Could You Be Happy With Just 100 Things?

Ginny Figlar Colón by Ginny Figlar Colón | October 26th, 2010 | 1 Comment
topic: Green Living

Woman cleaning out her closet

Right now, I am living with 4 plates, 1 mug, 7 spoons, 2 books, 1 sofa, 4 folding chairs and a folding table, a mattress on the floor and the rest of the basics to get me, my husband and our almost-3-year-old through January in our temporary apartment.

All the rest of our stuff is on a ship crossing the Atlantic from Sweden.

This unintentional exercise in simplicity comes at a time when purging and living with less are making headlines. Like the one in The New York Times recently about consumers spending less to find happiness. In the article, a couple from Portland, Oregon — our new home — parsed their belongings down to just 100 objects. 100! They were inspired by the 100 Thing Challenge. And, while this is a bit extreme for most, I must admit that all the talk of zero debt, extra money for vacation and less stress inspired me to be a little more ruthless with my pre-move purging.

“A lot of people around the world feel ‘stuck in stuff,’” says Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff. “They feel like their closets and garages are too full of things that don’t really make their lives much better.” Her advice is to “Reduce, Refuse and Rejigger”: reduce the stuff you have, refuse new stuff and rejigger your priorities.

How to live with less

  1. If you’re feeling blue, put down the credit card. Many of us buy things to fill a void. (Yup, I’m guilty of it, too.) Instead, try to fill it with truly fulfilling actions like going for a hike or trying a new recipe.
  2. Do the one-week wait. When I’m unsure about a purchase, I keep it in the bag with the tags on. Once at home, I usually have a little more clarity about whether I truly need it or if I was simply caught up in a “consumption rush.”
  3. Have the urge to purge, but not sure you can live without something? Do what the couple in Portland did: hide it in the closet for a while and see how you cope. That’s what they did before selling their TV.
  4. Start swapping. When you have kids, it’s hard not to accumulate more things. That’s why I was so excited to hear about Portland’s Sunnyside Swap Shop Co-op, where member families can swap toys and clothes.

I am far from following all these tips to a T — I just ordered a pair of Simple boots for fall and have been making many trips to Target and IKEA for necessities. But what I’ve realized in the process of moving is that what makes a house a home is not the stuff in it … it’s the stuff that happens there.


  1. Great advice! While I’m not ready to get rid of everything that isn’t strictly necessary, I have been trying to make sure that there’s more stuff leaving my house than coming in. And reminding myself of the environmental impact of everything I buy (the greenest option is almost always buying nothing!) has really helped me to cut down on shopping. I also have a mental list of activities that I enjoy much more than shopping, and whenever the urge to shop for fun strikes, I try to pick one of those instead.

    Don’t forget about Freecycle for swaps/unloading!

    Jennifer | October 27th, 2010 | Comment Permalink

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