70 Things

What I own is what I need. Nothing more.

Back in May 2010, I listed all the things I owned at the time, which came out to be 84 things in total. I had just moved into a house with 2 other roommates (strangers beforehand) and the fact that it took me literally less than 15 minutes to unload and put “everything” away was astonishing, fun, and emphasizes how much I enjoy the minimalist life.

Now, about 4 months later, I’ve looked at my possessions and have now gotten it to 70 things. Which means I somehow got rid of 14 things over the course of the summer (some of the old things were swapped out with new things, and some things were given away completely).

Invariably, I get several questions regarding my things, so to better help others out, it’s best for me to post it on my blog where it can reach many more people versus me just helping out only one person at a time (not like there’s anything wrong with that, though!).

Questions and Answers About A Minimalist’s Things:

Q: How do you determine what constitutes a “thing”? Is one folder or one sheet of paper a thing? Or is the stack of folders or stack of papers a thing?

A: Yes, it may sound a little funny or ridiculous if you start counting each sheet of paper (and not a good use of one’s time for that matter). Ultimately, it’s up to you.

For me, I count like items, such as pairs of socks, underwear, and art supplies, as 1 thing. So socks would be 1 thing, though I may have 5 pairs in actuality.

To be more extreme, yes, you can indeed count each pair (or each sock?! whoa!) but I find it works best for me to categorize like items. The key is to not go overboard and have a lot of things in that category. So, 4 cars would be considered a lot! Be mindful of what is actually in that category when you clump it all together.

Q: Are there any rules to counting your things or making your own list?

A: There are no real or set rules to counting your things while making your own list. Just like there are no set rules when living your own life. And that’s a great thing!

However, if you are new to this concept of counting your things as a beginning or novice minimalist and just want a certain standard to measure yourself by, myself as well as other minimalist bloggers out there (Leo Babauta, Everett Bogue, Colin Wright, Francine Jay, and Tammy Strobel are just some prime examples) typically do not count shared items (that which you share with your spouse or family members), kitchenware, and furniture. Nor are consumables counted (toiletries, food, things that will be used up or are perishable).

Q: Do you count bedroom, furniture, or kitchenware on your list?

A: You can if you want to, but typically, we do not.

Yes, you can then come back and argue we are not being truly minimalist if we don’t even count those items as “things” but this just defeats the purpose and we’ll just end up going in circles. There are so many angles and ways to look at this “counting” business and you just have to be satisfied with making it your own.

In the end, everything is perishable, including us. We all have to go at some point. Not counting something as a thing versus counting something else as a thing is just pointless.

Make your own list, create your own rules you want to follow when making your list (or do away with rules altogether), and then just do it!

The whole premise behind your own list is that you start evaluating what is actually considered essential to you in your life right now, versus what is just there, due to sheer laziness, emotional attachments, overwhelming clutter, and a consumerist mentality. Whatever you consider as clearly vital to your living right now (and that makes you feel good, has good memories or feelings associated with it), you keep. Whatever has negative emotions, drama, and baggage, or that’s simply useless or broken, you get rid of through 1 of 4 means:

  1. Donate.
  2. Recycle.
  3. Sell.
  4. Trash.

Q: Why aim for 100 things or under?

A: The number 100 is a nice, even number and a good rule of thumb to aim for if one is trying to live minimally. It is, of course, not the end-all-be-all. If you have 102 items, no worries! You’ll still be far more minimalist than the majority of our consumerist friends, family, and colleagues out there.

Really, the number is arbitrary. It’s the concept that is much more meaningful.

The whole point of a minimalist life is to rid yourself of the non-essentials. What you have left should be what is deemed as indispensable to you as a person, in your life right now.

Q (not really a question): You’re insane.

A: Just living my life the way I want to!

So with that, here is my list of things, as of September 6, 2010:

  1. Netbook, Acer Aspire One 10.1″
  2. Backpack, Patagonia
  3. Journal, Moleskine
  4. Art supplies (grouped as 1 item)
  5. Books (grouped as 1 item)
  6. Karate gis
  7. Karate gear
  8. Cell phone, Samsung
  9. USB Flash Drive, PNY
  10. CDs (grouped as 1 item, very few)
  11. Headphones
  12. Car, Silver, 2007 Honda Fit Sport
  13. Mini karate gi (displayed inside car)
  14. Sunglasses, Brown, Fossil
  15. Gym bag, Pink, Adidas
  16. Linen gym bag, Green
  17. Wristlet, NY&Co.
  18. Belt, Black, Express
  19. Trench coat, Black, Banana Republic
  20. Track jacket, Black, Adidas
  21. Winter coat, The Gap
  22. Peacoat, Cream
  23. Pencil skirt, Gray, Banana Republic
  24. Cardigan, Black, Banana Republic
  25. Scarf, White, Liz Claiborne
  26. Winter Cap, Black, Urban Outfitters
  27. Earmuffs
  28. Gloves, White
  29. Gloves, Black
  30. Heels, Black, Nine West
  31. Boots, Black, Aerosoles
  32. Sneakers, White, Puma
  33. Vibram FiveFingers Classic, Black
  34. Sandals, Brown, Abercrombie & Fitch
  35. Eyeglasses, Guess
  36. Underwear (grouped as 1 item)
  37. Bras (grouped as 1 item)
  38. Socks (grouped as 1 item)
  39. Zip-up hoodie, ISKC
  40. Bikini, Purple
  41. Blouse, Fuschia, NY&Co.
  42. Blouse, Black, H&M
  43. Blouse, Blue, NY&Co.
  44. Blouse, White, Banana Republic
  45. Sweatpants, Gray, Hollister
  46. Jeans, Abercrombie & Fitch
  47. Khakis, Abercrombie & Fitch
  48. Chinos, Gray, NY&Co.
  49. Work out capris, Black, Adidas
  50. Work out pants, Gray, Victoria’s Secret
  51. Shirt, Black, Threads 4 Thought
  52. Shirt, Teal, Under Armour
  53. T-shirt, Gray, J.Crew
  54. T-shirt, Blue, Lollapalooza
  55. T-shirt, Natural, Overpacked
  56. Shorts, Black
  57. Shorts, Blue, Reebok
  58. Polo, Turquoise, Roxy
  59. Tank top, Green, Urban Outfitters
  60. Tank top, Black, Victoria’s Secret
  61. Dress, Gray
  62. Dress, Gray
  63. Dress, Teal, Old Navy
  64. Dress, Black, Charlotte Russe
  65. Dress pants, Tan, The Limited
  66. Dress pants, Black, Banana Republic
  67. Sweater, White, Express
  68. Sweater, Red, Express
  69. Sweater, Blue, The Gap
  70. Sweater, Gray, Banana Republic

Owning 70 things in the whole wide world means I can travel with less, move with ease, and pack in a breeze. Just to demonstrate the simplicity of a move, I moved to my new apartment in Bucktown (neighborhood of Chicago) with just the things in my car. And there was still room in my car to fit a passenger in the front! Not to mention it’s a Honda Fit.

I don’t have to put excess things in storage, pay for storage, ship it around or lug it up and down the stairs. What I own is what I need. Nothing more.

If you’ve tried counting the things you own and started creating your own list, tell me, how many things do you own? Or if it’s too much to count now, what’s the ballpark figure? And more importantly, do you want to get it down to a more manageable amount of things? If so, great! I hope this post helps. If not and you think I’m nuts, even better! It just means I’m doing something different, something uncomfortable for most average consumers. By lessening my things, I free myself to simply enjoy life.

If this post has inspired you, please feel free to share with others! You can stay updated by subscribing to the or follow me on  and . Thanks and see you next time! :)

  • Chelsea E Myers

    I am by far not a minimalist right now, but I love the idea. Right now I’m going through cabinets and closets, and my mission is to get rid of at least one thing. Usually it’s more than that, but if I’m feeling especially sentimental I tell myself I only have to part with one thing. There’s always one thing that doesn’t have any attachment to it.

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    Excellent way to start slow when paring down your things, Chelsea! Easy does do it. My minimalist journey didn’t happen overnight. It took time, but the very first step was making the decision to live life more simply and less entrenched in our burdening materialism. It CAN be done. Keep it up!!

  • http://livesimp.ly Chris Stroud

    Love it! I am currently at 92 things and trying to work my way down to 75 by the end of the year. Great work.

  • Kal

    No toothbrush?

  • Fanny

    I love the Bonsai! Where do you keep your beautiful drawings and artwork? Do you plan on hanging them on the walls?

  • Stefanie

    Thanks for the inspiration. I have always had the dream of having a bedroom like yours. I’ve already started paring down my “stuff”, but you’ve inspired me to tackle other areas like my clothes. Keep your dream in front of you.

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    Woo hoo, thanks Stefanie! You as well!

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    Hey Fanny! I’ve been giving away a lot of my drawings and artwork to friends and family as gifts. nnThe ones I do keep, I have in my sketchbook or in a small binder with my original artwork. I also have a few digital photos/scanned copies of the artwork so I can easily see it on my computer or send it to whomever as a fun screensaver. Right now, I have my first mixed media painting that I gave my mom for her birthday set as my computer desktop wallpaper. Knowing my art is enjoyed by others completes my work full circle. Yay!

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    I don’t believe in dental hygiene … LOL, of course I have one! This list is for just my things I own not counting kitchenware (which is very few), toilettries (toothbrush included), and any furniture (which is just my mattress).

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    Yeah, go Chris!!!

  • http://twitter.com/nerd4live Aisha Farhoud

    So cool, posting pics was particularly inspirational :)nI was wondering if you have any old stuff at your parents’ house or have you gotten rid of that, too?

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    What you see is what I have. :) Keeping stuff at other places, be it my parents, friends, or storage would defeat the whole purpose of minimizing.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing pictures, Nina. I recently moved 1,000 miles and pared down (what I felt was) a lot…it still took a full Mazda five-door and a full Dodge Ram pickup to cart everything, and there’s still a bunch of things left at my parents’ house and other various places around town back at home. I know we’re on the right track, though. You’re inspiring me to keep it up!

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    As long as you are on the right track and know where you’re headed, that’s all that matters! It will take time no doubt. Stay steadfast!

  • Paige of Redefining Wealth

    Your bedroom looks so peaceful and serene. I love it!nnJust out of curiosity, approximately how many books do you have? I’m always trying to scale down my books but it’s hard because I do love books. I probably have about 70. Of course with e-books now it’s getting easier to reduce the clutter of books.

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    Good question, Paige! I too, adore books and love reading! It’s one of my very favorite things to do. nnAt the same time, keeping all these books is unnecessary. It can be cumbersome, time-consuming, cluttering, and if not actually an active library, can go untouched for years. Sad.nnI currently own just 2 books but will most likely sell them on Amazon by the end of the year. For reading purposes, I check all my books out at the library, go to the bookstore to browse new books and just because I like the overall feeling of a bookstore, or borrow some books from friends. This is the best way to go about books — by sharing the love!

  • Layla

    I have approximately twice as many things as you, but I’m still proud of myself because I used to have waaaaay more. When I tried for the 100 Things Challenge I kept emailing one of my coworkers asking how many of each item of clothing I should keep.

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    Awesome, Layla! You definitely should be proud of how much you’ve minimized. :) Keep up the great work!

  • tygerlotus

    I am amazed at all the people I’m finding who are embracing minimalism. And, even here in Chicago where you need all that winter gear! I don’t think I’ll ever manage to be minimalist myself – I have a husband who is an academic (at UIC, actually) and collects books and articles, as well as a son who already has tons of cast-off clothing, and I’ve been through so many hobbies myself. So you don’t have old photographs, yearbooks, paper records?nnI’m feeling so cluttered just looking at your photos! ;)

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    Yes, even in Chicago, it’s quite doable to be minimalist. :) Because really, it’s a mentality rather than a practicality issue, the way I see it. We can say we need all this stuff even in warm climates (SE Asia, Hawaii, southern parts of U.S., etc.), like swim attire, scuba gear, water equipment, summer wear, sunglasses, hats, etc. So it doesn’t really matter *where* the person lives, it’s their lifestyle choice that would dictate whether or not they will want to have a lot of things.nnI scanned certain yearbook pages that I wanted to have digitally and then recycled the books. All 4 years of high school. Photographs, most I scanned electronically, the ones I wanted to keep. I hardly have paper records, only that which necessitates a paper document (such as a passport, birth certificate, the title of my vehicle). Everything else is done through paperless systems, like electronic billing and payment. nnIt certainly takes time; this did not happen overnight. I learned through trial and error and just doing things slowly at first, at my own pace. Over time, small changes turned into a huge positive difference in my life. :) Hope it will for you as well!

  • http://twitter.com/tygerlotus tygerlotus

    I’d say the real difference is the BULK of the material you have in a warmer climate. I moved here from southern Arizona two years ago (where I lived for nearly 20 years) – so I’m quite aware of how much more stuff I need here. Coats? Yeah, we had to get some – you can do with a fleece there. Sweaters? Really unnecessary. Long underwear? They look at you like you’re nuts if you try to buy stuff like that. Boots? Not smart, since it’s only cool enough for a month or so. Two pair of shorts takes up less room than 1 pair of jeans. I never had a ton of “summer wear” items – it’s freezing inside the buildings there, AZ is land locked – so no scuba gear. One or two swimsuits is enough for most people, even those who own pools. Sure I had more than one pair of sunglasses (necessary, but they are everywhere).nnSo, it feels like less, when the NUMBER might be the same. Luckily, I’m a casual dresser, so I wear jeans and t-shirts all the time, and I don’t need any dressy clothes. :)

  • Chris

    Excellent work! I myself took the 100TC a few months ago and got down to 98 items. Now I’m sitting somewhere around 73 personal items, but need to scale down the “shared” items a bit more…. it’s a great feeling and accomplishment to say the least.

  • http://been-couraged.blogspot.com Karen

    We just moved into a new house, my dh & our youngest 7 (of 9) dc. I was thrilled that in 5 hrs we were unloaded, basically everything out of boxes and put away, supper made/eaten, beds made and everybody bedded down. The easiest move we’ve ever had, and in the morning we knew where to find everything already because it wasn’t still hiding in a pile of boxes!n

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina Yau

    Congratulations on a great, easy, and minimalist move, Karen! Such a liberating feeling to move with ease, is it not? :)

  • Chester

    Nina, do you look at the stuff every day and ask, “what can I get rid of today”? Cause it seems like the quantity of your items get smaller and smaller every time =)

  • Lifeasasketch08

    this reply made me lol ha ha

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    [...] someone to check out: Nina Yau at Castles in the Air. This awesome young women lives with just 70 things. She just quit her corporate day job this week and she’s more alive than ever. She’s making a [...]

  • http://www.minimalistadventures.com Dusti Arab

    I love seeing other people’s lists. I wish my space had the beautiful natural lighting yours does, though! I’m posting mine next week, so I don’t to give it away, but I am down to under 60 personal items. :)

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina Yau

    Super! My new list will be posted soon. Doesn’t it feel great to live simply? :)

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