November – The 100 Item Challenge

Last month’s random photo-blog challenge of my 5-9 and weekend life showed me that I spend roughly 1/5 of my non-work life at home.  Even this week starting a new challenge (the 100 Item Challenge), I have yet to spend more than a few hours at my apartment and don’t plan to be back there for more than a few minutes (not counting sleeping) from Thursday morning through late Sunday night.  I’m going to NYC to cheer on my two friends running the marathon @grahamgrogers and @schwizzlerizzle, woot!

I first got the idea for this month-long challenge by hearing about a guy’s blog where he reduced the items in his life to only 100 “essential” items.  He wrote a book (which I’m now reading, review coming soon I’m sure) and now he gives talks around the country about his experiences in overcoming the perils associated with typical American consumerism.  My motives are not exactly anti-consumerism (although I do see that as an issue that plagues our country), I’m just pro-mobility, pro-flexibility, and pro-challenging myself in new ways.  I generally have the same 12 or so items on me at all times; shoes, socks, underwear, pants, belt, shirt, jacket, book, ipod, backpack, nalgene, and coffee mug.  Everything else that I keep at the apartment I rarely spend my time in is just extra.  I think this challenge will force me to reevaluate the things that I hang onto.

I’ve been thinking about this challenge for almost a month and after a few thought experiments and chatting with friends on the trail or at parties about it I’ve decided to make a few caveats or rules, I like the word rules better:

Rule #1 – Safety.  I refuse to skimp on items of mine that I need for safety; bike helmet, climbing helmet, bike lights, reflective running gear, etc.  It’s not worth it for me to give up my helmet in order to keep my snowshoes so I won’t even accept it as an option (because I am liable to do something dumb like toss my helmets).  So if the first rule is for me, then the 2nd is surely for everyone else.

Rule #2 – Personal Hygiene.  Someone last month asked me if I’d be willing to give up my underwear or socks in order to keep my outdoor gear and I responded with an emphatic “Yes”.  However, my friends, coworkers, and especially my girlfriend agree that even though I’d be willing to give up certain basic measures of comfort (free-ballin’ it in my jeans and sockless in my shoes), it could certainly negatively impact others which is not the point of the challenge (imagine how bad my sneakers will smell if I never wore socks in them, ugh, they already smell terrible so I can’t imagine).  So hygiene is something I’m not counting explicitly toward the 100 items but I will certainly reevaluate my stock to make sure nothing is in excess.

Rule #3 – Work.  Work related items are off-limits to my apartment and therefore, they are also off-limits to this challenge.  I can’t exactly sell my work laptop or any of the equipment I use at work.  That would not only get me fired but I’d probably be taken to court and sued for an exorbitant amount of money.  I’m not trying to go to jail this month so items necessary for work will not count to my 100 item challenge.

Rule #4 – Consumables.  The point of this challenge is to reduce the (permanent) items I have in my life.  So items like food that are always in transit do not count.  My first month challenge, Life Without the Landfill, has helped me to be more thoughtful about how I treat my consumables; composting food waste, recycling everything else, and trying not to buy things that require a landfill after their use. I’d be a hypocrite if I threw out a bunch of stuff so my secondary goal to the 100 item challenge is to not throw as little of my junk away as possible by selling or donating things to people.

Rule #5 – The Sanity of My Roommates.  My last rule is one to protect my roommates.  This challenge is indeed my own so I don’t want my actions to negatively affect others.  I can’t exactly get rid of all the silverware or sell the microwave without getting a beat down from one or both of my roomies.  So the things in my apartment that are shared between us will not count toward the 100 items (i.e. the couch is owned by one roommate and the t.v. by the other but that doesn’t mean I can’t use either).  I’ll just do my best to keep my minimalism to myself; i.e. keep my one plate, one pot, one fork/spoon/knife in a separate spot in the cabinet so I’m not tempted to use the excess stuff that we have.

I’ll be trying to sell or give away (depending on the item) most of the stuff I have.  A lot of it is new-ish and in great condition.  So I’ll be posting my craigslist/facebook marketplace ads/excel spreadsheets online.  Feel free to make me an offer on anything you see.  In the spirit of my first 30-day life challenge, Life Without the Landfill, I am refusing to throw anything away.  Clothes will go to goodwill and other stuff I’ll try to sell for cheap.

If you have any suggestions, comments, concerns, or insults geared toward this month’s Life Challenge, just send them my way either by posting a comment on the blog, tweeting at me @youngandurban, or by emailing me at theyoungurbanunprofessional@gmail.com.  Wish me luck.

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4 Responses to November – The 100 Item Challenge

  1. Sarah says:

    What a great challenge! I think your rules are very reasonable. I look forward to seeing what you’re selling!

  2. I noticed you read a lot. Does that mean you have a lot of books or do you mostly get them from the library. Any thoughts of moving to an eReader because of this challenge? I have a kindle and it’s awesome.

    • I do read quite a bit and I’ve thought about getting an eReader but I also tend to break electronics on a frequent basis (as evidenced by several iPods, cameras, and laptops). If I sit on a book, it’s still a book. If I sit on an eReader then I’ve got some e-ink and assorted electronics inside of a plastic housing and I’m $100+ in the hole. Generally if I come across a cool/super old hardcover book I’ll hang onto it (because real books probably wont be made anymore 10 years from now). Other books I’ll get rid of or lend to friends on a semi-permanent loan. I should use the library more but it’s not something I’ve gotten around to doing. It’s definitely unlikely that I’ll get an eReader as a result of this challenge, but checking out the library options is a great suggestion, thanks Mike.

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