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Could you live with just 100 things?

Photo courtesy of Dan KernDan Kern has had enough. In fact, he thinks most of us have had enough, we just don’t realize it yet. Over the course of 31 days, Dan is going to eliminate all but 100 possessions from his life.  Can he do it?

Dan’s story begins with Britney Spears.  No, he wasn’t there with her when she famously shaved her head. But he understands what she was going through.  He points to Mark Morford’s article about the cleansing power of cutting off your hair and the other dramatic actions we do during a life transition.  If hair holds memory and shaving it off can give you a clean slate, how much more powerful can it be to do the same with your possessions?

“Trim it. Paint it. Rearrange it. Burn it honor it love it remember it and then, maybe, shave it. Shave it all. See the bare, lumpy, gorgeous scalp underneath. Then regrow at will. What, you have something more important to do?” ~ Mark Morford

Dan is giving himself 31 days to bring the number down to 100, and he’s blogging about the process.  You can just feel his sense of freedom growing with every post.  He reminisces about some items, and easily discards others.  He must feel like he’s lost weight every night when he goes to bed.

(I should point out that Dan is a great writer. I met him last year via Twitter during the 3-Day Novel Challenge and have enjoyed reading his take on life ever since. If you are on Twitter, you can follow him @obsrvationalist.)

Dan’s plan is to leave Winnipeg at the end of his project and head south for a new life and new adventures.  He makes a very valid point when he says:

“The more you have, the less you do.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I’m going to continue following Dan as he winds down his last few days with all that stuff.

If you had to get rid of all but 100 things, what would you keep?  Once you make your list, think about the items that didn’t make the cut.  How are those things serving you (or not)?

You may enjoy reading about a few other people who have taken on similar challenges with their possessions:

  • Baker over at Man vs. Debt keeps a running total of his family’s possessions as they travel the world.
  • GuynamedDave was the original inspiration for Dan’s project.  Dave’s challenge only involves personal items, not things like the household furniture. If you are not a traveler, this may be more to your liking.
  • Angela at My Year without Spending just finished a year of The Compact, in which participants pledge to buy nothing new except essentials like groceries. In all other things they barter, buy second hand, or go without.  Her experiment was such a success that she’s continuing a “Compact-lite” lifestyle this year.

UPDATE: Leslie just reminded me of George Carlin’s terrific act on “stuff” and I found it on Youtube. Enjoy!

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About Betsy

Betsy Talbot can't live without a Moleskine notebook, her passport, and happy hour. She sold everything she owned to travel the world with her husband Warren in 2010, and she's been enjoying her midlife crisis ever since. Betsy writes about creating the life you want from the life you already have in her books and on the Married with Luggage website. Drop her an email at btalbot (at) marriedwithluggage (dot) com and check out her Google+ page.


  1. Wow, 100. Since we’re living in apartment while our house is for sale in another state, we have learned a lot about living on bare minimums. When we go to our house and see most of our stuff, we often think about just getting rid of it all.

    Do you have a certain amount you’re trying to get down to?

  2. I like the idea of this, especially the “compact-lite” lifestyle I added that site to me feed reader. Luckily college annual moving allowed me to clean out my belongings every year but now as I’m slightly more stationary as I save up for future travel endeavors I seem to be accumulating things. Inspiring post, could I limit myself to 100 things?

  3. We don’t have an actual number, but it will have to fit within 2 backpacks and then the 2 boxes we have allowed ourselves to be stored at my mom’s house (plus about 10 pieces of art). I’m guessing definitely under 300, but maybe close to 200 for 2 of us.

    I’m just amazed that he is doing this in a month! Though now that I think about it, it might be better – sorta like ripping off a bandage fast rather than slow.

    A guy I know moved out here from NJ and lost all his possessions when the moving truck he hired caught fire. He even found a video of it on Youtube – can you imagine watching all of your possessions burn by the side of the road? He said at first it made him sick, but after about 10 minutes he felt relieved and a year later still lives a pretty minimal life, even with a new baby.

  4. Cornelius, you will love Angela’s blog on living Compact-lite. I’ve been following her for a year now.

    We did a series on the blog on gradual decluttering last April – there are some good tips on doing this without driving yourself crazy. Just search on “april decluttering” and you’ll find all the posts. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Oh my goodness, I have SO much more than 100 things. The good side is that the number has stopped growing! but since I’m not a “spring chicken” – I’ve had years to accumulate stuff. A lot less than many, but much more than I want to have around.

    I’m going to have to link back to you today because I love the 100 thing idea and have read “A Guy Named Dave” and like it a lot. I’m looking forward to checking out Dan’s blog. And the Carlin is priceless! Thanks for reminding me of that- he was always way ahead of the curve!

  6. I doubt I’ve got anywhere near 100 things to my name and I keep trying to chop that down all the time too.

  7. Compact UK says:

    Thank you for this article, it was really thought provoking. It’s made me realise how much STUFF we have – too much!!

  8. You know, it would be an interesting experiment to see who does more (and considers themselves happier) – those with many or those with few possessions. It’s all subjective, I guess, and as long as you feel okay about what you have and it doesn’t keep you from doing what you want you are probably in balance.

  9. Weird timing. I was just talking last night about how much I loved certain aspects of my life when I was a flight attendant, and one of the things I loved the most was that everything I needed (physical possessions, I mean) fit into two carry-on bags (a 22-inch rolling bag and my flight bag, which was like a very small overnight bag). I had two uniforms, a set of “street clothes,” and a pair of pjs. That was it for a wardrobe. I didn’t need anything else. I’d simply replace pieces in that wardrobe as necessary. I didn’t buy anything (because when would I use it?). I didn’t need a house or a car even, and the only bill I had for a material possession was my cell phone bill. It was so liberating! It’s really one of the things I miss most about that time in my life – not having, needing, or even wanting stuff.

    Can you live with just 100 things? Yes, but I’ll warn you. When you start paring down, you won’t want to stop! You’ll feel so light and unencumbered. Dan is absolutely right. I really believe I lived more when I had less!

  10. Amber, you and Dan just might be perfect for each other. :) (I’ve been warned about this matchmaking thing, but it is so hard to turn off!)

    Seriously, you and I have talked about this several times. There is a lot to be said for being able to carry your life with you at the drop of a hat. I commented earlier today at about the cons of longterm travel – he mentioned the chore of managing the stuff back home, and my point is that if there is nothing back home, then there is no con.

  11. Hi Betsy
    Failed miserably with my 100 things, as I just counted the bits and bobs in my living area, already up to 101 not including the furniture! Sounds awfully cluttered, but IMHO looks lovely! And I’m like one of the above commenters, have had a long time to acquire my stuff (which I love!). We have recently moved to a new home and most of my stuff was in storage so it was great fun opening up all the boxes. In my position (not planning on going anywhere for a looooong time) I don’t see the need to whittle down my stuff, but I do need to have the conversation with my kids about whether or not it will bother them to get rid of it after I’m gone, I don’t want to leave a burden for them to deal with. I’m sure I’ll get rid of some things that realistically I don’t use but still have an attachment for at the moment. But then again, when I’m gone what does it matter if they just get a skip in and get rid of the lot?? I won’t be here to see it :)

  12. Hi, Judy. I’m not sure 100 things is right for everyone, though I’m betting we all have more stuff than we actually need.

    I just had a conversation about leaving things behind for family to go through with 2 women who had this experience with their parents. One went through it all while her dad was still alive and made sure to gift things to the people he cared about while they could still thank him in person for it and bond over shared memories. The other had to go through it all after her mom died and said it was an overwhelming experience.

    It would be a wonderful gift to have that conversation with your kids now so they won’t have the burden of trying to figure out what was meaningful to you and needs to be cherished and what can be sold/donated. We should all do that with the people we love so when the time comes they have no guilt about it.

  13. Betsy, thank you for this lovely little bit of attention. And thank you for, in so many ways, clearing this trail for us. We never know how our actions may inspire another.

    @Judy -It sounds to me like you have some nice balance in your life. Also, and more importantly, you’re conscious of the things in your life. Getting to that constant conscious (sounds like a tea) state is ultimately what this is about for me.

    @Amber -Damn, that’s sexy-talk. Have you seen “Up In The Air”?

    @Compact UK -Thank you. :-)

    @Anil -Solidarity, bro.

    @Angela -Thank you. :D

    @Cornelius Aesop -Yeah,the college thing is a great regulator. And I don’t see anything wrong with owning ‘stuff’, just the unending, unconscious acquisition of it. Some stuff can be awesome.

    @Shannon -It’s funny… I’ve thought numerous times about getting rid of everything, but then I’d still be wearing clothes and so that’s something (begin endless loop) :D (I hope all your moving logistics are effortless.)


  1. uberVU - social comments says:

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    [...] people have told us of de-cluttering closets, garages, and storerooms and how this simple act lifted a weight from their shoulders or [...]


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