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Living with 72 Things

January 4, 2017 Update

1. The following post was written in October 2009. If you want to read an updated version of my story, check out my my book.

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Enjoy the article!

Photography by Tammy Strobel

Living with 72 Things

It’s been 6 months since we began the 100 Thing Challenge. Living with 72 personal things is awesome! My life is streamlined and simplified, which I love.

I was a tad shocked when I started counting because the number of my personal things was fairly low. My initial count included 120 items, but clutter was everywhere. So donating all my excess clothing and trinkets to a local charity was a relief.

I’m glad I started this challenge after we began our downsizing journey. It’s amazing to think we started this process about 2 years ago. At that time, we lived in a huge 2 bedroom apartment, with 2 cars, overflowing closets and a kitchen stuffed with 2 sets of dishes and silverware. It was absolutely ridiculous.

Becoming aware of what consumerism does to the planet and the negative impact it has on our life energy is a powerful thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I still get sucked into consumerism (a.k.a. iPhone lust). But at least I’m not telling Logan I “need” another diamond ring.

I hope the lessons we’ve learned will encourage you to downsize and try the 100 Thing Challenge.

Below is a quick list of tips that will get you going…

1. Start small

You don’t have to get rid of all our stuff to start this challenge. Take small steps everyday. For instance, you could donate 10 items a week to the charity of your choice.

2. Say no to recreational shopping and excessive advertising

Staying out of the malls is a must. Stepping away from consumerism is one of the reasons I’m participating in this challenge. So if I don’t go shopping, I won’t come home with stuff I don’t need or want. Also, we don’t own a T.V. and that limits the amount of advertisements we are exposed too.

3. Have patience

Downsizing is a process, so don’t be hard on yourself if you are having a hard time exiting the consumer lifestyle. Have patience and find a support network. Friends, family and the social networks have helped us stick to the challenge and be successful.

4. Stuff is a burden

Too much stuff is a burden. Especially, when it comes to cleaning and moving. Being clutter free means I don’t have to spend an excess amount of time cleaning trinkets or vacuuming up kitten hair from the couch. Plus, moving is a breeze. No more big trucks or U-hauls for us. 🙂

5. Clutter is a form of procrastination

Leo says it best

When our houses or offices get piled with clutter, much of the reason is procrastination.

We all procrastinate — let’s just get that out in the open. There’s not a one of us who doesn’t, to some degree.

But while our tasks and projects can pile up, giving us some anxiety, the clutter is a visual sign of that procrastination, and carries with it just as much anxiety.

6. Consider creating your own rule list

In some ways the 100 Thing Challenge seems arbitrary, but in the end I think it’s a good exercise. No matter how much stuff you have, this challenge will force you to inventory your possessions, examine your buying patterns and ultimately life goals. The biggest challenge associated with this project is deciding what to count and what not to count.

What we’re doing now…

Right now we taking an inventory of our household items and doing another round of decluttering.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Liz October 2, 2009, 8:02 am

    Dang you go, girl. I have wayyy too much stuff. Hopefully one day I can correct this!

  • Chandra October 2, 2009, 10:27 am

    First of all, this is probably a dumb moment on my part but I could access your list.. 🙁 It took me to a sign in page. I’d love to see your list as inspiration. So, my actual question was: How do you count your dvds? Do you count them all as a collection, individually, or do you own any at all? Just curious, we have a good collection. I would really be curious to hear how you’ve pared down your household items… that seems to be the hardest area for me to minimize. Anyway, thanks for the great posts like these (I love them) they are great inspiration to me on my continuing journey to pare down to 100 items, so please keep ’em coming! 🙂

    • Tammy October 2, 2009, 12:35 pm

      Hi Chandra – not a dumb moment at all! I inserted the wrong link. My bad. ): Try this link, it should take you to our list. If it doesn’t work, please let me know.

      We actually don’t own any DVD’s. All our movies and most of our paper documents are stored electronically on our computers. It cuts down on a lot of clutter. Some of my items I counted as one. For example, I have a small craft box and that is one item on the list. My knitting stuff is stored in it, photos I haven’t scanned in yet and college transcripts. So you could count your DVD collection as 1 item. It’s really up to you. Dave counts his book collection as 1 item and I’ve heard of some folks counting their shoe collections as 1 item! LOL. Like I said in the post, this challenge is arbitrary in many ways. But it really gets you thinking about stuff, consumerism, and how much we truly need. 🙂

      I’m so happy that you’ve found the posts helpful and thank you so much for reading. I sincerely appreciate it. 🙂

      Hugs to you.

  • Hayden Tompkins October 2, 2009, 10:44 am

    I had the worst time going through my books. I could be ruthless about just everything else, but I have this very strong attachment to them. Finally, I decided to let go of the books I didn’t 100% absolutely LOVE. It was hard (and I definitely wouldn’t make the 100-items-or-less list if I counted them) but ultimately worth it.

    • Tammy October 2, 2009, 12:39 pm

      Hayden – me too! Books are the hardest. At one time we had 2 huge book shelves stuffed to the max. But we realized a few things:

      1. We weren’t rereading any of the material or referring to the books.

      2. It sucks to move so many books!

      Now, I’m just holding onto a few books that I use for reference. The rest were donated to the public library. And if I want to reread an item, I go check it out. 🙂

      • Judith August 11, 2010, 10:30 pm

        Hi Tammy and Hayden,

        Just an FYI. A few years ago I noticed that our local branch of the county library had an extremely poor art instruction section. I decided to donate over $1000 worth of library-ready newly printed instructional books in excellent condition from my own library. When I went to look for them they weren’t there. I learned that they took these books and added them to a book sale and sold them for $5 each. I was sick. Not one of the books was less than $30 and that was 12 years ago. Make sure your donation will be used for the purpose intended. I had intended that these be available to a large number of people. Not sold off like an old paperback for one person’s benefit.

  • Katie October 2, 2009, 7:09 pm

    Tammy, this is fantastic and explains a lot. I love the linked spreadsheet. I was so fascinated when I met you guys on how you counted your items. This is perfect.

    PS – Does the book I have currently count as one of your items? I need to get it back to you soon.

    • Tammy October 2, 2009, 7:13 pm

      Yay! I’m glad you liked the list. 🙂

      We are thinking of biking up to Folsom on Sunday. Maybe we can connect? And yes, the book counts as one of my items. No rush on the book delivery. 🙂


  • Chandra October 3, 2009, 8:39 am

    Wow, seriously impressed with the list! I would love to get close to those numbers, but I would have to count my books and dvds as 1 collection, like you said. I can’t believe how little kitchen items you have! Its just me and my just husband living in our home and we have silverware and dishes for 8! And, get this, we have 38 or 39 CUPS! He has a lot of family members which is why we bought so many dishes but when they come over we still end up using paper plates because there’s too many people. Then they all make fun of me for wanting to use my silverware instead of plastic. Anyway (realized I got on a bit of a rant there, lol) props to you for being able to deal with that “what if” dilemma!

    • Tammy October 3, 2009, 4:01 pm

      Thanks Chandra!

      We are still adding items to our household list – I’m sure our final count will be around 150 household items by the time we are done. We have been pretty ruthless in the kitchen area. We used to have over 2 dozen coffee mugs, 2 sets of dishes and 3 sets of silverware too. 🙂 Since we weren’t using any of it, we donated all the items. And when people come to visit we go out to dinner, which is always nice. Besides our place is too small for big parties. We do entertain sometimes, but the gatherings are usually small. Hugs to you! And keep me posted on your downsizing process.

  • Stephanie Calahan (@StephCalahan) October 4, 2009, 12:34 pm

    Congratulations on finding a simple lifestyle that works for you! I’ll be sharing your story with my Twitter friends. You are a great example of how making tough decisions has actually enhanced your life.
    To your success!
    Productive & Organized – We’ll help you find your way! ™

    • Tammy October 4, 2009, 1:01 pm

      Thank you Stephanie. I appreciate your kind words and thanks for reading the blog. 🙂

  • Louis - Life Lessons October 4, 2009, 7:42 pm

    I’ve got lots of stuff in my closet. Lots of clothes that I haven’t used for almost two years. I need to start ‘serious’ decluttering. Actually I have attempted to do this activity but my heart wasn’t completely into it. I saw your inventory and honestly, I like the idea. I will have to do that to. I need to put away lots of stuff and avoid the “I-might-use-this-someday” syndrome.

    • Tammy October 5, 2009, 8:12 am

      Hey Louis – I’m glad you found the post helpful. It’s easy to hang onto items thinking you might use them someday; I’ve done that before too. But 90% of the time, the stuff just cluttered up my closet. So it was such a relief to donate my old clothes to a charity. Keep me posted on your downsizing process. 🙂 And good luck!

  • bo December 13, 2009, 12:18 pm

    Great list. I’m really surprised how minimalist you are. You don’t seem to have any sentimental items. I’m in the current process of going through old school stuff and childhood memories. Finding the pieces that I really want to keep, the things that add to my happiness. What have you done with these things?

    What I love most about the lists is you really see what a persons interests are; I can see you like riding (me too), yoga, swimming and craft. Its nice when we’re not all cluttered up and actually have freedom to follow our most loved interests.

    Also I’m intrigued about your emergency packs – what’s the thinking behind these and what’s in it?

    • Tammy December 14, 2009, 7:01 am

      Hey Bo – Thanks for leaving a comment. Actually, I do have a lot of sentimental items. Most are photos and they are on my compter, flickr or my photoblog. I also have old letters that I’ve kept, but they’ve on the computer too. I have a few wedding albums and photos that hang in the living room. Most of my stuff is online now. It’s a great way to store stuff! 🙂

      Downsizing has give me the time to prioritize hobbies (like yoga, biking, photography and writing) and spend more time with family and friends.

      Here is a link to Logan’s post on our emergency packs and why we decided to build them. If you have more questions about the packs, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

  • Stacy February 27, 2010, 6:47 pm

    Just one wine glass? Do you share or does only one of you drink wine? 🙂

    • Tammy February 28, 2010, 8:37 am

      Well – my list is a little outdated. I’m going to do a post update on the 100 Thing Challenge soon. We’ve acquired a few more wine/beer glasses. But we donated a few kitchen items to even things out. 🙂

  • nicole March 17, 2010, 6:01 am

    So inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing your list, it gives me hope that I too can reduce my burden of stuff.

    • Tammy March 17, 2010, 6:43 am

      @Tyron – I’m so happy that I can help. Just remember you don’t have to live life the way others expect you too.

      @Zengirl – I agree. It’s essential that we all take a look at our behavior and start living more sustainably. I also think we have to get involved in our community and in the political process. Annie’s book is incredible. I’m about 100 pages into it – she talks about so many problems. But she also offers a lot of practical solutions. I’m really looking forward to seeing her new video about bottled water.

    • Tammy March 17, 2010, 6:43 am

      @Nicole – you can do it! 🙂 Just remember it’s a process and try not to be hard on yourself.

  • Stephanie May 4, 2010, 7:13 am

    Hello, I know this post is pretty old but I’d love to see your household list… I’ve been looking at a lot of these lists recently while trying to pare down my stuff but most people doing this sort of thing aren’t counting household items and I’d love to see that list! When I click on the link it goes to a google doc page that only has your items list. Please help. Thanks!

    • Tammy May 4, 2010, 1:49 pm

      Hey Stephanie – Thanks for reading! I deleted my household list. It was really out of date. Plus I just moved to Portland, so I need to recount our stuff. Before we moved, we purged a lot of excess stuff. So I need to do a recount. 🙂 Overall our place is minimalist. You can take a tour of my tiny apartment here. I’ve added 2 chairs and a futon frame to fill out our great room.

      I hope that helps. If you have more questions, just let me know.

  • Ryan August 3, 2010, 2:56 pm

    Hi Tammy, Ryan here from Car-Free Happy Hour. This is really inspiring stuff. I don’t know if I can get down to 100 items, but I could sure stand to pare down just the same. It’s interesting reading your list of things that help you and Logan be less consumerist, and I share in many of them. One that you didn’t mention (that I’ve seen anyway)- though perhaps it’s so intuitive as to not need mentioning?- is being car-free. Going car-free wasn’t ever meant as a means of being less consumerist, but I’ve found that I’m a lot more mindful of what I buy when I know I’m going to have to haul it by bike. I have a trailer, so I can haul just about anything that I need/want home, but I don’t just buy stuff and toss it in the trunk like I used to. It also helps cut down on impulse buying. A number of times I’ve found something and thought, “Oh man, I gotta have that! Tomorrow I’ll bring the trailer and pick it up after work.” And then, by the time I get home I’ve realized that I don’t really need it.

    • Tammy August 4, 2010, 6:53 am

      Hey Ryan – thanks for stopping by and reading. 🙂 I agree with you – that’s something I address in my ebook. Having a bike definitely limits the amount of items I decide to purchase. Although I recently bought a few bike bags and I can stuff a lot of groceries and camping gear in them! 🙂

  • Mandy October 11, 2010, 1:34 am

    This reduction of possessions is such a good idea and something I now strive for. I am a hoarder and have always been taught to not throw stuff away in case they can be used again…I blame my parents! My partner is the opposite which has challenged my ways.
    We have now got ourselves into such a situation, partially due to being sucked into ‘needing stuff’ that we have to sell our house and downsize. i am faced with trying to reduce our 3 bedroom house contents into a storage unit (short term) and then a 1 or 2 bed apartment, eventually. I would prefer to do this gradually before moving day. I struggle with parting with things that have cost money but have not been used eg books, and also grading things on their sentimental value.
    One thing I have done in the past when money is short is re-gifting. Someone’s birthday etc comes up and i give them something that i received myself, that I really don’t need…vases, candle holders etc. Kills 2 birds with one stone.
    Anyway, thank you so much for the inspiration and admittance that it’s not easy and something that needs to be done at one’s own pace. Good luck to all.

  • barbara October 14, 2010, 8:36 pm

    I agree with a lot of ideas. We can drop a lot of stuff. But imagine you are already about to end even the addiction to shoes and bags, then still remain books, music and movies.
    Any suggestions for house cluttered with wonderful, interested and never aging books?
    I am talking about books, they are heavy, have a volume, take space.
    I know we could switch to electronic books: but if you like books, and experience a sense of warm just watching them in the bookshelf? I am UNHAPPY withput my books.
    …I already spotted in your pages even when describing downsizing programmes suggestions to buy further books to help in the process of the downsizing….
    Every good idea often requires one or more books to be pursued!! A travel (guides), a passion (art, architecture, photography), any interest. Any time brain is moving asks for books
    Not to mention the PHD…you were mentioning

    • Tammy October 15, 2010, 6:04 am

      Hey Barbara – I’m a huge book lover! I read between 2-3 books a week. Some of them I buy and others I get from the library. Right now I have about 10 books on my shelf, but once I’m done with them I’ll donate the books to the library. It’s a great way to share resources! 🙂 I recently wrote, this post on my minimalist library. I hope it helps. 🙂 Wishing you all the best.

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