The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno (Review)

“Is prosperity only a material condition? Is there not prosperity of the soul? Outward riches without inward peace, I think we can all agree is a tentative state of wealth.” -Dave Bruno

Having never actually been a follower of Dave Bruno’s Blog, I only had a vague idea what the 100 thing challenge was all about, and in my ignorance I was very sceptical about the concept of paring down to only 100 things. The odd snippets I did come across while reading minimalist blogs gave me the impression that a lot of people were jumping on the band wagon like it was some kind of competition as to how few things the participants could live with.

When out of the blue I received an email from Mary at Harper Collins asking if I would be interested in receiving a free copy to review my initial reaction was to think – Do I really want to add this book clutter to my home.  Then I thought – What have I a got to loose, I can always hand the book on when I am done.

Well I have to say the book pleasantly surprised me. The story is simply one man’s attempt to break free from the constraints of American-Style consumerism. As my readers know I am  a strong advocate for adopting a more sustainable approach to consuming. My first advice when it comes to decluttering is to be conscious about what you buy or you will just be re-cluttering while you are decluttering.

Dave lives with his wife and three daughters in San Diego, California. He sets his story up with a little information about his life from both a business and personal point of view so we get to know him a little. He outlines the rules  of his challenge so we know exactly what is considered personal items, and what items are considered shared property, so not included in the challenge. Dave is honest and open about his struggles during the challenge, and about the mistakes he made with some of his choices.

He touches on how disappointment is built into the products we buy causing us to be constantly dissatisfied with our purchases. I could really relate to this and have blogged about this problem myself in the past on Day 214 and Day 111. Sustainability is not even a factor in some of the useless and flimsy products on the market.

Even though he took a year to reduce his belongings to the 100 thing limit, it forced him to part with some things that he later regretted not keeping.  This particularly concerned me as he then talks of replacing those items once the challenge was over. He also traded a few items out as the challenge went along.  All in all though, compared to the average consumer he certainly set a fabulous example for how we can all live a fulfilling life with minimal possessions. Several months after the challenge is over he is still living with less than 100 personal items, and content that the challenge brought him to to his goal of being a more thoughtful and joyful person.

Would I recommend reading this book? Yes, I personally preferred reading the first half of the book, it tells of Dave’s soul searching to choose which 100 personal items to keep. He delves into the reasons behind why he was clinging to certain objects in his life, how he came to terms with and untangled those ties. How there is more to it than just parting with the items but also letting go of the unrealised dreams that those items represent. For this alone the story is really worth the read.

I wouldn’t suggest that you reduce you personal belongings to 100 things on a whim?  No, but it is not unreasonable to think that in the endeavour to simplify and declutter your life you may wake up one day and realise you have done  just that. I have no doubt that you would be happier for it.

Today’s Declutter Item

Another DVD that Liam decluttered. He has been very cooperative with the decluttering lately and I am milking that for all it’s worth. There is no telling how long it will last.

Skate DVD 13JAN2011

Things I am grateful for today

  1. I have managed to resurrect a favourite pair of shoes today with the help of a bottle of suede/nubuck dye.
  2. I found a good red lentil dahl recipe on the internet.
  3. I have my car back – Steve’s motorbike is finally back on the road.
  4. I made it home safe and sound each time I left the house today – despite the fact that in four separate instances when vehicles tried or did take my right of way. I seem to have been a crazy driver magnet today.
  5. Memories of reading bedtime stories to my children when they were younger- I loved reading to them and sometimes I would con them into brushing my hair so I would read an extra story. I love to having my hair brushed.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow.



Continue reading with these posts:

  • Day 83 Product Reviews We have all seen advertisements for product that enticed us into believing that "I just can't do without that!" and "I must have one!"  We have fallen in love with the idea that the advertisement i...
  • Day 95 Going to Extremes While cruising the Internet looking for inspiration on the topic of decluttering I found a few interesting articles that take downsizing and minimalism to greater extremes. I am not prepared to go ...
  • Day 76 Sometimes we need help Lets face it, we all have clothes in our closet we haven't worn for some time that for one reason or another we are reluctant to part with. Well, today I have a plan to help you sort out your close...
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. How cool is that that you were singled out to read a book about decluttering? To me, that’s an enormous bow to your wisdom and influence. Wow-ee Colleen.

    • Hi Cindy,
      that is a nice thing to say. I’d like to think that is the case and I did wonder how I ended up in the radar of the publisher but hey whatever the reason I am glad I read the book.

  2. I agree with Cindy – receiving a request to review this book is recognition of the solidity of your posts and blog. Good stuff!

    Good review – and the book sounds like a good read.

    • Hi Jo,
      thank you for that. I did enjoy the book it is quick easy read but I particularly enjoyed the realisations he comes to about his stuff. How he coped living with just the 100 things really wasn’t a focus for me.

  3. thanks for a great review Colleen and I second Cindy’s comment about you being chosen – well done you :)

  4. And what did you do with the book once you were finished???

    • Hi Cindy,
      actually I was thinking for sending it to you if you would be interested in reading it. Maybe you can do your own review for the blog, you may have a different opinion to me or at least a different focus of enjoyment. What do you think? Send me an email with your address if you are interested and I will send it to you in the mail.

      • Well, that’s nice, but expensive to send between us. However, I just checked my library, and it’s not in our system yet. Here’s a thought: You could contact the publisher and ask her to send a copy to your “colleague.”

  5. Thanks for reviewing this book for us — it’s very interesting. Here’s an article that you and your readers might enjoy, about a “Zero-waste” home in Northern California. Some of the tips about decluttering, minimizing material gifts for the kids, and avoiding packaging are quite good:
    http://www.sunset.com/home/natural-home/zero-waste-home-0111-00418000069984/

    • I had mixed feelings about this article. I felt that it focused a lot on normalizing the family (“Really, they have all the same stuff as you and I! They just keep it in glass jars!”) and made their great effort sound mighty easy, which it cannot have been.

      Except for the grocery store, it was a bit unclear as to how no waste is being generated. For example, she said they use gauze and tape rather than bandaids. Well, I know they’re not savings these items, so where do they go afterwards? Compost bin?

      Her point about recycling sometimes ending up in the landfill is a good one, and as I have written before, I’ve seen people be more careless with their choices because “it’s recyclable!” Recycling may take less energy than producing goods from raw materials, but it certainly isn’t even close to energy-neutral.

      I like the mention of the gifts the boys got. A skii weekend and trip to the ice cream palor sound like fantastic gifts to me. (In fact, it’s a goal here at the Bogard household to give no material gifts to my children’s friends this year. First up is athletic Emma who will be donating basket balls to support a girls’ athletic program via http://www.DonorsChoose.org. After that will be Grace (nicknamed Gracy Lou Foxbottom), who will be sponsoring the fox den at our local zoo.)

      The section about streaming movies or getting Netflix rather than watching cable TV was unclear to me – what does that have to do with garbage? In addition, I’m not sure how I feel about her sending her Netflix strip back to Netflix. Just because she doesn’t throw her own bit of trash away, does that mean it’s not her trash?

      Last, I was bothered by their pursuit of a single goal (no trash) possibly at the expense of other decision-making processes. For example, in terms of the overall environment, how can importing toothbrushes from Australia be considered a reasonable substitution to a throw-away US made toothbrush? That thing had to fly a long ways to get to her. I know that even if you can’t buy a compostable toothbrush in the US, there are several companies that make toothbrushes with replacement heads; you keep using the same handle.

      So, as I said, an intersting article, but it left me with more questions than it answered.

      • Hi Cindy,
        it is funny you should send this response because I had my own concerns about this article myself not the least being how new everything in the house looked. I don’t know if it was renovated before they moved in but it certainly hasn’t been long since a whole lot of product has been used to update it. The furniture looked very new too including that lovely modular sofa.
        God bless them for making the effort they are making to be environmentally friendly but like you say there were a lot of questions raised here in my mind. Maybe it is sour grapes on my part in the way of feelings of guilt for not making a bigger effort myself but I feel I am improving all the time and am happy with my progress. Like I say though you have to give them credit for their efforts – because there would be a lot of extra effort involved to maintain this level of Zero Waste.
        Maybe Mrs Green could weigh in on this and let us know how much more time it adds to her day to achieve anything near to Zero Waste.

        • I read that article in the Sunset magazine and thought some of the same things your both did. Cindy’s point of importing compostible toothbrushes from Australia was a salient point. Great for no trash, not so great for using up a whole lot of energy getting it to CA.
          I enjoyed your review of Dave Bruno’s book and would like to read it myself as I’ve been to his blog a few times to read since he is the author of the (somewhat controversial) 100 things challenge. And I too think it’s really cool that you were singled out and asked to write a review of the book!

          • Hi Willow,
            I am glad Cindy and I are not alone on this. In order to make the most out of the transport for those toothbrushes they would have to order a lifetime supply, strange! I am glad you enjoyed the review and I am sure you will enjoy the book and thank you for your vote of confidence.

        • I’m dying for Mrs. Green to weigh in here, alhough I would not expect her to trash (he he) a fellow zero-waste traveler.

        • The article was very inspiring, interesting, and thought-provoking. Although I do have many questions about the practical aspects of living without garbage, the idea is fascinating. However I was distressed by the large number of very vicious and sarcastic comments left on the Sunset website by some readers. There seemed to be a lot more criticism than positive affirmation. What a pitiful picture of the state of the human heart. Colleen, it made me grateful for this blog where we all respect each others’ input and the five things you list for which you are grateful each day. In reading some of the comments, however, I did discover that Bea has a blog; apparently the toothbrushes were not ordered from Australia, but rather she asked a friend who was visiting there to bring some back with her to the US. The article was just too short to offer much information, and I do believe the manner in which it was written was the reason it sparked so much criticism of the family. BTW Mrs. Green did leave a nice comment on the site.

          • Hi Di,
            thank you for your kind words and for the extra information you found on this article or at least the [story behind it]. I suppose I am guilty of not going to the trouble you did to seek out the full information. I should know better. I will seek out Bea’s Blog and read what Mrs Green had to say as well. Thanks again Colleen.

    • I just spent the last week reading all 500 comments on that article (FASCINATING responses, so many people reacted badly!) and then going through her whole blog too! I think a lot of the negative responses were actually to her decluttering which people got mixed up with her zero trash aims – separate things although Im sure the 1st helps the 2nd. No TV was decluttering/simplifying – more family time. The strip sent back to the company was making a point to them, but yes, she does seem to leave stuff at shops a lot to make a point, and as someone mentioned – then you dont know whether they just trash it rather than recycle it! Maybe a little more responsibility could be taken there, even if it increases the trash/recycling on your curbside. I think here she hopes that she is making people think and that balances out the possibility that something isnt properly disposed of.
      After reading her whole blog though she really is putting much thought into the whole process. The modular sofa was actually 2nd hand Colleen, and the toothbrushes were picked up by a friend already travelling to Aus as mentioned. The article really didnt answer a lot of those questions, the blog is much more informative. She is clearly very driven but I dont think it is at the expense of her family life as a lot of people insinuated. I have so much respect for her taking the idea so far – I just know I couldnt – but unfortunately “fanaticism” will always make people uncomfortable and cop you some flak! But its that kind of discomfort that makes people make changes in their own life hopefully….I know I have a lot to think about now!
      What I found particularly interesting was the reactions to her decluttering though. I just take it for granted that people would see the benefits but clearly there are still many people to whom it is a foreign concept!

      • Hi Hanoush,
        I wish I had time to read all those articles and go back through her blog but I really don’t and to simply my life I am not even going to try. I am subscribed to her blog now though and am enjoying what I read.
        My lesson was not to come to too many conclusions if I am not prepared to read all the extra material pertaining to the situation. The is the unfortunate side of doing magazine articles etc because with the limited space for such a topic there are often more questions raised than are answer. And the people involved in the story often don’t get a say as to how the final copy turns out and what is printed and bare the brunt of the backlash.
        I admire what she and her family are doing now to reduce their impact on the environment and what else went on before that is irrelevant. It is never too late to start doing your bit to make the world a better place. I am a long way from where she is with this but I also know I am a long way ahead of a lot of other people and am improving all the time.

  6. What a delight it was to read your very well written book review (I just finished reading Dave’s book yesterday morning via Kindle for PC version). Even more exciting was that you were asked to do it! Yahoo!

    • Hi Annabelle,
      what did you think of the book. I would love to hear your opinion.

      • Ok thanks for asking (I get kinda wordy; your review was so right on point with my thoughts and so initially I didn’t say anything). Anyway, the book was helpful for me. It gave me a good perspective of American-consumerism from a male voice. It provided insights as to why, MAYBE, we ‘collect’ or ‘hang on to’ stuff that just causes clutter; in Dave’s world I think here of the train example. I liked his approach to the affect/effect it had on his kids. The book I found via Amazon (in a search related to minimalism) and therefore I had not heard of or read any of Dave’s blog/stories prior to reading his book (I’m American living in Europe). When I finished reading, I was kinda ‘lost’; so I had to remind myself that his point is about American-consumerism – and breaking away from that as much as feasible. I felt some of his points seemed arbitrary and kinda like ‘excuses’; but possibly it was just his way of defining his perspective during his challenge. Overall, I strongly advocate reading and researching all options feasible relating to a life of minimalism/simplicity and being more environmentally friendly.

        P.S., On another subject….I too, wonder about the usefullness of ordering toothbrushes from Australia when one resides in North America. HUH???? The couch didn’t ‘sit’ well with me, either (LOL! no pun intended!). The kids have their legs up under them. I’m almost 50, gag-zooks, if I even try to sit like that on something soft to play a board game, my circulation pretty much says STOP and I resemble a very intoxicated new born pony when I try to stand up!!! ;)

        • Hi Annabelle,
          thanks for letting us know what you thought of the book as it only hit the shelves on the 11th of January so very few readers would have got their hands on it yet. I was very glad you purchased a digital version as you know I do not like book clutter.

  7. I have a problem with putting a number on these things. While I admire his journey, he was forced to give up things he now regrets. He made the rules his focus instead the freedom.

    In the end though I have to say it’s certainly an inspiring story for those of us trying to declutter our lives.

    • Hi Marnie,
      I am inclined to agree. I did disturb me when he spoke of things he was sorry he got rid of and was planning on replacing. I feel it is better to reduce without a numbered goal in mind and at a gradual process not a mad rush. Even though he reduced over twelve months I think that may be too fast to make rational decisions. As I said I never did agree with putting up number on things but that it was the first half of the book where he talks about parting with items that were really painful clutter from unfulfilled childhood dreams. We all have this sort of clutter and it is the stuff we ought to part with the most but is often the ones that we have a hard time coming to terms with. For those stories alone I feel this book is worth the read.

      • My very wise husband reminds me regularly that if we put a rule on the number of possessions we own, it becomes just a ruled based situation; that’s not freedom. Rules to help us, not rules to bind us, or as he said, “Rules for us, not us for rules.”

        • Hi Willow,
          (I swear if this laptop irretrievably deletes my comment replies before I am done one more time today it will be the next thing to get the chop.)

          Now that I am done with my tantrum I have to say I agree with your husband. I felt Dave restricted himself to a point where there were a few regrets which caused him to have to replace some of those items. That being said the benefits outweighed the sacrifice for him and he has continued to keep it to a number lower than 100. My main problem with this is swapping and changing to keep below 100 items places a little pressure on supply and demand which contributes to the “American Style Consumerism that Dave is so against. Compare to the average consumer he is a saint really though.

  8. Colleen,
    It’s karma you were asked to review this book! I was introduced to the minimalist concept after seeing a TV 60 Minutes snippet on Dave B’s 100 things in November. Checking out the web on his info I found your site. I have been a daily visitor since. I am not yet as diligent about the daily declutter, but I have been inspired to tackle a corner, drawer or closet thanks to your inspirational writings. So today as I am captive with a New England snow storm I started on the warranty drawer and then the china cabinet. Some progress has been made. Hope the floods are subsiding and you and family stay safe.
    Catherine

    • Hi Catherine,
      If is your first comment I’d like to say welcome to 365lessthings and thanks for letting me know how you found me. I am always interested in how people get here. Maybe the publisher that sent me the book found me the same way.

      Also, thank you for sticking with me once you did find me. I am glad you are making a start on your decluttering and that my mini missions give you inspiration. Just the name mini missions makes it seem achievable I think. I hope you get lots of decluttering done during the snow storm.

      Thank you also for your kind concern for the people in Queensland there are a lot of very sad stories there.

  9. Great review Colleen. I’ve just asked my library to buy the book.

  10. Hi Colleen, I am de-lurking to say that I enjoyed your review. I’ve wondered about the 100 Things Challenge since I read about it on another blog. I think the point about one hundred being an arbitrary number is a good one.

    Also, I’m a big fan of dahl but there are a lot of recipes on the internet and it’s hard to tell which ones are good. Would you mind sharing the link?

    • Hi Laura,
      thank you for lurking and also for de-lurking. It is nice to hear your voice and welcome to the comments section of 365lessthings. Everyone has something unique to add to the site and I am glad you have added yours.
      I must send Dave Bruno an email as ask him what part of the Challenge was most valuable to him – The learning to let go or living without all that stuff.

      Here is the link to the dahl recipe I hope you like it. http://www.grouprecipes.com/19103/everyday-red-lentil-dal.html

      Come back to visit again soon!

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  2. [...] 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 [...]

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