Reverse 100 Thing Challenge: 400 Things Decluttered

Last year, I was intrigued by Dave Bruno’s 100 Thing Challenge, but could not imagine reducing all of my possessions down to just 100 items. The challenge seems more appropriate for digital nomads, travelers and, well, people who don’t have any art, books or photos. Nonetheless, it intrigued me, so I decided to do the opposite and see if I could give away 100 things.

Between January and March, I easily found 100 things to give away or send to the trash. By September, I was up to 195 things. Then I read about Courtney Carver’s identical challenge, which she was calling the Reverse 100 Thing Challenge over at Be More With Less. I became jazzed to see how much I could declutter in 2012. In October, I hit 368 things and knew I wanted to make it to 400 before the end of the year.

To recap, here are some of the things I’ve gotten rid of in the past year:

  • Clothes I haven’t worn in a year or more
  • Clothes that no longer fit
  • Food storage containers, especially the ones without matching lids
  • Bowls and dishes
  • A set of old pillows
  • An old pair of sneakers
  • Two of three ice cream scoops
  • Dead pens
  • Lots of cassettes, CDs and VHS tapes
  • Camo pants (2) and jacket
  • Baskets
  • Old sweatshirts and t-shirts from high school and college
  • Graduation mortarboard
  • Jewelry box
  • Pot and lid
  • Gavels (2!)
  • Kentucky Derby memorabilia
  • Wool scarf
  • Baseball cap
  • Plastic sign
  • Books
  • Halloween decor
  • Christmas decor
  • Plastic containers
  • Postcards
  • Compasses (Two of three)

In the past two months, I’ve slowly crept toward 400. Giving away these things got me into the homestretch:

  • More books
  • More DVDs
  • Bracelets
  • Magnets
  • 14 teeny, tiny novelty erasers
  • Stove top burner covers
  • Empty photo albums
  • 1996 Olympic pin set
  • Eyeglass case
  • Civil Air Patrol insignia
  • Candle holders

Keep in mind that this whole experiment has been a “net” challenge for me, meaning that I also kept track of the things coming into my life. Those things count against me in the experiment.

Looking at my chicken scratch marks (my not-so-scientific method of keeping track of the Reverse 100 Things), I can see that I probably brought around 100 things into my life this past year. So I had to get rid of 100 things to balance that intake, in addition to still getting to net 400. That means I’ve actually decluttered and deowned about 500 things this past year.

And how do I feel? Like my home is simpler and less cluttered. Mentally, I can feel myself not getting stuck when I walk by certain drawers or closets. To some degree, I feel silly for keeping some of the things I’ve kept over the years, especially things that don’t have meaning for me, like decorations and extra kitchen supplies. I had seriously accumulated three ice cream scoops!

If I questioned my affection for some things, like the souvenirs I bought on my college study abroad trip to Germany, I kept them on my table for awhile, then took pictures of them, then tucked them into the giveaway box…and haven’t missed them since.  However, the silly dog-shaped sculpture made out of seashells that I’ve had since I was a kid?  It’s on the table giving me puppy dog eyes as I type this.  It will probably go back into a keepsake box, not the giveaway box.

I know there are a few more kitchen utensils, picture frames, flower vases, and random items that I can continue to whittle down, but I feel like I’m close to the bone now. The music collection has been largely digitized and only my favorite books take up space in the bookshelf. The keepsake boxes in the closet have been reduced by two in the past year and the wardrobe has been winnowed. I can find things in my home more quickly and I know that what’s left are things I cherish, value and love.

And now that they’re not surrounded by 400-500 extra “things,” I can see them all more clearly now.


Photo credit: Erich Ferdinand

6 Comments for “Reverse 100 Thing Challenge: 400 Things Decluttered”

claudia marieb


you had 2 gavels? I have no gavels and never had a gavel. How did you end up with 2?
This is a great post, Michelle. I can see the fun of doing the reverse challenge, and your post may be the inspiration I need to do it. The chicken scratches are a great idea, will help because of the competitive, aspect, as well. Good job.

Stacie Jacques


I love the idea of meditating in or about a space before making your decision. As you know, I’ve been on the same journey, and I have had a few items that have long since been donated that I wished I still owned. I think the catch for me was that I hurried the process: I was so focused on the end result that I didn’t allow for some time for thoughts to catch up with my actions. Congratulations on your success!

Michelle Barber


Thanks, Stacie! I’ve been in your shoes a few times – and sometimes I still miss things too. So if I’m uncertain about something I’m getting rid of, it often sits on the kitchen table for a while. Recently, that helped me let go of a number of objects, but I still decided to keep one.

I wonder if you could buy a replacement for the things you miss? Or, if they’re irreplaceable, create a little collage or something to honor the memory.