I first heard of the 100 Thing Challenge about a year ago. I was downsizing from a two-bedroom bungalow to a tiny house at the time, but the 100 Thing Challenge seemed extreme so I dismissed it. Of course, tiny houses seemed radical when I first heard about them, too. Now I’ve spent 10 months living in a tiny house, I’ve helped with my friend’s Tiny Barn Build, and I have my Summer Dream Job: Tiny House Design-Building. Downsizing to just 100 Things doesn't seem quite so radical anymore.
The premise of the 100 Thing Challenge is simple: narrow down your personal possessions to just 100 things. You go through your belongings, you count them, and you decide what you can part with so that you end up with just 100 things. The trickiest aspect is neither counting nor deciding what to purge. I think the trickiest part is deciding how to count.
The 100 Thing Challenge is a game, a competition, a test. But you get to make up your own rules. I appreciate that since I’m much more likely to follow rules that aren’t arbitrary. Some people are pretty generous with themselves. For instance, the guy named Dave who invented the challenge counted “library” as one item. Others are sticklers for their own rules. For instance, Tammy of Rowdy Kittens counts her camera body and her two lenses as three separate things. I’m somewhere in the middle. Here are the rules I created for myself:
- I’m going to keep two lists of 100 things. One list is my personal possessions, which is all the stuff that the two-year-old in me would defend as “mine!” The other list is household items that I would share with housemates if I had any.
- Sets (i.e. measuring spoons) and pairs (i.e. socks) count as just one thing.
- Identical, interchangeable, easily replaceable items count as one thing. For instance, I have a bunch of mason jars with plastic lids I use for bulk food storage, fridge food storage, to go containers, candle holders, a piggy bank, etc. I’m not going to count them as 30 separate things. That’s just silly!
- The parts of an item are counted with that item, even if they were additions. For instance, my bike lights and lock are additions to my bike, but I don’t ride without them, so I’m not going to count them as separate things. They’re part of my bike as far as I’m concerned.
- Accessories that go with an object are counted with that item if they are necessary for it to function optimally. For instance, I have a sleeping bag liner because I can’t stand sleeping in a sleeping bag without one. It’s technically possible but I’m going to be grumpy, so in my head the sleeping bag and its liner are one thing and I’m going to count them that way.
- In some cases a container counts as one thing and its contents don’t count individually (examples may include my toiletry bag, my tool box, and my craft bin).
- I’m not going to count consumable products. Food, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, dish soap, etc. aren’t counted as things. But I’m going to create a Use It or Lose It policy. I have a bizarre tendency to hoard consumable things (like a lotion that smells nice or a tea I like). It’s as though I’m trying to make them last even if I don’t have to. Some things are better fresh! So henceforth I’m not going to be afraid to use things up. I’ll put consumable goods in one place and as I use them I’ll transfer them to a different place to show they’ve been used. Anything I have not used during the past month will be subject to scrutiny and purging before my move.
I'll be making two moves this summer: first to My Summer Garden Cottage and then to someplace new that's yet to be determined. (To see where I ended up, click here.) So I’m going to go through my belongings, take inventory, and figure out where I stand with the My Things Challenge. I may end up proudly claiming a larger number. The number 100 is completely arbitrary, after all. And, as previously mentioned, I don’t much care for arbitrary. But I figure 100 is a starting point and I can decide what works for me. (To find out what number I landed on, click here.)
After all, minimalism isn’t about deprivation. It’s about focus. It’s about figuring out what one needs and prioritizing what one loves. All the rest is Just Stuff.