Uh oh, you are using an old web browser that we no longer support. Some of this website's features may not work correctly because of this. Learn about updating to a more modern browser here.

Skip To Content

If you had to pick 10 items, what would they be?

Killing time on a lengthy journey this week I was idly flicking through ‘Red’ magazine when I stumbled upon ‘Your Life in 10 Items‘ written by Ruth Tierney.  Tierney’s article shocked a committed hoarder such as myself when she began by stating that Mahatma Gandhi could count his possessions on the fingers of his two hands.  She mentioned Guardian columnist Leo Hickman, and American blogger, Dave Bruno who both set themselves the challenge of discarding non-essential possessions.  Hickman limited himself to 10 possessions, while Bruno allowed himself a more generous 100.  But both writers allowed basic items of clothing, household utensils, furniture and all items shared with other family members.

Letting go of the clutter

I realised that even the discussion of such brutal minimalism made me feel uncomfortable. I prefer to accumulate rather than discard, and my home has become a storage facility for all manner of  junk.  I also keep all kinds of detrius around my person, work space, and handbag (reassuringly, Tierney confesses the same). Mr E further clutters my living space as he adds to his ever-expanding collection of books, files, T-shirts, and trainers.  Why do men need so many trainers when they are essentially all the same type of shoe?

Disturbed but inspired, I sparked a marital debate about our collective material possessions.  Sadly Mr E was dismissive, stating that the writers were smart-arses, allowing themselves such substantial get-out clauses, and really, how did this relate to us?  Whilst I acknowledge that he may have a point about the writers’ exempt items lists, I am going to disagree with him about how it relates to us.

The poorest regions in the world are sub-Saharan Africa, followed by South Asia according to Oxford University’s Multidimensional Poverty Index.  According to the ‘Huffington Post’s’ analysis of this index the top three poorest countries in the world are:

  • Niger (92.7% live in poverty, 65.9% living on less than 80p a day)
  • Ethiopia (90% living in poverty, 39% living on less than 80p a day)
  • Mali (87.1% living in poverty, 51.4% living on less than 80p a day)

Confronted with such sobering statistics it’s a stark reminder of how much Mr E and I, along with many of our peers, enjoy.  Just sitting here in my bedroom I’m surrounded with possessions.  Some more important than others, some with more sentimental value than others, but I am surrounded.

So, inevitably, I began to consider my top ten possessions.  And what a challenge!

Bruno included his wedding ring. I am ashamed to say (sorry Mr E) that I would not keep my wedding ring. In fact, if pushed I would discard all my jewellery as luxury. Leo Hickman’s top tip was to take things that could be multi-functional such as a Swiss Army Knife, and I would definitely include my Swiss Army Knife in the list (infinitely more useful than my wedding ring).  I also decided to include my passport – I may need to prove who I am, or from whence I came.  So in the end my list is:

  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Passport
  • Walking Boots
  • Toothbrush
  • Trangia Camping Stove (some debate whether this counts as one item or more?)
  • Rucksack
  • Money
  • Smart Phone (another multi-functional item)
  • Water bottle.

I decided to follow Bruno and Hickman’s principle that basic clothes should be included.  This mental exercise made me realise how much I would struggle if this was a real life cull.  I fear there would be much weeping and wringing of hands if I had to part with certain items.  But as an exercise this has reminded me of how much I have, and how little much of it matters.

So next time you’re struggling to sleep, or commuting to work, or bemoaning the fact that you don’t have the right shade of eye-shadow / earring / cufflink (delete as appropriate) take a moment and think about your top ten possessions.  And if you feel so inclined let the world know in the comments box below.

Share this article