Book Review: The 100 Thing Challenge

The 100 Thing Challenge book

Who wrote it: Dave Bruno

What it’s all about:

In the book, Dave Bruno talks about how he came up with The 100 Thing Challenge and decided to undertake it for a year. He outlines the circumstances that he found himself in — dealing not just with clutter at home but also with a discontent that he tried to solve by shopping — and discusses how these pushed him to do the challenge.

Dave walks us through the preparations he had to make for the challenge. These included selling, giving, and throwing away the things that he didn’t really need and dealing with the emotional anguish that came with stripping away layers of stuff and revealing the unfulfilled dreams they cover. He also talks about the experiences he had during the 100 Thing Challenge year as well as the reactions he received from his family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. Throughout the book, Dave shares his realisations about consumerism, humbleness, and contentment.

Why I like it:

I first learned about The 100 Thing Challenge when I read this article by The Minimalists, but I didn’t really pay attention to it. When I found the book at Booksale, I immediately bought it not because I liked it specifically but because I’m interested in minimalism/simple living books in general. It’s embarrassing, but my first reaction when I started reading was “Ha! I don’t need this.” I’d already learned through The Happiness Project that I was an underbuyer, so I didn’t really think that I had a problem with consumerism. With my strong impulse to save, my aversion to fashion, and my tendency to feel buyer’s guilt after buying anything, how could I possibly have a problem with shopping?

Boy, was I wrong

As I read through The 100 Thing Challenge, I began to realise that I, like many other people around the Philippines and around the world, have issues with consumerism. I’m lucky enough to be born to lower-middle class parents who don’t have money, so I spent my grade school, high school, and college years without being surrounded by luxuries. However, this doesn’t stop me from desiring things. I don’t lust after clothes and handbags like other girls, but I long for books, sneakers, and journals, which still ARE stuff. And, as what Dave mentioned in the book, I place a lot of expectations on the things I buy or want to buy, which is still a sign of a consumerist mind.

I had a lot of realisations after reading the book that I had to write a separate blog post for my thoughts on The 100 Thing Challenge (or else this book review would be too long). So, all I’ll say here is that I really, really liked the book. It’s an eye-opener, whether you already acknowledge that you have a shopping problem or are still in denial that you have consumerist tendencies.

You can even try doing the challenge on your own. After reading the book, I listed the things I use every day (laptop, charger, cooling fan, and electric fan), the things that I wear every day (pangbalay/pambahay clothes like sleeveless tops and pajama bottoms), and other stuff (e.g. my favourite books, colouring books, and colour pencils). Like Dave, I counted my undies as one item (instead of listing them individually) but, unlike him, I counted my books one by one (Dave counted his books as “one library”). All in all, I came up with 114 things. This number can increase if I do a thorough job of counting (I didn’t include my bed, desk, and chair, for instance), but it can also decrease if I try to make do without some of my things (I can probably live without my tablet, three pairs of scissors, and various highlighters if I really had to).

I probably won’t do The 100 Thing Challenge any time soon. However, I will live by its principles and try to create a humble, contented life that doesn’t place a lot of importance on things.

Where to buy it: I got lucky and found my copy while traipsing around Booksale in E-Mall in Cebu. You can probably hunt for one in other Booksale branches or order a copy through Fully Booked or Amazon.

Favourite quotes:

When is the moment we stop looking for something of value and start desiring something that we think will make us more valuable ourselves?

The 100 Thing Challenge has lots of quotes that I love; in fact, my copy is striped in pink highlighter because Dave Bruno has written many wonderful insights that I want to remember. But I chose to feature the question above because it’s something that everyone needs ask, especially when we go shopping.

I don’t know about you, but my buying process usually starts out like this: 1) I decide to get something I need (maybe a new pair of jeans or new shoes). 2) I go to the mall. 3) I browse through the racks. 4) I find something that I like and fits me. 5) I head off to the cash register with the item in hand.

Sounds totally normal, right? But, somewhere between steps 3 and 4, I sometimes find myself going from wanting to buy what I need to wanting to buy something that will make me look and feel cooler. It’s not unique, actually; after all, who doesn’t want to look pretty and attractive? But the problem is this: during the shopping process, I become engrossed in popular brands and often end up buying designer things when I could have just opted for cheaper, unbranded items.

This doesn’t happen often (because I don’t shop often). And I can rationalise this by saying that branded stuff often have better quality and can last longer and that they have bigger sizes that fit me better. But I have to admit that, sometimes, I buy products from big-name brands simply because I want other people to notice that I’m wearing/using branded things.

And that, my friends, is consumerism. Consumerism has many definitions, but one of the moments when you notice its presence is when you go from wanting to fulfill a basic need (e.g. getting a pair of shoes that would protect your feet) to wanting to buy something that will transform you into someone you’re not (e.g. a fashionable “It” girl with a cool pair of kicks).

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