One hundred things lighter
Man gives away one item every day for 100 days; proceeds benefit MDSby Anna Groff
Every day since August, Ted Houser of Lancaster, Pa., finds something he owns to give away or sell––an item of clothing, electronics, bike equipment and more. Inspired by the New York Times article about a couple who pared down their possession to only 100 items, Houser decided to give away 100 items in 100 days.
Ted Houser poses in his garage with items he plans to give away in Lancaster, Pa. Photo by Patricia Leary.
Houser lives in an 850-square-foot carriage house in downtown Lancaster and is a member of Community Mennonite Church in Lancaster.
"I am forcing myself to be more intentional about the act of reducing my possessions," Houser wrote in an e-mail on Oct. 28. "This process is not unlike dieting. If you shed the weight too quickly, you're just going to put it right back on. ... By stretching this project out over time I have had opportunity to reflect on why I am doing this and to share my experience with others."
His sister Amy sent him the original article, thinking it would interest him. She and Houser's fiancé, as well as other acquaintances, have joined him in this downsizing exercise.
Houser uses his Facebook page as a way to promote the 100 items, find homes for them and track his progress. He posts a photograph of each item, a caption describing it and, for some, a price. Many items are free, but all proceeds Houser receives go to Mennonite Disaster Service.
"Facebook has allowed me to share this experience with others," he said. "If I had simply dropped everything off at Goodwill, there would have been no discussion, no reflection, no learning."
Houser's Facebook friends post comments inquiring about the item and offer to purchase or take it off his hands. One Facebook exchange looks likes this:
Houser: "Sept. 7 Day 31 of 100. Sony portable AM/FM radio. Runs on AC or batteries. $2."
Herr: "If the AM reception is good I'll take it. Just put it on my tab."
Houser: "I have no idea how the AM reception is. But it’s yours. Sold! Another $2 goes to the shining services of MDS."
While entertaining to Facebook friends, Houser admitted that managing this public "disbursement process" remains the most challenging aspect of the exercise.
"Once I decide to get rid of something, I want it out of the house," he said. "If I threw it in a dumpster I'd get that immediate satisfaction. ... I've opened myself up to a lingering pile of junk in my garage."
As of Nov. 15, the sale of 100 items totalled "several hundred dollars" for MDS, Houser said. He planned to move the remaining items of value to Craigslist (with proceeds again to MDS) and the remaining items from Craigslist to charity.
"None of the items that I’m getting rid of are junk, so it won't be hard to find homes for everything," he said.
Houser says he thinks about "containers" a lot during this experiment. When he moved away from his carriage house for one year, he said he "accumulated crazy amounts of stuff." But when he moved back, he scaled back. Houser believes it's easier to limit consumption by limiting containers.
For example, he said, "I have one bookcase. All my books are in that case. It's full. If I get a new book, I have to decide which one to get rid of. Likewise, I have one closet. All my clothes are in that closet. No dresser, no hall closet. One closet. If I run out of hangers, I get rid of clothes."
"A lot of us are addicted to consumption," he said, "My 'less is more' experiment is news because it runs in contradiction to the way that most of us live. It's consistent with our religion but not with who we are."
Houser's 100-day exercise began Aug. 8 and ended Nov. 15.
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