Sunday, January 3, 2010

Another, more extensive, inventory

The 100 Thing challenge undertaken by various bloggers intrigues me, but the number seems arbitrary. I've yet to see anyone claim to do this without making various exceptions for shared items, books, or "collections" of items. Probably this is because it's basically impossible for a middle-class Westerner to actually reduce his or her material goods to 100 things, including everything he or she uses for necessary activities (cooking, sleeping, hygiene, fixing things) and everything used for entertainment.

Clothes and books would be my two biggest challenges. Most people seem to make an exception for books, which I think is kind of cheating. If I were to undertake this challenge seriously I would probably have to make a similar exception, but why are books, as material objects, any more valuable than DVDs or knick-knacks? I haven't seen anyone make an exception for clothes, maybe because most of the people doing this challenge seem to be men.

I recently downsized my library to 100 items, and could probably lose 10 or 15 more volumes if I was really tough on myself. I am a *huge* reader (5-7 books a week), and most of the volumes that remain on my shelves are relatively obscure works that are either not available in the Chicago Public Library system or that are likely to be weeded soon (i.e., ephemeral works of 90s young adult literature). I also hung on to a few more popular works that I consider "comfort books," books I reread when I'm depressed or have a bad case of ennui, like A Little Princess and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Those would be the most likely candidates for removal if/when I do another purge.

I don't have any real interest in minimizing my wardrobe. I do weed out anything I haven't worn in six months, but I like having a variety of clothes to choose from. For a woman, I think it would be much harder to have a wardrobe of less than 100 items, although Tammy from RowdyKittens managed it. I don't see how I could get to a wardrobe that small without giving up skirts and "feminine" shoes altogether.

I currently own about 400 items, including books and wardrobe. I'm still cheating a little--well, a lot. I'm not itemizing a certain book collection or a Rubbermaid full of Christmas stuff that probably includes 100 items just on its own. And, uh, those innocent items "file cabinet 1" and "file cabinet 2" include thousands of papers. Possibly tens of thousands.

I am making progress, though. As of this morning, I own approximately 114 things that aren't clothes, books, or things shared with my boyfriend (hammer, DVD player, etc. are mostly shared with the boyfriend). Anything that I could get rid of without him caring is on this list. I also took off the consumables, like deodorant, even though I've been tracking those for my own purposes. (Again, though, that distinction is kind of arbitrary--is contact solution consumable, even though I've had it for years, and isn't an eraser, technically, consumable?) [UPDATE: While preparing this list for posting, I got rid of a few more things and am now down to 90. I intend to get rid of several more items, marked in red.]

Lists like this show me both how similar we are and how idiosyncratic. Almost everyone has a comb and a toothbrush, but Dave Bruno has a surfboard, plus two Bibles, in his 100 things, and Tammy has a fuel belt for running (I don't have the faintest idea what that is). I, on the other hand, even in my quasi-minimalist state, have oil pencils and a pair of old jeans that no longer fit.

1. Teak table (and desk blotter)
2. lamp
3. bookshelf
4. bike (and helmet, lock)--will be getting rid of and hopefully replacing with a bike more practical for our small third-floor apartment
5. papasan chair
6. file cabinet 1
7. file cabinet 2
8. cell phone
9. laptop
10. speakers
11. mouse
12. tweezers
13. bag for washing nylons
14. sponges and toiletries kit for holding sponges
15. comb
16. toothbrush
17. tongue scraper
18. bag’o’hairties
19. hairdryer
20. contact case
21. spare contacts
22. exercise ball
23. oil pencils
24. needlepoint canvas
25. needlepoint
26. gallon ziplock bag of thread and embroidery floss
27. cross-stitch sampler
28. 64-crayon set
29. pencil sharpener
30. stapler & staples
31. paintbrushes (5)
32. small box of sewing findings
33. flashlight
34. acrylics
35. bag of crochet hooks
36. Derwent watercolor pencils
37. box of business cards
38. box of stationary
39. eraser
40. poster putty
41. computer backup
42. Mouse software
43. Office XP

44. Windows XP
45. laptop recovery
46. Photoshop Elements
47. diskettes (5)--files on these disks are corrupted. Want to try them on another computer before giving up on them.
48. Zip disks (3)--Want to try to retrieve the files on these, but don't have a Zip drive
49. Stainless steel
water bottle
50. second stainless steel water bottle (acquired free; I wouldn't go out and buy a second one)
51. pot shaped like eggplant, made by me
52. handmade pot made by friend
53. volksmarch medal, designed by me as a child
54. stacking doll
55. gong--will probably discard
56. one bead
57. beach glass from friend
58. foreign coins (8, mostly Germany and England)
59. Middle Eastern plate--will discard, want to see if it has any resale value
60. cut glass crudite dish from Grandma
61. Rubbermaid of Christmas things
62. childhood teddy bear
63. jeans from high school with quotes, song lyrics, etc.
64. 1890 map of Minnesota
65. journal (current)
66. globe
67. Egyptian pillow cover
68. Grandma Evie’s silver--never use; will sell eventually
69. fabric from vintage dress
70. Egyptian silk
71. Picture of Audrey Hepburn
72. incense holder
73. binoculars
74. hot water bottle
75. eyeglass repair kit
76. wooden box
77. glasses
78. Life as We Knew It poster
79. wallet
80. earring hanger
81. jewelry box
82. sleeping bag and stuff sack
83. portfolio
84. pedometer
85. large suitcase
86. carry-on suitcase
87. duffle bag
88. Framed calligraphy
89. Framed photograph of my old neighborhood


RowdyKittens said...

Great post! And thanks for the link love.

The 100 Thing Challenge is arbitrary, but it's helped me downsize my possessions and really think about consumerism, the environment and what I really need to be happy.

Happy New Year! :)

Early Retirement Extreme said...

The practical quantities are really mass and/or volume, but it makes a better story to say "I have a 100 things challenge" than a "I have a 10 sqft" challenge. A 10 moving boxes challenge even sounds kinda unpublishable. But maybe some more practical challenges would be
1) The duffelbag challenge (really hard!)
2) The backpack challenge (quite hard)
3) The suitcase challenge (I've done that)
4) The trunk [of a car] challenge (DW's done that)
5) The truck challenge.
And so on.

Scarlett said...

@RowdyKittens: Thanks, and you're welcome! You and your husband are inspirational.

@Early Retirement Extreme: Ooh, I like those challenges better. Except that I'm really far from achieving any of them. Even the [pickup?] truck is pretty impossible with that teak table. Flylady, who is a sort of online housecleaning guru, encourages her followers to weigh their discarded clutter, which is a good idea: http://flylady.net/pages/sfb_meter_1.asp.

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Anonymous said...

Great work! I just posted "the unabridged list" of all of my possessions, shared and personal, on my blog, and it's very close to 500! It's hard to count everything, but I did it because 100 is arbitrary. And all the rules I imposed (like not counting shared items, counting makeup as one item) allowed me to hoard things in other, unlisted areas. :)

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