A few years ago, my wife and I asked some friends to help us move. We packed our bags, rented a moving van, and assumed we’d be done by lunch.
It lasted all day.
It was exhausting and embarrassing – we had so much stuff. As I watched my friends sweat and struggle to haul out my possessions, I realized that my possessions had come to possess me. Right then and there, I promised myself that I would never put my friends through anything like that again.
We started by donating most of our wedding presents.
A few years later, my wife and I took the 100 Things Challenge.
The 100 Things Challenge was originally created by a guy named Dave. He eventually wrote a book about it, but his original article was simple: Reduce, refuse, rejigger. He believed that living without an abundance of personal possessions was the first step to realizing we could live well without them.
Leo Babauta picked up on the idea, and it exploded. He offered a few suggestions to get started: take inventory, mark the must-keep stuff, sequester the borderline stuff, get rid of the rest.
Courtney Carver took the challenge.The Minimalists gave an honest accounting. Tammy Strobel got down to 72 things. Colin Wright got down to 51 items. Leo got down to 50 items, but his not-to-keep list is equally informative.
Michelle and I were inspired by all that simple talk, so we pared down our number of possessions to a total of 88 combined items for a 5-month-long backpacking trip. It was one of the most freeing seasons of our lives.
How many things do you own?
My rule is that if I’m not able to answer that question with an exact number, then I have too many possessions.
These days, I practice the one-for-one rule: for every new item acquired, one item must be donated or recycled. It’s a great way to prevent us from hoarding.
It is in giving that we receive. It is in letting go that we have the strength to hold on to what really matters. By practicing a simpler existence, we can have a more meaningful life.