I Challenged My Kids to a 150 Personal Item Limit, Here’s How it Went

We have too much stuff. We are a family of seven with an average size home, and that home is too full. My kids, in particular, have too much stuff. From stuffed animals they don’t care about, to hand-me-down clothes they don’t wear, to toys they don’t play with, it’s too much.

At some point last week, I hit my limit. I think it was when I walked across my kids’ room floor but never actually touched the floor under my feet. It was obvious a drastic change was needed.

I sat down the kids and told them they needed to first clean off their bed. Then, they would choose 150 personal items and place them on the bed. Everything else in the room had to go. Everything.

A personal item meets the following criteria:

  • An item solely managed and solely used by one person. I.e., something you would not lend to someone in general. I consider the following as individual personal items:
    • Pair of socks
    • Shirt
    • Toothbrush
    • Single Toy
    • Belt
    • Jacket
  • A set of items that primarily remain and are managed together. For example:
    • Set of Toys (a lego set in a bin counts as one personal item as it is one single thing to manage)
    • A kid’s backpack with school notebooks and books counts as one item because it should always remain together when in the home and be managed as a single unit.

What I do not consider to be a personal item

Things that can and should be shared I don’t consider to be personal items. Those might include the following:

  • Art supplies – these are shared by all kids and are managed by the family in general, not by one person.
  • Coffee mug – these stay in the kitchen and are used by any person in the family. (unless you have a special coffee mug like I do 😉 )
  • Bikes, kayaks, etc. Sports items tend to be more shareable and need to be managed seperately.

Why 150 Personal Items?

The number is a bit arbitrary. I have been thinking about this for myself for a while. 100 personal items are too few, and 200 feels like overkill. 150 personal items feel like more than enough to me.

I also remember reading once that a person can only really know and connect with a group of about 150 people, this is known as Dunbar’s Number. Once the group of people is over 150, it becomes hard for a person to keep up with names, history or other personal information. It’s hard to make a meaningful connection with more than 150 people in a community. I figure it’s hard to make a meaningful connection with more than 150 personal items as well.

Here’s how the 150 Personal Item Challenge went

The kids took the challenge readily, almost eagerly. Within an hour most of them had 150 items on their bed. Of course, some needed to be reminded to include underwear and the like. They piled up school clothes, play clothes books and stuff animals.

What surprised me was how few toys they all tried to keep.  I would guess that each kid only had around 5-10 toys total.

After the kids were done collecting their things, we started bagging up the clothes that were left and boxing up the rest. All of that went into the basement temporarily and will very quickly find it’s way to Good Will.

Now, maintaining this will be the trick. I told the kids that our goal would be to remain at 150 personal items total. Of course, this means when new things come into their lives, old things will need to move out to make space. My hope is that this will help them to be more selective in the things that they hold on to, only keeping the best.

I confess that I’m not yet at 150 items myself. The last count of my clothes alone was 151 items, which is surprising considering how few clothes are actually in my closet. I’m still working on it and will likely blog on that experience later.

But, for today, I can walk in my kids’ room and touch floor the entire time. I love that and will work hard to keep it that way.

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