“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
I recently completed a personal 100 Thing Challenge. I know that some of you wish that your life had less clutter in it. Maybe I can help.
Having completed the “Sticky-Note Love” ebook, I would love to work on a 100 Thing Challenge Guide. I can take my experience, interview others who have gone through similar processes, and create a comprehensive guide about how to undertake your own challenge.
Not only would it include a step-by-step process, but I would also include worksheets to help you figure out what you need and videos filled with useful tips.
My short list has 5 items on it, with Marriage being the first, and minimalism being close behind. I thought that it might be interesting to explain how these fit together in my life. I’m not trying to minimalize my marriage, but to maximize it by limiting the other aspects of my life that might interfere.
I enjoy spending time with my wife, focused on her. This might mean rearranging my schedule or turning down activity options.
Getting up early
I get up earlier than I need to a few days a week. The extra couple of hours that I gain allow me to get some work done before my wife wakes up. After this bout of productivity, I am often able to have breakfast waiting when she does get up. We are then able to eat together, leisurely, before we have to head our separate ways for the day.
Turning down other options
At least once a week I have the opportunity to get home before my wife. On these days, I have the chance to have supper waiting when she arrives. It might be a more productive use of my time to knock out some homework, work on any of the dozen projects that I seem to have going on at any given time, or even just meet with friends during this free time. However, I don’t think there is a more important use of my time than to treat my wife. By then she’s tired and hungry (and often cold, now that the winter weather’s starting to move in), and having a hot meal ready to go is a comfort that I know she appreciates. She’s able to come home, relax at the table as I put the finishing touches on supper, and chat with me about our days.
These options are only available to me because I’ve narrowed down the other obligations in my life. Though school and work take out good portions of my days, I’ve streamlined how I get my homework done. The time and energy it takes has been minimized. I don’t participate in many extracurricular activities, having chosen only those that really align with my interests and provide results that I think are worthwhile.
I might be married, but that doesn’t mean I can let the romance die. Indeed, it may be more important now than when we were dating. Fortunately for me, romance doesn’t have to be complicated, or expensive. Here are a few of the things that I do:
I certainly don’t know everything about relationships, and mine is still a work in progress. However, I keep working to get better. I’ve worked through The Love Dare, read The Five Love Languages (which is how I know that Words of Affirmation, ie: love notes, are important to my wife), and make it a point to reread His Needs, Her Needs every year. Since my wife is important to me, I make the time to focus on her. Sometimes this doesn’t mean spending time with her, but improving myself as her husband. I might not be an expert on relationships, but I’m working towards my doctorate on my wife. This requires time and energy, and
being a minimalist helps me work toward that goal.
As an assignment for my painting class I have to bring in 3-5 things that I can’t live without on a daily basis. Receiving this assignment right after I completed the 100 Thing Challenge, it took me some time to figure out what to take for my things. Especially since I’m not sure if she means this in a literal or a representational way (ie: I can’t live without my computer, so I bring in my computer or I can’t live without my wife, so I bring in something that represents my wife). Since my teacher has been gone for a couple of weeks I haven’t had the chance to ask her. (I really want to be a smart-alek and take in some food, a bottle of water, and a jar of air.)
My first thought was my computer. I use it far too much, every day. (Indeed, I am sitting here right now, typing this post.) Beyond that, however, I have no idea what else I use on a daily basis that I “can’t live without.” To help me decide, I looked at my short list for inspiration.
Even if my wife wanted to come in and sit as part of the still life that I will be composing, she has class at the same time that I do. Her representative, then, will be my wedding ring. I don’t often think about it, but every time I take it off greatly feel its absence. It’s only when gone that I notice how often I fiddle with it, adjusting it on my finger. Therefore, it is something that I cannot live without on a daily basis (it only comes off when working on a project that could damage it, which is not that often.)
The next thing that comes to mind is my motorcycle. I greatly love riding it on a daily basis. However, I’m not sure how I would get it into the second floor studio where the class meets. It would fit in the industrial elevator that the building has, but I don’t think it would make it through the tight curves required to get into the building via the handicap ramp. I’m also pretty sure that though I wouldn’t mind doing it once, having to bring the bike up twice a week for nearly a month would get tiring fairly quickly. And yes, I have given this serious consideration.
In lieu of the actual motorcycle, I will be taking its key. Not only does it represent the motorcycle, but it really is a vital part of the bike (I wouldn’t get very far without it).
What can you not live without on a daily basis? Are you surprised at what first comes to mind? I was surprised when I thought of the computer, and a bit saddened. I really need to reduce my dependency on this thing. I’d love to hear what you come up with!
I love Everett Bogue’s blog, Far Beyond the Stars. It has made it’s way into my reader and stayed there for some time now. He’s an inspiration for minimalists, entrepreneurs, and bloggers. That’s why a recent post, How to Create an A-List Minimalist Blog, really caught my attention. I’ve read this post a number of times now, taken notes from it, created a to-do list based on it, and shared it with some blogging friends. However, I feel that one of Everett’s statements is wrong.
Everett recently turned off comments on his blog during a vacation, and decided to leave them off. As soon as I read his post, I wanted to leave him a comment about his incorrect statement, but couldn’t. So I let it pass. However, I continue to think about what he said, and finally decided to follow his advice.
So, what was this heinous statement that Mr. Bogue made?
Living with less than 50 things is a good benchmark for most people these days,
if you’re into counting your stuff.
It may be a silly, personal annoyance, but I don’t like this statement. I feel that he chose an arbitrary number, that even he doesn’t conform to.
Everett does not meet his own benchmark. Does this mean he isn’t a minimalist? Of course not! He’s one of the leaders in the movement! He lives with less so that he can live and work anywhere in the world. Minimalism makes his lifestyle possible.
I feel that this number was chosen just because it is less than the common 100 Things. In short, he chose it for shock value.
Unfortunately, while I know that living with only 50 things is possible, I feel that it is too limiting. The average person has a whole house full of stuff (and likely a garage and storage unit). In order to stand out today, living with only 100 things is sufficient. In fact, while living with only 100 things might seem common today, I feel safe in saying that these bloggers are the minimalist Olympians.
At least Everett added on the final portion of this sentence. I love that he states this is not a requirement.
… if you’re into counting your stuff
To be a minimalist, you don’t have to count your stuff. In fact, unless you are just making up rules, minimalism isn’t about stuff, or how much of it you might have.
According to Joshua Becker, minimalism is about “the intentional promotion of the things you most value and the removal of anything that distracts you from it.” You’ll notice that he doesn’t mention possessions anywhere in his definition. While you may value something that you own, you may also value your relationships, activities, or even work. Likewise, it may not be possessions that distract you, but bad relationships, time-wasting activities, or (yes) even work.
Everette may admit that he views minimalism as being able to put all of his possessions into a backpack, but he has also acknowledged that this isn’t for everyone. He knows that numbers aren’t the important metric for one’s life.
I know that this specific post was written to those who wish to be the leaders in the minimalist movement, and leaders need to be examples. I want to fill that role, but I am not concerned with how much, or how little, stuff I have. Instead I feel that the important things in my life should be the focus, while letting the others fall away. I would hate to see minimalism become a numbers game! I feel that Everett would agree with me wholeheartedly.
Leo talks about the short list here. Basically, it’s a list of the 3-5 most important things in your life. Things that you want to spend time with, time on, learning, or improving. Once you’ve defined them, you can then proceed to build your life around the items on this list, for now. Your list can change later if you want it to (it’s your list, after all.)
Like most everyone, I have a long list of things that I want to accomplish in my life: things to try, to do, to see, etc. I took a few days to write down all of my interests and goals, then sat down and looked for patterns. Many things come up multiple times, in different forms. Or the same interest seems to repeat itself over time. These things are what made it to my current short list. And without further ado…
In no specific order, here is my short list:
(Well, I say no specific order, but I mean after marriage. Marriage is first, the rest are listed randomly.)
After coming up with this list, I realized that these items are reflected in my life list, which just illustrates what I mentioned above. These are the interests that repeatedly appear. Marriage falls under family; money fits in both the financial and professional categories; motorcycle fits both under travel and hobbies; making things fit under hobbies, professional, and education.
Minimalism is what will enable me to focus on these other interests, which I wrote about here.
So now that my short list is made, what is the next step? Now it’s time to focus. I feel that I’ve been fairly successful in focusing on these five areas of my life for the past few months. However, I want to do so in a more conscious way. This means dropping other interests, at least for the time being. If they don’t pertain to an item on my short list, then it’ll have to wait until a later date. It also means not accepting new demands on my time.
I’ve already been focusing on minimalism in my life, which became apparent to me as I worked through the Minimalist Experiment and the 100 Thing Challenge. I will continue to explore this lifestyle in order to better focus on the other items on my short list.
As I’m earning my art degree, a great deal of my time is already spent on making things. Even though I have issues with school, I have another year until I will graduate. At that time, I will shift how I am focusing on making things.
I haven’t decided if I want to tie money/business together with making things or not. In some ways I think that would be ideal, and sometimes I think that they need to be separate. At this moment, the two definitely don’t coincide, though I will be experimenting to see if they work better together.
As a year-round motorcycle rider, I also already have a motorcycle focus. However, I want to expand that focus to include more traveling.
Marriage is my main focus, as it is one of the cores around which my life is built. This focus was one of my motivators to try minimalism. I had too many distractions that kept me from spending time with my wife. As I removed them, I found that our relationship improved, which only made me want to continue.
Now you’ve seen my short list. Do you have one? I would love to see it. Post it in the comments, or link to it on your blog. What’s important to you?
On October first, I read about Project 333. Since I was just starting the 100 Thing Challenge, I decided not to take part in this project, as I thought that one project at a time might be better for my sanity.
The basic idea of Project 333 is simple. For 3 months, wear only 33 items of clothing.
(For more details, check it out.)
The rules are pretty simple, and I feel that they provide quite a bit of flexibility. As I wrapped up the 100 Thing Challenge I realized that I had only worn 40 clothing items all month long. Of course, this includes 5 items that aren’t counted in Project 333 (PJ’s, underwear, socks, and gym clothes), which brings down my total to only 35. I could easily drop my second doo rag and a pair of boots and be at only 33 items.
It’s not too late to join in the fun. The rules are simple and the experience is well worth it. Since you’re not getting ride of anything, only boxing it up and hiding it out of sight, there is nothing to worry about. If you do need something, it will be available to you. Will you give it a try?
I just finished the 100 Thing Challenge, and it made me think. About 3 weeks into the project, I realized that I hadn’t used a lot of the items on my list. There might be enough room on the list that I could follow the examples of others and have only 100 things, period.
Even though I don’t see this actually happening, I think that it will be a good exercise for me as I continue to examine what I really need in my life. Also, a version of this list may end up being my packing list for some of the goals that I mentioned here.
Recently I realized that I still had a number of items on my list that I hadn’t used yet. I was only keeping them for special occasions, which don’t come up very frequently. In essence, then, they were “just in case” items. As such, I’m sure that I could get by without them. And so I decided to see what my list would look like if I only owned the 100 things that on it (similar to the 10 Things list).
One thing that I’ve always noticed about other people’s lists that I’ve found, is that they never take into account things like shelter and food. I feel that if you list everything that you own, but use a whole lot of other things on a regular basis, some might consider that “cheating”.
The above list tries to take this into account. Using the motorcycle as my base, I can travel just about anywhere that I wish to. The camping gear provides me with shelter and the ability to prepare food for myself. It might only provide a minimal life, but one of ultimate mobility. I would be able to sleep anywhere I could lay down or hang my hammock (which includes parks and under bridges in a pinch, or a friend’s porch.)
Well, I’m surprised. Even after adding basic camping gear, I still have extra room on my list. I’m sure that there are things I’m forgetting, and I know that more items would add to my comfort level. What do you think that I’m missing?
I easily lived with only 100 personal things for the Month of October. The 100 Thing Challenge ended up not being a challenge at all. There were only a couple of things that I missed, and a number of things that I never used.
Two things. I can think of only two items all month long that I missed. And really, I didn’t miss them. I just used something else in their place after remembering that I “couldn’t” because they weren’t on the list. The two things that I missed?
If I thought I was surprised by how few things I missed, I was amazed at how many of the things I kept out never got used.
(I haven’t used these yet, but with the temperature dropping, it won’t be long now.)
17 things that I didn’t use all month long, and there are at least a couple more that I only used a time or two (swim trunks, handkerchiefs, most of the tools, and second doo rag). I could easily drop about 15 things, bringing me to a total of 80.
I’ve got far too much stuff, “just in case”. Books that I once read, or tell myself that I will read one day, knick-knacks held on to for the memories they are supposed to provide, decorative items, tools that “I might need one day,” and far too many clothes. All things that I don’t need, and that are just taking up space in my apartment and cluttering up my life.
Removing these things from my life didn’t affect it in a negative way at all. In fact, I didn’t even notice their absence.
However, I also realized that I could get rid of so many things that it would be inconvenient. For this project, I kept out 5 days worth of socks and underwear. The way the laundry works out, that was just the right amount. There were only two times that I “had” to do laundry because I was going to run out. So, while I could live with only two pairs, at this point in my life it is not worth the inconvenience of having to wash them every night in order to have a clean pair the next day.
Definitely! It might not have been as much of a challenge as I expected it to be, but I am certainly glad that I gave the 100 Thing Challenge a try. I’ve learned a lot about my relationship with my possessions, and about how much I really need. Now I can more easily get rid of some of the things that I have allowed to stick around, just because.
What about you? Has this project helped you in any way?
It might seem foolish for me to try the 100 Thing Challenge, since I’m not getting rid of my non-100 things, but only stashing them away temporarily. My closet still has more clothes than I actually wear, my patio storage has quite a collection of tools and camping gear stashed into it (more impressive because of how much there is in such a small space than the scope of the collection), and I have more books than I need. Basically, I have more than I need to live comfortably.
However, I wanted to experiment and see what, exactly, I do need to live comfortably. What areas of life will I end up realizing that I use more than I thought, and which will confirm that I have extra stuff just for the sake of having it? (I talked about this just a few days ago.)
One of the main reasons that I decided to try the 100 Thing Challenge is because it was not a new concept to me. Many is the time that my mind has wandered to the idea that I have too many things. I would start to mentally walk through my daily routine, examining the items that I used on a daily basis. “Why then,” I would wonder, “do I have all of the other stuff?”
My daily routine involves only a few items: clothes, cooking/eating utensils, computer, materials for current project, transportation. All of the extra stuff? It’s basically decoration.
These thoughts have been floating through my head before I ever read about the 100 Thing Challenge that others undertook. Reading about their experiences just helped to increase my interest. Now that I’d seen that it could be done, and how others went about it, my interest was piqued even further.
Of course, I started slowly. The Minimalism Experiment helped me to get moving in the right direction. I took a look at the things that I used on a regular basis, and got rid of the rest. Even after this paring down, however, I still ended up with more things than I used frequently. I continued to discover that I had an extra box of books in the closet, a shelf of clothes that hadn’t been touched since I moved, and more. So it was time for another experiment, one where I pushed even further.
And so, I’m trying the 100 Thing Challenge.