Could You Own Less Than 100 Things?

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Another topic I’ve been interested in is the 100 Thing Challenge started by Dave Bruno. If you read a lot of simplicity blogs you’ve probably already heard of it, but it’s a pretty simple idea: Live with only 100 personal possessions. You can always quibble about what is a “thing” – a pair of socks, or all your socks? Your nail clippers, or all toiletries? But you get the basic idea.

The goal of the 100 Thing Challenge is to break free from the confining habits of American-style consumerism. A lot people around the world feel “stuck in stuff.” They feel like their closets and garages are too full of things that don’t really make their lives much better. But how to get unstuck?

Reduce (get rid of some of your stuff)

Refuse (to get more new stuff)

Rejigger (your priorities)

Press coverage has included Time magazine, USA Today, and The Times (UK). Here are some lists of folk’s sub-100 inventories:

Seems like clothes usually take up at least 20 items. Since this challenge basically requires that as many things as possible be digitized, I’ve been eyeing out this $400 Fujitsu bulk scanner out… even though that would be a new thing.

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  1. I found this all kind of humorous.
    Perusing the lists it looks like people make lots of exceptions. Food doesn’t seem to count, cat supplies don’t count, the garage is irrelevant, 20 socks is the same as one sock…whatever they needed to do to work the numbers or rationalize.
    Whatever floats your boat works, but I think being more mindful of *where* you buy your things would help people break free more from the American consumerism chains. Think of the impact of each item you own. Move to a smaller house or get roommates.

  2. @David – it’s not the actual number of things or rationalizing collections counting as one item so much as the process is what’s important. Not until you start taking inventory of what you do own do you start to realize how unnecessary it all is. I guarantee that if you start in any room in your house and start listing everything in it you’ll develop a desire to get rid of a bunch of it.

    I bought a used ScanSnap on eBay a couple years ago for $150 after reading a post on Unclutterer and I have to say it was money well spent. After a couple weekends of work Several boxes of paper records were converted to PDF and went straight into the shredder. All new paper that enters the house goes through the scanner and it takes just a couple of seconds. Just make sure to backup those files remotely, like on JungleDisk or Mozy!

    Most of the cost of those scanners is in the bundled Adobe software so if you already own Acrobat you can find a used one sans disks on the cheap.

  3. Not only is the 100 number arbitrary, but everyone works around it. For example, 25 books apparently counts as 1. Why not 10,000 books?

    Also, apparently furniture and other household items don’t count (playes, forks, glasses, etc.).

    Usually it’s not the amount of stuff you have that matters, but how it’s organized. If your place is cluttered it could still be cluttered with 100 things. But if everything is nicely put away you could have a very nice looking place with 10,000 items.

  4. I just have the mindset not to buy anything unless it’s essential. This is more important to me then limiting myself to 100 things and making little rules of what counts and what doesn’t.

  5. Interesting post Jonathan.

    I’ve never heard of Dave Bruno and we don’t exactly follow this 100 item rule, but we do keep life simple. We sell things on ebay or give things to Goodwill/Salvation Army when we either no longer need something or when we need a more updated replacement. We’ve even seen this reality television program on A & E that shows what can happen at the extreme if you do not conscientiously keep life simple. Just about every episode of Hoarders has a clean-up team wearing personal protection equipment to help reduce the amount of collected junk accumulated by the individual in the so-called spotlight. This pack-rat mentality is a compulsive disorder that has levels of gradations of severity collectively known as syllogomania.

    In the last episode of Hoarders we saw, a woman had so much stuff, she didn’t know how much stuff she had, and unfortunately for her cats, didn’t know where her cats were the whole time. They found those cats stiff has a board underneath a pile of her prized possessions. What happened to the cats? Did they slip and fall and were buried alive? If you syllogomaniacs absolutely feel compelled to hoard some of the episodes, A & E is selling these episodes for $24.99 for each 50 minute DVD. There’s free shipping for orders of $59 or more. The coupon code is FREESHIP59. Don’t miss out.

  6. Since “house” is one the things on my list, I struggle with all the things I’ve had to buy to maintain it. I get little enjoyment from owning a snowblower, but if I didn’t have it I would have to pay someone to do it. That would be the simpler way of life, but being a do-it-yourselfer is more frugal.

    Where you live (city vs country) also plays a big factor due to the difference in public services and the desire to be self-reliant.

  7. after backpacking in europe over the summer, i came to realize that i could live happily, even more so, with less crap. Upon returning to the US, i was shocked to realize that I had so much stuff i hadn’t used in years and didnt need. on the contrary… broken electronics, redundant shoes etc just makes more headaches. Now I live in a small condo and conciously try to keep a mass balance. I was inspired after reading about these 100 thing people and tossed a dustbuster, computer cables, and a bunch of other crap… how liberating!

    as a previous poster commented however, there is a cost to buying vs renting. for example, i have a hair trimmer that i use to occasionally cut my own hair. should i toss it and pay for haircuts to reduce clutter?

  8. I got rid of about 300 magazines recently that was supposed to be a ‘collection’ but to be honest felt more like a burden. I don’t think I’d like at them more than once in 5 years.

    When I shipped them away I felt a touch of sadness – it as nice to see them all out from under a bed, where they’d laid like a dead body. In the pre-Internet era I may have kept them. But now I see no point.

    I’ve been thinking actually that as I still haven’t bought a house, getting rid of all my stuff and living the location-independent lifestyle for a while could be interesting…

  9. I am totally into this. I am always decluttering and donating things. My mom thinks I have a problem! It just makes me feel better to have to clean up less stuff!

  10. This has been a motto of my wife and I since we got married. Do less with more. To many people in our society think they need lots of things to make themselves feel good.

  11. It’s more relevent how many useless things a person owns.

  12. Ha! I could easily own less than 100 things.

    My wife could not own less than 1000 things. That’s why “our” closets are filled with her things.

    No. we’re not in the “Hoarders” level yet, but if this continues…

  13. I really like this challenge. I went home and talked to my wife about it, and she was a bit skeptical. She instead suggested that we get rid of 100 things. I think that would be a great challenge in itself.

  14. I’m with Vern. Living in the country and trying to be self sufficient kind of blows this out of the water. I’m completely against buying useless junk, but unless you are prepared to always pay someone to fix everything for you, you need tools of some kind. House, car, bike, whatever.. if you want to be thrifty and save money, you probably want to do the work yourself.

  15. Mr. Loan modification says

    If you travel a lot in the world you will find how many people outside of the U.S. actually live with less than 100 things. It is a great challenge and good idea, but it is best practiced if you live around people in another country who really have less than 100 things they possess in their whole life.

  16. This is sort of annoying, actually. While I totally appreciate the idea, and would like to simplify some possessions myself, this guy lives in a different world than the one I do, at least. It reminds me of people that show up for business meetings wearing basically what’s in his list – things like waterproofs and jeans – and I want to punch them. It’s not OK in the professional world to smell bad, or wear clothes that would be at home tromping through a rain forest. Unfortunately a lot of people who live in my town (Portland, OR) don’t seem to get that. Additionally, as somebody noted, this guy’s list is very arbitrary and is more a reflection of what he values or doesn’t vs trying to only own 100 things.

  17. Last week I got rid of 50 things! This week I need 25 of them back. Murphy’s Law! Actually, I think its the recent memory of those items that triggers them as go to. I.e. had I not trashed the items, they would still be around, but I’d not be conscious of them.

  18. This would definitely be an interesting challenge. You often don’t realize how much junk you have until you start trying to eliminate some of it.

  19. Financial Bondage says

    not counting my clothes (which i have few of anyway), I may be close to 100 things.

  20. I am checking out several blogs for ideas at accelerating my efforts to reduce. My goal is <100 personal items.

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