Getting rid of a hundred things


There is something running around the Internet right now called the “100 Thing Challenge.”  It is being promoted by a fellow named Dave Bruno, who blogs about simple living.  It is much better, he writes, to simplify our lives by getting rid of things we don’t really need, and to refuse to get more things we don’t need.



I am in favor of this idea, very much.



I am also a huge packrat. 



I have mounted my own informal version of the 100 Thing Challenge several times over the past twenty years.  It’s always successful, more or less, but then I discover after a few months / years that the heaps of things reappear.



Dave Bruno recommends a three-pronged approach:



·       REDUCE the number of things you own.  Trash them, give them away, sell them.

·       REFUSE to buy more things you don’t need.  (This one’s tricky. I see a garlic press or a travel steamer and think, “I need that!”  It’s a misuse of the word “need,” I know.  And yet: I didn’t need that wok I bought at Ikea, but it was five bucks, and now I use it regularly.  Unlike the talking meat thermometer I bought at Brookstone, or the cheapo e-reader I bought at Bed Bath & Beyond that didn’t really work very well, or the cheapo MP3 player I bought online that doesn’t work very well . . . )

·       REJIGGER your priorities so that you don’t keep falling back into the same trap.



There’s a frequent refrain here: don’t be sentimentalDon’t keep something just because someone gave it to you, or because it reminds you of a dead relative.  Your memories are more precious than those things.



But I have an issue with this.  Sometimes I keep things specifically because they remind me of people, or places, or pleasant times in my life.  I have the memory, sure, but without something to summon the memory, it’s lost in the whirl.  Then I notice my copy of the King Arthur Cookbook on the shelf, and I remember that I bought it in Padanaram, Massachusetts, in April 2000, on a day trip with Partner, and I remember the weather was cool, and we had a nice lunch in a local restaurant, and I had grilled green beans, and they were very good.  That memory would be lost in the shuffle without something to help me recall it.  



But I do like the idea of getting rid of things.  



So let’s get started, shall we?


1.     A VHS copy of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I don’t need it. I know the whole Charlie Brown Christmas special by heart, including the pauses and the tones of voice and all of the music. (On the other hand, I was given this video by a dear friend, who passed away a few years ago.)  Gulp. Okay. Out it goes to the Salvation Army.

2.     A DVD copy of “Revenge of the Zombies.” I bought it in a dollar store for a laugh, and never watched it.  That’s an easy one. (On the other hand: it takes up almost no space, and it might be good for a laugh on a rainy afternoon one of these days.) This is a slightly easier decision: it goes on the Salvation Army pile.  If I regret my decision, I can probably buy another copy of it at the same dollar store.

3.     A used copy of Janice Dickinson’s autobiography.  I tried reading it a few years ago and found that I just didn’t care about the life of Janice Dickinson.  I have a little problem getting rid of unfinished books, however, so it’s still on the shelf.  Easier decision than the first two.  Salvation Army!

4.     A new copy (unread) of “Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations.”  Interesting topic. If I read it, I might learn something about the recent history of the Middle East.  On the other hand, I will probably never read it.  Let’s mark this one “undecided,” shall we?

5.     A whole stack of DVD opera recordings, with librettos.  I bought these over the years, thinking that an intelligent person’s music library really needed copies of “Les Dialogues des Carmelites,” and “Boris Godunov,” and “Lakme.”  I was wrong.  These were not cheap, however. I’ve tried to sell them on eBay, and – surprisingly – there’s not much of a market for used opera recordings, no matter how good they are.  They will sit on the shelf until I find buyers.  (Readers: let me know.  I have a bunch of these.  If you’re an operaphile, drop me a line, and I will give you the whole inventory.  Maybe we can strike a deal.)



I’m exhausted, and I’ve only gotten up to #5 on the list.



I can see why they call this a “challenge.”



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

6 Responses to Getting rid of a hundred things

  1. kleeyaro says:

    There’s also this thing about packing up a box of stuff you haven’t used or don’t really need, but keep anyway. And then after a certain period of time, six months or less, if you haven’t gone back in that box, throw it away without opening it. My husband is a packrat. He keeps pieces of paper with notes on them from the 18th century. I keep a lot of stuff too, but I’m not THAT loony!

  2. It’s good to hang onto things for a while, and look at them again after a year or two, just to see if there’s anything worth keeping . . .

  3. genmam says:

    Reblogged this on genmam.

  4. I really think most people would be a lot happier with less stuff. The more I read about getting rid of things/minimalism, the more ideal it sounds. Less to pack, less to clean, less to worry about. I have a big memory attachment to things and I wish I wasn’t this way. Going to write a post soon about when I started bawling at the passport office when they took it away because it was damaged. Talk about emotions being tied to objects!

    • I have the same problem. I know that I’ll never read Book X again, but I remember that I bought it when I was in high school, or college; sometimes I even remember the circumstances. Or if a thing is a gift – especially a gift from someone who has passed away . . .

      But my friend S. is serving as an example to me at the moment. Her husband passed away a few months ago, and she’s cleaning house terrifically. She’s a collector / hoarder like me, but she now finds herself with a house full of memories – and she wants to move on. A little. She’s giving things away to friends – she’s given me two odd little things, one of which (a set of novelty tumblers) I’ve passed along already. Things are lovely, but they can be a burden too.

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