Simplicity in Action: Markus

Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action. If you’d like to submit your story of how simplicity has worked in your life, please read more here. You can write about anything from decluttering a junk drawer to simplifying your diet. Let your small and big changes inspire others.


I’ve always been a sentimental person. I used to have a whole box of concert flyers from where my band played. I’ve saved piles of hotel matchbooks from places I’ve stayed. I even kept a sweatshirt that didn’t fit anymore because I once placed it on a girl I loved when she was cold. Magazines, handwritten notes, books with special dedications inside, even blurry photographs, were all well protected in dusty boxes.

Living a minimalist life has always appealed to me. I’ve always kept an uncluttered home. But my closets were full of things that I didn’t know how to let go. It wasn’t until I stumbled across some great minimalist blogs that I finally learned how. Writers like Courtney Carver, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Becker were all an inspiration. They made me realize that maybe the items I kept stuffed in dusty boxes could be honored in a different way.

These boxes were filled with more than just junk – they held my memories. But, in all honesty, I almost never opened at them. They sat gathering dust. I only looked through them when I was moving or cleaning. I think the same is true for a lot of people. How many times does a person say “I need those matches from the Baltimore hotel I stayed at 8 years ago” or “Where’s that sweater that used to smell like a beautiful girl but now smells like musty newspapers?” Almost never.

When I realized that I could upgrade my memories, I made a plan. I made a plan to digitize everything.

Photographs, flyers and posters were easy – I scanned them. A digital picture doesn’t deteriorate. I no longer had to worry about cleaning it, moving it or protecting it. I no longer had to worry about fires or water damage. And once that loving memory was uploaded to Flickr or Dropbox, I didn’t worry about loss or theft.

Bulky items were next – those old sweaters, my punk rock jacket from high school, the watch my father had given to me when I graduated college, I photographed all of them. And not just a snap shot of each, I took the most professional, beautiful pictures I could manage. I took several different photos from different angles. Digital pictures have the same sentimental benefits as the item itself. But pictures are easier to manage and take up zero space.

Now that the photos of my favorite items are uploaded, I can see them whenever I want. I don’t have to search or move dusty boxes. I don’t have to spend hours searching for something. Every handwritten note from my grandmother is perfectly preserved. In fact, I have pages and pages of memories right at my finger tips whenever I want them.

Cleaning out the junk was the easiest part of the whole process. And yes, once you take pictures of your sentimental items, they really do seem more like junk. Recycling or discarding them was easy. I tossed them all out and haven’t regretted getting rid of a thing. I already had better versions of everything. I had upgraded my memories.

So remember, the next time you put your sweatshirt around someone you love, take a picture. It will last longer.

Read more from Markus Almond at Brooklyn To Mars and follow him on Twitter.


  1. says

    I’m in the process of becoming digitized. It’s a stretch for me. Gathering all of my notes, journals, etc… and putting them online. Evernote is great for this. Pictures, notes, appointments (using awesome note in conjunction with evernote)- all can be organized in one place in the cloud.

    Your story helped motivate me to keep it up.



  2. says

    I am in the process of figuring out how to make digital copies of the movies and music I have. I don’t have a large collection by any stretch of the imagination, but enough that it needs a place to be stored. Thanks for the reminder that I need to get on it and will be happier once I do.

  3. says

    Thank you Markus for sharing your successes. I too am in the process of digitizing my memories & stuff.

    I’ve never considered it to be ‘upgrading’, but I really like this term.

    I can’t wait to fully upgrade, and to be free to be me!

    • says

      Thanks Mark. Yeah, I didn’t really think about it at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to get rid of all that stuff and store it in the cloud. But once I did that I realized they were available at any time and could never be damaged:) I think it’s definitely an ‘upgrade’. Cheers to you.

  4. says

    I love this post, Marcus.

    You’ve motivated me to digitize my photo collection. Can I ask, what kind of scanner you used? A handheld one or the flatbed kinds? Thanks! – Saida

    • says

      Thanks Saida. Thanks for following me on twitter too. I just have an Epson NX430 printer/scanner. That works pretty well for small photos and documents. I used to have a really nice Epson 4490 but after I scanned all my photos, I got rid of it:)

  5. Jane says

    I came very very close awhile back to mailing off all my childhood photo’s to a company that will digitize photo’s for you for a fee of course. But I changed my mind when I realize how very little I look at these photo’s now & doubt I would look at them more just because I paid someone to convert them to digital format.
    Eventually I will convert them myself, but I’m still hung up on the notion that I just don’t much care to waste time on the process knowing I won’t benefit much from it on the other end, aside from being able to finally ditch the actual photo’s themselves.
    I’m not the type to sit around & look at old photo’s. Sure it conjurs up old memories, but a few minutes later boredom sets in & back the photo’s go into the box that’s stored in the attic. then a few more years go by before I find a reason to plunder through that box.
    I know old photo’s are supposed to be the one thing folks would want to grab in case of fire…but for me, my pets & husband would be what I would grab. Screw the photo’s in the far back corner of the attic.

  6. says

    Markus, I think your post was beautifully written. It is so effective that you started out by saying and showing how you are a sentimental person. I was able to connect to you because I feel that way about so many of my “things” – I have a small home, but the closets are bursting even after many items have been recycled, discarded, or sold on Craigslist! Now you have given me hope that my hidden junk can too be preserved digitally but not cluttering my life!

  7. Rae says

    Wow, what a great story! I always thought minimalizing was especially tough for us sentimenatl folk, but this is a great solution! I love the idea of taking the best pics possible, not just snapshots. This will make my process a lot easier, and it will help me let go, bit by bit. :)

  8. Matthea says

    Sentimental is my middle name. I (used to) keep everything which represents a memory. I am in the process of decluttering, minimising, cleaning up. The last hurdle are souvenirs of the past. Sometimes I realise how much of a waste of space it is, if I come across things that I brought with me after our time in Mumbai. I wanted to hold on to these things because I can’t replace it in the place I am now. Of course by now they have gone off! :) Packets of herbs are past their date, a little jar with body cream with a smell that brought tears to my eyes because it reminded me of Mumbai, the cream has set, it has no smell anymore. Letting go of these things for me is the hardest, because to me a smell is so directly linked to emotions, to let go of the scents of Mumbai is like giving up on the memory and I want to hold on to it.

  9. says

    It was definitely hard for me at first too. I am very sentimental as well and I do still have a small box of items I have kept from childhood, but that small box started out as 4 or 5 large boxes. For me moving around all of the time really helped me place a value on things. I have moved over 20 times in 10 years and I began as something very far from a minimalist with a backpack. But, I find the more you practice a minimalist way of living, it becomes easier and easier. We realize that things are just things and can then let go of more and more. Thank you for sharing your story, personal adventures in minimalism are always the most inspiring to me.


    • says

      Thanks MarieG. Cutting 5 boxes down to 1 is definitely an accomplishment! And I totally agree. There’s something about moving that makes getting rid of things much easier. I hope you’re well.

  10. says

    Oh it sounds like such a good idea, but don’t forget to back your images up somewhere else. I lost all my photos from 2005-2009 when kodak went out of business. I had stored them at kodakgallery and I didn’t get any warning emails to transfer my pictures to the new provider so they were lost forever. And what if digital images go out of date when technology moves on again? It sounds like an impossibility but then who expected film would go out of date?

  11. says

    I’m in the process of decluttering my home and office. It has been an eye opening experience. I can’t believe the stuff that was pile on top and behind other stuff! I have a long way to go and digitizing a lot of this paperwork is going to be a task.