Tuesday, September 13, 2016

repost (original in April, 2012): TAKE GRANDMA'S 100 THING CHALLENGE

Despite the materialistic hype that's pounding at us every day, having overflowing basements, closets, garages, and drawers doesn’t make us better or more attractive people. And, it won't make us miraculously happy either - quite possibly the opposite. I think a lot of us feel that in our bones, but where do we start? A book and blog have been written about this dilemma. It’s about the 100 Thing Challenge, and it tells us how one person pared down his worldly possessions to an amazing, minimalist 100 things. He says that he’s been convinced by his experience. Here's what he recommends to reach such a goal: "Reduce (get rid of some of your stuff); Refuse (to get more new stuff); and  Rejigger (your priorities)."

I bet you'll feel joyful and spiritually uplifted, too, if you take on your own minimalist challenge. This is, of course, a tough choice to make. Many, if not most, US households have so many extra things. So, paring back to 100 – even a 1000 - things may seem like a monumental task. It’s clearly a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly – especially when there are other family members who may not want to sign on to such an ordeal.

Grandma's 100 Thing Challenge
It’s a smaller challenge, by far, than living with only 100 things but I believe it’s something we all can do and feel good about. It makes minimalism a work in progress. So, start out slow and do a little at a time. That way, it won't be so much of a burden. You’ll know that you can halt the process if suddenly you see (or feel) the need. My challenge to you is to give up one thing - duplicated in function or unused in several months - in your home every day for 100 days. Then, if you like the results you can continue giving up some more things for another 100 days, and so on. Maybe, then, you'll find just the right number of things for you - 100, 200, 300, etc.

Whatever the number of things you can get rid of, you'll be living without that much household disorganization and have more time to do meaningful things for yourself and others. Like many others, the very clutter and dust-accumulation around may be so depressing that you go out to shop for new things or plan more vacation trips - just to get out of the house.

I believe that people find grace through balance, and we can only achieve this when we take control of our own lives (not having our belongings own us) and pursue what's really important. Possessions, beyond a bare minimum, just get in the way. Having a suburban McMansion, despite the TV and movie hype, isn't “living the good life”. When we endlessly acquire more things, including duplicating stuff in our homes, we never settle in and enjoy what we've got.

Over and over, we’ve mistakenly told ourselves that life wouldn’t be complete without this "special" thing we are buying. But just as soon as this thing is brought home and tucked away, we start out the next day to the mall or the big box store to look for the next "special" thing - in what ends up being a never ending process. We mindlessly seek that momentary reward of finding that next thing - whatever it is and whether we need it or not. With this kind of consumerism, we are the dog chasing our own tail. You can just stop that cycle.

This is what the 100 Thing Challenge is about. If you try for a certain period - say, two or three months - to not buy anything beyond your basic needs, while recycling and repurposing all you can, you'll have a great sense of liberation. You will find that very few things make the new purchase cut - a useful tool, a book, a good wine, a small gift for someone who needs cheering. And, hey, you don't have to ditch family photos and heirlooms. The very best can be incorporated, into your new, organized lifestyle or given to a loved one who promises to cherish them.

Grandma's take on this challenge
If you remember, I already recommended the wardrobe editing challenge. For me, personally, wardrobe editing meant paring back to a total of 50 items. I continue to practice the wardrobe discipline - just buying a new item - usually the thrift store variety - when I really don't like something I have or have worn it out.

I give back the no-longer wanted items to charity or tear them apart, to use as fabric strips (or yarn, in the case of sweaters) to make needlework and other craft projects. I must say that I've seldom regretted giving something away or had a hard time replacing an item that later I found I needed. My personal goal is to have only enough needed for daily life and make absolutely no frivolous purchases. That means taking home nothing that hasn't been considered for at least a week. I’ll cheerfully give up just about anything with only a few exceptions. My rule is: If I haven't used it in three months, I can probably live perfectly well without it.

So, here’s where I’ve started with my own paring down process. Everything is fair game right now, except:
- Stuff that’s my husband’s
- Some few books
- Good quality and super useful tools for crafts and for fixing things.
- Collections count as one item. If everything goes in one small case, I count it as one item. But I can and will edit objects from any collection that I have.

I’ll know I’m well on my way to winning this challenge when all my personal things, including clothing, fit comfortably into a tiny room room or one small commercial storage locker.

Steps to begin your 100 Things Challenge
Put one item in the Challenge Box every day for 100 days.
Things that are "just trash" need to go out and not be included in this box.
Start out with duplicated items. Then move on to things that haven’t been used in 3 or more months
Make a list of what goes in the Challenge Box and add boxes as needed.
Take a picture of each box as it fills up, if you want a visual record.

After 100 days, you'll have accomplished these things
- Big “give-away” pile for charity
- Plans and organization to have a garage sale. To make sure that most stuff goes, try labeling a majority of items with "Make me an offer." (You might try selling the really valuable things on Ebay.)
- Happier for having a lot less to store and/or dust.
- A bit more money in your pocket or savings account because you are thoroughly aware of what it means to buy and hold on to so many useless things.

Where to from there
So, I hope you start out your minimalism challenge by choosing to get rid of 100 things. You'll find it's true that the less you have, the less you have to worry about. You’ll amaze yourself at how free you feel - no longer burdened by the need to organize, store and maintain all that stuff. Just keep on paring down and you’ll feel even better. And that relief can be extended to other areas - if you're both convinced and brave. (You might try a week-long camping trip to see if 100 (or even less) items are enough to live with on the short term.) Besides your belongings, you could then move on to other minimalist challenges that can cover other areas that tend to complicate our existence and contribute to the carbon burden of the Earth, such as:
- New digital gadgetry
- Media consumption
- Costly dietary items
- Non-essential energy and water use
- Long-distance and long-commute travel

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