Sunday, January 2, 2011

100 or bust?

I’ve been following several minimalist blogs for some months now. It seems that arguments have arisen about the “100 Thing Challenge”. Some think this is obsessing over counting possessions, while others insist that it’s meaningless unless one actually maintains the goal of 100 things or less. I think that reducing belongings is an important starting point (whether it results in owning 100 things or not), but it’s ultimately only a tool to transform one’s thinking. At first, you will focus on sorting and deciding, but hopefully that process gets you thinking differently about having and buying stuff, which then frees your attention to focus not on things but on doing and being. This is why some minimalists say that the number is not really important.

I have heard monks conducting services in which they periodically chant, “Let us be attentive.” This is an important spiritual concept, and it applies to minimalism as well: where is your attention and energy going? If a minimalist is agonizing over buying that 101st object, then his attention has now shifted back to things. If he doesn’t take up photography because it means owning a few more than 100 things, then minimalism has restricted him instead of freeing him up, and that’s missing the point.

As Bob Luman once sang, “Let’s think about living, let’s think about life”.


  1. Hi Tracy - Yes I've been reading some blogs on minimalism also - & wrote one myself 'Possessed by Our Possessions' last year. I agree that is isn't so much the number of items we possess that matter, but our focus and attention. I've known rich people who are spiritually present and detached from their possessions, and less than rich people who are obsessed by materialism. The Qld floods in Australia right now are a scary reminder of how temporary our possessions really are, and force us to consider what really matters in this life.

  2. Kerry - I remember your "Possessed by Our Possessions" post, in fact that's how I found your blog (through a Google search on minimalism). I still struggle with figuring out how much to keep, but I'm getting clearer about it all the time.

    Thanks for coming to have a look!

  3. I like the line, "Let's think about living, let's think about life." That's where the juice is. We're taught the joy is in things, so I think it's easy to get caught up in stuff. But when I slow down and take a look, it's the experiencing of life that contains the nectar.

  4. This is true. I have found that my camera has allowed me to find new ways to see things, to create, and to come home with something new without spending. So it allows me to experience life in a way that I wouldn't be able to without it. And being able to do that has freed me up to get rid of and not buy other kinds of things.