Thursday, January 20, 2011


I just read the 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno. Bruno lives in San Diego and works at Point Loma U. overseeing their website. He's about 40 and thinks about being "stuck in stuff" as he puts it. So, in 2008 he came up with the idea to see if he could reduce his stuff to 100 things. Of course, he is married and has kids so this was his personal challenge. They were not buying in. He still lived at home and had the advantage of "using" their stuff, ie, the couch, kitchen, bed, etc. He went through his stuff and got rid of tools, sports equipment, clothes and other assorted personal items. He whittled it all down to 100 things. He made some rules for himself to live by during his year of the 100 Thing Challenge. Like, if he bought something it had to replace something on his list. Some might wonder why would he do this? Why would he impose such suffering on himself? Actually, Bruno does not seem to have suffered much. In fact, he learned a lot about himself and his relationship to things. His challenge came as a response to some reflection he had been doing about the American Consumerist Culture. He chose this challenge as a way of putting some action to his thinking. Here is what he says about contentment: contentment is a virtue we can aspire to, not a state we can achieve.. Who is the satisfied person? The one who has it all, the one who has done it all, the one who has gone further than anyone else, or gotten more than anyone else.... there is no such person. We know that... yet in the heat of the moment it's not easy to remember contentment is an attitudinal choice not a buyable product. We all gravitate to more and more trying to achieve satisfaction. I go after more unless I choose to rest content in what joys can be mine. So, at a certain point, I said stop. Dissatisfaction is built into the fabric of consumerism; we are a country of retail malcontents. No store can sell ultimate contentment - we are always a little disappointed with what we buy/own/have. We never have the best of the best but we continually strive for it.

I liked Bruno's book a lot. I liked that he wasn't preachy or setting himself up as some kind of simple lifestyle icon/saint. He does not advocate this challenge as some kind of new spiritual path, although it certainly had spiritual implications for him. He is honest and funny. It's a good story in which he shares many lessons learned. Whether you agree with his thesis or not it's a good read. It did not inspire me to do my own 100 Thing Challenge but it got my wife and I talking seriously about getting rid of one item a day and if we buy something it has to replace something else.