My Matchbook Collection May Seem Like Clutter, but It Means So Much More

published Nov 14, 2023
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Credit: Bridget Mallon

Recluttering is a celebration of your stuff — stuff that you just want to hold on to, stuff that makes you happy, stuff that makes you feel nostalgic for a moment, a memory, or a loved one. We’re sharing stories from people about their collections, heirlooms, and more. Head here to read them all!

I’ve always been a bit of a collector — especially when it comes to tangible things that are tied to memories. When I was a kid, I kept the ticket for every single movie I went to in a little glass on my nightstand and would regularly riffle through them until they became so faded I couldn’t even read the titles. Now, the top drawer of my bedside table is filled with Playbills from every Broadway show I’ve seen; tickets from concerts and museums; a collection of stickers I’ve picked up from breweries, bands, events — you name it. You’ll also find old birthday cards, save the dates, some postcards, pins, and photo booth strips. These pieces are basically my own personal (and probably overly sentimental and somewhat scattered) time capsule. 

But there’s a much more public-facing part of my nostalgic collection, too: my matchbooks. 

I don’t remember exactly why I started picking up matchbooks every time I came across them — probably just my emotional Pisces mind wanting something tangible from another memory to hold onto — but I do know my collection started in college. I have exactly two matchbooks from my college town: one from the worker-owned Mexican restaurant whose salsa I dream about at least once a week and the other from a dive bar that served $1 tequila shots I wish I could forget. So I know my interest was sparked — pun intended — back then at a fairly young age. 

Credit: Bridget Mallon

When I moved to New York City the year after college, though, I started intentionally collecting them. At first I would just grab any matchbook that I saw on display at a restaurant, bar, or store and toss them into a little gold bowl on my dresser. But soon after my collection started growing, I realized how much I genuinely cherished these little mementos. 

Anytime I would thumb through my matches, I was flooded with memories of brunches with friends, solo dates I treated myself to, bad dates with randoms from Tinder, good dates with people it just didn’t work out with, drinks with coworkers after a particularly hard day, dinner with family visiting from out of town — all of those little things that are so easily lost to time.

Credit: Bridget Mallon

Sure, my collection includes matchbooks I found on truly significant days — I have one from Parc in Philly that I got during my friend’s bachelorette weekend, one from the blond in NYC that I got at my first-ever fashion week after party, and the list goes on and on — but I also have matches from some pretty regular days as well. That’s what makes this cluttered, nostalgic, sentimental collection so special to me. It helps me preserve memories that might seem fleeting or insignificant to some, but that’s kind of the point. My collection gives me a reason to share the banal things alongside the monumental ones with many of my favorite people.

And in turn, my loved ones have started sharing matchbooks with me, too, which I could not be happier about. Several of my friends now pick up matches for me at restaurants and bars if they see them out, which makes me feel so seen and appreciated. 

Credit: Bridget Mallon

But most importantly, my parents gave me the last matchbook they had from their wedding in 1982. I can’t describe the joy I felt when I added it to that little gold bowl that housed my original match collection and still holds a handful of my favorite matchbooks. 

It may seem unnecessary to some, but there’s plenty of meaning and connection to be found in sentimental clutter — at least for me.