Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thoughts on the 100 Items Challenge

It's interesting to me that my perspective has changed dramatically. I believed that, after this past weekend, I was done cleaning out my space and eliminating unneeded "stuff". Then, while making dinner last night, I found that in the time it took for the veggies to cook (about 10 minutes) I'd completely filled my kitchen trash can with more stuff.

My mindset has changed. Rather than setting aside time to work on a "project", I am actively seeking, as a habit, to simplify and enrich my life. Pretty cool. I found myself going through my jewelry can (you'd have to see it to understand - it's an old, brass basket that I come home and throw my watch and whatever else into) and there were things in there that looked like nothing more than junk to me. 2 rocks (polished and decorated) that were given to me as a gift at my wedding. I was divorced in 2001. I've been carrying these rocks since 1999, out of some bizzare social obligation I felt. They were given to me, so I can't just throw them away. I threw them away. About half the things in there fit into that category - they all went into the trash.

While I was doing all of this, it occurred to me that the 100 items challenge, as currently being practiced on the internet, is pretty silly. Random things are excluded (books and collections) because they would be inconvenient to include. Shared items are excluded. 100 is a random number.

I don't know that I'm going to create my own challenge, nor if I do that I'll try it, but it seems to me that the exclusions should be for "sets" - for instance, my tool set. Each "box" could count as one item - I have 2 tool boxes. That means that the case for my drill, the case for my circular saw, the case for my jig saw and the 2 cases for different drill bits all count. So my tool set, even though it's a set and a collection, would still count as 7 items. I have a chess set (currently boxed) that I would count as one item. My DVD collection would not be a single item. Computer software would have to be handled differently - my collection of games in not one item, but I would count a single title as one item, even if it's multiple CDs.

Infrastructure. That's what I'm calling it. The little things you need to live a modern life. Dishes, silverware, scrub brush. I was looking at my computer last night and trying to figure out how to "count" it. Is the mouse a separate item? The keyboard? The printer? Then I got to one that annoyed me: the network. Does my cable modem count as an "item"? It brings the internet into my home, the same way the electric meter brings electric in - do I count the electric meter? What about my wireless router? It's required to run some of my other stuff - Tivo, computer and Xbox 360. Furniture, I think, would have to be counted. I have to carry it out when I leave, therefore it's mine. Consumables (soap, shampoo, windex, toothpaste, canned tomatoes, spices) get excluded, so long as you only have one of each item. If you want to have 2 kinds of toothpaste, then that second tube is an "item". If you have 2 kinds of cinnamon, then that second bottle is an "item".

Same goes for pots and pans - as long as you have a reasonable amount (looking around the internet, it seems the average "normal" set has 3 pots, 2 skillets and lids for each) then it can be added to "household". Dishes would be the same - the first, household set, up to 8 place settings (if you have more than 4 people in your home, you'll have to adjust this, but be REASONABLE in the spirit of the exercise) can be excluded. Same with the silverware, glasses, etc. Small appliances don't get excluded. That George Foreman Grill? It's an item. So is your food processor, BOTH fondue pots, the espresso maker, the crock pots and toaster. OK, so that's my list - yours may look different. I do count the fondue pots as "sets" - I compromised and got rid of the forks from the second set - I can see a reason to have one electric and one sterno based pot (depending on what I'm making) but I couldn't see a way to justify keeping 2 sets of forks and servers.

So how would you do that for a family? I think the key is to exclude the children and anything that is theirs and theirs alone. Then count everything shared between you and your spouse that doesn't belong "more" to one than the other, and divide that by 2.

One thing is certain. Even after spending all this time going through everything, I still have a ton of junk that doesn't add anything to my life. My commitment to myself is to, over the next few weeks, continue to remove as much of it as I can from my life.


Carin said...

I'm so glad you posted about this.

When I decided to move to Europe two years ago, I got a quote for having my "stuff" moved and I nearly had a heart attack. Talk about an email to change your perspective on what's necessary in your life; I very quickly had a serious change of heart about how much I really needed all of the crap I'd been accumulating and toting around with me for the last 10 years.

I haven't counted, but I can almost guarantee that I'm well below the magic number of 100, including my clothes (though admittedly, that's because I'm running on the bare minimum until my weight loss levels out and things fit me for longer than a month.)

I have to say, it does feel good to have distilled my personal belongings down to the absolutely necessary. Not only because it makes it a whole hell of a lot easier to clean, but because it allowed me to get rid of a lot of crap that reminded me of things I was ready not to be reminded of anymore. It's nice to be sentimental, but in a way our mind gets as cluttered as our hall closets so it's nice to clean house in that regard as well. (I did keep the copy of Kahlil Gibran a good friend gave to me years ago, though. lol)

You've inspired me, I'm going to see if I can't Bruno to get on the bandwagon and sort through his crap. Maybe making a challenge out of it will help..

Another thing.. I think that you should exclude from your list anything that you would share with your partner, if you had one.. it's only fair. Otherwise it requires a single person give up wearing underwear and socks if they want to meet the quota. LOL

Daniel said...

As a single person, if you don't exclude what I've come to think of as "household infrastructure", what you end up with is what the average person takes camping with them lol

I am interested in, and will be making a go at coming up with "my" number, the total number of items needed to live comfortably in a modern western lifestyle.

Then I'm going to try to meet and reduce that number ;)