If You Could Only Own 100 Things...

9 years ago

Is it possible to own a maximum of 100 things? It may seem like a large number initially, but sit back for a minute and think about all the stuff you own: random things you keep around but might use only occasionally, like staplers and hand mixers; tiny odds-and-ends stuck in kitchen drawers; boxes of holiday ornaments in the attic; out-of-season shoes and clothing; craft supplies that are kept on hand just in case the mood strikes. Heck, while you’re counting you may as well include silverware and every plate and glass in your cabinets. If you can’t fathom the idea of whittling your possessions down to 100 things, there’s no need to worry -- after all, with the 100 Thing Challenge you’re allowed to make up your own rules.

Dave Bruno is the person who came up with the 100 Thing Challenge (yes, that’s “100 Thing,” and not “100 Things”). He says he’s committed to living with only 100 possessions for an entire year, starting in November, but it turns out the number 100 is completely arbitrary.

Dave isn’t going to count his wife's or his kids' possessions, or things that belong to them as a family -- like couches and tables. Other stuff that won’t count: a collection of trains he doesn't want to part with. Woodworking tools. Two plastic storage containers filled with memorabilia (but he won't open them for a year once his challenge officially starts). And he may consider an entire collection of books to count as only one thing, too.

At least he's up-front about it:

Remember, this is my 100 Thing Challenge. I get to set the rules and decide when a rule can be stretched or outright broken. Basically I'm going by the spirit of the challenge not the letter of the challenge.

I’m all for adapting rules to fit your situation. If something doesn’t work for you, then change things and make them work. But if you’re the one establishing the challenge in the first place, don’t you think you should actually stick to the name of the challenge? If you have a lot of exceptions that make it easier for you to reach your goal, why put a number on the challenge at all? Why not just call it your “Downsizing Challenge” or the “Get Rid of Stuff I Don’t Need Challenge?” Is it because the number 100 makes it a catchier title?

(Here's a suggestion for Dave: if you're not going to count any shared household items in your 100 Things, or include anything that belongs to your wife and kids, why not just “give” them all your books? While you’re at it, “give” them anything else you don't really want to part with. All your problems will be solved!)

I've done a fair amount of downsizing over the past few years, and I’ve talked about the challenges of living in an apartment with a limited amount of storage space. There’s nothing wrong with getting rid of stuff you’re no longer using. In fact, I think it’s a great idea -- I applaud it.

Even after downsizing a fair amount over the past few years, I know I continue to hold onto certain things I don’t need (but I really wouldn’t mind if they no longer belonged to me). I’m still storing a few boxes at my mom's house, and in my little sister's attic in Richmond. The last time I was in my sister's attic a few months ago, I opened a box that’s filled with old mementos (mostly from high school and the five months I spent in Amsterdam in 2004).

One of the things I remember seeing inside the box was a large green and yellow button from high school, proclaiming my title as a Peer Helper. (Which means I was assigned to help an incoming freshman my senior year. I helped show her to her classes the first day of school, and had maybe one additional meeting with her about a week later to "check in." That was the extent of my Peer Helper duties.)

Some of these things bring back good memories, but there’s really no need for me to keep them at someone else’s house just because I don’t have room for them. I think what I should do is take the advice of other people I've seen online: bring my digital camera with me the next time I go, take pictures of these things, and then throw the entire box away. It's just taking up space.

That's what I think downsizing is all about -- not holding onto things you don’t use (and don’t have a huge attachment to), and not over-cluttering your living environment. That’s why I don’t understand the reasoning behind counting the number of things you own. The volume of stuff, depending on the size of your living environment? Sure. But if I want to own 100 shirts (which don’t take up a lot of room), as opposed to owning 100 bicycles? I don’t see a problem with that. If you don’t care about clothes and would rather own 250 collectible figurines -- go for it.

A recent article in Time brought more attention to this 100 Thing Challenge. I liked this guy’s approach:

Daniel Perkins, 34, a graphic designer in New York City, isn't working toward a quantitative goal but says he and his wife have instead pledged "within a year to have only things that we use daily in our apartment." Ten years ago, "I wore hats, and we made crepes every Sunday," he says. "But that's not who we are anymore." So he sold the fedoras and crepe pans on eBay.

Sarah is intrigued by the idea of owning only 100 things. She knows it isn’t realistic for her and her family, but she’s thinking about how she can adapt some of the downsizing principles to her life.

Looking around this basement "pit," I see about 4 games with missing pieces that we could easily part with and a half dozen toys we've long outgrown or lost permanent interest. Those things right there would take up 10% of my list if included. I think the fewer things we have, the more we tend to value them and thus take better care of them. I'd bet that if my children had one set of checkers and one game of Candyland as their only boardgames, not a single piece would be astray. While I think the idea of 100 individual items is too lofty a goal for me, the challenge idea certainly has my wheels spinning as to how I can somehow adapt the game for my own life.

ABW from Me Write Pretty One Day thinks the 100 Thing Challenge would be easy, as long as you take her approach and group "like" things together.

4. Communicaton devices -- including but not limited to my laptop, cell phone, phone book, and ipod.

5. Hair products -- including but not limited to: bobby pins, hair clips, wax, blow dryer, straightener, headbands, and hair brush.

6. Toiletries- including but not limited to: tampons, shampoo, toothpaste, floss, lotion, hand sanitizer, perfume and deodorant.

7. Clothes -- winter, summer, spring, and fall weather, includes hats, scarfs, purses, and accessories and my wallet along with all of its contents (id, cc's, grocery discount cards, business cards).

8. Books-I know there's a library but I don't like used books or library smells so I'm keeping my books and yes, all 50+ of them count as ONE item.

Kittie Flyn used to keep a box filled with notes and memorabilia, but after a time she stopped and got rid of it.

Part of me wishes I still had all of those notes I used to pass to girlfriends and boyfriends back in junior high. I held onto ticket stubs from concerts attended and flyers from school dances in high school. Fortunately I have an excellent memory and am able to recall the most obscure of details at a moment’s notice. […]

I do have a few keepsakes from my youth: my year books, my diplomas, my cheerleading uniform (insert snickers here). However, I threw away most of those other tchotckis long ago. What does keeping such a box really symbolize?

Is there anyone out there who could live with only 100 things? Are you already doing so?

(Contributing editor Zandria also blogs at Keep Up With Me and has been thinking a lot lately about disordered eating.)

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.
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