Thursday, August 12, 2010

100 Things? More like 100 x 100...

As a devotee of happiness, I of course read yesterday's piece in the New York Times, But Will It Make You Happy?, about people who've given up stuff, stepped off the treadmill, and find themselves happier with less.  In the article, they profile a couple -- the wife, Mary Strobel, is now an advocate for simpler living and writes a blog strangely-named rowdy kittens.

Through Mary's blog, I read about another project, the One Hundred Thing Challenge, which kind of blew my mind.  It's not a new thing, just new to me. Another blogger, another idea, another project.

The point of the 100 Thing Challenge is to pare down your personal belongings, recognizing that stuff doesn't bring happiness.  In fact, it might actually have the opposite effect, keeping us mindlessly accumulating, thinking things are the solution, will bring happiness, thereby keeping us unhappy.

Or so the theory goes.

What I like about the project is the enumeration of the stuff you have. Mary, for example, posts a list on her blog of her personal possessions.  Oh, and yeah, I also like that this project has some rules and definitions, for example that you count only those things are are truly Yours, not shared.  Ergo not the dining room table, couch, or the bed you share.  And some things can be counted collectively, such as undergarments and books.  Phew, because books, seriously, are very numerous around here.

So Mary has 62 things.  Sixty two, which include 3 rings and one necklace (apparently she doesn't have pierced ears).  And 22 items of clothing.  I have to repeat that: 22 items of clothing.

While I can completely get behind this project and do want to pare down my possessions, travel lighter so to speak, it's not really for me.

Honestly, I can probably get to 100 things before I even open the front door to my house, thanks to my garage and stoop which, just off the top of my head, contain the following:

1. fins
2. mask and snorkel (which I'm counting as one thing, thanks, my rules)
3. dive computer/regulator
4. buoyancy compensator
5. suitcase
6. bicycle
7. beekeeping veil
8. beekeeping gloves (I'm not counting the many beekeeping supplies and tools since they're shared)
9. gardening gloves
10.  bike helmet
11. bike cleats
12. bike gloves
13-15.  three pairs of tap shoes that I keep for the memories, and just in case...
16. my down sleeping bag
17. my synthetic sleeping bag
18. thermarest
19. a whole box full of my own camping/snowcamping/backpacking accoutrements
20. running shoes
21. tevas
22. flip-flops

So right there, I've run through more than 20% of my 100, without even opening the garage door, turning on the light and opening cabinets, and this before I have set foot inside the house proper.  I'm not bragging about how much stuff I have, but want to be clear that I *love* the stuff I do have, evidenced by my fit of woeful tears the night before we left on vacation when I couldn't find my dive bag and thought somehow, how on earth, I left my beloved fins, booties (oops, that's #23), mask and snorkel in Mexico.  I was so relieved when I found them, still in my suitcase, where I'd left them.

Oh wait:
24. car - technically I share this, but really it is mostly mine

I do like the 100 Thing Challenge, but it's not for me.  And I get a little bit headache-y thinking about counting it all, even though it's consistent with my recent Freecycle binge of offloading unused stuff.

I do have a little quibble with stuff not making you happy.  OK, it doesn't make you Happy-happy, but pretty things can certainly bring a kind of happy that I'm not ready to dismiss, in favor of a monastic existence where I have all of 22 things to wear.  Good for Mary for setting the example, but if I can get to 1,000, that would be an accomplishment.

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