The Final Count of November’s 30-Day 100 Item Challenge

Today I reached my goal of 100 items after spending 30 days getting rid of 45% of my belongings.  It was a pretty aggressive timeline and I’m really surprised that I was able to actually reach 100.  The hardest part of this challenge was definitely the timeframe.  I was able to rationalize a lot of my belongings and why I had them and what they meant to me but the major obstacle was how could I possibly get down to 100 items in 30 days while still having a life?  The answer was: give things to friends/family or donate as much as you can as fast as you can, it was like pulling off a Band-Aid. I purged at first by category: clothing, sports clothing, sports gear, books, electronics, etc.  Then I purged en masse, taking a look at all my belongings and figuring out what was really important.  The easiest items to give away were pieces of clothing (not emotionally tied to what I wear).  The hardest things to get rid of was my ukulele and harmonica, neither of which I have played more than a few times in the past year (however both of which I am emotionally tied to for various reasons).  I am still trying to sell my ukulele because I want it to go to a nice home where it will be loved and if that takes more than 30 days then so be it J

I spent the entire month coming to terms with the fact that the number 100 was pretty arbitrary and gimmicky.  Why 100 items?  Why 1 month?  I decided to do this challenge because since I left home 6 years ago, this is the first year that I’ve stayed in the same place for more than 12 months.  Moving so often during college requires you to be nimble, agile, and minimal with what you own.  I could usually manage one car-load of stuff to move from one place to the next.  Now being almost two years out of college with disposable income and staying in the same apartment for a second year I saw myself accumulating lots of stuff. “This is how it starts, I’m settling down.  Next I’ll get old, stop adventuring, and spend my weekends at home depot trying to remodel the bathroom .”  That’s an exaggeration but I’ve been interested in a major purging project for a while.  I basically picked the number 100 because I had read about it on the internet (hundreds of blogs online talk about doing their own 100 item challenges).  I never expected that I’d actually get to that number.  However, after making my final count of all the items that I own, I can safely say that I use (with high frequency) EVERYTHING that I own.

Now this challenge wasn’t without the caveats.  I stated these at the beginning of my challenge and stuck to them.  The point of doing these 30-day challenges is to improve the quality of my daily life, mostly by getting myself out of the daily grind and attitudes associated with being a young urban professional.  Therefore, I decided that this challenge shouldn’t impact:

1.)   Hygiene because that sucks for everyone, not just me.  Knowing myself as well as I do, I’d likely pitch my deodorant or toothbrush in order to keep my snowshoes.  This is exaggerated of course (or is it?) but it’s not a choice my friends/girlfriend/family/coworkers would want me to make.  So I didn’t count soap, toothbrush, deodorant, and the like, mostly for the sake of others (and for things like my dentist bill).

2.)   Safety because this challenge isn’t worth putting my life in danger.  I do a lot of recreational sports, so I didn’t even give myself the option of getting rid of safety gear.  I’ve had a few serious concussions so I don’t even mess around with that anymore, wear a helmet, always.  For example, I left out my helmets for biking/hockey/climbing and medical kit for hiking.  I also considered my trail maps a safety item.  One could surely hike in NH without a map, but that’s pretty dumb so I didn’t even consider it as an option.

3.)   Other People because this challenge was my idea and wasn’t meant in any way to negatively affect those around me.  Therefore there were a few items that I share with my roommates that I didn’t count because getting rid of them would have resulted in getting beat up, harassed, or unofficially evicted.  For example, we share my bike pump (without it we wouldn’t have one), some tools for around the apt (again I have some unique tools), a couch (can’t really get rid of that), kitchenware (I’m not even sure what’s actually mine anymore), and the worm compost (that I built in my first month’s challenge but share with my roommates).

I didn’t count food as an item because it’s always in flux, never really existing as an item in my life for very long (except for those few things in the fridge you forget about for 2 months, yikes).  So the above three caveats would definitely drive me above the arbitrary 100 item limit, but at the beginning I decided that it was in my best interest (as well as those around me) that I stick to them.  Therefore my 100 items listed below are the items that I personally own, personally use, and would personally carry with me if I were to pick up and move or travel.

Here’s the list of my final 100 items:

Socks – Cotton

Socks – Wool

Underwear – Cotton

Underwear – Techwick

Pants – Blue Jeans

Pants – Khaki

Pants – Corduroy

Belt – Black

Belt – Brown

Shorts – Khaki Cargo

Shorts – Jorts

Tshirt – Dysarts

Tshirt – Spartan Beast

Tshirt – Chamonix

Tshirt – VICE Fest

Tshirt – College Baseball

Longsleeve – Blue

Polo – Blue

Button Down – Blue/Black

Button Down – Green Flannel

Button Down – REI

Button Down – White/Brown

Button Down – Red/White

Button Down – Blue/White

Button Down – Black

Blazer – Brown

Suit – Grey

Dress Shoes – Brown

Sneakers – LL Bean

Sandals

Hiking Boots – LL Bean

Running Shoes

Running Shorts

Running Shorts

Tech Shirt – Ragnar 2010

Tech Shirt – Ragnar 2011

Tech Base Layer Upper

Tech Base Layer Lower

Expedition Base Layer Upper

Expedition Base Layer Lower

Shell Pants

Tech Baseball Hat

Micro Fleece 1/4 Zip

Rain Jacket

Marmot 3-in-1 Winter Jacket

Polyester Liner Gloves

Goretex Winter Gloves

Mountaineering Boots

Gaiters

Crampons

Microspikes

Snowshoes

Osprey Backpack – 24Liters

Osprey Backpack – 40Liters

Osprey Backpack – 70Liters

Backpack Cover – 40Liters

Ski Pulk (haul sled)

Sunglasses – Athletic

Sunglasses – Aviators

Messenger Bag

Sleeping Bag – 0F

Sleeping Bag – 35F

Sleeping Bag Liner – +20F

Expedition Down Parka

Winter Hat – Fleece

Winter Hat – Expedition

Nalgene

Insulated Thermos

Camelback – 3Liters

Rock Climbing Shoes

Rock Climbing Harness

Head Lamp

Camping Bowl

Camping Stove

Knife

Hobo Tool

Sleeping Pad

3-Season Tent

Trekking Poles

Hammock

Baseball Glove

Hockey Skates

Hockey Gloves

Hockey Stick (and puck)

Bike Shorts

Road Bike – Beater

Road Bike – Racer

iPod Touch

Waterproof Camera

Smartphone

MacBook

External Hardrive

Electric Guitar

Tube Amplifier

Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic Guitar Lamp

Reference Books

Bed/Bedframe/Pillow/Blanket

Wallet

Watch

I found that 14/100 of my items are strictly used for winter (crampons, puffy jacket, etc) so for 8-ish months out of the year I have only 86 items.  I also found that 57/100 of my items are related to sports/outdoor activities.  Therefore, when taking out sports stuff, I’d own only 43 items.  Through this challenge it became evident that I was largely unwilling to give up on my outdoor life thus reaffirming its importance in my life.  I have 31 items of regular clothing, 50 items of outdoor adventuring stuff, 7 items of strictly sporting goods, 5 electronic items, 4 musical items, and 3 in the “other” category.

It was a pretty intense challenge trying to juggle all of the baggage that goes along with owning “stuff”. My emotions, the emotions of others, having to be practical, trying to stay comfortable and many other factors were very real and very hard to deal with.  All in all I’m glad I did the challenge and I feel like I have more clarity on what “things” are important in my life.  Generally, these “things” give me mobility and the ability to adventure.  I think from now on I’ll do something like this once a year where I take an inventory of everything I own just to make sure that things aren’t getting out of hand.  The last thing I want to do is to let the things I own hold me back from seeing what’s really important.

Thanksgiving Continued: Black Friday, Boots in Boulder, and Zipcar to GoodWill

One of the biggest events of the weekend besides Thanksgiving itself was obviously Black Friday.  We decided to head out to the Mall in Boulder, CO to see what was up.  Some of us in our group were on a mission for specific things so why not go to the mall on the day where everything is a zillion % off?  I expected total mayhem but it actually wasn’t that bad.  I imagine places like Walmart were out of control but we stayed inside the main mall looking around.  I mostly just talked to people who were working at the various stores we went into.  Many of them remarked, “At least I’m not working at Walmart.”  More than a few commented on being there since 4am and that they had slammed down more than a few red bulls since then.  Here’s a picture from American Eagle:

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Mega line, but still not as bad as I had expected.

I managed to make it through the entire day without buying anything.  Previous to Black Friday I joined a petition on Facebook/Twitter for “Buy Nothing Day” where you pledge to lock up your debit/credit cards and not buy anything on Black Friday.  I’ve also heard it referred to as “Occupy Christmas” Day but I think I like Buy Nothing Day instead.  It was relatively easy considering I didn’t really need anything.   Many of the people we were with asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I didn’t quite know how to answer them.  I have most all of the gear I need as well as clothes, books, music, etc.  I just kind of tagged along and took in the scene.  The 100 item challenge definitely helped me to see the commotion on Black Friday through a different lens.

The day after Black Friday, Sarah and I went out on a hike with our friend Nick who lives in Boulder.  We did Bear Peak in the Flatirons.  Surprisingly enough, I only had on 1 article of clothing on that was strictly for hiking, my lower base layer.  Everything else I used either running or just day-day use.  Running at 7,000 feet was definitely a humbling experience :) but we hit our 2nd wind after a while and it turned out to be a ton of fun.

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Nick and I on the summit of Bear Peak in the Flatirons of Boulder, CO.

On Sunday we headed out to Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike out to Eagle Lake.  The hike was in the sun the entire time and the trail had a few feet of snow on it already.  We didn’t make it all the way to Eagle Lake because we hadn’t brought snowshoes or crampons so we turned around because of ice.  Either way, it definitely whetted my appetite for the Rockies.  I’ve got to come out here to spend like 3 weeks just cruising around the mountains.

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Not sure of the summit names behind me, but none the less they're pretty epic.

While in Boulder on Saturday we went to a Mountaineering store called Neptunes.  I have been on the prowl for new mountaineering boots, thinking that I’d eventually get them for next season, but if a good deal popped up I’d jump on it.  Conveniently enough, there was a pair on sale that I’ve had my eyes on. Also, there was only one pair.  Sarah convinced me to try them on, turns out they were in my size.  What were the chances that there would be the one pair of boots in my size on mega-sale at a store in Boulder that we just happened to go to.  I decided to pick them up.  I immediately put my old boots on Craigslist and email spammed my climbing friends.  I can easily get $100 for them b/c they’re in great shape (just a bit clunky for me).  Once I sell them it will be like getting my new boots for 50% off their retail price, score!  Good thing I didn’t find them on Buy Nothing Day :) also they are a replacement item, not a new item so it doesn’t add to my 100 item list.

My new Scarpa boots on their maiden voyage in Rocky Mountain National Park. Now if only there was some ice to be climbed, it was a balmy 50F, not great for ice climbing.

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These are my old mountaineering boots. They are by the same company just a different style and half the price. I definitely noticed the difference in weight and quality by getting a higher end boot. Super psyched to test them out back in the east.

When we got back to Boston I became sick, something about the altitude change, sharing a house with 8 people and a 3 year old, and taking a red-eye didn’t quite agree with me.  So I stayed home from work, slept most of the day and made a trip to GoodWill to offload some odds and ends from my purging this month.

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I loaded up a Zipcar with stuff and drove it out to the nearest GoodWill. Renting for 1/2 hours cost about $15. I did some other errands too so it worked out alright.

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Here's the GoodWill Store. They had a donation bin just on the inside of the store to put stuff. It was fully loaded so I plopped my trash-bag-o-stuff on top and was on my way.

When undergoing the purge this month I first tried to find friends/family to give things to.  Someone reminded me that giving away all of your belongings was a sign of depression and suicide risk.  Let me remind everyone that I am indeed happy about my life and this a challenge, not a cry for help :)  My next step was to give it away to GoodWill.  I did three trips throughout this month.  One right when the month started, one at home in Maine (after my brothers picked through it), and one again at the end.  The items that were of high value I tried to sell on Craigslist with limited success.  I ended up putting a bunch of stuff up for free and within hours people came to my house to snag their new something-or-other.

Only a few more days left, I don’t know exactly how many items I have, but I have a feeling I’m pretty close to 100.

Thanksgiving

I would like to start this post by telling you about my new favorite drink.  It’s called the Apple Jack which consists of 100% pure Apple Cider and 100% pure Jack Daniels.  Enough of that, now for the 100 Item Challenge over Thanksgiving.

I headed to Colorado with Sarah for Thanksgiving this year, my 2nd time ever in this glorious state.  Packing for this trip was actually very interesting/simple.  As always I put off packing until the night before my trip and due to my 100 item challenge it really took me about five minutes to get my life together.  I looked at the stack of t-shirts in my closet and realized I had only five t-shirts.  The decision was easy: I took two of them at random along with 2/3 of my pants (1 khaki and 1 corduroy), and a couple collared shirts.  I had also planned to do some outdoorsy stuff during my trip so I brought some hiking gear.

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The Rocky Mountains say Happy Thanksgiving :)

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Waiting for my ride at the airport with all my stuff packed into my 24L Osprey. Including what I was wearing I brought 30 items with me on the trip for four days.

I could have gone WAY more minimal, but in an effort to not look like a scrub all weekend, I decided to bring more than I needed just in case.  I took 30 items with me on the trip, it would have been 31 items had the TSA agents hadn’t found my swiss army knife (hobo tool for those who are familiar) in my backpack (thanks to Sarah for tagging me in a facebook post in real time as the event was unfolding).  The hobo tool has a spoon, knife, bottle opener, and knife which are all fantastic for hiking trips.  The TSA agents were very impressed because they had never see anything like it so I took a few minutes to explain to them how it worked while 2 or 3 others came over to check it out (yay for teaching something to a TSA agent).  I opted to leave the security area and mail it home which cost me $10!  It was worth it though because I love that hobo tool; Kabar makes some high quality stuff.

Here’s my packing list broken out into categories; clothing, hiking/sports, crossover (both hiking and/or regular use), and other.


Clothing Running/Hiking Crossover Other
Underwear Running Shorts Osprey 24L Backpack Journal from 9th Grade
Socks Techwick Shirt Nalgene Novel
Pants – Corderoy Running Shoes Thermos iPod
Pants – Khaki Shell Pants Hiking Boots Cell Phone
Belt Wool Hat Wallet
Collared Shirt Polyester Collared Shirt Watch
Flannel Shirt Liner Gloves
T-shirt Rain Jacket
T-shirt Sun Glasses
Underarmour Fleece
Marmot Down Jacket

I brought 30 total items with me on the trip which includes the 8 items that I generally have on all the time: underwear, socks, pants, belt, shirt, watch, wallet, and phone.  So that comes out to 22 items that I need to carry around in a backpack.  Interestingly, the largest category was crossover items which means that many of my clothes and other items are multifunctional, i.e. my underarmour fleece I use both for daily use and for athletic activities.  I had 9 items that were strictly clothing, 4 items that were strictly for running/hiking, 11 items that crossed over between hiking and regular use, and 6 items in the “other” category.

I could have taken many other items on the trip with me such as snowshoes, mountaineering boots, crampons, etc but I coordinated with a friend of mine in Colorado to borrow gear in case we decided to do some adventuring.   This would have required me to check a bag.  Instead I have good friends who are willing to hook me up.  Especially in the outdoor gear world, it can be very expensive to rent or buy gear for various trips so many of my friends and I are constantly lending and borrowing gear.  Thanks to NickNack for being a great guide during our trip :)

Boston Public Library

Today I decided to clear out my books.  After this week I’ll only have the books that I’m reading and I’ve made a goal to not buy any new books until I’ve read the ones I have and given them away afterward (2-3 books).  I made an assumption that the Boston Public Library would take donations so I headed there to get a Library card and check out the situation.  I was able to donate everything and they seemed pretty stoked about it.

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I've got some guitar lesson books from Greg Arney (I've got the pdf copies as well so I don't need the physical copy, cool dude, check him out at http://bostonguitarlessons.net/), a statistics book (woof), a book about patagonia (excellent), some rando robots book about DARPA (a gift that I haven't and will probably not read), a book about ninjas (good for the bathroom), and shirlock holmes (always epic).

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With these books I'm making use of my "safety" caveat and keeping them without counting them toward my 100 items. The top book is the Mountaineering Bible lots of good safety information. Below it is a sports nutrition book, lots of good stuff in there about being safe and healthy while exercising. Next there are 5 years worth of "Accidents in North American Mountaineering". One book is published each year which includes all of the rescues that have happened on mountains in North America. Hopefully I can learn from some of their mistakes. Then there's a Northeast Climbing book, another good thing to have in the safety book arsenal.

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These books either belong to friends of mine or I'm lending them out permanently to friends. A few of them I haven't read but they don't belong to me so I'm going to read them and then pass them off again, i.e. they're in transit through my life so I'm not counting them as an item.

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The Boston Public Library is AWESOME. I've been there a few times but have largely underutilized it as a FREE resource.

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The courtyard in the middle of the BPL is pretty epic, although now that I'm almost done with the book Dracula, it reminded me a lot of vampires in Transylvania. I imagine it's a great spot in the summer to chill out because it removes you from the busy streets and its an alternative to the Boston Common which is usually littered with tourists.

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My new Boston Public Library Card! Access to free books, ebooks, dvd's, etc.

I had a bunch of questions for the staff member that hooked me up with my library card.  Basically there’s a bunch of cool things you can do and all of their services can be taken care of online.  I can reserve a book online at work and then go pick it up after work.  That way I know they have it before I make a trip to the library (novel concept I know, but I’m glad they have it).  This is super cool because it’s way faster than waiting for a book you order on Amazon to get to you.  Also it’s free.  The time length you can have each book is 21 days and you can renew it online.   They also have free e-books that you can use for 7 or 14 days and after that period they just don’t work anymore if you don’t renew them.  Having a stoic bookshelf that makes you look well-read is pretty cool, but in the spirit of this life challenge, it doesn’t make much sense to have hard copies of books hanging around the apartment.

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This is one of the many self-checkout stations. You pick up your book and then scan your BPL card's barcode, then scan the book's barcode, then you're done.

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Here's a picture of our stoic bookshelf. Between myself and my roommates we've got a pretty decent collection of literature. That's all well and good but as for functional use, it's pretty limited. However, for a minimalistic challenge, they're not even on the radar as being important. So I brought a few books home to my parents (classy hardcovers), I donated some to the Boston Public Library, and I'm giving the rest out to friends.

After I got myself registered with the Boston Public Library I downloaded the free Kindle app on my Macbook.  Amazon’s idea to do a free reader for computers was a great idea.  I’m not necessarily interested in purchasing another piece of electronics so having the ability to read books on my laptop will be awesome (yes I know the optical contrast of a laptop isn’t as good as e-ink and I agree, but it’ll be fine).  I think I’ll use the e-books mostly for popular reads and businessy books.  Eventually I’ll probably go back to hardcovers for the classics because I still like the feel and smell of real books.

Anyway, I’m excited to check out the Library more, it really is an incredible resource that I feel like many people don’t take advantage of.  I’ve lived in Boston for almost 5 years and I’ve only been there a handful of times.  Free books, free dvds, free ebooks, why would you buy anything on Amazon?  I agree that having physical books and dvd’s to keep is awesome, but I’m trying to live minimally so starting to use the library is a fantastic means to my minimal end.