Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki

I am drawn to minimalism for several reasons. I like the efficiency of a minimal lifestyle, decluttered, clean and open. Multi-function gadgets and organization tools that have varied uses are appealing from a design aesthetic. The idea of having so few items I can pack it all in a day and travel the world is tantalizing. But I’m not a minimalist, more a recovering maximalist.

I was drawn to this book by the clean cover and beautiful pictures at the beginning. Sasaki has written a very practical book advocating for a minimal lifestyle and has provided some tips on how to reduce the number of belongings, not just crowding a small Japanese apartment, but thoughts and emotions as well. Sasaki’s argument is what many minimalists proselytize: minimalism is freeing.

The ideas in this book are pragmatic such as the “one in, one out” rule when getting something you remove something else, while other tips are more emotional like holding your hand over your heart and determining if you are uncomfortable keeping the item. There are about 50 practical tips total running a whole range from a beginner declutterer to the advanced ascetic leading a simple life. If hesitant to get rid of items, the author reminds us that digital photographs, requiring no physical space, can often spark the same emotions as a physical object.

Sasaki defines “minimal” as retaining just what is necessary for an individual. However, I feel that he often brags about how much he has eliminated from his life, including a TV and almost all of his clothes. He praises others who have maybe just a cushion on the floor and a teacup. While we may be living in a maximalist society, it seems unnecessary to swing so far in the other direction that we own nothing. Both can be compensating for a more significant issue regardless of how much someone owns. Just because one possesses more, does not mean he or she is automatically living a happy life.

I enjoyed the practical writing of this book, but it’s too extreme for my lifestyle. I believe most people could eliminate many things, objects, moments and such from their lives. However, going to the other extreme of just having one shirt, one pair of pants to wear day after day, just seems unnecessary.▪️