Interview with Dave Bruno, creator of the 100 Thing Challenge

In my first article on The 100 Thing Challenge, I discussed Dave Bruno's invitation to reduce your dependence on "stuff."  He created the idea of selecting just 100 things to own in your life for a whole year.  Tomorrow is the end of his one year, having successfully simplified his life.  I interviewed Dave recently to gain some more insights into his experience.

Looking back over the past twelve months what surprised you most about taking your own 100 Thing Challenge?

Dave: There were two big insights I learned.  First, leading up to  my start date I discovered how hard it is to get rid of things in our culture.  On the one hand it's easy to go to the mall and come back with five things you didn't expect to buy, but it's hard to get rid of stuff.  I was trying to give things away, sell them on eBay or give them to friends or charities. 

Secondly, after living like this for the first month I was surprised how easy it was to live without things, or thinking about buying more things.  I almost wish it was harder to do so it felt like a bigger accomplishment.  The Oprah Winfrey Show called me because they were looking for guests on a show they were doing about people who live eccentric lifestyles.  They really wanted to hear dramatic examples of sacrifices my family had to make, but I explained to them that it's really been very painless...it's just that my life is much simpler than it was.  They ended up passing on me because my story wasn't dramatic enough for prime time television.  This isn't an eccentric lifestyle, but it is definitely more pleasurable.

What's the promise or hope of simplifying our lives?

As consumers we're told that we can achieve the perfect life if we just own the the right things - having the perfect car or the perfect party outfit to look fabulous.  A lot of people want to fellowship with friends and family, but they look at their house and feel they can't entertain people in their home - they feel like they need the perfect looking home for entertaining. 

We're told that if we can acquire all these things we'll be happy - but it's simply not true.  As humans we aren't created to achieve that kind of perfection in life - it's an unreachable goal. The car, dress or house ends up being not so perfect after you own it for awhile.

However, we are capable of achieving joyfulness in life through great relationships with our families and community.  We can achieve a joyful lifestyle with whatever we own.  We have to resist the notion that the good life comes from getting more stuff. 

How has living The Challenge affected your personal outlook?

It's been good for our family.  Like everyone, we've made some unwise financial decisions in the past - nothing disastrous - and it's helped us become more conscious about our purchasing decisions.  I've been overly cautious the past year so it's balanced out to make me more "responsible" in my purchasing.  We recently replaced some well-worn furniture and we really went out of our way to find some good deals - and it felt responsible rather than spontaneous.

What practical tips would you give anyone who wants to start The 100 Thing Challenge?

First, don't think of this as a really rigid program - like a strict diet where if you fall off the wagon then you're no good.  The rules are purposely somewhat loose so people can adapt it to what they can do and so more people can participate.  Approach the program joyfully as a life-long change, rather than, as a rigid program to complete within 90 days.

Second, start realistically - start small.  Work on one area, a wardrobe for instance, and do a little bit every day and stick with it for a month or two.  Remember you're trying to change habits, not just cleaning out your closet.

How did the 100 Thing Challenge come about?

I originally started a blog called stuckinstuff.com - a lot of people feel stuck in clutter.  A lot of people have gotten trapped using their career to buy more stuff, rather than helping their community or their industry.  What they're looking for is an opportunity to get un-stuck; the opportunity to focus on what most of us feel are the important things in life. 

The 100 Thing Challenge was a spontaneous thing - I looked around one day and asked myself if I'm living a simpler life to the degree that I should.  I realized that living with 50 things would be too austere - the goal isn't to live on the least amount of stuff, but rather living on a minimal amount.  You can actually live a normal life with 100 things.

Note: for more information on The 100 Thing Challenge or Dave Bruno go to http://www.guynameddave.com/100-thing-challenge.html