As promised on Tuesday I have another wonderful interview to share with you today. Once again Ideealistin has put together a great interview, this time with Dave Bruno of The 100 Thing Challenge.
You might remember back on January 13th my post consisted of a review of Dave’s book The 100 Thing Challenge and how my skepticism changed to enlightenment once I had read the book. Before this I had only seen snippets from other bloggers about this concept and I thought it was just a fad that would be expensive to retract when the novelty wore of for some of the over eager participants who plunged into the deep end at the drop of a hat. I dare say this was the case for some but as it turned out Dave’s Challenge went a little deeper than that and was only applied to his share of personal items in the household to which he was a merely one member.
Although I do not aspire to ever attempt the 100 Thing Challenge I found that what Dave aspired to and achieved was not all that different and carries much the same lessons as my own challenge has done for me.
Dave, you decided to cut back on consuming after realising it’s not moving you closer to contentment but rather is a rat race. Was the cutting back an idea that formed slowly or did you have some kind of epiphany?
Dave Bruno: It definitely formed over time. For many years, I had wanted to live more simply than I actually did. So the idea of simplifying was there. But the decision to do the 100 Thing Challenge was a bit of an epiphany. It was a plan I thought up in one night and jumped right into.
Why did you have to do it in a challenge? Did you need a big bang? A starting point? A definite goal? A guideline? A name for it?
Dave Bruno: I cannot answer this question well. The idea just came to me. You have to understand, at the time I decided to do this, I only had maybe 50 people reading my website. This 100 Thing Challenge idea was personal. My way of resisting consumerism. I had no thoughts whatsoever that anyone would think it was interesting. It never ceases to amaze me that hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people around the world have heard of the 100 Thing Challenge and are fascinated by it. While I cannot quite comprehend that, perhaps the response to the 100 Thing Challenge is the most interesting thing about it. Consumerism, it seems, is very much on the minds of many people around the world.
Minimalism, abstinence, vegetarianism – do you have an explanation why we love to label our lifestyle choices so much (just as we like to have labels on things apparently …) and whether this is a good or a bad thing?
Dave Bruno: This is an important question. Humans are purposeful. We long to do actions that are meaningful. We are unique among the creation in this manner. There are no other creatures that even come close to humans with regards to our longing for purpose. Why does a person practice abstinence? Simply so that she does not have sex? No. She has a reason behind it. Perhaps a health reason or a moral reason. She’s intentional. But I am troubled by some people who practice minimalism. For some minimalists, there is no purpose. Having few possessions is the end. Usually people who feel this way then use their minimalism for self-indulgence. They are unattached to possessions and so feel free to do whatever they want. Their purpose is themselves. I think that is a damaging philosophy.
My own view is that consumerism has replaced the human desire to accomplish meaningful things with an impulse to buy things. Thus, I am advocating simple living as a way to remember who we are. It’s not that we are meant to only have 100 things. It’s that we are meant to do meaningful actions. When we fill our lives up with possessions, we forget who we are. So minimalism is a way to see ourselves for who we are. But it is not an end. It is a path to living a more purposeful, less selfish, life.
100 was just a number you picked randomly (probably because it sounded good?) – where you aware that so many people would follow you, try to beat you or discuss, whether 100 was a good or a bad number?
Dave Bruno: Again, I didn’t think about what others would say. I didn’t want to be a hermit, so I didn’t pick 50. And 150 would have been too easy. So 100 seemed like the right number. I suppose, looking back, it is a good number to have picked. People like a nice round number.
The experiment wasn’t necessarily about balance but about exploring what’s possible in terms of doing without. What is harder,to reach and endure the extreme or to live and define the ever changing balance?
Dave Bruno: Here in America we live in a consumer culture. It is very easy to get stuff. It is hard to get rid of stuff. So it was difficult to purge my possessions. Once they were gone, though, it was relatively easy to live with less. That’s the big secret of the 100 Thing Challenge: It wasn’t that hard.
What was the best you got out of the experiment? What was bad? and what was probably totally unexpected?
Dave Bruno: There are two bests. First, living with less does produce freedom. It has allowed me more time and energy to pursue meaningful activities. That’s wonderful!
Perhaps the bad and the unexpected are the same. I’ve become more aware than ever how much consumerism has damaged many lives and the world. In our times, the relentless pursuit of stuff has destroyed families, who divorce and fight because of stuff! It has squandered tallent, as young professionals use their skills to make and sell stuff. And of course it has damaged the earth. When we’re busy buying our next toy, we don’t see these tragedies. When we slow down and become aware, there is some grief we must grieve.
Is there anything you thought you could do without and found out you couldn’t? And if yes, was it a problem for you to go one step back because it was hard to replace something or hard to admit defeat?
Dave Bruno: I don’t have a hard time admitting defeat. Who hasn’t been wrong? And will I not be wrong again some day? Best to admit it and move on.
Anyway, I did replace my guitar after the challenge was over. I simply missed it. I’m not a musician, so it wasn’t horrible to live without a guitar for a year. But after the year was over, I decided I wanted music back in my life.
Also, I would like a new pair of shoes.
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Once again I have to say what a great interview. Ideealistin asked some questions of Dave that, since reading the book, I really wanted answers to. I was particularly taken with this response from Dave ~ For some minimalists, there is no purpose. Having few possessions is the end. Usually people who feel this way then use their minimalism for self-indulgence. They are unattached to possessions and so feel free to do whatever they want. Their purpose is themselves. I think that is a damaging philosophy. ~ It is something I have suspected from the moment that I discovered this movement called minimalism. I dare say that although the majority genuinely care for the environment and quality of life for themselves and others there will alway be the few who see it as a way to be lazy, uncommitted and totally carefree. Although those traits my sound tempting to a degree there is usually a point where they can be taken too far and the participant just becomes a burden on society.
My deepest thanks go out to Ideealistin for the opportunity to post this interview on my blog and many thanks to Dave Bruno for allowing her to share his words with me.
Today’s Declutter Item
In an attempt to declutter his pocket of bulk my husband has worked his way through a few brands of wallet/bill folds over some years. This is one of the rejects that will be handed on to the thrift store. Hopefully the one he is using now is perfect.
Something I Am Grateful For Today
I am extremely grateful that I have had the opportunity to travel in my life. Whether overseas of within my own country it is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to see new places, meet new people and learn a little more about this wonderful planet on which we live.