100(ish) things

Many would not guess it, but I am a minimalist at heart. I don’t like looking around and seeing all the crap I’ve accumulated. So this year, I’m going to do something about it. This year, I’m working towards only owning 100(ish) things, and I’d like to encourage you to too.

The 100 is easy. The “ish” requires some explaining, but I feel it is the key to making this workable.

What follows is my guidelines for paring down to 100ish items. If that sounds like a goal you’d like to achieve too, keep reading.

ish #1

100 is a target, not a hard and fast rule. If I whittle it down to 104, and getting rid of those last 4 would be painful, I’ll stop at 104.

ish #2

Heath, safety, and “regular maintenance” items don’t count. Your first aid kit doesn’t count, even if it has 1000 items in it. Your tooth paste, soap, and tooth brush, don’t count. Your pills don’t count. Health and regular maintenance aren’t just limited to you though. Your car needs regular maintenance, and checkups too. Tire guage, Snow Chains for your car, Window Breaker, Snow Brush… All safety / maintenance items. Go Bags are also a form of safety item. Dog toys? Maintenance item (also, they’re not really yours), but maybe your dog(s) don’t need all those toys.

You will need to be careful with the “regular maintenance” items though. It’s easy to go “oh yeah i need that for ____” when it’s more a “want” or a “nice-to-have”, instead of a real need.

ish #3

Atypical Activities: Limiting yourself to 100 items will free us up mentally, but it’ll hamper our ability to do the non-everyday things that bring us joy. Camping, as an example, requires special equipment: sleeping bag, camp stove, water filter, etc. You should not have to give up camping, to enjoy downsizing. The items required for you whatever activity you love in your off time: they don’t count, but you still have to sit down and ask yourself which ones you actually need.

Bonus items!

Anything digital doesn’t count. It takes up no physical space. You can have 10,000 books!

Gray areas

To me, pills like Ibuprofin, count as health and maintenance. Any in the first aid kit, or medicine cabinet I won’t count, but if I choose to carry an extra bottle in my backpack? That bottle will count.

Groupings are complicated too. A keyring has many keys, but most people would call it one item. An Altoids tin filed with useful everyday items? Maybe. A box filled with crap you can’t decide on? Probably not one item.

Shared items. I don’t feel it’s right for me to get rid of items that my wife uses regularly too (like the stereo), but do I count that towards my 100? I dunno. I can talk to her about getting rid of items we don’t use anymore.

Work items. A woodworker needs a lot of tools, but maybe, they don’t need all their tools. Could you get your job done well with fewer things? Try working without them for 6 months. If you find you don’t need them, get rid of them.

Getting to 100(ish)

How each of us gets to 100 is going to be different. For me it’s going to start with Marie Kondo’s advice in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (It’s available on Audible too). At the heart of her teaching is a simple question: “Does this item bring me joy?” If it doesn’t, you get rid of it. I’d modify that slightly: “Does this item bring me joy? Is it actually required?” For example: I consider having a backpack to be a requirement. I use it to carry my laptop to work safely. Fortunately, I love my backpack.

My plan is simple. Each weekend I’ll address a room, or part of a room. I’ll do as much as I can find time for. I’ll choose the items I want to keep, and donate, or discard the rest. Once I’ve finished going through the house, I’ll go back, start counting, and repeat the process until I’m down to 100.

Staying at 100(ish)

I, like many of you, lust after things. I hear the siren call of “better”, and that’s ok. When you only have a few items it’s important to make sure they’re the best they can be. So, feel free to window shop. Just don’t pull the trigger unless you know that it’s an improvement over what you currently have, and know what you’re going to be getting rid of to compensate.

In the end, this will mean spending more money on fewer, but better things. In my experience, this will leave you with items that you really value, and appreciate having around.

To summarize

Let’s work on getting rid of things we don’t need, but keep ourselves safe and well cared for in the process. Only keep the stuff you really love, or really need. Get rid of all the “maybes”.

If this sounds good to you, but you’re still on the fence, consider these 7 reasons that keep people from getting started with minimalism.