why i’ll never own just 100 things

livinglagom.com - why i'll never have 100 thingsIn the minimalist world, owning 100 things (or less) is the Holy Grail.

The 100 Thing Challenge was created by Dave Bruno. The idea is to unburden individuals from the confinements of consumerism, so that they learn what’s really important in life.

Some minimalist and lifestyle bloggers have their “lists” posted on their blogs.

When I first read about it, I thought maybe one day I could aspire to get to that level.

I almost fell for it.

fun with numbers

I have a confession to make. After reviewing the lists of these bloggers, I bought a . . . Moleskine notebook. It was on almost all of their lists! So even though I already owned a perfectly acceptable notebook, I felt like I needed a Moleskine.

Luckily, I’ve learned a few things since that time. Now what I see from these lists is a lot of “creative accounting.”

Things like socks, underwear and books are each grouped together as one item.

My sister almost stopped breathing when I told her about living with only 100 things. She only exhaled when I told her some people grouped items, like books. She said if she did it, she would group her shoes together.

How could I argue with flawed logic, when I was dealing with flawed logic?

I’ve worked in retail in the past. When you count inventory, you count everything.

Other items that don’t appear on the lists are shared items. This includes such things as dinnerware and furnishings.

But what if you’re single? Do these items still get exempt?

Even if you’re part of a larger unit, I imagine you still have your own plate, your own pillow and your own clothes hangers. And what about those hangers . . . they always seem to get forgotten.

how low can you go?

It almost seems like there’s a bit of a competition to see who can live with the fewest items.

I would almost call it peer pressure.

This seems counter intuitive to me. Isn’t this what we are trying to get away from when we look to live a more simple life?

Do I now have to rebel against people telling me to live with too little?

Minimalism is important to me, but so is the environment. I have no plans to get rid of my reusable travel mugs and containers or my enviro bags or my stainless steel straws, just so I can knock some items off of my list.

I don’t even have a list.

With my obsessive-compulsive personality, I don’t think counting would be such a good idea anyway. Heaven forbid I should end up with 66 items.

the spirit, not the letter of the law

I do agree with the premise behind the 100 Thing Challenge and its original intention. Most of us would benefit by having less.

However, I don’t agree with the extreme, competitive form that’s been taken by some. Nor do I agree with the fuzzy logic that’s used by others so that they can say they’re at that magical 100.

One size doesn’t fit all. It never has.

So maybe I’ll never be considered a true minimalist – not sure who decides this. I’m cool with that.

I’m more interested in living lagom.

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Albert Einstein

For the record: I’ve written about Courtney Carver’s Project 333 on this blog in the past. Some might question why I mention it if I’m not into counting. Project 333 focuses on a single category, clothes. It also has rules and exceptions that are more clearly defined. But again, you’re not really dressing with just 33 items. At the end of the day, if these projects and challenges help you to reduce your clutter, even if you never get down to the prescribed number, then go for it. It’s just not for me.

If you’re an aspiring minimalist, have you felt any pressure to own 100 things or less?

26 thoughts on “why i’ll never own just 100 things

  1. Sara

    Ha, interesting post! I’ve toyed with the idea of the 100 things challenge on a couple of occasions, but mostly as a fun exercise/pastime. I don’t think I’ve felt pressure to count my belongings in order to be a minimalist; in fact I don’t really call myself minimalist. I’m more of a simplifier. If I were counting, though, I’d have to take in everything and not place items in groups; to me, it would be cheating ;). Also, I would be doing the counting only with my personal stuff, anyways, since I’m not single. I feel that it’s human nature to get into these systems (both social and personal) and start categorizing ourselves and others (and our stuff!). It usually goes too far at some point…I’m a fan of the middle road.

  2. laura

    I like your assessment of the illogical nature of some of these counts–for example: some minimilists toss all their books but keep digital files of them..they are still owning them, but they are smaller and, sadly, rely on batteries or power to access. To me, own the books if they are important, if not, borrow from libraries, return and simply keep the ideas in your head or incorporate them into your life. More to the point is mindfulnes..do I need that item or is it just a siren call of the exchange within the act of buying; would owning an item improve my life or just add distraction and clutter.

  3. Maria

    I totally agree! Even though most people I’ve heard about who take on the 100 things challenge encourage others to live with the amount that feels right for them, I could never get past the flawed logic as you say. I mean, if you’re counting your things because you only want to have 100 items or less, well, you should count all of your things for it to make any sense. And you’re right, it totally is a form of minimalist peer pressure and a “who has the least” competition. How is that any better than “who has the most”? And this competition is just weird anyway, since everyone obviously is cheating. Maybe I should join and make a huge grouping of things called “stuff”. Voilà, I suddenly would have just one item on my list, and then I would be the poster child for minimalism. :D By the way, I’ve looked over this comment a few times now to try to make it less passive-agressive, but I just don’t seem to be able to. Oh well, I guess I have som issues to purge along with my stuff. :p

  4. living lagom Post author

    Labels are tricky since we are (hopefully) always changing and evolving. I call myself a minimalist since most people aren’t familiar with lagom. And while I fit the definition in many ways, I’ll never be a minimalist in some other ways. Sometimes the labeling is more so to help other people categorize us, then for us to categorize ourselves. I’m also a fan of the middle road.

  5. living lagom Post author

    It’s totally cheating…I actually had that in one of the versions of this blog post. I took it out for some reason, but I would like to state it here that I think: IT’S CHEATING TO NOT COUNT EVERYTHING!!! There, I said it. I feel better now. :)

  6. Bethany@OurSoCalledLife

    You realize, by their rules, by husband’s moped collection counts as ONE THING! Yup. We’re total minimalists then.

    Yeah, I went through the counting thing too. I thought that I could actually claim the title of “minimalist” if I had some empirical way to prove it. I think it’s a phase everybody goes through, trying to decide how to make simple living work.

  7. living lagom Post author

    I guess the biggest benefit of it is, that it makes someone think, “Could I actually live with just 100 things? What would those items be for me?” But then they messed it up with the exemptions…

  8. Kerry- The Simple Year

    “How could I argue with flawed logic, when I was dealing with flawed logic?”, a great line that sums up how I feel about most things. Also, I feel like I have been given permission to lump all of the contents of my kitchen into “Kitchenware”, it’s a stretch, but I like it…

  9. Bethany@OurSoCalledLife

    It surprised me, that the first “minimalists” that I met, who defined the lifestyle for me, had a LOT more stuff than we do! (And they resisted the title “minimalists,” so they are, of course, People Who Don’t Have a Lot of Stuff) But, for them, everything is intentional; it all has a distinct purpose. Even their time is budgeted out, intentionally. I learned a lot, in very few e-mails.

  10. AngelJem

    Minimalism is a state of mind and a heartfelt emotion not a number in a Moleskine. 100 things would neither be doable or right for me but chasing enough and working towards mindfulness of living is. I am new to your blog and glad to find a word for what I’m seeking.Lagom.

  11. markadamdouglass

    I’m a mathematician and so numbers are fascinating to me.

    I have noticed that some people hold unnecessary significance with certain numbers, and I have done so myself in the past.

    100 is just an arbitrary choice. It doesn’t mean anything, except for the significance you, or someone else, places upon it.

    Reducing your number is important.

    Getting under an arbitrarily chosen number is not.

  12. totallybleak

    come on.we all know that we all COULD live with only 100 things. Heck, even with 50 if we only have the very basics.But who the hell wants to? What is the point?

    Point is, stupid 100 things competition doesn’t make sense. it doesnt prove anything or say anything about you if you have less than 100 things. it means nothing. It doesn’t make them more minimalist than us.it just doesn’t. Minimalism isn’t nihilism or homelessness. it isn’t ascetism either.and it’s certainly not a competition.
    Can we call most of the people in the 3rd world minimalist then? Can we call a homeless minimalist?
    Those people have nothing. They certainly have less than 100 stuff!
    Of course not. they are just simply poor and would gladly own more.
    Minimalism is a mindset.

    we all know they all cheat anyways.
    “gardening clothes” as one item. bitch, please.

    “Reducing your number is important.
    Getting under an arbitrarily chosen number is not.”
    heck yeah!

  13. totallybleak

    To Sandra. ” I’m a left-handed Gemini. This pretty much sums up my personality.” No, it does not. :S
    I’ve read 3 posts so far and you’re so so so so so much more than a left handed Gemini.
    You’re a complex person with great ideas not some horoscope that pretty much suits every Homo sapiens sapiens.

    I may be a narrow minded idiotic agressive troll, but to me, being left- handed says even less about your personality.
    Your blog entries do.
    Great blog by the way, I like it very much.I hope you’re not offended.

  14. living lagom Post author

    Ugh, but I LOVE being both a Gemini AND left-handed!!! No offense taken. I’m pretty sure you’re so much more than a narrow-minded idiotic agressive troll. ;)

  15. Angie

    I’m a card-maker and for me that means owning a lot of crafty stuff. I do try to be mindful with my purchases, and want to keep it confined to a small area of my home, unlike many paper-crafters I know of. Although it is not necessary to my survival, it brings me – and my friends and family – joy, so I consider it a necessity in my life. Anyway, my point is: if I’m not happy and fulfilled what good is owning fewer possessions?

  16. adventuresintheherenow

    Yes! great post. I am fascinated by the counting of possessions and how people live with 57 things, but I also think it’s really silly!
    I read a post somewhere (sorry that I can’t give credit where credit is due) that talked about the number of stable social relationships a person can have (Dunbar’s number, commonly thought to be about 150) and the blogger suggested he would like to have “relationships” with all his possessions, knowing what they are, where they are, etc. Which would suggest 150 is about the number of things a person could own and maintain that kind of “personal relationship” with everything… The idea was intriguing!
    Having read Dave Bruno’s book I felt that his original idea was to limit the number of extra things, optional wants, that he had. He wasn’t really trying to live with only 100 things. But I can relate to his idea of having a finite number of unnecessary things (notebooks, gadgets, hobbies, etc) to keep track of. I think it would make sense to limit those things to the point where you could make a list of them from memory – which I know I couldn’t do now! In fact I am making an inventory for the Sketchbook Project (coming soon to my blog) where I took photos of some of my storage spaces and inventoried them – I have been simplifying and minimizing for a few years but I was amazed how many things I have in my drawers and cupboards!
    I would like to “know” my stuff better, but I don’t feel a need to take it to the level of counting forks. I have an 8 person set of cutlery… and that’s OK! But if I can’t remember what cameras I have, that’s a sign I have more than I need… does that make sense?!

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