“I believe that examining the hidden impacts of all the Stuff in our lives is a way to unplug, which is the first step toward changing things.” ~Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff
Going through my stuff again helped me reevaluate what I need in my life. As a result, I was able to donate a number of items that were cluttering up my closet and bookshelf. I also reconsidered why I’m participating in the 100 Thing Challenge and its importance.
The more I mull it over, the more I think the 100 Thing Challenge is less about counting up stuff, than it is about asking ourselves larger questions like:
- Where was my stuff made?
- How was my stuff processed and where does it all go when I’m done with it?
- Why do I shop so much?
- Do material things really make me happy?
- If I have less stuff to worry about, will I have more time to give back to my community?
Being aware of how stuff affects our physical and emotional health is empowering. More importantly, making small changes in our own lives leads to a greater awareness of the connection between environmental, economic, and social justice issues. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you unplug from your stuff.
1. Slowly sort through your stuff.
Go through your home room by room and create piles of stuff you want to keep and stuff you want to donate. This process takes time. Undertaking a gradual transition will help alleviate emotional guilt associated with trashing possessions and promotes a routine of minimizing that is more likely to outlast quick lifestyle fixes.
I get a lot of emails that ask for a magic solution to the problem of clutter. There is no magic solution. If you have a house full of stuff, there is no weekend solution for responsible decluttering.
And I’m serious, be responsible. Don’t throw your stuff away! Give it away or repurpose items so you don’t need to buy something new. We don’t need more stuff in the landfills, toxins seeping into our water supply or more garbage shipped to developing countries.
2. Avoid lifestyle creep.
Lifestyle creep is when we try to keep up with the mythical Joneses and end up unhappy and in debt. Participating in the 100 Thing Challenge is a great way to avoid this phenomenon. For instance, I take care of what I have instead of constantly buying the latest clothes or shoes. It’s helped me become more mindful of my consumption choices.
3. Save rather than shop.
If you take on the 100 Thing Challenge, I guarantee you’ll save a lot of cash. One of the main reasons I’m participating in this challenge is to keep clutter out of my life and to save money. I’m now much more thoughtful about my purchases. I know what I already have and what I may or may not “need.” The end result has been an increase in savings and time. And that makes me happy.
4. Get your counting groove on.
Consider participating in this challenge. If you think the task is too difficult and you are not sure where to start, then begin by reading The Story of Stuff. This book will help you unplug from your stuff and consider its hidden costs.
Please note, this article was originally published in April 2010. Since the New York Times piece, But Will It Make Your Happy?, was published I've received a lot of inquiries about the 100 Things Challenge. I hope this answers some of your questions. :)