How Much Stuff is Just Enough Stuff?

It’s been just over a year since we chucked nearly all of our belongings so that we could travel freely around the world. This means it’s been a year since we made those initial decisions about how much stuff was the right amount of stuff to have. When we started, our thought process had gone something like this:

“How big of a bag should we carry?”
“Nothing bigger than what we can carry on.”

And that is how we determined just exactly how much stuff was the right amount of stuff for us: it must fit in a carry-on. Was that really the right amount of stuff to be happy and comfortable? How many things do we actually use and how many things are just sort of along for the ride? I believe that the number of things we use or  just like having is different for everyone, and I believe that number is actually a lot smaller than most of us think.

Author Dave Bruno would agree. He challenged himself to spend a year owning only 100 things and then wrote The 100 Thing Challenge about his experience. Obviously, the number of things he chose to have was 100, but the number he seemed to settle into after a year was around 80. I think that’s pretty interesting. At first, he was really daunted by getting down to 100 things, and then he found his balance was actually 20% less.

Our situation was a little different than his. We weren’t getting rid of our stuff solely for the sake of living simply. We wanted to travel and we wanted to do so with a fresh start. We didn’t want to feel tethered by a pile of stuff lurking somewhere. Should we decide to settle again, we fully intend to maintain a simple set of belongings. And there are benefits to this lifestyle. One day I woke up to the sound of the fire alarm in our apartment. Fortunately, it turned out to be just the neighbor’s toaster sitting too close to the smoke detector. But before I knew that, it had been easy for me to know what to do. Grab my laptop, wallet, phone, and our passports. The rest could stay behind, and I was fine with that.

In essence, we have been taking part in our own Not-Many-Things Challenge. Though instead of being limited by a specific number of things, we’ve been limited by physical capacity. In other words, we don’t have a lot of wiggle room for things that are just along for the ride. After reading Dave’s book, and being just a little past the anniversary mark of our own purging, it made me start to wonder what my own number of things is.

Well, my number is 114.5.

It comes from the 86 things that are exclusively mine (my toothbrush, my clothes, my computer…) and 28.5 things — which is one half of all things Mike and I share (our yoga mat, tiny speaker, wooden spoon, etc.).

With Mike’s 59 things, my things, and our shared things, the two of us have 202 things. Maybe there is something to that number 100 after all. Hmm. So here is how our stuff breaks down.



How did I get those numbers? Did I actually count all of our stuff? Yep. And it really didn’t take all that long. And for you nit-pickers out there, I count a pair of earrings counts as 1 thing. If you want more details on exactly what that stuff is, we have made an incomplete packing list.

So go on and challenge yourself to count the stuff in your underwear drawer. How quickly will you reach 100 things? And how much stuff is just the right amount of stuff for you to be happy and comfortable?

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