“That is the message of American-style consumerism. My human life is not enough. There are purchases upon purchases that will transform me into something more than what I am.” – Dave Bruno
I have always thought that I have a lot in common with Dave Bruno. We both live in suburban America. We both have supportive wives and children that we raise with love. We both work full-time jobs that we enjoy and write as a hobby on the side. We are both fed up with American-style consumerism. And we both enjoy inspiring others to reject it.
However, we have one big difference: Dave sold all but 100 of his possessions and chose to live that way for one full year. From November 12, 2008 through November 12, 2009, Dave set out to accomplish a self-imposed 100-Thing Challenge… and lived to write the book.
The 100 Thing Challenge (Harper-Collins) is the story of one man’s quest to free himself from the restraints of American-style consumption and the lessons he learned about himself, his family, and our culture along the way. I have been enamored with Dave’s 100-Thing Challenge for quite some time. Needless to say, when the book arrived in my mailbox, I couldn’t wait to jump right in. And thoroughly enjoyed reading Dave’s story from beginning to end.
Dave recounts the birth of the Challenge, his preparation for the Challenge, the year of the Challenge, and the aftermath following its official conclusion over one year ago (hint: he still owns less than 100 possessions). The book reads as a chronological account of his life starting in July, 2007 when the Challenge was born and ending in mid-2010 just prior to the final publication of the book.
Throughout his telling of the story, Dave flashes back in detail to specific memories throughout his life that highlight the lessons he is learning.
For example, the selling of his model train set resurfaces memories of his father, unmet dreams, and the realization that many of our purchases in the present are unintentionally meant to change the past of our imperfect lives. Or as he writes, “When we shop we sometimes act as if we are time-traveling general contractors. We buy components we think we’ll use to zip back to that dreadful moment in the past to patch things together. Make it all right. But the ruins in our lives don’t get fixed. They get grieved for, or else they get messier.
Likewise, the story of his daughters’ love for American Girl dolls, the selling of his word-working tools, and the decision to use one single Bic pen throughout the year serve as launching pads for vivid, emotional, detailed memories. The first several times these detailed memories (or parenthetical insertions) surfaced in the reading, I found myself wondering why he was describing them in such detail. But given the fact that each account was effortlessly weaved back into his 100-Thing Challenge, by the end of the book, I found myself anxiously awaiting the next memory.
Overall, Dave presents an engaging, emotional, and compelling argument against American-style consumerism. It does not make blanket statements rejecting the role of possessions in our life. Instead, it presents a thought-provoking, rational examination of their place in our lives mentioning both the positives and the negatives.
If you have been questioning the role of American-style consumerism in your life in anyway, you will enjoy reading The 100 Thing Challenge. I know I did.