The 100 Thing Challenge and my ultimate downsizing goal
I read a lot of books. For the past 6-7 years I’ve read a lot of self-help or self-improvement books. It started as an attempt to recover from PTSD from my teen years. Therapy didn’t help much so I turned to reading. Everything. Most books I try and find at least a couple of takeaways before I return it to the library or my bookshelf but very few books I would say are life changing in any way. The 12 week year is in my life changing category. Not because the heavens cracked open and angels sang when I read it but because so much of it made sense and it had a major impact on my ability to get stuff done.
The 100 Thing Challenge might be in the same category. Not because I haven’t read any downsizing books before, I have read the life changing magic of tidying up after all. But because I see how I can give focus to my radical downsizing, my striving for simplicity and my attempts to live a greener life less driven by consumption and more driven by a desire to connect with people instead of accumulating stuff.
The goal that I have been working towards for a while now often raises eyebrows. I’m used to it. I was born in the summer of love, I studied botany at Uni and then Agriculture. I’ve run a ski lodge on the French Alps, been a titled Daddy’s nanny and moved across the world. I’m used to raising eyebrows. My goal? I want to be able to move house using just my car. Why? Who knows. There is no reason behind it except maybe it’s because I want to break free of the stuff and, although the car is a Subaru Forester and seems like a Tardis at times, it still won’t fit a three seat sofa. At least not one that doesn’t come apart.
About twenty something years ago I started building my career. I dutifully climbed the corporate ladder quadrupling my salary within 8 years. At least I think it was 8 years. It’s all a blur now because by that time I was spinning so many plates on poles I barely had time to breathe let alone think about my career path. But I remember waking up to a house that I could never get tidy, never figure out what to feed my kids to give then a healthy dinner, never figure out how to attend all the things I was supposed to attend for school, doctors, etc., and still keep climbing the career ladder. At times I wanted to let all the spinning plates smash on the floor but I didn’t want that, that would be admitting defeat.
So I began downsizing. I read lots of books, The life changing magic got me so far but not as far as I wanted to get. I still can’t move with just the car. Then I read The 100 Thing Challenge and it got me thinking.
The 100 Thing Challenge is one man (Dave Bruno) and his quest to reduce his personal possessions down to less than 100 things. But it was also about dropping out of the culture of over-consumption. This is what I am aiming for. To break away from the need to consume. It seems like shopping and food have become the main sources of entertainment in America in the last ten years and it’s not a lifestyle that seems to be making anyone happy.
My plan is not just to apply the 100 thing challenge to my personal possessions, although I will definitely get there. My plan is to apply the challenge to everything in the house a category at a time. So far I have 25 categories of things to try and reduce to within 100 things.
I read a while ago that the average American home has around 300,000 things in it. That’s a lot of stuff and stuff sucks up time and space and we pay for both. Not only are homes getting bigger and costing more but the fastest growing sector of real estate is self-storage. There is now enough self-storage for everyone in American to stand in and not feel crowded! That’s insane. SO even if I reduce all 25 of my categories down to 100 things that means I would have 2500 things in the house Which means I’ll have less than one percent of the amount of stuff a typical American house has in it.
My rules, for those that are happier with rules will be:
The category doesn’t actually need to end up with 100 things but that will be the starting point. Some categories will end up having more than 100, some will have less.
Each thing counts as a thing. Dave Bruno counted his books as one thing: a library. I’m going to put my books into their own category and try and get down to under 100.
I’m not going to include kindle books as part of my 100 thing challenge as they don’t take up space but I wont change my book buying habits. I still always check to see if the library has a copy I can borrow, then see if I can get it used anywhere before buying it full price.
If an item is counted in one category it will not be counted in another. I have a few items that could be in different categories: glasses that are on a display shelf and could count as either eating utensil or decor. Doing that may mean that I get to keep a few extra glasses but over all I will still be well below the 300,000 things that the average home contains.
I’m going to include categories that aren’t actually things but that foster more connection. I have a gift giving category but I haven’t decided how that is going to work. Whether the gifts will be my time, if a card will count, or if charitable giving will count as part of the category. I do know it will be meaningful rather than a gift simply for the sake of a gift and will not be expensive.
The first category I started with was the pantry. When I go into clients homes they usually have hundreds of items totaling at least $1000 worth of food in their pantry but they often struggle to find things to cook for dinner. Out of interest I went to my pantry and pulled everything out to count how many items I have. Turns out I have items in my pantry despite having created a capsule pantry earlier in the year which you can read right here
How many things do you have in your pantry. I pride myself on running a very lean operation but when discovered I have 139 things in mine. I realized I had thinned things down and then slowly allowed them to accumulate again! I have most of my pantry items on an open shelf so it is easier to keep them from piling up but still 139 seemed like a lot for someone who prides herself on living mindfully! Admittedly there are a number of spices and spice mixes that got used once or twice that can be reduced.
It took Dave Bruno a year to get read to live with 100 things and I think it will take a year for me to get every category down to 100 things too so there will be plenty more blog posts as I go through the categories. I will be expanding on this challenge in The Balanced Life Academy. You can sign up for the wait list here: