions neatly fit in 6 small boxes in my dad’s garage, I only own two-three pairs of shoes at any given time and my wardrobe is down 5 shirts, 1 dress, 3 pairs of pants.

    From someone who was always buying new clothes every single month, I surprise myself by how much I’ve de-cluttered my life. When it comes to travel, I’ll be adding some of these tips to my souvenir collecting which usually includes buying a small painting I can roll up in my bag or a bracelet to add to the growing collection on my arm 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You are owning this minimalist lifestyle, Lauren! I used to be similar – buying clothes every week when I worked in a city job. It builds up to a point where you have way too many items of clothing, when all you really need is a few key items to change up every few days. Kudos to you for de-cluttering your life!

      Reply
  7. Danielle

    I think this is great. I collect Christmas ornaments from the places we visit. They are lightweight, small and have a purpose. And when not using them they can all be condensed into a few boxes and put into my storage room. I used to try to buy an ornament AND another souvenir, but it just got to be too many “dust collectors”. I try to now only buy things that bring me joy, or that have a purpose. For example, I bought a tea set from Poland that I use all the time. It’s beautiful, holds memories, AND it is functional. That piece of the Berlin wall isn’t functional and just sits on my shelf. I am far from a minimalist, but I definitely appreciate your approach to things. It is really freeing to not have so much “stuff”. | http://ourpassportpages.com

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I love that term “dust collectors”! It describes exactly the type of souvenir we’re trying to avoid 😉 It’s great that you’ve been able to question whether each souvenir will bring you joy or have a purpose – I think that’s a great approach!

      Reply
  8. Lydia

    I can relate to this post so much! My husband and I are moving cities and it struck me how much extra stuff we have that we don’t use. We’re both hoarders so it’s bad. I try to collect only small souvenirs, like magnets and little knick knacks. I find that when I take photos of stuff they get lost and it takes a lot of time to dig them back up. I do like your minimalistic ideas of taking photos of tickets and souvenirs though! Thank you for this post!
    Lydia | http://littlewanderess.com

    Reply
  9. Lynne

    Since I must wear a “med-alert” bracelet, I found one with an interchangeable “Pandora” style band. I collect a bead (or two or three…) on my travels, some of them handmade. Each band holds over a dozen beads. I have one band filled, and am working on the second. They take up virtually no space. I wear my memories on my wrist, and love reconfiguring them as the whim takes me.

    Reply

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