The 10/10 material possessions exercise



Have you tried The Minimalists’ 10/10 material possessions exercise? In a recent article for The Times, Barbara McMahon explains how it works.

Write down those ‘big ticket’ items

Write down the ten most expensive material possessions you have collected in the past decade such as a car, a house or other “big-ticket” items.

Then consider what adds most value to your life

Then, make another list of the ten things that have added the most value to your life. This will include experiences such as watching your children play, enjoying a family meal or watching a sunset with a loved one.

McMahon quotes Joshua Fields Millburn who says, “Quite often you find that zero things overlap on those two lists. The things that people thought were important may not actually be that important.”

I beg to differ on some of these.

My ten most expensive ‘possessions’ in the last decade


I don’t really class this as a material ‘possession’. It’s our home. It’s an investment. Is it something we possess? I suppose we own it, but we also live in it. Can you live in a possession? Yes, it requires maintenance and upkeep but I would argue that something you inhabit is more than a mere possession. I’d also say that the house is an enabler; it facilitates social and familial connections, in particular.


OK, you’ve got me on this one. Money expert Dave Ramsay says that our car is the single biggest purchase we make, which also depreciates in value. In fact, I’m planning on going car free next year, using public transport or pedal power for a while. We’ll still share a single family car, but this will be one less material ‘possession’ I’ll own.

Nonetheless, owning a car is – in my mind – a significant enabler. Holidays by the sea, for example, are made possible by virtue of the car we choose to pay for. Likewise, it would be hard to sustain family connections if we didn’t own a vehicle. Local hobbies are also more readily accessible through being able to jump into a car.

Perhaps if you live in a city where transport links are good, you might disagree with this. Here in woody Warwickshire, access to a car is still important (and I’m not yet in the habit of calling up an ‘Uber’).

Dining room furniture

Our 19th Century French dining set was our first decent purchase in our current home. In fact, this table and 6 chairs is probably one of the most expensive single item we have ever bought. It came from a local antique dealer/restorer, who takes regular trips to the continent to acquire beautiful items of furniture to restore and sell. Ours is cherry wood, elegant and beautiful. I love it.

But, does it add value? Well, actually, it does. In the introduction to Nigella Lawson’s current television series, At My Table, Nigella points out that, “A table is not just a piece of furniture, just as food is more than mere fuel.” She continues that the table she first bought was not just to “eat at, but to live around.”

That’s the point. Time with friends and family often occurs round that dining table. In truth, gatherings of this nature don’t happen as frequently as I’d like, but that’s not the point. This weekend, we welcome two house-guests, who are homestay visiting students from China. Around our table, we will get to know our visitors in a way that wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t sit down together to ‘break bread’.


Is a pet a material possession? Like anything you need to maintain (back to the car analogy), you have to feed it, look after it and exercise it. And owning a dog isn’t without cost.

Yet, any dog owner will tell you how much joy dog ownership brings into your life. Indeed, this has been the subject of academic research including a recent work by Nickie Charles at The University of Warwick looking at animal-human interactions, notably how pets become ‘kin’.

I thought you said it was 10?

Well, this is supposed to be ten items, but I am struggling to think of any other significant material possessions we have bought in the last decade that fall into this category.

So, I’m curious. Can you think of 10 ‘big ticket’ material items? Or even just a few? What are they? And do they cross over with the things, people or experiences that add value to your life?

In my case, it seems they do. What about you? I’d love to know your thoughts – let me know by replying to this post in the comments box, below.

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11 thoughts on “The 10/10 material possessions exercise

  1. I can think of only one which is our new stove as the door on the very, very old one broke and could have set fire to our nearby cabinets. There was no way to repair it that would have cost less than a new one. Still it most definitely adds value as we use it every day to cook for and nourish ourselves and others.

    If I really had to choose ten things some of it would be some clothing to replace pieces that really no longer fit and looked truly ridiculous on me while at work. They add value in that I looked and felt more confident and I think that really helped me pursue a raise for all my hard work. I did choose carefully for classic pieces that will last as long as possible.

    Also some books, true I could have borrowed them, but they gave me invaluable knowledge and I have been referring back to them many times.

    I still see their point though, which is to think before you buy and ask yourself if the item will truly add value before you commit. Sometimes it really does, other times it may be better to walk away and give it much more thought first.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was browsing through minimalism blogs and thought that my mind was playing tricks on me when I saw the word “Midlands”… it wasn’t! I’m just starting out on my minimalism journey, and a lot of blogs that I have found tend to be based in the US, so it’s good to find someone else advocating the same lifestyle as me that is not only in the same country, but also from the Midlands! Following, and I’m sure that I will find a lot of inspiration in your posts.


      1. Thanks a lot, I’ll take a look! I only started blogging yesterday so I’ll be sure to scour through your posts and find more bloggers a little closer to home 🙂


  3. This is crazy, but I need to think hard to work out what my ten most valuable material possessions are. House and car – easy. But after that, oh dear, it might be a TV!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I struggled to find 10 too. Like you said, I don’t really count the house ( and to be honest it’s technically not paid for so the bank owns it, not me!), we were given the car, after that it would be my husbands PC, and my IPad. And my iPad certainly brings joy to MY life! I Skype my friend in Japan, I am learning Japanese through online lessons and YouTube videos, I store and take my photos and videos on it, and use the notepad to jot down ideas for blog posts, so there would be some overlap regarding what I ‘love’ and a big tag purchase! However I see the point in the excercise; that you can’t ‘buy’ time spent with loved ones, or a sunset, or watching your children grow, but perhaps my having fewer expensive material possessions than most is just going to make decluttering and becoming a ‘real’ minimalist all the easier, freeing up time for me to spend on those ‘money can’t buy’ experiences to be had with the family.


  5. I actually found a lot of overlap too with my list: the boat I live on is number 1, and that’s not a way of life you choose without being passionately invested in it. 2 was the laptop that enables me to keep up with loved ones, make music and develop my professional skills, 3 was my mattress, which should be self explanatory in terms of added value… After that were a couple of musical instruments, and a beloved piece of furniture which is probably unnecessary to the things I value but gives me joy anyway. Nothing else came close to being big ticket or even medium ticket.

    I think the lack of overlap between lists is only possible with a lack of appreciation of the purpose of possessions as tools that facilitate the life you value, either when buying the possessions or when making the lists 🙂


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