Travel Hoarders: What to Do With All That “Stuff” You Bring Home From Your Travels
If you’re a bit of a hoarder like me, you’ll relate: souvenirs from your travels aren’t just T-shirts and postcards but also bus tickets, pens from hotels, pub coasters, brochures from places you visited (and even some you didn’t) … the list goes on. I have trouble throwing all this away because it reminds me of so many fun moments. But obviously I can’t keep everything.
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Well, I could if I didn’t have a husband who objected and a house which doesn’t have limitless storage, but I do, so I need a strategy. Over the years I’ve devised ways of dealing with the travel “stuff” I’d like to keep, and hope these suggestions help your travel hoarding problem too.
Scan and Discard
Thank goodness for scanners, and the fact that they’ve become small and affordable. These days it is easy to throw a few items on the scanner and quickly and easily have images of them there to be kept forever.
This is perfect for things like tickets (I have a friend who’s kept every boarding pass from seemingly every flight he’s ever taken), brochures, postcards and other miscellaneous scraps of paper you feel like you want to keep. You can still have a record of them without filling up a cupboard!
If you’re crafty or creative, you create a travel scrapbook to collate some of the small and flat items you collect on your travels. Combine photos, postcards, tickets, brochures and the like, perhaps even with a little narrative of the matching experiences from your trip.
And if you’re happy to play on the computer you might want to investigate “digiscrap”, or a digital scrap book — using those scanned images and all kinds of other fun bits and pieces to create a nice (digital and therefore easy to store!) memory of your travels.
Display and Rotate
When I first travelled, as a nine-year-old, I had a tendency to collect small trinkets and ornaments. While this tendency has diminished over the years, I still have quite a collection of souvenirs that I can’t bear to part with, and that give me pleasure to see because they’re a reminder of a particular experience or place.
Rather than clutter the living room with these dust-gatherers, I have a set of wall shelves with multiple small compartments, perfect for setting out some of these souvenirs for me to see as I work. I semi-regularly rotate them and keep the undisplayed ones in a box tucked neatly away.
Gift or Donate
There’s something about my travel memorabilia that makes it hard to just throw it away, but if I know it is going to a new (and good) home then I can sometimes manage it!
This is particularly true of the kinds of gifts I often received as a teacher when I lived abroad — multiple ornate fans or Hello Kitty keyrings or other typical Asian souvenirs, for example. There are only so many a person needs, but there’s nothing wrong with them. I sometimes pass these on as gifts to others who will appreciate them (nieces or nephews are good for things like that!) or donate useful things to charity shops.
As I got older and realised that I was the kind of person who always wanted to bring home some physical thing from the places I visited, I started to get more practical and buy or collect things that actually had a use for them.
At first, though, I still tended to tuck them away as “special” souvenirs. Finally, I realised that the best way to enjoy such souvenirs was to simply use them in every day life, accepting that they will one day break or wear out or stop being useful, and that would be that.
Now I eat Asian meals with some of my favourite chopsticks from Japan, I write shopping lists with pens from unusual hotels spread across the globe, and I bring out coasters from some favourite European pubs for my guests to use when we have a few drinks.
Make a Highlights Selection
The other thing I do now and again with the many things I’ve collected over the years is to sort through them every so often and make a “highlights” collection. As your circumstances change and you travel to new places, or return to old ones, your decisions on what objects are important to you may well change. You may be surprised to see certain objects which you found so essential to hold on to in earlier years!
As much as I love to hold on to things, I also quite enjoy having a good clean out and either finding new uses for objects I had in storage or simply — ouch — throwing them away! Sometimes that’s not such a bad thing.
What Do You Keep?
So what about you — what do you tend to collect or hoard from your travels? Everyone has their own specialties! And I’d love to hear any other suggestions on what to do with these kind of objects, so please leave your tips in the comments, too.