Decluttering

How many things do you own?  Think you could live with 100?  Some people are trying in what’s termed the 100 Thing Challenge.

Not sure of the catalyst really, but I’ve been growing increasingly minimalist in orientation for some time and I’m intrigued by the challenge.  Establishing a baseline could be tough and time consuming.  I’m pretty confident I own fewer things than most adults in my socio-economic strata and far more than one hundred things. 

If I do take up the challenge, how should I count?  If I have to count each book, each compact disc, each golf ball, and each golf tee; game over, no point of continuing.  With your approval, I’m going to employ the “collective noun” provision meaning books, compact discs, and golf accessories count as three possessions.  Yes men, of course I’ve considered eating with my fingers exclusively, but then it may be tough to get a good grip on the golf clubs.

Also, with your approval, I’m going to ignore consumable items like food and drink.  Of course that still leaves a boatload of Tupperware, kitchen appliances, Ziploc bags, silverware, etc.  No one said it was going to be easy.

Those last possessions bring to mind the issue of shared possessions.  For example, the double X’s and I watch two televisions, so I’m going to divide four by two and count television as one-half a possession.

I stand no chance of getting anywhere close to 100 without sharing more things with more people.  Would I be violating some unspoken American law of individualism if I suggested to my three neighbors that we sell three of our lawn mowers and share the remaining one so that it will only count as a .25 possession or will they drag me before the Homeowners Association for the insidious crime of Norwegian-like socialist sensibilities?

The trick, it seems to me, is not just getting down to 100 possessions, but staying there for longer than a year.  I’ve seen friends trim their possessions only to replace them, thus spending more money in the end.  Seems to me the question isn’t how much weight can you lose, but can you fundamentally change your lifestyle and keep it off in the medium and long-term?

Also, I wonder what percentage of the 100 possessions should contribute to some semblance of personal and family history?  I’m probably guilty of parting too easily with sentimental stuff. For example, please don’t ask me where my Father’s Day card is.  For a lot of people I suppose, sentimentality is the biggest obstacle to genuine simplifying.

I don’t know if I’ll take up the “100 Thing Challenge” or not because my focus has been on reducing the absolute volume of my material footprint more than reducing the absolute number of possessions owned.  My personal motto might be, “smaller, lighter, better.”  If I do decide to take up the challenge, I’ll create three piles. . . “definitely in,” “definitely out,” and the largest no doubt, “undecided.”

Here are a few “definitely ins” that immediately jump to mind.

1) Mountain Hardware down jacket fondly known as “Puff Daddy.”  Any possession with a name of course makes the cut.  I may look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy in Puff Daddy, but I couldn’t care less.  It’s revolutionized my winter life.  I don’t have a lot of body fat, but with PD, that doesn’t matter.  No more standing at butt-cracking cold soccer games in a light drizzle freezing my ass off.  Enuf said.  Welcome in Puff. 

2) Bose radio, old school, no CD.  When I was five years old, chillin’ in Louisville, Kentucky waiting for the first grade to start, I’d fall asleep listening on the radio to the Kentucky Coronels in the American Basketball Association.  Louie Dampier, Dan Issel, Goose Givens, good times.  Ever since, I’ve loved radio.  I listen to everything, Rush Limbaugh (in small doses granted), Dave Ramsey, sports talk, NPR, the BBC, and even music sometimes.  One day, about fourteen years ago, I was driving down Friendly Boulevard in Greensboro, NC, with my precocious daughter snuggly tucked into her car seat.  In the smallest, squeakiest voice imaginable she asked, “Hey Dad, Is that Car Talk, Money Talk, or Sports Talk?”  I darn near drove off the road.

3) 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid.  Nameless thus far.  Regrettably, I live too far from work to cycle, so this is a practical decision.  Also, I’m so close to my first 50 mile per gallon tank that I’m not going to stop until I achieve it.  I average about 42-45 miles/gallon during the cooler months, but in the summer the mileage improves.  A few times lately I’ve registered 49+ miles per gallon, but I can’t break the coveted 5-0.  Right now, I’m two-thirds empty and sitting at 50.6, the highest I’ve ever been this far into a tank.  So next week I will be the guy sweating profusely, doing 55 in the far right lane on Interstate 5, using cruise control until I’m midway up my driveway, and finally doing a celebratory jig at the Costco pump next to you.

4) Macbook laptop.  Without it I couldn’t blog as conveniently and my legion of faithful readers would suffer in ways I couldn’t stand to bear.  Hey wait a minute, it’s the university’s laptop.  Sweet, still at three.

4) Douglas Matrix road bike.  This enables me to maintain my fitness and some nice friendships since I ride with others.  Of course, for fitness, a pair of running shoes would probably be a better choice since I can run year-round.  And with the bike comes a longer list of accessories . . . helmet, gps computer, pump, spare tubes/tires, etc.  Once again, I’m going to lay claim to the collective noun provision and label those 5) bike accessories. 

6) A pair of running shoes.  These will have to do double, triple, or quadruple duty no doubt, meaning I’ll have to sprinkle baking soda in them to manage the odor (you’re welcome for the tip) and I’m making the unilateral decision that baking soda falls under the heading of “consumable item.”

7) Contact lenses.  The value of clear vision goes without mentioning and achieving it without glasses distracting from my natural good looks is an added bonus.

8-9) Two pairs of pants.  One pair will have to be jeans since they don’t have to be washed as often as most others.  The other I will have to think about very carefully.  I wonder if any of those zipper pants that turn into shorts come in versions where the zipper isn’t that visible so that they might work in professional settings.  

10) A swimsuit, polyester jammers specficially, which will have to do double duty as underwear.  I hereby promise to wash them nightly and they can dry as I sleep.

Related to 10, can I please add a pair of swim goggles to 7?  Be forewarned, if you don’t approve that request, I may have to wear prescription swim goggles both in and out of the water. 

I know, I know, I know, I’m still shirtless, sunscreenless, and sockless, but maybe I can work at home more, and if not, I still have another 90 to go.  Admittedly, the list is a bit fitness-heavy, but I think I’m off to a solid start.

1 thought on “Decluttering

  1. i had not heard about this challenge until your blog here. it is very intruiging! as a poor college student, i don’t think it would be very hard for me to cut down to 100 possesions, especially if i was allowed to use your “collective noun” idea. i can’t imagine getting rid of my books. it would be easy for you to get rid of CD’s though, because you’d just have to download them to your itunes, then get rid of the CD, and you are up 1 album but not up 1 posession, ya dig? anyways, i just might have to try this out!

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