About a year ago, I came across a movement called The 100 Thing Challenge. A Guy Named Dave wrote a book about it, and now keeps a blog. It went as follows: Dave pared down his belongings to 100 things. That’s it. The list is somewhere on his website, if you’re curious. The guy literally purged his life of most of his “stuff”. I think this was about 3 years ago, and I’ll have to do some further purusing of his site to see how it’s going for him, but he’s still writing, so I bet he is still reducing [that’s taken from his mantra: “Reduce (get rid of some of your stuff), Refuse (to get more stuff) and Rejigger (your priorities)”.]
Now, when Dave said “100 Things”, he meant it. He counted articles of clothing (one pair tighty-whities, two-pair tighty-whities…), his vehicle, his writing utensils, his dishware … you get the gist. The rule, as I remember it, was that anytime he needed/wanted a new item, he had to first get rid of the old one – and I imagine it was best if the old one actually had to be replaced.
So that was his movement. I have no idea how much it caught on, but it certainly caught my attention. It made me think of this character in a Charles DeLint book that I read – I don’t recall which one – whose lifestyle also appealed to me. The narrator didn’t give a complete, numbered breakdown of this fellow’s belongings, but the gent had one book, see. He would read the book, take it to a second hand store, and exchange it for another book. Then he would repeat the whole process.
This idea made me incredibly happy. You see, I’m very interested in this whole minimalist living style (don’t get me wrong, I’m far from there – I still have tons of “stuff”), but Books is a tricky bullet in the list of Things I Don’t Need. Certainly, I don’t need a book once I have finished reading it. Likewise, I don’t require, for full-lung functionality, a six-foot bookshelf packed (and I mean packed, vertically, horizontally and two deep) with all the books I have yet to read. Realistically, I just need two lists: ‘Books I Have Read’ and ‘Books I Want To Read’.
But there is just something about having books. Sure, it’s partially bragging rights (“Look, I’ve read SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY TWO books! And in case you don’t believe me, every last dog-eared, soup-splattered copy is RIGHT THERE! See? SEE?!”), but there is also something fantastically wholesome about book-lined walls. It’s an ever-present reminder of the importance of the written word, how our entire future is arguably shaped by what we have recorded of the past, and the fact that poetry is intrinsically intertwined into every last word we put to paper.
I haven’t quite managed to convince myself that my addiction to having books is one of the problematic symptoms of Materialism.
However, I haven’t talked myself out of it either. Would wholesome be outweighed by the freedom I would feel after unloading all those hefty tomes and using the bare shelves for, perhaps, holding shoes? Maybe. It would definitely make moving house a less daunting task, for one. And it would make it easier to decide which book I want to read next (last time I was between stories, it took me a full day of nervously mulling it over to choose between A Feast for Crows and the second book in Babara Hambly’s Sun Wolf trilogy.)
I got a little bit off track there. Books are only one of the considerations I’d need to make when deciding whether or not to take up the 100 Thing Challenge mantle. Clothing is another. I have already come to the conclusion that mine would be dubbed “The Clothing Plus 75 Other Things Challenge”. Nevermind the whole theory that women literally can’t subsist on one pair of jeans and a single dress shirt; I really have no desire to pare down my wardrobe any more than I already do on a semi-regular basis. And I kind of like having six pairs of sneakers. I have tried numerous times to make myself feel guilty for enjoying that sensation, upon sliding open my closet door, of so many items to choose from!!, but I just can’t. I am pretty sure I get some kudos for over half of my shirts being thrift store finds.
My lifestyle is quite different from Dave’s. There are things I wouldn’t have to count (like a lawnmower, since I live in a rented house), and things I can’t count (like dishes, since I live with two other people who would likely frown on my packing up all but 3 knives, 3 sporks and 3 dinner plates). But my hesitance to go all out and just do it ultimately stems from my own reluctance to part with my STUFF. Which is exactly what Dave is trying to get us to overcome. Remember: it’s just stuff, and when that hand-blown wine glass from Mexico I got for my high school graduation eventually breaks, I will probably just go out and buy another one. It’s not quite the same as losing an aunt to a heart aneurysm, or a pet to old age. Right?
To be continued…