I look around my room but there isn’t much to look at. In 2018, I live with less. For me, living with less means living more. My life has no clutter and so neither does my mind. I am paying attention. I am here, now. I look down at my body and in complete contrast, nothing about it is minimal. Almost every single square inch of it is covered with ink. I can see over a hundred different images collected from over thirty different artists. I started getting tattooed over ten years ago, and today the result is a living canvas of my memories, experiences, dreams, loves and fears.
Over the last few years I’ve re-evaluated many different areas of my life, such as my health, career, relationships, and spending habits. I have made positive changes and now live a life that it is more meaningful. I try to spend and live consciously. If something doesn’t bring value to my life, I don’t give it my time, attention or money. Of course I fall down, but I don’t beat myself up. I learn, stand up again and move forward.
As a result of these life changes, I was able to re-evaluate the money spent on tattoos in recent years and have ultimately cut back on decorating my body (that, and I’m running out space). Looking back at those decisions and down at my cluttered skin, I wondered; should I feel regret at these permanent collections that decorate my body? We can re-evaluate and donate our physical belongings, but collected tattoos will be with me ‘till death do I part. Did I see this collection as something positive or negative? Could I continue to collect ink consciously and mindfully?
As someone who has been reflective about every single tattoo decision I have made, I knew deep down that every new addition had been created with consideration and understanding. Whether it was to connect with a memory, image, artist, idea, dream or intention, each tattoo session meant something to me on a deeply emotional and spiritual level. Tattoos weren’t aesthetic additions to me—they meant so much more than their visual identities. They weren’t distanced concepts, or pretty things. What they were, and are, could not be described in words. They were born in my soul and therefore I realised, that is where they would always live.
Living minimally and meaningfully is being aware of how you are living your life and how you are making decisions. For me, getting tattooed brought me that same level of reflection. ‘Purchasing’ tattoos has made me the person I am today—the person who has embraced minimalist living and is now sitting here today peacefully. Having the opportunity to ink important things onto my body has allowed me to consider the meaning of life and ultimately how I live it.
In a contradicting fashion, as well as giving my tattoo collection an importance, I also wholeheartedly accept that it has no importance whatsoever. Our bodies are temporary shells and as long as we look after them on the inside, however we decide to decorate the exterior walls doesn’t really matter. By denying my tattoos a status, I can give them a focus but never be distracted or led by it. The life I live outside of my skin decorations is the one that matters. I am me, with or without the tattoos.
Can you be a minimalist and a tattoo collector? The answer is yes, you can be anything you want. If there were ever two strong communities in the world that have taught us that we are so much more than our labels, they are tattooing and minimalism. We also cannot live within the constraints of any category, and can only live in the truest possible sense of ourselves. Living a minimalist life will mean different things to different people.
Earlier I said that if something didn’t bring value to my life, I didn’t give it my time, attention or money. I touch my inked memories and can confidently say that they have a value higher than anything I’ve every purchased in a shop or owned in my house.
Tattoos and minimalism have both separately encouraged me to never stop asking questions. They have both reminded me that this is a journey, there is no final destination. We will never stop learning, and all we can do is enjoy and give passion to the short time we are here. But more than anything, they have reminded me to embrace one important idea: to be true to yourself.
I may not collect physical objects, but I am happy to continue collecting life.