Downsizing: The 100 Thing Challenge, Dream or Nightmare?

Written by Martha on December 16th, 2009

Well, Dave Bruno’s personal 100 Thing Challenge timed out on his birthday this past November. This is how he described his intent last summer in his blog, aguynameddave:

Goal: By November 12, 2008 I will only have 100 personal things. I will live with only 100 personal things for one full year, until November 12, 2009.

Dave writes that he wants to distance himself from rampant American consumerism. His list of the 100 things he is keeping is an interesting read. Dave is a hiker, surfer, writer, and Christian. I don’t know Dave, but I can tell a lot about him from his list.

In an interview with Time.com, Dave explains what prompted this movement.

“Stuff starts to overwhelm you,” says Dave Bruno, 37, an online entrepreneur who looked around his San Diego home one day last summer and realized how much his family’s belongings were weighing him down.

Do you feel the same? Are you ready to downsize? Does the thought of reducing your belongings to only 100 things inspire you or make you break out in a cold sweat? I honestly don’t know if I want to live at quite that level of minimalism. However, I believe that a return to the basics would be a great  side benefit of our recent economic downturn here in the U.S.

Possessions can truly own us as we struggle to clean, maintain, replace, and endlessly upgrade the “stuff.”  Shedding a few extra pounds of belongings can be very freeing! I have experienced that in my own life, and watched the look of joy on client’s faces when they feel that themselves.

So, in the spirit of congratulating Dave on his courageous journey, here are a few suggestions to help us all pare down gradually.

  1. For every new item you bring into your home, determine to lose another item.
  2. Twice a month go through one drawer or cabinet. Separate the stuff you have used within the past year from the unused items. If there is something in the unused pile that you are certain to need in the near future, keep it.  Otherwise gift that entire pile to trash man, friend, relative, or charity.
  3. If you have clothing you don’t really like or is too large/small, give it away.
  4. Think of those collections of things you are keeping “just in case” – cool whip containers, newspapers, magazines, old ribbons and bows, gift boxes, string, rubber bands off the broccoli. Decide on a small number (maybe 1/4 of the number you now have) and dispose of the rest.
  5. Is there a hobby that you have outgrown? Find another enthusiast and make his day.
  6. Do you have possessions that are starved for affection? You have so many other things that you never use that one? Remind yourself, “This thing needs someone to love and care for it!” Be kind to that item and find it a good home where it will be cherished.

Three years ago, my husband and I moved downtown to a condo that is 40% smaller than our old home. The process of letting go of things was not an easy one. We are glad we persisted. Our time spent in maintenance is now minimal. We walk to sporting events, movies, and restaurants (maybe even a casino soon, though I sincerely hope not!) We are thoroughly enjoying getting back to basics!

Perhaps you will be inspired by this quote from a true minimalist. “I had three chairs in my house: one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”  – Henry David Thoreau, the ultimate downsizer.

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. I attempt to do that process consistently because my stuff seems to grow nonstop. Very useful tip for my clients at http://www.StopEntrepreneurOverwhelm.com because decluttering and having space stimulates more creativity, concentration and action. Thank you for the tips, Martha!

    • Martha says:

      Thank you for that insight, Trissa. As an sole business owner, I certainly agree that there is a direct relationship between physical order and being able to think clearly/work productively. Creating space at home also gives us permission to try something new instead of staying stuck.Amazing isn’t it?