Why I Don’t Count My Stuff (and Why I Am Excited to Start).

Why I Don’t Count My Possessions

As I wrote in an earlier post (The 7 Most Influential Posts During my Early Journey to Minimalism), Dave Bruno has been an inspiration to me. Dave is generally considered the man behind the 100-Thing Challenge (or at least, he got to write the book) which has gained much popularity among minimalists. Leo Babauta, and Tammy Strobel represent just two who have taken the challenge. The goal of the challenge is to pare your possessions down to only 100 things.

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I have never counted my possessions. Not only have I never counted them, I’ve never had a desire to count them. And while I commend the numerous minimalists and bloggers who have pared their possessions down to less than 100 things, I am not one of them. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. I own well more than 100 things. My brand of minimalism will also require that I do. For example: I live in the suburbs. I own a home. I do not live near public transportation. I love to entertain. And my job requires a certain level of possessions.
  2. Living with 100 things has never sounded attractive to me. I love minimalism. I love the freedom of paring down my possessions and focusing on what’s most important in my life. And I have found more and more freedom by removing more and more belongings. But at some point, it no longer sounds attractive to me. And that number is somewhere higher than 100 things.
  3. My minimalism has always been rational, not rigid. Arbitrary numbers have never guided by practice of minimalism. Instead, I have tried to allow my life to be guided by the things that are most important to me.
  4. Counting seems like it would take a lot of time. And that’s why I started getting rid of stuff in the first place.
  5. And finally, I’m far too competitive to ever give it a shot. I mean, let’s face it, Colin Wright owns 55 things and Everett Bogue lives with 57. At this point, there is nothing impressive about listing 167 or 142 or even 112.

Why I Am Going to Start Counting

With that being said, I am thrilled to participate in Project 333 inspired by Courtney Carver at Be More With Less. Project 333 represents a growing number of participants who have decided to wear only 33 items of clothing for the next 3 months (October 1 – December 31). You can read more of the rules here. I first heard about the challenge through Robyn Devine and couldn’t wait to jump in.

Here are the reasons why I have decided to join Project 333… and start counting:

  1. It sounded reasonable, but challenging. I’ve always needed a certain number of clothes working in an office 5 days/week, speaking to large groups of people, being an active part of the community, exercising daily, and maintaining the yard. 33 items to accomplish all those responsibilities sounded just about right… yet, still a stretch.
  2. I needed the extra push. Project 333 will provide extra incentive to push my limits – which is the point. I have sat somewhat content in my minimalist journey for awhile now. This project will hopefully push me to a new edge. And teach me new things about myself.
  3. The community is exciting. Knowing that I am just one of a large number or participants provides extra motivation. I haven’t heard the final number of participants, but it’s extra fun knowing that there is a group of people around the world jumping in too. And they appear to be very active on the Facebook page.
  4. It sounds fun. I’m in. Two years ago, getting to pick out 33 new items at a clothing store would have sounded fun. Today, limiting myself to 33 sounds fun… Oh, how my life has changed.

My 33 Items.

Here then is my list of 33 items (most are pictured above):

(4) Black Suit – Pants, Jacket, Belt, Tie (to wear once while I perform a wedding)
(4) Yard Work Clothes – Jeans, T-Shirt, Sweatshirt, Boots (mowing, raking, shoveling)
(3) Jeans
(1) Khaki Pants
(3) V-Neck T-Shirts
(3) Button-Down Shirts
(1) Short-Sleeve Button-Down Shirt
(3) Long-Sleeve Casual
(2) Sweaters
(1) Sweatshirt
(3) Shoes (black dress, black casual, sneakers)
(1) Black Belt
(1) Silver Wristwatch
(2) Coats (khaki jacket, black leather)
(1) Gloves -not pictured.

A Few Notes.

  • I feel that being a male gives me a little advantage in the challenge. I have far less accessories than many of the women in the challenge. However, needing to count the suit (4 one-time items and 1 button down shirt that I wouldn’t have normally picked) and the 4 outdoor chore items seems to help level the playing field.
  • You’ll notice from the photo above that I am basically wearing white, black, and gray for the 3 months. I removed a few blues for the sake of not needing to carry brown belts or shoes. I typically enjoy wearing those neutral colors anyway, so it was not a difficult decision.
  • I have set aside one pair of jeans and button-down shirt for some public speaking coming up (VT, VT, AZ, and now MN). Too alleviate my fear of wearing out those items, I have set them aside exclusively for the speaking engagements.
  • I did not include my heavy winter coat in my 33 items… here’s hoping for a mild December in Vermont.

It is never too late to join the Challenge. Perhaps you want to give it a shot. Or perhaps I will enjoy the exercise so much, the next number I will count to is 100… you just never know for sure until you try it.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    It sounds like a cool challenge. I’m particularly interested in how the ladies of the challenge handle it. I almost thought guys got off pretty easy in the wardrobe department. :-)
    I’ve still got plenty of other things around the house to attack with minimalism before I get to the point of narrowing down my wardrobe to 33 items, but I definitely plan to follow everyone’s journey.

    – Faith

  2. says

    I’ve been reading about Project 333 recently, it sounds interesting! If I weren’t trying out my own version of the 100 Things Challenge, I would give it a try. Can’t wait to hear how it works out for you!

      • says

        I’m trying it for a month, and officially start today. A couple of weeks ago I packed away all the non-100 things that I won’t be using for the month of October. So I’ve been only using my 100 personal things for at least a week now (as I tweaked my list) without any difference from before. Which makes me think that I might need to tighten up my list a little.

        So, it’s just beginning, but going well. You can follow along on my blog.

  3. says

    awesome – i’m glad you’re on board! speaking as a lady who works full-time in an office, the key is to own one really good pair of black pants, and be comfortable with wearing the same shirts to work and on down-time. really, men do it everyday, and i truly believe the reason more women don’t is due to cultural programming!

    harry, we don’t have to count undies, socks, or wedding rings. or workout gear. definitely makes it easier!

  4. says

    I think my husband has about 10 items that he wears at any given time. 2 pair jeans, 1 suit jacket, 4 button-down shirts, 2 pair shorts, 1 belt – ok, yeah, that’s it. But it’s really warm here in Chicago right now, so he’ll add the trench, fleece jacket, and switch out the short sleeved shirts with long-sleeved ones, as well as his suit jacket with a cotton blazer. Oh, and 1 pair boots, 1 pair tennis shoes/everyday shoes. (when i count it all up it looks like it’s about 25 items total, maybe with a sweater or two he wears for lounging, but never out – and that includes 2 hats, 2 gloves, and 1 scarf).

    That wouldn’t even be close to a challenge for him! hahaha. This cracks me up, since we’re not minimalists. He just hates shopping & likes to wear his stuff out before getting anything new.

    And, uh, good luck with your weather. I’m sure I’ll be in my heavy coat by December 31st. Unless we get lucky in Chicago, too. And in my snow boots.

  5. says

    Counting is a waste of my time. I think if you cannot keep track of where you put certain things, that’s a sign of having too much stuff. You can then try to get rid of things. For the other readers here, it’s also a sign of testing Adam Baker’s Sell Your Crap guide.

  6. says

    This sounds like a great challenge. Good Luck! And I may need to look into it for myself. Although, I may have an advantage since I don’t have a job in the business world, so I can wear what I normally would wear out and about to work.

  7. says

    Great to know you’re on board, Joshua–it already feels strange to me on this first day, and I’m not exactly a fashionista. I share the same concern about the heavy winter coat–here in NW Indiana we can go from 90F in early October to -10F in December, depending on Ma Nature’s whims (please please please let it be a nice gentle autumn!)

  8. says

    Now this sounds like a realistic challenge that more people might actually try to do!

    I wear less than 33 clothing items without a doubt. I’m fortunate to live in a warm climate and very relaxed area though so it’s a little easier for me.

    Thanks for alerting us to this challenge.

  9. says

    I had heard of this challenge and brushed the thought aside, but as I really read through, I think about what a load it would be of off me! I currently am not working outside the home, but when I do go out, I wear jewelry and accessories. I would be game to shoot for 50 items, including accessories, and then would love to keep it at that level after done!
    Currently working on the house, so not sure about the wardrobe, but seriously consider it!My last job complicated it WAY TOO MUCH!

  10. Brooke says

    Wow. I am really inspired by this project, and happy to read your perspective on the 100 thing challenge. At this point in my life I would never be able to par down to 100 items–we garden, have well over 100 jars of canned food, own a house, have two dogs, one cat, an 11 year old, yadda, yadda. However, over the last few months, following this blog, among others, I have started trimming down the items I own. Especially clothing.

    I know I could do the challenge. No harm in starting Oct. 2nd, right? Living in Northern MN has it’s own set of challenges, as I would need to start out counting a heavy and a light winter coat, hat, gloves, scarf, long underwear. Would my cross-country ski boots have to count? Luckily I dress casual for work, so that will help the count. Anyways, I am inspired, and am going to count out my wardrobe today and see if I can’t make it happen!

    I am going to get more weird looks at work than I normally do!! Haha!

    Thanks for being an inspiration.

    • says

      Good for you Brooke. Give it a shot! After all, what’s the worst that could happen? Compared to all the benefits of extra time, energy, finances, and introspection, it’s a pretty good trade-off.

      • Brooke says

        Well I am down to 33 items, with winter gear/outerwear counting for a third of that. Debating whether I should count long underwear or not…

        My daughter has been helping me with my list, and she was quite shocked when she actually realized how few clothing items it is. A great experience.

        Okay, off to finish my list! I will post when I am done :)

  11. David says

    I’m retired, so wearing just 33 things would not be much of a problem.

    But, counting the number of things I have or keeping track of what I wear or use is a complication I would rather not deal with. Just trying to keep life simple and low key.

    But hey, that’s just me. The 333 project or 100 things challenge may be just the ticket for someone else.

  12. says

    Joshua – I am excited that you and so many people are attempting Project 333. While the day to day journey will be interesting, it would be great to see who decides to stay with it and donate all of their other clothes on January 1st!

    I already notice that I am not overwhelmed by having less to choose from. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I remember mornings that I would change three or four times before heading out the door. Now I am working with clothes that fit, go well together and have great layering potential. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you choose with purpose!

    • says

      It is refreshing to spend so little time picking out clothes in the morning. Having a slimmer closet definitely does this for my as well. Thanks for the inspiration Courtney.

  13. says

    After wading through piles of clothes, and going back and forth multiple times over the last couple of items. I have made my list, chosen my items, and accepted the challenge. Surprisingly my husband decided to as well!

    Let me just say that I think 33 items doesn’t go as far in harsh winter climates as it may elsewhere. (Winter gear comprises 24% of my items.)

    1-heavy winter coat
    1-fleece jacket
    2-winter hats (1 heavy, 1 light)
    2-pairs winter gloves (leather choppers, and knit liners)
    1-winter scarf
    1-pair winter boots
    2-pairs shoes (tennis, black baby janes (for a wedding))
    3-pairs jeans
    1-pair of earrings
    1-pair sunglasses
    1-dress (not a necessity in MN winter, but I have a wedding to go to!)
    4-long sleeve shirts
    1-cute scarf (I’m allowing myself this ;)

    It looks like my closet will be brown and green this winter!

    Thanks again for the inspiration :)

  14. Johnny Mean says

    Playing the Devils advocate. I am just curious, how many of these new minimalists have a spouse, girlfriend, or children? Are they also minimalist? Do they support or encourage this philosophy? How many minimalists are willing to give up their computer? It’s not just things, but relationships, actions, interactions that you can minimize. I actually reduced my number of personal contacts to focus on only quality relationships.
    Usually when people shed belongings they fill the void with some other form of consumption.

    • says

      Johnny, I think it is pretty safe to say that minimalists come in all sizes, shapes, and walks of life. I can think of numerous examples on-line with a spouse, girlfriend, or children right off the top of my head – myself included, with a wife of 11 years and two small chilren (8 and 4).

      It is also safe to say that partners come in all shapes and sizes as well. Some are supportive while others struggle with implementing the new lifestyle.

      And again, what minimalists choose to fill their newfound time, energy, attention, and finances with vary as well. However, most of the minimalists that I interact with have chosen to fill their lives with a deep-heartfelt passion of some sorts whether that be travel, relationships, or influence… not some other form of consumption.

      • Johnny Mean says

        Thanks Joshua for your response. Really great to hear there are lots of family examples that are successful out there.
        Creating space for who & what we love is the over all objective in my personal philosophy of minimalism.

        Love the site and the work you do! Keep it up!

        • says

          I’m a minimalist-in-progress who is married. Being married is actually part of why I’m interested in minimalism. I want to better free up my time and resources to spend with my wife. Minimalism is just me paring down the extraneous stuff so that I can focus on the most important things/people in my life. (Which is the same thing you said in your reply!)

  15. says

    I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, but I love the thought of simplifying. I joined the project 333. I already love how spare my closet is. It will be much easier to keep tidy/organized.

  16. Shell says

    My clothes are neat, clean and tidy in my closet, just as everything else is in my house. Why would I want to wear the same clothing everyday? What would it prove? And why would I want to count what I have? Doesn’t that mean I am attaching far more importance to it than I need to? I wouldn’t want to eat the same food everyday or just talk to the same people every day without ever talking or smiling at someone else. I give generously to those who don’t have. To me it would represent a very boring , mundane existence to forever be worrying about what I have. I can live frugally, without waste, recycling what I do have, without getting obsessive about what I actually possess. I guess everybody marches to a different drummer and I personally would rather spend my spare time and energy planting trees or helping in areas where people don’t have but one thing to wear or one thing to eat or somedays nothing at all. I am not judging you, it just sounds a little unusual to actually have a contest about how many articles of clothing you have.

  17. tiamaria says

    I’ve been living with less than 100 things for going on two years now. It started when I couldn’t support myself year round in the area I was living so I gave most stuff away and put the rest on my back and walked a few hundred miles to an area that had more job opportunities. I don’t really count my stuff now but I only really replace things that wear out so the number stays about the same. I could probably live with even less. It seems I only like to wear certain things over and over again and if the weather was aggreeable year round I could totally live with only a pair of flip flops and no other shoes. I also only buy things I need from thrift stores or yard sales, except the new pair of rain boots I splurged on and love.

    I have other changes I’m trying to make like simplifying cooking/eating utensils and handwashing them after every meal but I live with other people and we just stick everything in the dishwasher so I’d need to buy some dish soap and a tub to wash things in and I haven’t committed to that yet. I also really want to totally cut out processed and packaged food stuffs. As it is I put everyone’s recyclables in a backpack and bicycle them 20 miles round trip to the recycling center. I kinda enjoy the outing but can’t help but think about all the energy wasted in the whole process. I probably won’t ever give up tootsie roll pops though, but you never know.

  18. says

    I’m jumping on the project 333 bandwagon as well! I think it’ll be a challenge for me especially with my love of shoes and purses. But it’s time for me to pare down to the basics and the items I love the most and this project couldn’t have come at a better time! See you around!!

  19. Jamie says

    I myself have 3 closets full of cloths. I tried the 333 but only made 1 month before I went nuts. I tend to find something I like and buy it in several colors so what you get is the same style but in different colors. I get bored very fast with limited colors in my wardrobe.

  20. ren says

    Whatever works people!! Maybe its Project 333, maybe for some its Project 3,333. Will not be confined to someone else’s rigid definition of what is an exact number. I will have to be called a para-minimalist. And guess what?? That’s fine with me. What I have most realized is that organizing possessions is a never ending battle, that I have to reduce first and organize what is left. So far, and I am estimating, I have gotten rid of a total of one full pickup load this summer. Got rid of several no longer used small appliances and just thought of a few more things to go to the recycling center. Will go thru closet when the season changes, as I live in Wisconsin, its 81 today and in a few short months will be -25, so although I am not doing Project 333, I will be getting rid of all summer clothes that I did not wear this year. Between work and being out and about, if I did not wear it this season, then it is just not needed.

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Simple Living News Update | October 1, 2010
  2. Project 333: Day 1 « Simply B | October 2, 2010
  3. Project 333 | Adventure-Some | November 3, 2010

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