Collect Meaning – Living a Life of Depth and Happiness

We live in a materialist world where we put value and worth on physical objects and how many expensive things we have. When I turn my focus from material gain to collecting meaning, I have better relationships, deeper conversations, more enriched experiences, and more of a connection to my authentic self. 

To collect meaning is a concept that challenges the societal belief that in order to be happy and successful you need more things. Rather, collecting meaning emphasizes presence, experiences, and connections to find inner happiness and peace.

Collecting meaning is about finding the value in moments. While the concept has a lot to do with minimizing the collection of physical objects, there’s also something deeper to be learned when we start to collect meaning. 

What Does it Mean to Collect Meaning?

To collect meaning can be seeking deeper significance and understanding to find more purpose in life through experiences or interactions with others. This could involve seeking clarity, insights, or lessons from various situations and using that newfound understanding to enhance life and personal growth.

Three Women With Their Feet in the Air - Collect Meaning - Gone Minimal
Three Women With Their Feet in the Air

We accumulate things for several reasons, whether that be for sentimental reasons, from egoic desire, or there’s something missing within us that we try to fill with “things.” There isn’t anything wrong or bad about this, as it’s an inherent human trait to collect objects. It’s based on survival, and we wouldn’t be where we are today if we didn’t put value in items (tools, craftsmanship, technology, etc.). 

The problem with our desire to accumulate things is it’s become imbalanced. We have started a mass consumption of things that are not necessary for our lives. This is not only hurting each of us individually, but it’s also hurting our society and the Earth.

To collect meaning in life is to find out what feeds your soul.

When we put things into perspective and zoom out on our lives, we’re left with the question, “what’s really important?” Is it truly all the stuff I have? For most of us, the answer is no. What’s truly important is the relationships in our lives, the experiences we have, the memories we create, and the embodiment of our truest selves. THIS is what leads us to true happiness and peace. 

A Simple Peace Sign - Collect Meaning - Gone Minimal
A Simple Peace Sign

To collect meaning is to see the importance of these things. To collect meaning, you have to fully show up in your life with presence and awareness. You have to honor what is, what was, and what is to come. Collecting meaning means focusing your attention on what matters most to your authentic self. 

Here’s a helpful video that explains what it means to collect meaning: 

Benefits of Collecting Meaning

To collect meaning, you have to be present in your life. This means being fully present with your partner when you’re spending quality time together. It means putting your full attention on your friend who is sharing about their life. Plus, when we are fully present to someone else speaking, we’re able to be better listeners and truly hear what they have to say.

From this place, genuine conversation can emerge. This is because you weren’t lost in your thoughts so you’re able to play an active role in conversing. Having a deep conversation with someone you love is a great way to collect meaning. 

When you choose to go out and have an experience, you’re putting your whole focus on whatever that is. Then you’re able to create memories and meaning behind your experience. 

Two Men Smiling - Collect Meaning - Gone Minimal
Two Men Smiling

To collect meaning in life is to find out what feeds your soul. What fills your cup? What is your soul’s desire? Instead of pursuing a life of worldly “riches,” pursue what sets your soul on fire. In this way, when we live a life of collecting meaning we are serving our highest self and can find a deeper connection to our purpose. 

One of the greatest and tangible benefits of collecting meaning (rather than things) is the impact it has on our environment. Consumerism is one of the leading causes of the climate crisis we’re currently faced with. For one, most of our “stuff” ends up in landfills, which is then buried beneath the earth, or burned – which sends toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.

Second, there is a steep environmental cost to manufacturing and creating all the things we desire in our culture.  If you would like to learn more about how consumerism affects the environment, check out this article from National Geographic

Spend your well-earned money on experiences that will enrich your life, rather than objects that will only bring temporary satisfaction.

Collect Memories and Moments Not Things

It’s common to want to collect a souvenir from a place you’ve traveled to. Some people love this activity so much that they become collectors of specific objects. If you’re interested in the psychology behind why we’re drawn to collect items, check out this article from Psychology Today. However, we are moving into an age where we have to consider the impact our collective behavior has on the environment. Here are some ways you can start collecting memories rather than things. 

A Simple Flower in the Dirt - Collect Meaning - Gone Minimal
A Simple Flower in the Dirt

Collect Memories Through Experiences

This life is meant to be experienced! You deserve to live YOUR life fully and abundantly. Rather than spending your money on items you don’t need, spend money on experiences. Going to see your favorite band in concert with someone you love will create memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. There are more examples I’ll dive into below on how to collect meaning, but the point is to spend your well-earned money on experiences that will enrich your life, rather than objects that will only bring temporary satisfaction.

Collect Memories Through Vacations

Traveling and going on vacation is a wonderful way to collect memories instead of things. There’s no denying the magic a journey brings, and it almost always makes you grow and evolve into a better person. By focusing on travel instead of things, you can broaden your awareness and become more educated on different cultures and experiences. 

Collect Memories Through Shared Moments

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, relationships are one of the most important parts of this human experience. Rather than putting your attention on your “things,” put your attention, time, and energy into those you love. Build and nurture the relationships in your lives by having experiences and deep conversations together. 

A Happy Couple in a Field - Collect Meaning - Gone Minimal
A Happy Couple in a Field

Collect Memories Through Self-Care

An equally important relationship is the relationship you have with yourself. If you are unable to take care of, love, and forgive yourself, you’ll have a much harder time doing it for another person. Society tends to portray self-care as an indulgence, such as buying yourself a lot of new and nice things. That is not self-care, that is simply a marketing tactic created by consumers to get you to buy more things. 

Self-care is taking the time to be with yourself and do things that feed your soul. This includes art and creativity, authentic expression, being in nature, and listening to the wisdom of your body. By setting time aside to truly uncover who you are, you can collect memories of your growth and healing, thus; you can help others find their own path to healing. 

Examples of Collecting Meaning

Here are some examples of activities you can do/spend your money on rather than things: 

  1. Visit a museum. 
  2. Visit an art gallery. 
  3. Go on an outdoor adventure to somewhere you’ve never been (but close by).
  4. Try a new restaurant with someone you love. 
  5. Take the kids to a wildlife safari/rehabilitation center. 
  6. Take a walk on the beach at sunset. 
  7. Go on a spiritual/meditation retreat. 
  8. Buy an online course in something that interests you. 
  9. Buy more books. 
  10. Have a family or date night focused on arts and crafts. 
  11. Write a poem/letter/draw or create something with your hands as a gift rather than buying a present. 
  12. Start a garden. 
  13. Go on a trip. 
A Simple Pen and Stationery - Collect Meaning - Gone Minimal
A Simple Pen and Stationery

It’s important to mention that there are other ways to capture memories, such as journaling or taking photographs. One of my favorite activities after a trip is to write about the experience in my journal. The memories are fresh in my mind so I’m able to recount all that I experienced. Then, down the road when I flip through one of my journals, I’ll come across what I wrote about my trip, and the memories will come flooding in. In this way – collect pictures, not things. Collect lovely writing, not things. 

The Balance of Collecting Things 

All of this isn’t to say that you should never buy anything that isn’t necessary again. It’s about balance. On my trips, I like to buy things of value, that will not only benefit me but will benefit those who come after me. I like to purchase art and history. Here are some examples of what I have bought from around the world that I treasure: 

  1. Local paintings.
  2. A blanket made with Peruvian alpaca wool. 
  3. Books. 
Balancing Simple Stones - Collect Meaning - Gone Minimal
Balancing Simple Stones

Related Insights

Who said collect moments not things?

The author is unknown. 

Why do people collect memories?

We collect memories as a basic human function, whether we intend to or not. Doing it with more awareness allows you to be more present with what you’re experiencing. 

Activities That Real People Do To Collect Meaning Rather Than Things

Since more and more people are finding creative ways to collect memories and moments rather than things, I asked a few friends and family members to list three times they chose to have an experience or create something with their hands rather than spend money on something. Here’s what I discovered from the poll and their responses:

ActivityTimes Selected
Made aprons as gifts6%
Made food/baked a dessert as a gift13%
Took husband to the train museum for his birthday6%
Went to a waterfall for a date6%
Gave a massage as a birthday/valentines day gift13%
Went to Ecuador for a month6%
Wrote a poem/love letter and made a beautiful card for valentines day 7%
Went to a concert6%
Sent a postpartum care package of homemade herbal gifts 6%
Sketched little appreciation drawings on sticky notes for my partner 6%
Spent quality time with my partner watching our pets/nature 7%
Went on an outdoor adventure with my love6%
Went to Scotland6%
Gave a plant I grew as a moving gift to a friend6%
Activities Done by Real People to Collect Meaning

Other Resources:

Every moment we experience holds inexplicable value, we just have to be present to it. This is how we create a life full of cherished memories. I encourage you to be present in your relationships, your experiences, and with yourself. The next time you feel an urge to splurge on something that may not be necessary, ask yourself, is there something else I can do that would be more enriching for my life? 

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