The one hundred item challenge

Could you live with no more than one hundred possessions?  A group of Americans have accepted this challenge.  I found this passage insightful:

Walsh isn’t surprised that decluttering is so popular these days.
Between worrying about gas prices and the faltering economy, people’s
first reaction, he says, "is often, ‘I need to get some control over my
life, even if it is just a tidy kitchen counter.’"

And of course there are cheaters:

One of the trickier questions is what counts as an item. Bruno
considers a pair of shoes to be a single entity, which seems sensible
but still pretty hard-core when you’re trying to jettison all but 100
personal possessions. Cait Simmons, 27, a waitress in Chicago, takes a
different approach. Although she has pared down her footwear collection
from 35 to 20 pairs, she says, "All my shoes count as one item."

The pointer is to Jason Kottke.


It would have to be 100 items (plus books)

Hm. That would be extremely tough. Think about something like flatware...does one service count as one? Or must you count every fork, spoon and knife?

i would start by buying a Kindle.

Jonathan, use a spork.

It would cost too much. But a laptop to replace my tower, monitor, keyboard and mouse. Buy a Kindle to replace (!) my books. Buy a single unit washer/dryer to replace my separate washer and dryer. Buy a futon to replace my couch and bed. Buy a spork. I'm all for cutting down clutter, but not at the cost of going broke!

Paul Graham has an explanation for this:

Stuff used to be rare and valuable. You can still see evidence of that if you look for it. For example, in my house in Cambridge, which was built in 1876, the bedrooms don't have closets. In those days people's stuff fit in a chest of drawers. Even as recently as a few decades ago there was a lot less stuff. When I look back at photos from the 1970s, I'm surprised how empty houses look. As a kid I had what I thought was a huge fleet of toy cars, but they'd be dwarfed by the number of toys my nephews have. All together my Matchboxes and Corgis took up about a third of the surface of my bed. In my nephews' rooms the bed is the only clear space.

Stuff has gotten a lot cheaper, but our attitudes toward it haven't changed correspondingly. We overvalue stuff.

More at the link.

Time magazine seems to have issues with grammar. "100 Thing Challenge" is perfectly correct (just like two-way street, three-piece suit, four-wheel drive, Five Man Electrical Band, six-string guitar, Seven Nation Army, eightfold path, etc).

I agree that stuff used to be rare. For instance, a person sentenced to hang for taking part in a rebellion in the 1830s bequeathed his large winter overcoat to a friend; who today would mention such an item by name in their last will and testament?

Hurray for collective nouns.

I may own many books which would put me over the limit.

Luckily I only own one Library.

Also I just have one Music collection.

Shaving kit, first aid kit .... etc.

I don't see how anyone could do it if there wasn't some grouping. Take the basic abulations for example: soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, comb etc. Heck I know many people who would go over the hundred just there.

There is nothing like getting through a couple of natural disasters (like hurricanes in South Florida) to make this a more approachable challenge. Except for shoes--I have one shoe collection....

Just try counting how many unique items are in your house. There are like a thousand, and I know where they all are and when I need them. It's kind of crazy, the complexity of life.

One of the trickier questions is what counts as an item. Bruno considers a pair of shoes to be a single entity, which seems sensible but still pretty hard-core when you're trying to jettison all but 100 personal possessions.

Funny. I'd consider each shoe an item and any other arrangement as simply cheating. After all, if you're willing to allow high levels of abstraction 'all of my stuff' is simply one item. I guess that makes me super-hard-core (mitigated to an extent by the fact that I'm not actually participating in the challenge).

If you would have asked me even 3 months ago, could I have lived with only 100 items, I would have definitely said no. However, about a month ago my husband and I decided to sell everything and move into an RV with our 2 toddlers.

As it turns out, I have less than 100 items and that's counting each shoe and each sock. There's just no room for fluff. It definitely hasn't been easy though. I blog about the transition everyday on my site

Sadly to say, my most popular post is where I am just pissed about getting rid of all of my stuff. Now that some time has passed, I realize it was all junk. It was all stuff I didn't need.

That reminds me, there's a manifesto called "The Invisible Badge". It's a great piece about owning what you need and not letting your stuff define you.

I would consider any items that needed each other to function (a pair of shoes, a cup with a lid) to be a single item. That said, the minimum possessions on record that people actually can get by with are the "skyclad" sect of Jain monks in India, who own nothing but a begging bowl. For obvious reasons, the sect does not have nuns; and it is not workable is most climates. (Jain nuns have robes, a head covering, and a begging bowl. 3 items minimum. Women's needs are different.)

In a variable climate you need at least two hats: a sturdy warm winter hat, and one giving shade in the summer. Ditto jackets. So some of the decluttering proves to be climate dependent.

Then there's the matter of dependents. What does your baby need? Your toddler? Your school age children? Your dogs or cats? OK - you don't need your pets, but if you have them already, they need you.

Anyway, much to think about. But the best person to meet that challenge is a single male in a steady and warm climate.

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