The 100 Thing Challenge.

Via Leigha Butler
on Aug 13, 2010
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Could you reduce your belongings to just 100 personal items?

David Michael Bruno, the mind behind the 100 Thing Challenge, thinks you can.

The NYTimes’ Stephanie Rosenbloom describes a west-coast couple who took on the challenge:

Inspired by books and blog entries about living simply, Ms. Strobel and her husband, Logan Smith, both 31, began donating some of their belongings to charity. As the months passed, out went stacks of sweaters, shoes, books, pots and pans, even the television after a trial separation during which it was relegated to a closet. Eventually, they got rid of their cars, too. Emboldened by a Web site that challenges consumers to live with just 100 personal items, Ms. Strobel winnowed down her wardrobe and toiletries to precisely that number.

The brave couple now lives in a 400-square-foot Portland studio. Ms. Strobel has taken a 50% pay cut and reports having more time than ever to travel and make new memories. She’s been so pleased she’s now encouraging others to try Bruno’s method of voluntary simplicity.

Bruno summarizes his challenge in three alliterative steps:

Reduce (get rid of some of your stuff)

Refuse (to get more new stuff)

Rejigger (your priorities)

The 100 Thing Challenge is just one among many in a resurgence of efforts to downsize, joining the company of freegans, locavores, No Impact Man, the guy who took a picture of every piece of trash he put in the waste bin, and good ol’ hippies.

Recession, as it turns out, ends up being a pretty good time to reassess.



About Leigha Butler

Leigha Butler writes about yoga, happiness and sustainability here and at Willows Wept Review. She teaches Vinyasa yoga and English lit in New York's Hudson Valley and holds a master's in Literature & Environment from the University of Nevada, Reno. Find her on Twitter, or via email.


13 Responses to “The 100 Thing Challenge.”

  1. Brooks Hall says:

    I really enjoyed this NY Times story, and think it's a super-interesting idea… Thanks!

  2. I've always thought this challenge was odd, because it doesn't include digital things like emails, software programs, files, ebooks, music files, etc. Hence the challenge for many becomes more of "can you digitize your life?" rather than can you simplify it. Geeks and travelers will find this challenge easy, while people who appreciate the physical, location-based world will find it more difficult. But either way, it is completely consistent with a consumerist capitalism that is moving more and more towards the digital, ephemeral, and experiential.

  3. Natalie says:

    how inspiring! i'm actually in the process of getting a goodwill box together…problem is, i have a few hobbies…

  4. Heather Saunders says:

    I just spent about three months downsizing from a 4 bedroom house(4 kids!) after my divorce in 2009. The contents of my life- and my children's- now fit in a 5×8 U-Haul trailer- with room to spare!!! It actually was not easy- several months of selling to and filtering out the weirdos(nice people too!) on Craigslist, Ebay, lots of donating, garage sales; getting nothing for what I paid for most of it, but who cares?! More stuff=more things to take care of. And if you get rid of it, much of it ends up in the landfill. Pretty sad. I am not saying I am completely free of material goods, but I do feel much more free and less weighted down and distracted by all this stuff! All coming from a woman whose dream was to one day have her home photographed for Architectual Digest, or Town and Country, Vogue, Elle, Domino, etc. Talk about a shift in perspective…Most of us are attached to way too much STUFF.

  5. Leigha says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring tale, Heather. I think it takes a lot to move from one worldview to another w/ some grace, and it certainly sounds like you have. Enjoy your new-found simplicity!

  6. Kara N says:

    She whittled down toiletries and clothes to 100 items? So this doesn't include cooking utensils, appliances, furniture, or any of the stuff they borrow and use of others for pay? ONE HUNDRED items of clothing and toiletries is actually a lot of stuff. And this is different from being poor how?
    The difference is that this is probably only possible because the couple managed to put together some savings after living like yuppies for a decade. How many people are willing to do this kind of thing straight out of the gate? Without a financial cushion?

  7. Kara N says:

    Don't get me wrong. This is noble, but try donating some of that financial cushion to agencies that support the failing underclass in this country. There are actual poor people out there who would love to have 100 "personal items."

  8. Kara N says:


  9. Brit says:

    I thought about this challenge all week, looking around our home for ways to whiddle down – there are of course superfluous items that we can donate but also my husband and I are very self-sufficient. We harvest our own meat and vegetables, butcher and can our food, and store it for long Montana winters. There must be a balance because owning more possessions (of a certain kind?) may allow one to rely less on consumerism.

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  11. Nye says:

    I definitely agree with your thought pattern. However happiness is not the only reason for doing one of these "simplify" challenges. For example, I don't think I'll be any happier with less stuff, but it helps me think about and keep only the things that really add value to my life. I have had a typical American consumer mentality for far too long. If sticking to a challenge like this gets me out of that mentality, all the better!

  12. […] run long distances weighted down by physical possessions — or emotional baggage, for that matter. Running light is the way to go, for your finish time and your soul. 9.  Get Zen: Jenn Shelton, one of Born to Run’s most colorful characters, explains why she […]

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