100 Things Challenge

Well – it’s good to be back and writing. Since this is my blog and this is me writing, we get to talk about a wide variety of issues that I find interesting. I hope you do too.

With that said, one of my favorite topics is idea of how many things do you really need? I read all sorts of articles… people who get down to 15 things… Leo from Zen Habits first did 100 things, and then cut back to 50 things… and of course the man who started it all, with his public 100 Things Challenge, Dave Bruno. I even had had the opportunity to read Dave’s book “The 100 Things Challenge” where he tells his story about how the whole thing got started.

Whether it’s 100 things, 50 things or 15 things, the idea is the same – people don’t really need as many things in their lives (physical posessions) as they think they need. Similarly, a central tenant is that acquiring things for the sake of acquiring things doesn’t lead to long term fulfilment. While you might crave the new iPhone 5, it will only last until the iPhone 6, or 7…

I didn’t mean to get caught up in this philosophy. In fact it happened by accident. As a university student, you are constantly on the move. To this day, I still haven’t stayed in one location for more than 1 year since I graduated high school. When I had the opportunity to move down to the USA in 2011 for work to New York City, I knew, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to streamline my life. Two bags only. That was the mandate. That’s all I could bring. Everything else had to go.

The rules are simple and the same as Dave’s original challenge:

  1. Only count personal possessions (shared things don’t count)
  2. Things that are of the same type (eg. black socks) are grouped together as one thing
  3. Books count as one thing (this used to be a previous rule – I’ve eliminated down to just two books now)
  4. Consumables don’t count (eg. toothpaste or food – this is spotty – some lists I do count this, but typically I don’t)
  5. Sentimental items that are stored or archived don’t count (eg. photos, or collectables)

Here’s my very first 100 Things Challenge lists back in December, 2009 with 94 things – download

This is my next attempt at “culling the excess” in August, 2011, when I was moving down to the USA with 105 things – download

Only two months later in November, 2011, I was still at 105 things, having gotten rid of some things and having bought some things. This month, I decided to count subscriptions as things – download

A few months in between, still in New York City, living in the Upper East Side, and here is my count for May, 2012, down to 92 items – download

And my last count to date was in August, 2012 – just a few short months ago, down to 82 items – download

So the really interesting question is, what things do I have now? Well, there’s been a few changes. I’m no longer living in NYC. I’ve moved back to Vancouver temporarily (my hometown) and might be traveling extensively for the next several months, down to 80 items.

Here’s the list of things that’s going to get me through it all. (Items that are in bold are on the chopping block to get rid of or give away.)

General (5) 

  1. Pilot Precise V5, Black (x5)
  2. Pilot Precise V5, Blue (x5)
  3. Pilot Precise V5, Red (x5)
  4. Cross Pen (staples)
  5. Moleskine notebook, pocket, plain, softcover

Electronics (10) 

  1. Laptop (Macbook Pro, 13 inch) + case
  2. iPhone 4s + case
  3. iPad + case
  4. Kindle + case
  5. Headphones (Klipsch)
  6. Audio Technica Headphones
  7. Doxie, Portable Document Scanner
  8. iRig Microphone
  9. Bluetooth keyboard
  10. Bluetooth mouse, Apple

Fitness Equipment (10) 

  1. 30 Ib kettle bell
  2. Workout Gloves

Personal Items (9)

  1. Toothbrush
  2. Razor
  3. *Safari Beano bag, Red Oxx
  4. *Tom Bihn Aeronaut Carry On luggage
  5. Leather sidebag, black
  6. Keychain + keys (x2)
  7. Earplugs
  8. Towel, blue
  9. Aluminium clipboard

Adventure Gear (4)

  1. KA-BAR fighting knife, gen 2
  2. KA-BAR Mule folding knife
  3. *Fire-starter (received as a gift, I may give away)
  4. *Knife Sharpener (received as a gift, I may give away)

Outdoor Clothes (8)

  1. Running shoes (Adidas)
  2. Track pants (Lululemon, grey)
  3. Outdoor sweatshirt (black)
  4. Running shorts (LuluLemon, black)
  5. Micro-fiber T-shirt (LuluLemon, black)
  6. Casual shorts (LuluLemon, checkered)
  7. Windbreaker jacket (LuluLemon, blue)
  8. *Winter Jacket, Calvin Klein, black

Professional Clothes (6)

  1. Suit (Blue, LGFG)
  2. Vest (Armani)
  3. Blazer (Le Chateau, grey)
  4. Blazer, black
  5. Black polo shirt
  6. x2 Dress shirts

Casual Clothes (19)

  1. Blue jeans, Levis (x2)
  2. Slacks, Banana Republic (tan)
  3. x2 t-shirts, short-sleeved, black, Zara
  4. x2 t-shirts, long-sleeved (grey)
  5. x1 t-shirts, long-sleeved (black)
  6. Long sleeved shirt, LuluLemon (black)
  7. x2 t-shirts, sort-sleeved (black)
  8. *x1 t-shirts, sort-sleeved, Armani (white)
  9. *x1 t-shirts, sort-sleeved, Armani (black)
  10. Clubbing shirt
  11. Black travel shirt, Le Chateau (black)
  12. Casual shoes (walking)
  13. Casual shoes (formal)
  14. Flipflops, Reef
  15. x6 black socks
  16. x6 underwear, Calvin Klein
  17. Basketball shorts
  18. Bathing suit
  19. Black belt (casual)

Books (2)

  1. The Ruby Programming Language
  2. The Ruby Way

Miscellaneous (4)

  1. Business cards (x200)
  2. Canadian Passport
  3. Black Wallet, Coach
    • CIBC Classic Visa
    • Driver’s License
    • CIBC client card
  1. Black Wallet, generic
    • Social Insurance card
    • Bank of America client card
    • TD Visa (rewards card)
    • TD client card
    • Social Security card
    • CAD Firearms License, restricted + non-restricted
    • Aeroplan client card

Subscriptions (3)

  1. Evernote ($5 / month)
  2. Boomerang ($5 / month)
  3. Amazon Prime ($70 / year)
  • NancyB

    Thanks for posting your list of things owned. I’m just starting on this journey, this next chapter of my life as a minimalist. Wow – weird saying that! Minimalist. Hmmm, over the years I’ve searched for a word that describes me to a T, so to speak. I love the word/label minimalist. I want to evolve into this word, become this word. It is me. Minimalist is I.
    So, anyway, just curious why you have a subscription to Amazon Prime at $70/annual when it saves on shipping items. Maybe there are other benefits to the subscription, I’m not sure. But as a minimalist, wouldn’t you NOT buy a lot of stuff to be shipped to you? (ugh, I hate writing double-negatives!!!). Thx!

    • http://davidkong.me David

      Actually, I found Amazon really fit well into my lifestyle when I was living in New York.

      Most of what I shipped with Amazon weren’t products to own, but everyday things. I don’t count shared apartment items in my personal list and I also don’t count consumables. I’d ship paper towel, toilet paper, cardstock for writing on, batteries, shaving cream… Honestly, I’d even order toothpaste or hand cream on Amazon from the exact brands I would normally buy from, rather than going to the grocery store.

      As soon as I had an idea that I needed something, it didn’t even go into a list, it was already bought and being shipped within 5 minutes of having the idea. Really simple flow. Nothing to write down, nothing to remember later and no new extra errands, and most things were either the same price, or cheaper because of the lack of sales tax (in some cases) on Amazon.

      Now that I’m living in Canada, Amazon doesn’t really fit in so well and I’ve cancelled the subscription now, but I would pick it up again in an instant if I were to be in the USA again.

      So yeah. Amazon wasn’t about buying things, but more so about saving time and going from “idea” to “done” in 2 minutes instead of needing to remember things and do errands later.

  • FrankK

    To be honest, I think, the 100 things challenge is not a challenge. The rules allow you to reduce to 100 things by just doing a bit of math. A true challenge is a challenge which counts ALL things with no exceptions.

    • http://davidkong.me/ David

      I think that’s definitely one point of view. But it’s also important to keep in mind that the ultimate goal with something like this isn’t to meet some arbitrary goal of 100 things… After all, where did the number 100 come from? It’s entirely arbitrary… only as useful as it’s purpose, which is giving us a starting point to aspire to…

      The ultimate goal here is to – by the act of reduction – redefine our relationship between us and our things and what happiness really means to each of us… That there is a difference in the happiness that comes from buying a new computer or a new phone vs the happiness of spending extra time with family and friends… that one is more valuable than the other…

      And that there can be an entirely new type of happiness that occurs when you simplify your existence in terms of the number of things you own (and by proxy, in the number of things which you think you “need” to be happy) it allows you to enjoy other aspects of life…

      If that’s the ultimate goal, and you can achieve that state of mind and state of being with 150 things or 200 things instead of 100, then all the power to you. If you feel your number is 50 things, then that’s fine too..

      It is useful to maintain a consistent standard of what counts as a “thing” or doesn’t count when comparing between one person’s list to another person’s list, but when looking at it from a perspective of what it means to you on an individual/personal level, the exact number of 100 is arbitrary anyways =)


  • http://sewingsveta.blogspot.com/ SewingSveta

    Do you eat only out?

    • http://davidkong.me/ David

      Do I eat out? No, mostly I cook my own food. Personally I like being able to control what I eat. I mostly stay away from sugars, white carbs (pastas, bread) and go heavy on vegetables! Not only do they taste good, they are usually inexpensive and healthy for you!! I’ll make a lot of food in advance in a slow cooker (like a chicken, turnip, soup etc…) and have food for a few days!

      • http://sewingsveta.blogspot.com/ SewingSveta

        I found that you didn’t count so named shared items, That’s why you don’t have kitchen items in your list, that was reason of my question.

        • http://davidkong.me/ David

          At the time of the list, I was sharing an apartment in NYC, so most kitchen related things or furniture related things were shared. I think it’s simpler to start with creating a list of personal things. You can obviously extend the exercise to ALL things you own if you’d like, but yes – list only contains personal things =)