Start the New Year With a “Challenge”

Sometimes we minimalist bloggers get too serious.

And, sometimes a bit of lighthearted fun can be just what it takes to motivate us to grow, and to live more intentionally. There are a lot of minimalist challenges out there, ranging from just-getting-started to the more extreme.

We’ve never done a challenge, per se, but we have set crazy goals. For example, my New Year’s Resolutions were very lofty. Some we met, some we didn’t. But what was important was the journey. We didn’t get our garbage down to one grocery bag a month, but it still was a success, because we significantly reduced are waste. We didn’t get our house off the grid, but we cut down on our energy usage. Having something to aim for can be useful.

The important thing, in trying a challenge, is to focus on the process. It really doesn’t matter at all whether you have 100, 101, are 400 possessions. What matters is that you’ve learned to become intentional about what you own. And it’s not the new “keeping up with the Joneses.” Don’t get competitive, in these challenges. Share your progress, cheer others on, and, definitely, share anything silly or crazy that transpires in the process! (For example, some friends of ours told us how much they enjoy wine from Mason jars, and we told them about the time Rob lost all of our clothes).

So, here are the challenges. Let me know if you have tried–or are planning on trying–any of them. I’d love to read about your experiences.

Decluttering Challenges

100 Thing Challenge
Level: Moderate-to-advanced
This is the definitive minimalist challenge. You pare down to 100 possesions. The level of difficulty varies, based on the exceptions you make. If you’re not dogmatic about it, this can be a lot of fun, and teach you a lot about your family’s values.

Reverse 100 Thing Challenge
Level: Easy
This is Courtney Carver’s answer to the “100 Thing Challenge.” Over the course of a month, or so, you get rid of 100 things. This is actually how we started decluttering. There is something about keeping count, that seems to motivate. I rated this “easy,” because if you’re just getting started, it is. During our “great purge,” we eliminated upwards of 100 things per day! If you’ve already decluttered thoroughly, it will be a struggle to come up with 100 things, and you probably don’t need to. You’re most likely ready to move beyond decluttering.

31 Days to Living Intentionally Simple
Level: Easy
This is a great way to get started, with a simpler lifestyle. Rachel takes you step-by-step through a daily program to declutter your house, over 31 days. It’s similar to Fly Lady, but much slower-moving, which will lead you to have a greater chance at success.

One Year of Downsizing
Level: Advanced
So, you’ve finished decluttering. Now what? Well, the hardest part might be to keep things decluttered! In this challenge, you maintain a decluttered house for a year. It has some good suggestions. We’ve found our rhythm, in our house, by limiting the clutter that comes in. We still do a big purge when we return from the boat, which to us is the epitome of simplicity!

Wardrobe Challenges

Project 333
Level: Moderate
This is the wardrobe equivalent of the “100 Thing Challenge.” You pare down your wardrobe to 33 items, for 3 months. It allows enough flexibility to have a reasonably-sized wardrobe, and it’s meant to be an exercise in living intentionally, as you only commit to it for 3 months. I know that I reduced my wardrobe gradually, making it down to 3 outfits at my lowest. This was actually counter-productive for us, and I ended up increasing to 12-14 items (not sure at this point, because the number isn’t the important thing).

30 items for 30 days
Level: Easy-to-moderate
This is very similar to “Project 333,” but it only lasts 30 days. You commit to wearing only 30 articles of clothing for 30 days. It would be a good way to experiment with a smaller wardrobe for a shorter amount of time.

Money Challenges

January Money Diet
Level: Advanced
For all of January, you don’t buy anything. Of course, you may take the liberty to make exceptions, but remember that the point is to become more intentional with your spending.

The Simple Year
Level: Advanced
If you liked the money diet, maybe you’re ready to take it to the next level. Kerry’s family is buying nothing new for an entire year. While it challenges them at times, they are able to be amazingly successful, with lots of thrift store shopping trips. We buy as much used as possible, and it’s improved our lives greatly.

No Online Purchases
Level: Easy
No online purchases for a month! If you’re addicted to Internet shopping, this challenge could work for you.

Save and Invest Your Entire Tax Refund
Level: Moderate
If you can amass some passive income, you will be able to live a much freer, simpler life. In this challenge, you set up your tax return for this purpose. For many people, this is a good chunk of change, not already budgeted into something else. It’s a good starting point.

Food Stamp Challenge
Level: Moderate
Could you live on what a low income family in the US gets, in food stamps? This challenge will help you to build empathy for people in that situation, and help you to become more mindful, with your food spending.

Well, have fun picking a challenge, and let me know if you know of any others, that I have not included!

12 thoughts on “Start the New Year With a “Challenge”

  1. I will do the January money diet. I will not spend a dime on anything except food, fuel to get to work, and bills. For food it will be a basic, healthy diet – no splurges. It will be interesting to examine my desires as they arise and realize that I have power over them instead of the reverse. I like to be mindful in all areas of life.

    Thanks for all of the ideas.

    Dan @

    • Definitely keep us posted–I could use a little inspiration, with money. I’m the queen of burying my head in the sand, there! We don’t buy a lot of stuff, but I have a strong weakness for fancy food, especially Sushi. Which is fine, except that it seems to make our money disappear faster than I would like it to…

  2. I just finished the Reverse 100 thing challenge finding it helpful to set myself in the proper frame of mind to go through my things to find what shouldn’t be here. I didn’t hit 100 things, but that’s okay as I downsized a year ago. I have decided to Challenge myself on the January money diet. There are a few on your list I had never heard of and will probably read more about them, but I don’t see much more of immediate use for me in my life at this time from the challenges.

  3. I am stopping by here from livingsimplyfree, Lois’ place! I like the idea of the Reverse 100 thing challenge. Sounds like a good place to start — not too much of a challenge, but not too easy either. To be clear, this is not a new year’s resolution. I do not do those. This is in conjunction with my urge to be more mindful, or as I like the way you say it, intentional about what I own.

    Thank you for the post!

    • Welcome, Jean! I’m glad you stopped by. I think you will find that life will be much easier, with less clutter. Do keep us posted on your progress!

  4. I’m going to do the Reverse 100 Things challenge. I’m actually excited about it, especially since I can guess that I already have 100 things sitting in my wardrobe drawers that I don’t need.

    I’ve also set a timeline to get started as the first week in January, to counter my desire to lounge around and only think about doing this challenge.

    • Good luck! It was by counting things going out the door, that we got started. But we were so cluttered that we got rid of 100 possessions PER DAY! Definitely keep me posted on your progress.

  5. Hi Bethany- If I might add a thought to The Simple Year. While our challenge definitely saves money, I have found we are also much more mindful of our purchases. Basically, for our family with two school aged kids it wasn’t practical to not buy anything. But having to buy things used, which is more difficult than popping out to Target, has GREATLY reduced our consumption. It has caused us to think carefully about EVERY purchase and its true necessity.

    And, it is a little like a treasure hunt and who doesn’t like one of those?
    Happy New Year

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