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100 Things Challenge

Many people are reacting to the negative psychological, social, and environmental impacts of rampant consumerism with a strong desire to declutter and simplify their lives.

Some have taken this to the extreme, attempting to reduce their worldly belongings to just 100 things.

The 100 things grass roots movement, started by entrepreneur Dave Bruno, has been gaining ground in recent years (you can read about Bruno’s challenge on his blog: guynameddave.com.

The enthusiasm with which the 100 things challenge has been embraced is unsurprising given how many people feel overwhelmed, weighed down, and oppressed by the sheer volume of stuff they have accumulated. These individuals are rebelling against the impetus to consume, seeking instead to strip their possessions down to those that have the most utility or personal meaning. The widespread desire to simplify is evidenced by the popularity of reality shows such as Clean Sweep.

Avid declutterers may be disillusioned with the false promises associated with material goods.

Objects are often acquired in response to advertising messages suggesting that a product will increase our attractiveness or social status, bring happiness and fun into our lives, encourage us to make positive lifestyle changes, or bring us a much-needed sense of calm and well-being. However, these promises are seldom fulfilled by material things.

While some hard-core minimalists focus on the numbers – reducing to 100 things or getting rid of a certain number of items, others simply choose to eliminate anything not used regularly. Taking control of their stuff gives declutterers a better sense of control over their lives overall, but the drive to simplify may go beyond the desire for control and even touch upon the spiritual in some cases.

The fast pace of modern life leaves little time to pause, relax, and reflect, and having lots of stuff creates extra work because all these things must be sorted, organized, stored, and maintained (and people have to work extra hours to afford them in the first place).

Having fewer things means that there is less work to do and more time to engage in meaningful activities.

McLaughlin, L., “How to Live with Just 100 Things,” Time Magazine, 5 June 2008.
The Washington Post, “One Man’s Anti-Consumer Challenge: Live With Only 100 Things,” 30 November 2008.

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