100(+) Things

June 18, 2008

How many “things” do you own?

David Bruno is working toward a round 100 with his 100 Thing Challenge. The self-imposed contest began in July 2007, when Bruno decided to “challenge stuff.” He promised himself that, by November 12, 2008, he’d pare down to 100 personal possessions. And, as if that weren’t enough, he swears to live with only those 100 things for one year.

Why? Quoth Bruno:

Because I want to challenge stuff! I believe that run-away consumerism is making many of us narcissistic jackasses. It dulls our wits. [Full post here.]

Certainly, I like the sentiment behind “challenging stuff.” At the risk of sounding like a narcissistic jackass myself, I contend that I’m challenging said stuff with the Year of No New Threads. Nevertheless, I have to give Brunsie the wealth of the cred: whereas I’m still consuming (the items are secondhand, yeah, but I’m still paying the piper for ’em), he is likely avoiding consumption altogether, and he’s divesting himself of a truckload of junk.

Of course, Bruno has set forth exceptions to the 100-thing limit: Memorabilia, for one. His Marklin train collection, for another. His extensive book library, for yet another. And all the stuff that belongs to his wife and his kids, and anything that is “family owned” — dining room table, dinner plates, etc.

Oh, and woodworking tools. And socks ‘n’ undies, too.

But everything else: down to 100.

Cynical as I may sound, I extend my kudos to Bruno for taking this challenge. It’s a toughie, I’m sure. And, given his recent press at Time.com, the pressure must be on.

So. Think you could live with 100 things? (Not counting most of your things, of course?) I’d have trouble, I know. But if I can count my jewels as one thing, and exempt my wardrobe, then maybe. Yeah. Maybe. But do cats count as things? What about the salt grinder? My hairclaws?

*Whoop-whoop to Amy at GreenPlan(t), via whom I discovered Dave Bruno’s challenge. Good luck with your own 100 Things pare-down, Amy.


13 Responses to “100(+) Things”

  1. Grant Wagner said

    Hmm, it seems like he was pretty quick to count everything he really liked as out of bounds. I think I could do it ( if I don’t already) if I could do the same.

    My CD-Wallets, do they count as 2 or ~500? Since music and data is so important for me, can I just put them on the never mind list? That puts me way down.

  2. That’s just it, Grant! Are the CDs individual? Are they counted as “1 music collection”? Kinda shady, isn’t it.

  3. Grant Wagner said


  4. Emily said

    If furnishings, kid stuff and libraries don’t count I’m probably near the 100 mark now. (I am thankful for my aversion to clothes shopping!)

    I find these exclusions suspect, though.

  5. Absolutely. Really: where’s the challenge (and/or publicity stunt) in exempting most everything?

  6. joss said

    I’d like to see a full inventory of everything with which he started so I know whether or not to appreciate what is left. The exemptions sound pretty weak.

    If he can’t actually get it down to 100, 100-by-category would still be impressive (as long as the number of categories didn’t get spliced out of hand). For example: 100 personal possessions (a car would count here; dental floss too), 100 household items (furniture, lamps, rugs, clocks), and 100 kitchen items (tools and ingredients).

    How to count things is tricky because it could quickly become a list of 100 Pieces of Luggage -like the CD collection is 1 if it is in a single album and a punishing 500 if they’re still in their individual jewel cases? Do you count stuff in your wallet individually? I don’t know which is right.

    I am, however, fine with things going into storage for a year versus selling them since his experiment seems to be what it will be like to live without those things for a year and either course provided the same experience. I think if he doesn’t touch it for a year (the trains and bible), then it doesn’t have to be included in the 100.

  7. That’s an interesting way to look at it, joss — the 100 things per category. Could be more realistic.

    Do you think, though, that he’s going to get rid of the trains and the Bible after the year-of-no-touching is up?

  8. Emily said

    I don’t know why but this whole experiment is sticking in my craw (hehe – craw!)

    Tell me if I am alone in this thinking…

    This whole concept would have been so much more credible if he just came out and said, “I’m living with these 100 things”, period, instead of “I’m paring it down, sacrificing all my worldly possessions (except these, these, these and these – which you have too – like FURNITURE) so I can be a post-modern anti-consumerism monk to be acknowledged in Time magazine”.

    Sorry… I am just bothered that this casts the small living idea in a very hypocritical light. He could be living with his 100 non-excluded items in a McMansion. But his wife and daughters shouldn’t have to give up their stuff for his experiment, right? He’s just playing, it’s not his way of life or it would also be his family’s way of life.


  9. Gnash those teeth, Emily! I’m with you.

    And I’m so glad all of you people are superSmallsleuths who can see through this all this media buzz. Bully for you, Living Small Readers!

  10. joss said

    That’s exactly it. He’s just playing. There are exclusions and I’ll-just-put-this-in-the-garage because he expects it to be temporary; he’s already imagining being reunited with his possessions.

    Maybe after a year he’ll make a proper, sustainable list (where the bible and trains, if he keeps them, count). But then again, if his family is not participating I don’t know that that kind of transformation is likely. And he may just invent loopholes as he goes -I bought this copy of The Economist but it doesn’t put me over because I actually bought it for my wife and she’s just letting me borrow it- that no actual learning opportunity occurs.

  11. Joss: My sentiments exactly. I, too, have been considering the cheats — the “Oh, I’m buying this Marklin train for my daughters, because a dad’s gotta provide for his kids.”

  12. Michelle said

    I totally agree with you guys! When I first heard about the 100 thing challenge, I was excited, but then I realized he isn’t counting the vast majority of his possessions because either the family uses them too, or he is just going to exempt them. I did a count of my things and I got to 241 items, and that is including every book, every fork, every item of clothing, every earring, EVERYTHING! The only things I grouped together were obvious, like every pair of socks counts as 1 thing, a set of chopsticks was 1 thing, and so on. At the end of counting I looked around as thought, ok if I HAD to limit myself to 100 things I could do it, but not without being a bit ridiculous, (like only having one set of utensils so every dinner guest has to eat with their hands), or cheating. (counting silverware as 1 item, all dishes as another item and so on…)
    All that being said, I don’t begrudge Mr. Bruno, he even says on his blog that if you disagree with his counting methods then fine, go do your own thing your own way. So that is what I am doing. I am trying to get rid of as much as possible without making myself crazy, and I want this to be a sustainable thing for me, not a short term experiment. So far, I have sold my car, decluttered my entire apartment, limited my wardrobe to 25 items (including undies) and 3 pairs of shoes and basically just try to live as much like a minimalist as possible for me to do. I think it was Einstein who said to make things as simple as possible, not simpler. That quote kind of sums up how I am living now, and so far I love it!

  13. Wow, Michelle — your simplification sounds incredible! I know I have more than 241 items in my kitchen cabinets alone. I’m amazed by and full of admiration for your stuff detox.

    I’ve been considering a Top 25 wardrobe experiment and subsequent post — I tried narrowing down the clothes to 25 (not counting undies, either — again, I’m amazed!), but was tripped up again and again. I would love to get a rundown of how you made your cuts. Guest post, perhaps? Interested?

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