Living with Less: Owning only 100 items

”Never own anything that you can’t drop in 30 secs flat if you feel the heat coming round the corner”

Now I’m no bank robber and so don’t have quite the same concerns as Robert De Niro did but the ability to be able to go anywhere and do anything at the drop of a hat has always sounded attractive to me. In January, after 8 years in the British Army, I had the opportunity to live by Bobby D’s mantra and decided to reduce what I own to 100 items. This blog is about the Why, the How & the What, trying to be a modern minimalist is teaching me.

The Why.

The words from Heat encapsulated an idea, but what turned that idea from an aspiration to a reality for me was an article in the London Times entitled The Cult of Less. In it the author profiled people living on as few possessions as they could and highlighted, amongst other things, how modern pressures make doing this a sensible, not just spiritual pursuit, as well as showing how easy it is to do with modern innovations.

Reading the article I identified with those profiled; I owned relatively little compared to my friends, Army life had taught me to be able to pack up and move in a day but as I thought harder about it there were things I had been doing since my teens that made this ‘Cult’ so attractive for me.

‘Go and tidy your room to wrest that control back’

The start of this behaviour came courtesy of one of my mum’s parenting hacks. I had had a dream in which I drove a my dad’s car around the car park of work. When I put the car in reverse it went forward when I put it in first gear it went in reverse, when I turned left it went right and so on and so on. So I asked my mum what this could mean and she said it showed that subconsciously I felt my life was out of control. Her solution? ‘Go and tidy your room to wrest that control back’. Now this may have just been an excellent ruse to get me to clean up more but from that day on I became a meticulous tidy-er, in fact during my time in the Army most Soldiers thought I had OCD. In reality I probably have a form of ADD and tidying and ordering things has become a way of calming & focussing my mind. My therapy if you will.

I was no longer ADD boy I was now a modern day minimalist, and like all good minimalists what did I do? I went and bought two books on why you shouldn’t buy stuff.

Being tidy is not being a minimalist though, I’m sure if you went to a remote island to meet a hermit, his/her cave wouldn’t necessarily be spick & span but it does make the move to a more minimal life an easy one. Reading about other minimalists tapped into that basic human emotion of needing to belong. I felt I was no longer ADD boy I was now a modern day minimalist, and like all good minimalists what did I do? I went and bought books on why you shouldn’t buy stuff.

Want to try some down sizing too? Adventure Pass can help

The first of which was the 100 Items Challenge by David Bruno which gave a structure to the whole process. The second was The More of Less by Joshua Becker a hugely inspiring tale of a how minimising can help you maximise your life. There is also the excellent Minimaliststs Blog by two guys from Montana who write about living a meaningful life with less stuff.

All of these resources referenced other minimalists and ascetics through history. Some had a faith, some had a religion, some had an enlightened path of their own. They all applied different rules but the basic tenant of all of them is probably best summed up by the Dalai Lama:

People were created to be loved, and things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used

Whilst I would like to appropriate the beauty of His Holiness’s words to couch the ‘why’ of this project in something spiritual, I felt I needed something of my own. As someone who identifies himself as a Christian, but respects all who follow a devoted path, the abundant references to love in all religious & faith texts made me see the point of this journey for me was to invest more in relationships with others rather than in material objects.

The question is will I end up loving my 100 Items too much?

Next: The first rule of Minimalism club — Don’t