Thursday, February 19, 2009

100 Things

A small but well-publicized number of people have attempted to whittle down their personal possessions to 100 items. By personal items they mean that if you live with someone else, you don't include the things you both use, like living room furniture or kitchen items. Also, most people doing this don't include books or, sometimes, DVDs, and count, for instance, a week's worth of underwear as one item. Even with these exceptions, 100 things is a *very* short list--a very minimal closet might include 5 pairs of shoes (sneakers, work shoes, hiking boots, flip flops or sandals, dress shoes) and you're already at 1/20 of your total items.

I know full well I could never do this; while I'm pretty minimal compared to your average American, I like having a decent selection of clothes, accessories, and art supplies around.

Still, I was inspired by this idea to see how minimal I could potentially be, so for one day I tracked all the items I used and came up with only 67. It was a weekend and I didn't leave the house except to go to the mailbox, so I presumably used more items around the house than usual. And I included non-personal items like the treadmill and the items I used for cooking (measuring cup, pot, fork, etc.). I forgot to include the stuff I used while sleeping (bed, quilt, sheets), but I did include the blanket I wrapped up in while watching a movie.

This really surprised me. Only 67 items? And this was on a day when I read/browsed through several books (which I counted) and changed my shirt a couple of times based on fluctuating temperature.

One thing I noticed was that my computer serves many purposes. Before the personal computer era, I might have used several more items for activities that I did on my computer (red pen and multiple reference books for editing, DVD/VHS player and tapes for watching a movie that I viewed online, paper and envelopes for correspondence).

I spent most of the day in my office. At the end of the day I put everything that I hadn't used into the closet to see how long it would take me to actually need those things. This was a couple of weeks ago and so far I've only taken out a few things (stamps, scotch tape, crayons. Yes, crayons).

I also decided to start putting a slip of paper in books as I read or refer to them. I'm not planning on getting rid of the ones I don't use, at least not yet, but it will be interesting to see how many of my books I use in a given period of time. If it's ridiculously low I may have to consider doing another book collection purge.