man reading book

My minimalist approach to bookmarks

Many people think that minimalism is just about reducing and downsizing but it’s not mindless reducing — it’s reducing with a purpose, and that purpose can be to make the things that you have, which do have meaning to you and bring them to the foreground of your consciousness. Or to make room for new things that will have meaning to you. Intentional living is a phrase I have heard a lot recently linked to minimalism, and I feel it is a perfect companion.

Many people hold onto things that have meaning but keep them buried in a cupboard hidden away. And the outcome is identical to not even having it in the first place. The beauty of minimalism is that it opens up the opportunity to honor what is meaningful in our lives and give it it’s own special place.

This is in contrast to displaying items that may look attractive or impress others, but have no real meaning to us.

Rather, we can display items that have meaning to us, which will lead to not only an increased enjoyment of the space, but also provides that beautiful minimal aesthetic and calm space that accompanies it.

At a point growing up I went through a period of not using a bookmark and instead relying on memory as a fun challenge to remember the exact page number that I was on. While I did manage for a while I found it took unnecessary mental energy and got bored with it quickly. So I went back to using bookmarks.

I’m a bookworm and love reading. Over time I have collected many books and in the process many bookmarks too. Some have remained in books that I have finished reading. Some in books that are in progress (I read from two books at a time, one as part of my morning routine and a different one as part of my evening routine), I also have books that I started at one point, but for my one or other reason never finished. The point is I have a lot of bookmarks.

While reading the other day, as I opened the book and held the bookmark — I started to think of the bookmarks that I have. Some are slips from coffee takeaways, some are random torn papers that I hastily grabbed in the moment to quickly start reading a newly acquired book. And some I actively dislike — bookmarks that I picked up from a bookstore, about a popular trending book that I have no interest in and find garish. I had picked up to immediately have one as I read in the coffee shop nearby, and then just hung on to it. Some others I found in the books that I bought from second hand stores (my favorite place to get books), and then there are the ones I actually purchased with intention.

I thought about some of my favorites.

There was the folded piece of paper from when I was seeing a psychotherapist many years ago — who wrote a particularly impactful quote — that had deep meaning to where I was at that time in my life and what I was going through. It serves as a reminder of how far I have come and a constant reminder of the lessons learned then.

There is the fun penguin bookmark I purchased from a non-profit that cares for rescued penguins. (I love penguins.)

And then there is the lottery ticket bookmark. I didn’t win, no. I went with my wife to a lunch at the home of an old family friend who had cancer. One of the guests had bought a lottery ticket for each guest. I know all the stats and used to make fun of those who played the lottery (my views have changed), but the thought and intention behind the gesture really stood out to me and I wanted to preserve it.

Using bookmarks like this provides constant little reminders of lessons, experiences, and values that are important to you. It can be a kind post-it from a colleague, a letter from a deceased family member, or a favorite photograph of a loved one.

On some of the bookmarks the print has long since faded, but the memories have endured.

A bookmark doesn’t have to be meaningful but I’d argue that if reading is a key part of your daily routine that using a bookmark with meaning will make a slight difference and improve the experience ever so slightly.

So in summary I would say that to decide what bookmarks to keep, whether it’s one or several;

  • First go through all your current bookmarks and separate the ones that have meaning to you and the one’s that don’t.
  • Then get rid of the ones that don’t have any meaning to you.
  • If you’re feeling conflicted with multiple ones that have meaning to you — then think why is it meaningful and do you have something else in your life that serves as a reminder for the same value/lesson/experience or memory? If so you probably don’t need the bookmark of it.

I had left my car window open years ago when I was still rock climbing and had parked the car on the side of a road that at the time I didn’t know was a hot spot for car break ins. Someone closed the window and left a handwritten post-it note stuck on the inside saying that I left my window open and to be careful. I still have this note years later.

“Kindness is the golden thread that holds society together.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What is meaningful is subjective and something that each person must determine for themselves. Someone that likes a particular type of bird for example may at a craft market find someone painting watercolors of their favourite bird in a style that they love — I would say this is meaningful. But if you are in a queue at a commercial bookstore and a new shiny printed bookmark catches your eye, I’d take a second to consider if it really is a meaningful purchase.

Comment below and let me know what you use as bookmarks.

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