Reverse 100 Thing Challenge: How I Decluttered 800 Things

For the past 15 months, I’ve gotten rid of 800 items in my home. It all started with Dave Bruno’s 100 Thing Challenge and then Courtney Carver’s Reverse 100 Thing Challenge. I thought I’d never be able to part with so many of my possessions that I’d achieve Bruno’s goal of owning only 100 things. Even Carver’s goal of just getting rid of 100 things seemed slightly impossible.

But in one year (2012), I easily decluttered 500 items, while only bringing 100 new items into my home. And I just got rid of 300 more items in these first three months of 2013.

You can read about the first 100 items here.

You can read about the first 400 items here.

Or you can read about the whole effort of 2012 here.

Rather than detailing all of the discarded objects in this post, I want to offer suggestions for your own simplification project. These won’t be your usual clean-out-one-closet-at-a-time projects nor will I tell you to get rid of clothes you haven’t worn in the past six months. You can search the web for lots of great posts like that.   I’m going to go a bit more extreme.


The Reverse 100 Thing Challenge: Expert Level


Limit: 2-3

  • You only need 2-3 sets of sheets. 1 on the bed, 1 in the laundry, and 1 back-up. Even if you live in the North, like I do, and have very different winter and summer sheets, you only need 1 set on the bed and 1 set to use while the other is in the laundry.
  • Unless you really feel you need to use a different towel every day, you only need 2-3 towels, for the same reasons outlined for sheets: 1 towel you’re using, 1 in the laundry, and 1 back-up.
  • In the kitchen, only having 2-3 knives, large serving bowls, platters, etc. is the most any of us ever really use on a daily basis.


  • Digitize your music.
  • Digitize paperwork, like your taxes, receipts, policies, etc., especially anything that’s older than seven years.
  • Digitize your memories. If you have keepsakes that you only keep buried in a box in a closet, ask yourself if you really need to keep the physical object and/or if someone else might benefit from it. If you can get rid of the item, take a photo of the object and store it on your phone, thumbdrive or in the cloud.

Simplify your wardrobe – seriously

  • Buy only black socks for work, white ones for home, or whatever uniform combo you’d like. You can make your laundry, your mornings and your sock drawer much easier to navigate.
  • Limit yourself to 10 outfits for each season. This will give you a solid two week wardrobe rotation. That should be plenty.Try for even fewer casual outfits.
  • Synchronize your clothes with your laundry schedule. Buy enough socks, underwear or undershirts to see you through a laundry cycle. This may seem obvious, but how many of us have been caught without some vital piece of clothing on laundry day? Go ahead, count your clothes and synch it up – this may be one of the few ways of simplifying that actually entails buying more of something!

Meditate on your space

Select an area of your home (or life) you’d like to simplify. Go into/around/near that space and look around. If you can, just sit in that space and observe what your attention is drawn to.

You may feel compelled to grab a few things that you immediately know you can donate. Or maybe a corner of the area is chaotic or unorganized or uncomfortable for you. Meditate in the space for a while and observe what feelings come up.

Envision what you’d like to feel in this space. You may be able to act quickly or it may take weeks or even months to come to terms with what you should get rid of or how you should reorganize.

Take this mindfulness all over your home, into every room, drawer and closet. At some point in my simplification process, my attention kept going toward my finances and my diet. Eventually, I could see how complicated these realms were.

Follow your energy in decluttering your life.

Replace “complicated” with “simple”

You may find that you really want to get rid of an object, but you need an alternative. Maybe you only use your breadmaker once a year, so it’s a waste of counter space. Nonetheless, you love using it when you do. So find a friend who wants your breadmaker and make a bread-baking date for that once-a-year bread itch.

Or maybe you have a chair that’s too large for a space or, for whatever reason, is really distracting for you. Find and buy the right chair for the right space. Simplifying and minimalism are not just about numerically minimizing the objects in our lives, but also about finding the right objects, at the right time, for the right purpose, in the right space. This is the luxurious part of simplicity: buy, make or borrow the one thing that you need, not the ten other things that are distractions.

As you minimize clutter in your life and as things naturally wear out, take the time to truly invest in the new things you obtain. Sometimes that means you don’t replace an object at all.  Other times, it means you go organic or handmade. And sometimes – something I’m shooting for more – it means buying the highest quality possible, so that I’ll appreciate the object for decades to come.

A few more hiding places

  • Desk drawers: digitize those business cards, donate extra office supplies if you have more than two or three of each.
  • Closet: do you really need the curtain rod from your last apartment?
  • Groceries: buy fresh produce with minimal packaging, so you’re not increasing the amount of plastic, bags, boxes and garbage in your life.
  • Toolbox: label those bags of nuts and bolts, get rid of mystery tools (and keys!) if you haven’t used them since, say, your last move
  • Junk drawer: pick a number you’re comfortable with. Let’s use 12. If you have more than 12 of any of these: twist ties, pencils, pens, notepads, batteries, rubber bands, clothespins, or bag clips, consider throwing them away, or donating or recycling what you can.

Have you taken steps beyond these?  I’d love to hear your ideas!


Photo credit: Cathy Calamas

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