What My 200 Things Challenge Taught Me

02 Lina & Stuff A package arrived in the mail yesterday and I added two new items to my possessions without adding them to my inventory. I haven’t been counting since my last inventory of my possessions, when I moved into my Home, Sweet Pea in August with 190 things. But receiving that package reminded me that I’ve learned a lot about my relationship with stuff since I embarked upon an adventure in radical downsizing two years ago.

I’ve found that My 200 Things Challenge has made me a better minimalist. I am less attached to my possessions, but more pleased with the things with which I surround myself. I am more likely to loan something out. I am less worried about wearing something out because there’s a new excitement about acquiring something new. I am more likely to decorate with fresh flowers or fall squash. I only wear clothing that I feel comfortable in. I own few possessions that I don’t use on a daily, weekly, or at least monthly basis. I don’t have to shuffle things around as much to get to the other things I need. I no longer own things that frustrate me because they are broken because I have repaired, replaced, or purged them. I am more particular about what I allow into my home, which means I no longer take something just because it was free. I am more likely to consider whether or not I really need something before I acquire it. I am more likely to get rid of something I’m waffling about. But most importantly, I give less attention to my stuff and more attention to my experiences. If this sounds good to you, please note that I will be teaching a workshop on downsizing and decluttering in Portland, OR in November and December. I encourage you to contact me if you'd like to sign up!

serving dinner for six in a tiny house

I had heard about the 100 Thing Challenge several months before my move to a 12 foot diameter yurt and I realized it was a whole different way of looking at what I owned. When I began my downsizing process the year before my focus was mostly on volume. As I shrunk my footprint from an 800 square foot 2-bedroom house to a tiny house on wheels called Bayside Bungalow, the question I kept asking myself was “Can I fit this into the tiny house?” I was amazed at how much I was able to fit into a tiny house on wheels. The house fit me and all my stuff because I lean on the density side of the Packing Lightly vs. Packing Densely scale. But it wasn't just stuff. I discovered the Tiny House Sleeps 5 Comfortably and I did plenty of Entertaining in the Tiny House.

So, when I first heard about it, the 100 Thing Challenge, like tiny homes themselves, seemed too radical for me. But, just as I started wondering what it would be like to live in a tiny house once I learned about Dee Williams and her little house, once I learned about A Guy Named Dave and his 100 Thing Challenge it captured my curiosity. I found myself wondering if this thing I was holding/using/fixing would be one of my 100 things. So I read more on Dave’s website and then read his book on my kindle. (My favorite part is when Dave talks about how we tend to own several of something and none of them are just right.) As I read up, I realized that Dave had crafted his own rules about how he would count his possessions and some of them seemed were pretty lax. For instance, although Dave limited himself to one really nice pen, he counted as just one thing his library. On the other hand, my friend and tiny house dweller Tammy Strobel counted her camera and its two lenses as three separate things on her list as she downsized to 72 Things! I realized I would be more willing to hold myself accountable if I made up my own rules, so I jotted them down in My Things Challenge: Who’s Counting Anyway?

Home Sweet Yurt

I moved into the yurt with 198 Things. Instead of just asking myself if something would fit the space, I started asking myself if it fit my life. Was it worth counting? There was a patch last winter when I was Taking Stock Without Stocking Up since my New Year’s Re-Inventory revealed that I had “slipped” to 214 things. I combed through my possessions and purged some things, dipping to 197 and then adding 6 more when I went in search of The Minimalists New Clothes. But since I couldn’t figure out what else to part with, I decided that it was okay to have 203 things. It was right around that time that I realized the number wasn’t so important. What was more important was that I’d gotten the intent of the challenge. I’d downsized till I just couldn’t figure out what else to get rid of. Then I lived with those items to see how it felt. When I did my inventory during a bout of Perfect Packing Weather in August I had just 190 things! So I ended My 200 Things Challenge with fewer things than I’d started it with, which I considered quite a good sign.

I’ve decided that for now I’m not going to track my possessions. I’ll devote that time and energy to other efforts. But I’m so glad I took on My 200 Things Challenge and I’m grateful for all it taught me.