Sustainable Pace

June 27th, 2011

The 100 Thing Challenge

Recently I've read a lot about minimalism. One meme within this memeplex that particularly stuck with me was the 100 thing challenge. The objective of this challenge is to limit the number of personal possessions to 100 items.

Why a limit?

First of all, I don't even want to get into the whole consumerism environmentalism thing. It's obvious.

Then, stuff requires maintenance and organization, which takes up time. The concept of slack says time is needed to adapt to changing circumstances. If you think about stuff, you cannot adapt, you are forced to live in the past, and become less mindful.

Furthermore, life itself is limited. You might not think about it now, but you will be dead quite soon. Don't take it personally, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Only because life is limited, it's valueable.


If you are seriously considering aiming at 100 items, you need to define what counts as an item. I don't want to waste too much time here, as you can always refine as you move on. For example, now I count furniture, but don't count tools individually, I have a single toolbox. Limiting is important, not the actual limit.

There are some borderline issues, like replacing physical with digital items. I do replace memorabilia with photos, but I refrain from replacing books with ebooks. But anyway, you can't cheat in this challenge, you can only cheat yourself.

Doing it

Usually, you start with the inventory: A list of everything you own. The challenge makes you decide for each item you own if it will make the list of 100 items. To me, this puts the meaning of items into perspective: Is it really worth being included?

I'm not even close to finishing the inventory, and I'm far from being a messy person. I go room by room, and sort out most stuff immediately, items which will not make the list. The remaining items are added to the inventory.

How to deal with discarded items? First, I try selling, without getting tied up in this phase too much, stuff is usually worth less than you think. Have you ever been to a flea market at 6 pm? You know what I mean. Then, donating. In Bonn we have the Verschenkmarkt and a Freecycle group. But there's stuff people don't want, even for free. Then I try recycling, which is burdensome if done correctly. Just throwing stuff away is the last resort.

Unless you are living alone, dealing with shared resources is also problematic. So far, my wife is understanding and cooperative. Nonetheless, even having to get feedback slows you down. Fortunately, my daughter is not old enough to object, haha!


So far, the beauty of the challenge to me has been becoming aware of what I own. I was amazed to find how many possessions I even carry around all day, glasses, wedding ring and everything. Easily a dozen items to begin with!

Of course the challenge does not end with stuff. For now, I have decided to limit the amount of personal files to 2 GB (which is what you get for free at Dropbox). I have also unsubscribed from tons of newsletters and deleted dozens of accounts, keeping the remaining accounts encrypted in KeePassX and the key database synced with Dropbox.

I will let you know how the challenge works out for me. And in case you are interested in buying an acoustic guitar or some hifi equipment, please contact me...

Update: I decided to keep the guitar and the hifi equipment. I actually enjoy having them more than I thought.