Minimalism seems to be a daily conversation now. The more people i engage with, the more they want to tell me about their own decluttering habits, successes and failures. It’s great to hear how others tackle certain elements of their excess and i thoroughly enjoy listening to the experiences they have gone through.
One theme that keeps coming up relates to achievements. At the moment, that tends to be a sticking point for people. They are all up for clearing certain aspects of their environments but then when it comes to stuff that sparks a good memory that took some sort of physical or mental effort, that's the point where decluttering your environment goes from enlightening to a little uncomfortable.
For some, having a picture taken with all their personal achievements before letting them go is the answer, for others it’s not that easy.
I had a wonderful conversation with someone recently and it made me think about the challenges we have set ourselves and the rewards for overcoming them, what do we do with those physical rewards as we progress through life?
The conversation started around medals, running medals in particular, but then it got me thinking about my own football awards and trophies. The consistent factor being both of our situations was that, on the whole, the medals and the trophies were nowhere to be seen. Ironically, during our chat, he advised that he was due to have a clear out of the garage, which is where the medals had lived over the past few years.
So what does that mean? Does that mean we forgot about them? Does that mean that they don't actually mean anything anymore? If we are not displaying them, are we not proud of our achievements? Are they a glimpse into a past we struggle to let go of?
I had loads of football trophies when i was younger. Growing up winning this and that and i used to have them on display, when i was playing. It was also a conversation starter when i had friends round. It was a confidence boost. They would need dusting and cleaning regularly and took up loads of room, plus they were all such an awkward shape. Weirdly crafted men in a kicking action, some hands and arms bigger than heads, footballs double the size and cheap metal plates with my name on drilled onto a marble base. Just to clarify, i was ok at football and there were some player of the year trophies but the majority were ‘well done for taking part’ and ‘team winner’ trophies, not so much the individual accomplishments.
As i got older, the joy of playing and the social aspect became more important to me so the trophies just phased out of my life. I’m pretty sure they’re still around my parents house somewhere but they’re not something i’d be particularly interested in keeping hold of.
Four years ago I competed in a mud race with my friends. I did this purely for the social aspect but at the end it was nice to finish it and then have that as an experience. I’m not one for getting dirty and it was a little out of my comfort zone so i was pleased i took part. I got a medal for that. It had two sturdy metal plates that annoyingly clanged together every time it was moved. Although it was an achievement for me, it’s not something i intended on keeping. I actually got more value from the T-shirt that i was given at the finish line. A well fitted grey number that was a go to piece.
Because i only had the one medal in recent years, i spoke to some friends who had more individual sporting achievements and was interested in their take on what they did with the medals and why. Some had them in boxes, some had them on display, one had thrown some out and kept others in a drawer. It appeared that any on display or made for display were the proudest achievements, the favourite of a batch or a top ten of the accumulated awards, so to speak.
The display had multi purpose, aesthetics, motivation, inspiration and pride. Everything that meant something significant was in sight as a regular reminder of personal goals. Personal bests, first marathons, longest distances etc. Everything came back to ‘does the thing add value to your life’ - these did.
A huge personal challenge that took considerable time and effort to overcome, they’re the keepers.
But what about the rest? What about the ones that are in the boxes, in the garage or the loft? They may have been overshadowed by the ‘top ten’ or time may have just moved our interests and passions on. The reluctance to then categorise them as clutter is understandable, ‘i worked hard for these’ is an acceptable challenge, however the memories of those achievements are in us not in the physical things but some use the physical things to spark the memories.
Whatever you have achieved over the years, keeping the physical trophies is a personal choice, some may no longer hold the same meaning they did before, you may find them years later and reconnect with that challenge and go again. Either way with minimalism, there are always choices and you get to make the rules. Do you need the room, does reconnecting with the trophies reshape your living space?
I felt like i had to check back in with my friend who was due to have a clear out of the garage, intrigued to know what he did with the medals. Turns out that he made the decision to throw them out.
He admitted it was hard to do so but in his words, ‘felt good’. I wonder if he took a picture of them before getting rid?