How to navigate the intricacies of souvenir-shopping

With my recent move toward minimalism, I’ve realized how many souvenir shops are filled with worthless garbage. Even if they’re “Buy 8 for $20,” shirts with the name of the place you visited are made of the same itchy cotton you get with free t-shirts. And is it really necessary to have a shirt from every place you visit? Wouldn’t those add up quickly?

Souvenirs aren’t inherently bad. Like everything, they are fine in moderation. Walking into a store and buying one thing for the whole family that will remind you of your special memories is great. Rushing into a store and picking up everything remotely attention-grabbing is a waste of time and money. Inevitably, years down the line you will wish you had the money from the now-worthless $50 hoodie and $20 mug you’re desperately trying to pawn off to your neighbors. It is so much easier to accumulate stuff than it is to get rid of it.

How have I somehow made the change?

Rather than buying something I could wear (that I never will wear) or multiple things from one place, I’ve settled on magnets. Magnets can serve the purpose of holding a photo up on the fridge. They have a role, a niche in a home, and they don’t take up much space.

After my trek to Death Valley last summer, I somehow had a six-inch-thick pile of postcards, 750 magnets, and about the same number of patches. These are my go-to souvenirs.

A small portion of my magnets

If I enter a gift shop, I’m on the lookout for three items: a patch that will go on my backpack (I’m quickly running out of room), a magnet for the fridge, and a postcard that I will eventually send to a friend. These are all small, utilitarian items that can be collected without wasting much luggage space.

What’s fun about magnets and patches is that they are often items whose profits go to foundations and conservancies in National Parks. Instead of buying the private company-benefiting water bottle, my $4.95 is going to the Yosemite Conservancy.

In the case of international travel, I don’t often have much leeway in how much my luggage can weigh, so lightweight items like magnets, ornaments, and postcards are great space and weight-savers.

She’s a work of art

Collections can be fun, but they can’t take up a lot of space and waste time when you’re finally over that phase of your life. If you wear a souvenir shirt everyday, keep going, but if they’re stacked in the drawer that’s hard to open and therefore never get worn, it’s time to rethink your souvenir-buying.

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