The 108 Belongings Challenge

At the beginning of the year, we set an intention to live more simply and to create a compact, uncluttered lifestyle with minimal impact on the Earth. Our aim was to break the cycle of unnecessary spending and accumulation by refusing to buy anything we didn’t really need this year, apart from essentials. We made a resolution to discover what it was that truly made us happy and to remove anything from our lives that wasn’t a reflection of our true, inner selves. We set ourselves a series of mini challenges, where we simplified different areas of our lives and pared down our possessions to only those of greatest importance. Our final challenge for the year is to go back to basics, bring together all the information we have gathered, and focus and define our interests, in the ultimate challenge.

Deprivation or sacrifice is not good for the soul, but excessive consumption is not good for the Earth. Simplicity is about finding the middle way between these two extremes, and navigating the least damaging and most ethical path we can through life. Others embrace simplicity and minimalism for many reasons. As an Environmental Warrior, I live simply because reducing my consumption reduces my impact on the environment.

Living simply reduces our impact on the Earth, and it also helps us to define who we really are. Think about it. The more stuff we own, the less defined we are as a person. The less stuff we own, the more defined we are as a person. Our identity is reflected in the objects and items with which we choose to surround ourselves. If we know who we are, and we can define our interests, and focus our attention on only that which truly captivates us, we can eliminate a lot of extraneous stuff in our environment. This ultimate challenge allows us to create a compact, simplified, sustainable existence.

The ‘108 Belongings’ challenge

This is a fun exercise to do to get us thinking about what we truly want in our lives, so we can eliminate everything that isn’t a reflection of our true self. I’ve been working on my lists throughout the year, defining, focusing and streamlining further and further as I’ve worked through the different areas of my life, trying to reduce my consumption down to the bare minimum I can handle, and navigating the path of my middle way along the spectrum between the two extremes of deprivation and excess.

This hasn’t been an easy task, and it’s still a work in progress. I’ve let go of a lot of things, but to me it’s been worth it. What I’ve discarded is unimportant in a larger context, and I’ve learnt to focus my interests on those aspects of my life I want to develop and master. I still own more than 108 items, but I will continue to refine my lists as I go along. Have a play with your lists, and don’t worry if they don’t yet match what you own in reality. Use this exercise as an opportunity to think about what it is you truly want, and eventually your outer expression will match your inner desire.

Make three lists of the following groups of items:

36 clothing items + 36 creativity items + 36 comfort items = 108 Belongings

Don’t be too bound by these numbers – if you find you need less than 36 clothing items but more than 36 comfort items, that’s fine, as long as the total items adds to 108.

Clothing – we introduced this concept in the last post ‘Sustainable Style’. Write down 18 items to wear in warm weather and 18 items to wear in cool weather.

Creativity – these items include anything we require to express our creativity, our career, business and professional endeavours, including items we use for beauty and to keep fit. Write down 36 items that enable you to best express your unique self.

Comfort – these items include those we have in our home and living spaces. Write down 36 items you love, and that you will never replace.

Why the number 108?

The number 108 has spiritual significance in many philosophies and traditions.

It is essentially the number of existence, wholeness and spiritual completion.

There are many associations with the number 108 in various disciplines and spiritual belief systems, including mathematics, astronomy, Tibetan Buddhism, Hindu philosophy, energy anatomy and astrology.


The natural division of a circle is 108 = 36 + 72 or 9 x 12.

108 is a Harshad number (an integer divisible by the sum of its digits) and Harshad means ‘great joy’ in Sanskrit.

The equation 2 sin (108°/2) = 1.61803398874… (φ) where phi is the golden ratio, the golden mean, or the divine proportion. It was used to achieve beauty and balance in Renaissance art, and occurs in many natural forms, like the Nautilus shell.

The angle formed by two adjacent lines in a pentagon is 108°.


A leap year has 366 days, and 3 x 6 x 6 = 108.

Stonehenge is approximately 108 metres in diameter.

The distance between the Earth and the Sun is 149.6 million kilometres. The diameter of the Sun is 1.391 million kilometres. The diameter of the Earth is 12,742 kilometres. The distance between the Earth and the Sun is approximately 108 times the diameter of the Sun. The diameter of the Sun is approximately 108 times the diameter of the Earth.

Tibetan Buddhism:

Tibetan malas (Buddhist prayer necklaces and bracelets) are used to count repetitions of a mantra and traditionally have 108 beads.

A bell is rung 108 times to signal the end of the old year and the start of the New Year, each ring symbolizing purification from the 108 delusions of the mind.

The Kangyur, the translated words of the Buddha, is commonly accepted as consisting of 108 volumes.

A Buddhist good luck charm is 108 small Buddhas carved on a single walnut shell.

Hindu philosophy:

The river Ganges in India spans a longitude of 12° between 79° – 91° EAST and a latitude of 9° between 22° – 31° NORTH. 12 x 9 = 108. The river’s basin is 1,080,000km2. 1,080,000 divided by 10,000 is 108.

There are 108 Upanishads, ancient Vedic texts on the nature of the world and the stages of humanity.

The human soul goes through 108 stages on its journey.

Energy anatomy:

In the human body, 108 energy lines converge to form the heart chakra.

In Tantric practice, it’s estimated we breathe 15 times a minute, or 900 times an hour, or 21,600 times a day. Half of these breaths (10,800) are solar energy and the other half (10,800) are lunar energy. 10,800 divided by 100 is 108.

There are 108 sacred pilgrimage centres (pithas) dedicated to the feminine (lunar) principle, or Shakti.


The metal silver represents the Moon, which is the feminine (lunar) principle. The standard atomic weight of silver is 107.8682 (108).

An earth cycle is 2160 years, or 20 x 108.

In Chinese astrology, there are 108 sacred stars in Tao philosophy.

108 is a powerful number, and I’ve chosen it for this challenge because it represents a balanced, whole and complete existence.

Guidelines for the challenge

Clothing – Include accessories and shoes, but not undergarments and sleepwear.

Creativity – If you have a hobby or profession, count everything you need for your ‘tools of the trade’ as one item. For example, if you’re a photographer, count your camera body, lenses, and other associated items together, not as separate items.

Don’t count consumables you buy continuously, including beauty products (toothpaste), but do count single items of a personal choice that don’t need replacing (epilator).

I’m not sure yet how to fit books into this list, as my current collection exceeds the total amount of items in this challenge! I currently count books as one item, but on the condition I only have 100 books in my collection. If I want a new title, I have to sell or donate an existing title. Do the same with DVD’s and CD’s and decide your maximum number of these items.

Comfort – Don’t count consumables you buy continuously, including kitchen products (detergent), but do count single items of a personal choice that don’t need replacing (blender).

Don’t include these basic necessities in your comfort items:

If you have more than one of these items, count the extra items. For example, if you own a car and a bike, count the bike as a second form of transport.

We need a form of shelter, so don’t include a place of dwelling (house, apartment).

We need to get ourselves around, so don’t include a method of transportation (car, bike).

We need a place to sleep, so don’t include a bed, mattress, pillows or bed linen.

We need a place to sit, so don’t include items such as a couch, table and chairs.

We need to eat, so don’t include a refrigerator, plates and cutlery.

If you only had 108 belongings, what would they be?

© 2015 Environmental Warrior
Photo by Ian Baldwin on Unsplash

Thank you to everyone who has continued to support the Environmental Warrior blog, and welcome to my new readers in 2015. I’m taking a break over Christmas and New Year to map out the discussion topics for next year, and to work on several major marine conservation projects and initiatives. My first post for 2016 will be published on Wednesday, January 20th. See you then!

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