Stuff and The 100 Thing Challenge

There are a lot of things I would buy if I had a little more discretionary income. These include, but are not limited to:

  • A roller suitcase with wheels that actually spin and are free from cracks resulting from curb-to-asphalt slamming (when you’re chronically late you tend to find yourself hurdling the less fleet of foot for cabs to get to the airport)
  • One of those hot rocks massages
  • Sausage-making and pasta attachments for my Cuisinart (and a few extra square inches of cabinet space in which to store them)
  • Two dogs (preferably an English bulldog called Dylan and a lanky ragamuffin mutt who would go by Bruno, and they’d be the very best of friends!)
  • Acupuncture
  • Lucky Peach magazine subscription
  • Availability on the schedule of 10+ friends to go to a pig roast
  • A parking garage spot for the months of December-March. Because the opposite of fun is going head to head with the snowplow pushing trenches against my car as I try to dig it out from under consecutive snowstorms. Don’t tell me it’s good exercise.
  • A lemon tree

The Mr. and I have been thinking a lot about “stuff” lately.  With 560 square feet of living space, if we don’t want to get conked every time we pull something off the high shelves in the closet, it’s crucial that we keep track of what we have, what we think we need, and ultimately what we really need. For now, unfortunately, dogs are out of the pictures.  As are babies, sorry mom(s).

Space considerations aside, we’re also starting to look more critically at our role as mass consumers. It’s been an ongoing thing, sparked by a sinking feeling that so often accompanies a shopping binge. And just because my shopping binges tend to occur at Target instead of Barney’s (am I even allowed to shop at Barney’s? Maybe for chapstick), and involve new-fangled cleaning supplies and too many tubes of whitening toothpaste, that nagging feeling doesn’t dissipate.

So last week I checked out The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno, whose name is eerily close to our future dogs’ names. Who ever said I couldn’t write a thematic post? Though I’m only a few chapters in, it’s striking deep.  Mixed with the author’s musings about what consumerism is and means and why we have the urge to keep buying are his own, often humorous, efforts to scale back.

I especially connected with his paragraphs on a professional work outfit that he loved thought it never quite fit. The zipper seam would bulge up in a lascivious way, the shoes hurt his feet, the belt end wouldn’t fit under the loop so it would flap free unless he contained it with his jacket… I found myself thinking, I’ve got shoes like that! And pant hems that are too long and drag unless I hitch them up when I walk, and a sweater that strives to be a belly shirt unless strictly monitored.

Why hold onto these things? More importantly, why buy more things just like this that aren’t quite right from the start? Usually, despite earnest delusions of bringing them to the tailor, they end up in the Goodwill pile. While the answers might not be in this book, it does hold a good deal of inspiration for how to break some bad habits, let go of the unnecessary stuff and as a result, free yourself from some of the emotional baggage that comes with the physical.

The Mr. is reading and enjoying it too. When I feel the need for stuff, I just hand the book over to him for a few minutes and busy myself with the Williams Sonoma catalog.  Hypocritical? Perhaps. But I really want that sausage-making attachment…

4 thoughts on “Stuff and The 100 Thing Challenge

  1. Ah…I feel the pain! In New York, I had a teeny apartment with a MINI FRIGE and a hot plate. It was terrible. Bonking my head on extra stuff or slipping on clothes was bad enough, and then when I got the dog it became a full-scale safety issue because she would EAT anything that was near the floor. I read The Happiness Project this summer– it was not high literature by any means, and it sounds like the book you guys are reading takes a more intellectual approach, but the upshot of The Happiness Project was to throw away every piece of clothing you have but can’t say you’ve worn in the past 8 months or so. Instead, I decided to throw it all in boxes and ship it to Alabama, where it will be eaten by crickets in the garage. Thunder’s favorite thing is to bring me crickets in bed in the morning, so the happiness project kind of worked, at least on the canine level.

    Did you see the Movita Beaucoup blog on freshly pressed? I really like her voice and you might, too.

    • Ah! I don’t think I could survive with a mini fridge and hot plate. Don’t know how we did it in college with a the mini fridge/microwave combo, in which I tried to cook scrambled eggs not once, but multiple times. It never worked. We’ll have to check out The Happiness Project and Movita Beaucoup blog – thanks for the recommendations! Also, your dog is the coolest and my husband wants one just like her and can’t get over her awesome name.

      • If you decide to read the Happiness Project, tell me and I can send it to you– not really worth buying. Though happiness to me is closely related to wine, so my copy may be stained.

        Someday you will get the dog. And all the times you talked about wanting Dylan are just going to make it better. We picked the name Thunder ages ago, when she was not even a glimmer in the eye of the breeder who thought it would be ok for a french and an english bulldog to get it on. For some reason that made it extra hilarious when an actual Thunder was sitting there in the apartment!

      • I totally will and that is so nice of you to offer to send it. Normally I’d accept but I’m obsessed with getting the most out of my tax dollars so I’ve put it on hold at the Boston Public Library. In two days, any book they have in stock can be pulled and put on a shelf for self-pick up and check out! It always feels like I’m getting away with something… Come to think of it, I’ll probably blog about this.

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