More thoughts on the 100 Thing Challenge

People who get through life dependent on other people’s possessions are always the first to lecture you on how little possessions count.
~Ben Elton

If you’re not familiar with the 100 Thing Challenge, read this. Now, I’ve touched briefly on the topic before, but I have a few more things to say in regards to it.

The Challenge seems to be pretty damn popular with the minimalist/simple living types. I can see why (After all, not only did I do a version of it, but I even updated it at one point, although it’s outdated again). It’s a useful tool to remind us that we don’t need quite so much shit. For those people who take it on, good for them.

I’m not going to be seriously taking it on, although I much prefer the new Challenge. Mostly I’m not taking it on because, quite frankly, I’m not in a position where doing such a thing is possible. I’m dirt fucking broke, and my idea of spending a bunch of cash is picking up a book at the used bookstore. I’m not in a financial situation where buying less than a hundred things in a hundred days or whatever will actually mean a sacrifice.

And as I mentioned in the original Challenge post, most of the people who take it on have a family. They can delineate between “their” stuff and the shared stuff. I have no shared stuff. Everything is mine. So while a quilt might be a shared item for someone else, I have to decide if I’m going to count it or not. Are computers shared items? Gaming consoles? The monitor which doubles as a TV? The bookshelf that my roommate and I share to keep our crap on? Do my dishes count? I could just say to hell with it and count all of it, but then what do I set the limit at?

And isn’t the point of owning less stuff being able to be “free” of stuff? Free from thinking about it, worrying about it, having to give your attention to it? Counting it all and keeping rigorous track of exactly how many shirts I own is too much effort. I have a hanger for every shirt. If I have more shirts than I do hangers, I have to get rid of some shirts. Everything else I own is on a case-by-case basis. I don’t think about my stuff much. I certainly don’t need to worry about whether or not the blender has to go because I brought home a jar. I don’t find meticulously kept lists of possessions to be simple or minimal.

Instead I just live with what I feel comfortable with. Occasionally I go on purging sprees and get rid of several things all at once. Or I realize I’ve got something that really doesn’t serve a purpose and so I toss it in the donate bag in the closet. No arbitrary limits, no thinking about it excessively. I don’t have the financial luxury or the spacial luxury to horde massive amounts of crap. And in that I may be luckier than some…in some ways. In other ways, of course, not so much.

The Challenge is a tool. A good one or a bad one, depending on individual lifestyles and tastes. It can be used for self-improvement, or as a reason to call yourself “more minimalist than you.” It can be kept privately, or displayed publicly for accountability or for ego.

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4 Responses to “More thoughts on the 100 Thing Challenge”

  1. Dargon Says:

    I believe we have had this conversation before, concerning the 100 things challenge being a bit arbitrary. What qualifies as a “thing?” Is the computer once “thing,” or is the computer, the monitor, the mouse, the keyboard, and the printer five separate things? Then there’s the actual size and burdon of things. The pencil, pen, and eraser (three things?) in my pocket are much smaller than my kitchen table (one thing), yet their thing count is very different.

    None the less, as you have said, it’s not a bad tool, or at the very least, not a bad way for people to see how living minimally isn’t as difficult as they may think.

  2. simplelifeinfrance Says:

    Yes, counting stuff and religiously keeping track of it does sound like stuff is owning your life.

  3. Bardkris Says:

    Despite the far above hundred things I have (I have literally thousands of books), I practice something similar to this. I learned it hanging with gypsies way back when. It’s easy if you don’t much care for the concept of personal ownership. When you use something regularly, it’s yours. If you don’t use it or don’t take care of it, you give up your rights to it. If something is ignored, then chances are it will continue to be ignored while you use it. The gypsies I knew always tried to return things that weren’t theirs when they were done with them, but occasionally would pass the thing on to others who would use them.

    The hardest part about this is being comfortable with things that one does not use walking off with someone else. That’s why I do a lot of loaning. Still, if someone else will use and take care of something I am not, then I try to be ok with it. It’s not a concept that works well in the modern world, but your post made me think of it.

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